Squares! Squares! Squares!

For the past couple of months I’ve been trying something really fun and different: Instead of working on large scale paintings I’ve mostly been doing a whole bunch of small, 10 inch by 10 inch, square paintings. Some are newspaper collage, some are just regular paper collage, some are abstract, and some are just whimsical. It’s been an extraordinarily fun way to try new techniques and test out new ideas in a low stakes way. I don’t have to worry if it’s a masterpiece or not, it’s just an experiment! It’s like throwing things at the wall to see what sticks. And if it’s a failure…it’s not that big a deal! Literally, because they are tiny. Ha.

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I’ve tried some things that I would normally consider silly, like my fire and ice painting with tissue paper–totally off topic for me, but I had an absurd amount of fun turning tissue paper and paint into flames and ice:

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Any the skyscrapers floating on the clouds–that’s just a visual pun and Star Wars reference that I wanted to do, so I did it. No larger point about anything intended.

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And I would never have tried to do a Boston skyline–too overdone! But the colors and reflections caught my eye in a photo I saw and I just decided to give it a try.

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I’ve had a couple of super ugly failures that I finally gave up on and turned into something else and they’re still not there yet–but I think they’ll get there!

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I’ve learned a lot and tackled some things I definitely wouldn’t have if they’d been full size paintings. One of my main goals for my art this year is to push myself in new directions. And these little paintings allowed me to challenge myself by not taking myself too seriously, which has been amazing–and hopefully something I can bring to my regular-sized paintings!

Newspaper collage cityscapes

For a long time I’ve had this image in my head, of a city–Mass Ave in North Cambridge, to be exact–where all the buildings were made up of words in different languages: Somali, Bengali, Haitian, Spanish, Portuguese, Amharic, Chinese. And I wanted to create that image. To somehow, imperfectly and clumsily, show my love for the diverse and messy and exciting community where I used to work in North Cambridge. And more generally to show my support for immigrant communities in cities everywhere who work so hard to literally and figuratively build cities and communities. I had this sense of longing, a need to make it happen. But I left it alone because I just couldn’t figure out how to make something that felt right, that felt like it had any integrity, that wasn’t forcing something to happen.

I started collaging, with paper and acrylic paint, and I could feel myself getting closer to satisfying the quiet buzzing in the back of my head. Finally, one day, I went out and collected newspapers from immigrant grocery stores all around Somerville and Cambridge. I didn’t get all the languages I wanted, but I found Bengali, Portuguese, Korean, and Japanese. And I went to the public library to get Chinese and Spanish. And I started to collage with them and it feels so right and so exciting.

My first attempt felt hard and messy and all awkward and rough edges and painful and I kind of hated it but also…it came out better than I had imagined or planned it!

We Built This City
We Built This City, mixed media with newspaper and acrylic. 18 by 24 inches. SOLD but prints available.

My next one was a long time in coming since some life stuff happened (new baby!) but I love it too, in such a different way:

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Now I have two more newspaper collage works in progress and I can’t wait to see where this goes!

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Work in progress
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Work in progress

Getting ready for open studios

I registered for Somerville Open Studios for the first time this year, and I can’t wait! It takes place the first weekend in May (May 5th and 6th), and I have a lot of paintings to finish before then. I am always most productive when I have a deadline though, so I’m looking forward to seeing what I can accomplish.

So far this winter I’ve finished two new construction vehicle paintings and started a third. Now I’m trying to decide whether to keep on going with my construction vehicle series or take a break and try something else!

Construction vehicles? Yes please

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I’ve stumbled upon a new favorite thing to paint: construction vehicles! There are so many construction projects going on in our neighborhood these days. I end up walking by at least two or three different ones every time I go out, and I’ve started taking pictures with my phone whenever I see an excavator or other vehicle with interesting color contrasts or a cool background. I have a two year old, which is my excuse, but really, lets be honest: I’ve loved watching construction vehicles for a long time.

Anyway it turns out they’re really fun to paint too–bright colors, interesting angles, a lot of contrast. Rust and dirt for texture. I especially enjoy palette knife work with the bright yellow. The palette knife is great too for helping me to paint more loosely and gesturally  and preventing me from falling into the trap of trying to make an exact copy of the actual machine. I’ve completed one painting so far and started a second…excited to see how far the current kick takes me.

You can follow me on Instagram to see my construction vehicle series progress (@cara_paints). Also, once paintings are dry and ready to sell I’ll be posting them on my Etsy shop, Painting Ville.