I’ve been trying something totally new lately–I’ve been collaging with paper and acrylics to create some mixed media pieces that I’m really excited about. I started working on this painting in the beginning of February and I had a specific goal in mind…but the painting had other plans, and I’ve learned if I want to create anything successful, I have to let it do what it wants, not what I want.
It turns out changing directions multiple times, and teaching myself a whole new technique, is very time consuming so this one took me a lot longer than usual to decide this one was done. I had so much fun with it though, and I felt like I was learning so much that now I’m starting another mixed media piece to see where it goes!
I forgot how much I love painting outdoors! For most of the year, I paint indoors and work from photographs for my landscape paintings. And I always enjoy that just fine. But during the summer, when I have time and the weather cooperates, I work on paintings from life, outside, on site. I’ve only been able to do a couple like that this year, but it’s always a great experience.
Last month I did a small palette knife landscape of the beach at Arlington Reservoir, which is a popular summer destination for kids and families. I had so much fun talking with the kids who came up to me to ask me about my painting, comment on the colors I was using, and tell me how they thought I could do it better. Then while I was in the process of packing up, some sand got kicked onto the still wet paint, which actually ended up adding a really cool texture and color and the perfect amount of messiness to the finished piece.
Currently, I am working on a commissioned piece on campus at Tufts University. One of the days I was onsite working recently was freshmen move-in day, which was a lot of fun–so many enthusiastic new students and their parents to talk to! This is a larger piece which will take several sessions to complete, so it feels like a chance to be an ongoing part of the community.
What I love about painting on site in a public place is that it’s a unique opportunity to interact with strangers in a very positive and warm way. I’m sure there are people who don’t like my paintings, but usually the people who stop to talk to me are the ones who do like them. So it’s always encouraging to have positive feedback from strangers. But it also makes a connection–the fact that I’m painting bridges the gap of silence that is usually present between strangers (at least in Boston). People ask me for directions, talk about what they like about the place where I’m painting, or talk about their own artistic experiences. For me, all those conversations and interactions get embedded in the painting itself in some way. The finished result feels like a collaborative work, rather than something I created out of my head, in isolation. When I look at the painting, I see something layered with experiences that much more fully sum up the sense of place in the landscape than a mere two-dimensional image. I also imagine and hope that for the passersby I get to talk to, seeing me painting in a location helps to deepen their experience and appreciation of it as well.
For me, on site landscape paintings of urban spaces are special because they both celebrate specific settings and communities, while also helping to create a sense of place and community.
The weather has been so rainy that I haven’t been able to paint outdoors yet this season. I’ve still been working from photographs I took last year, which result in seasonably inappropriate finished work…lots of fall and winter over here, oops!
I just finished one that I love–of sunshine glowing through fall foliage, inspired by a photo I took on Tufts’ campus last year. I’m proud of it partly because it’s the largest canvas I’ve worked on since I was in college (2 feet by 3 feet)–but also because it shows that I’ve finally vanquished my fear of painting leaves and trees. For years I avoided painting trees and especially fall leaves. I thought I just couldn’t do it well so I shouldn’t try. But I’ve realized that I was just being a bit lazy…once I faced up to just doing the work and paying attention to the detail, I really enjoy it!
In other news, I also started an Instagram account just for my paintings and process, @cara_paints. Once I do start painting outdoors, I’ll be documenting it there! I can’t wait to stop painting fall things and instead paint what’s around me now.
I’ve been having a lot of fun working on this project. It’s acrylic on canvas, based loosely on a photo I took last spring of apple blossoms against a blue blue sky. I’m usually not as comfortable working with acrylics–I always forget that you can’t mix up a large batch of one color before you need to use it, because it will dry, or that you can’t easily work wet on wet the way you can with oils. I loved acrylics here though. They worked well to create a bright, flat background blue and allow for bright contrasting colors layered on top, without having to wait days (or weeks!) between layers like you would with oils.
They also make it easy to cover up mistakes. I first painted the sky and started adding trees and flowers when I realized I had totally the wrong blue pigment.
But then I painted over everything with a much better blue–this time I mixed ultramarine blue and phthalo blue instead of just using ultramarine. Finally getting the blue just right gave me a ridiculous sense of satisfaction!
Finished painting. I am at peace with the world, and my shade of blue. For the moment!