Chantel Green (PDXOS Artist #34) is both a scientist and an artist. “I use art to investigate and dissect the world around me. Art allows me to understand and connect with things by exploring the associations between ideas and images. My work is heavily influenced by my formative teenage years spent in an alternative science centered high school, where my art was limited to dissection drawings and microscope illustrations. My understanding of how things worked was not complete until I drew it in some way. When I started making art as an adult I always came back to these technical and biological themes and I enjoy using these images in a creative way, merging art and academics.” Chantel is an encaustic artist. Here she shares a recent blog in which she explains the process of creating encaustic art.
An Explanation of Encaustic
I create my artwork with encaustic paint which is bees wax, damar resin, and powdered pigment for color. Beeswax is relatively durable, flexible, and has a high melting temperature so it won’t melt under normal indoor temperatures. The resin raises the melting temperature and adds hardness and shine. The wax is kept liquid while painting by keeping your paint in metal tins on a heated surface that will reach 220 degrees, like a pancake griddle.
The word encaustic means “to burn in” and is an ancient medium that Greek artists used back as long ago as the 5th century BC for portraits and panels. The earliest surviving encaustics are the Fayum funeral portraits found on mummies that were created by Greek artists in Egypt between the 1st and 3rd centuries A.D. Encaustic paint was also used by contemporary artists like Rembrandt, Diego Rivera, and Jasper Johns.
There are a few simple rules for dealing with encaustic paint. Number one is that you must have a sturdy substrate so that the wax won’t bend and crack. Number two is that you can’t mix acrylic paint with encaustic because the wax won’t adhere to the paint. Finally, number three is that you have to fuse your painting after every layer with a heat source like a heat gun or torch.
What I really enjoy about encaustics is how it is both flexible and unpredictable, which leads to a lot of experimentation. The process of painting with encaustics is technical and creative which allows me to walk the line of scientist and artist. You can scratch lines in it, build it up, scrape it back, add texture, collage materials, and even do image transfers. It’s versatile, flexible, fast, and just plain beautiful.
To see more about Chantel Green, visit her website at http://www.chantelgreene.com/
Have You Heard This One? A Painter and a Sculptor Walk into a Bar|
By Paul X. Rutz
We advertise Portland Open Studios mainly as an opportunity for the public to see visual arts professionals in their element: to visit studios, talk about the work process, and maybe buy a collage, sculpture, painting, or scarfbut theres much more happening at this nonprofit to help local work thrive.
For months prior to the actual tours on the second and third weekends of October, the juried group of 100 or so has been meeting and volunteering in groups large and small, sharing tips on best practices, running errands for each other and preparing to mentor high school students who seek careers in the visual arts. As a first-year participant who moved to Portland just fourteen months ago, Im impressed with the professional development and routine social care between the participants, two things I take very seriously.
At our first meeting this past May, we new folk arrived an hour before those who had done this before. We took turns proofing the directions to our studios and picked up our packets. Then we sat for a series of quick speeches from enthusiastic staff who spoke from the stage at Multnomah Arts Center. They briefed us on the logistics: how theyd like us to handle foot traffic, where to tell people to buy maps of the tour, and how to answer questions (such as why the public should buy tickets for the tour instead of just showing up because the money is a major source of support for this little 501c3).
The veterans of the tour trickled in soon, and the mood of the room grew from one of polite tension between people who dont know each other to a warmer hum of how are you? and you look great!? It made me think of the way people talk at family reunions. Now as new speakers were introduced the intermittent, polite clapping we first-year participants were generating turned heartier, and it became clear these returning craftspeople liked being here. It didnt take long for me to find out why.
Walking out of that meeting, across the street to the Lucky Lab for free post-meeting pizza, I bumped into sculptor Christopher Wagner [http://www.christopherbwagner.net/]. I introduced myself and told him quickly how I make my living (oil paintings of live people), where I came from (grad school in the Midwest), and how new I am to Portland. I was you last year,? he said, describing how he finished his MFA in sculpture, moved to Portland and found himself juried into Open Studios for the 2011 tour. We should visit each others studios.?
Chris and I bought a couple beers and spent the rest of the evening talking through a hundred topics. Participating in Open Studios last year had been valuable in all kinds of ways, he told me, leading to several kinds of success for his burgeoning career. We talked about the value of visiting other peoples studiosthe exchange of ideas that comes in just seeing how other painters and sculptors work. Those visits, to studios like Chriss, have become number one on my list of PDXOS benefits so far.
My studio is in an attic in northwest Portland, and ten other Open Studios participants work nearby. Before that May meeting I had no idea I had been working on the same block as one of them, the pastel landscapist Michael Fisher [http://mfisherart.com/]. He came by to visit my workspace the week after and invited me to visit his space and critique his work.
An informal tour of northwest oil, acrylic, watercolor and more began there as painter Tracie Broughton [http://cannonballart.com/], a PDXOS veteran, organized an email correspondence between the eleven of us. Already our little group has put on its own summer show, thanks to our multifaceted member Jimmy Krozel, who offered his gallery (817 SW 2nd Ave). After that we started a tour of helpful critique throughout our area. Ive already had a lesson in the chemistry of encaustics from Shannon Passon [http://www.shannonpasson.com/]. I expect soon to view Darren Oranges [http://www.darrenorange.com/] mixed-media land and seascapes, some enigmatic figurative pictures by Alexandra Becker-Black [http://alexandrabeckerblack.com], and mixed-media paintings by the prolific Chris Haberman [http://www.opb.org/programs/artbeat/segments/view/830] at his downtown gallery. Our list of stops also includes Carlie [http://carlieleagjeld.com/home.html] and Tracie Leagjelds [http://tracyleagjeld.blogspot.com/] studios, where well view mixed-media and print work, as well as the work space of abstract painter Selene Robinowitz [http://www.selenerobinowitz.com/].
October will no doubt bring its share of excellent experiences, and I look forward to meeting lots of fun people during the tour. But long before Ive hung my best work, put cookies on plates and made sure my studio is free of unintentional boobie traps, Im thinking differently about what painting as a practice should involve and where I should look next for new ideas.
PDXOS participants have repeatedly told me they believe a rising tide lifts all boats,? and its true. They do believe that. How refreshing.
by Careen Stoll (as printed in the Hollywood Star)
One of the intriguing aspects of the annual Portland Open Studios Tour is being able to catch a behind-the-scenes look at the everyday lives of the participating artists. Two artists in NE are dedicated creative mothers with a full family and social life who still manage to devote time to their artistic work. Dafna Margalit and Rebecca Conant are both participants on the Tour this year. Margalit is deeply devoted to her family and its extension, the human family of patients who she nurses at the cardiac ward of OHSU. Conant has enjoyed a lifetime of explorations in the folkloric dances of the Middle East, which have inspired her creative output of accessories for the expressive costumes of belly dancers.
The strongest theme running through the sculptural work of Dafna Margalit is that of family health. In one piece, as many as 20 small sewn stuffed felt “manbirds” are hanging from the ribs of a birdcage, mouths open in animated conversation, with one fallen to the floor of the cage. This is a family, perhaps her large and loving extended family, all chatting away at a gathering, and the one on the floor is the one remembered but lost to the passage of time. Margalit herself is of Middle Eastern background, and her partner is from the Philippines. Though she felt a very strong connection to her extended family in Israel during her younger years living in Eugene, the past few have been full of distraction. She is anticipating an upcoming reunion with great excitement, and it seems evident in her process.
Her parents were both artists and worked in the fields of architecture and engineering: Margalit was exposed to the arts constantly as a girl. She says that she tends to absorb the details of a whole room. Her work is similarly of multiple dimensions: the tactile but also the auditory. She might incorporate the sound of a heartbeat into a piece. As a mother, she spends a lot of time sitting with her children, so she finds a way to carefully stitch scores of die-cut felt hearts.
When you visit Margalit’s studio during the Portland Open Studios Tour, you will also see one part of her extended project to create a cross-cultural understanding of women’s experience of childbirth. Wedges of a wooden octagon are the foundation for a grid texture of the bulb syringes, which are given to every new mother at the hospital. One space is a window peep through which you can see the transcript of a new mother’s recounting of her experience. Each wedge of the octagon is devoted to a different culture.
Rebecca Conant’s attention to detail is focused on character expression in the folkloric dances of the Mediterranean Rim. A performer who is often complimented on her authentic portrayals, she captures the essence of the dance in both the soul of the movement, the costuming, and the accessories that compliment the costume. These accessories she makes for herself and for others. Bias-cut silk ribbon is folded and sewn in such a way that it captures the essence of light and movement in a flower. She delights in creating hairpieces, corsages, and fascinators that move with the person wearing them, that move as if integrated with the character and costume, not distracting from the real star of the show, which is the person.
Describing her flowers as “impressionistic”, she is most pleased when they show “aire”, translated as breath or spirit. Using terms like ‘aerodynamic’ and ‘roll’, she describes the qualities of bias-cut silk as particularly suited to the purpose, since the fabric is luminous and lightweight. That it is cut on a bias (45 degrees from the directions in which it is woven) lends it a slinky open quality. She says, “think of Jean Harlow in the 1930’s- that flow…” Her historical research into regionally accurate costuming pushes her into combining colors that she might otherwise not dare do. Now she adds details to more complicated compositions, such as beaded leaves, feathers, or a berry that only the wearer might see.
You can see Rebecca Conant, stage name Far’ha, perform at the Blue Monk once a month with the band Arabesque. You can see these two artists’ studios on the tour this weekend. Rebecca is number 60 and Dafna is 48.
By Maria Simon
What really knocks me out about Angelita Surmon’s work is her uncanny ability to go directly into the chaos of lines and layers of tangled branch and twig; into the complexity of shadow and reflection; and to arrive at peace and quiet. Her current paintings on canvas and fused glass are derived from her frequent walks through the local and regional forests and wetlands close to home. Movement in branches, the play of light, and the contrast of textures are what most capture her attention as she revisits each place over the change of seasons. She takes refuge in these frequent meditations on foot, which provide respite from the stresses of daily life in the city; and she invites us to share the peace.
Her work reflects a willingness to investigate her surroundings, and communicates this experience of deep seeing. Her use of color is both rich and subtle, by turns… undemanding. Viewed at close range, the images are abstract and impressionistic. Step back and the images are ordered and classically representational. She paints in a manner that is both fluid and meticulous. The work is careful, but not cerebral.
Surmon’s new work in fused glass is reminiscent of her earlier lithographs. It retains the delicacy and fluidity of her sketches, but now it is infused with light. In fact, she refers to the technique as “painting with light”. The work has this light, intuitive feel to it…just enough information to create the illusion of depth.
Angelita is intrepid in her willingness to re-invent herself artistically, over time. I’ve watched her work evolve over the past 25 years, as it has passed from watercolor landscapes; to pattern and decoration on her own handmade paper, influenced by the a kimonos she saw in Japan; then a preoccupation with antiquities in the form of fabric scraps and mummy wraps, and the way things look after aging. Her work then turned toward illusive space, and became looser and more influenced by Abstract Expressionism. When the work became too predictable she shifted again, this time to the innocence of children’s drawings, and the shadow puppets she found while traveling in Bali. Later, a shift toward more classical representations of the human figure, and the classical roles that having a child presents. This work evolved into a more psychological study of figure in landscape. And now the work has come full circle, with a return to landscape.
To learn more about Angelita Surmon, visit her website at: http://www.angelitasurmon.com.
And please visit her in her studio during this weekend’s Portland Open Studios tour,
# 83 on the tour map.
by Jason Kappus
Most of our everyday interactions with textiles are utilitarian and the processes behind clothing, quilts, and rugs seem governed by traditions and rules, the idea that there is a right way to do something, that if instructions are executed properly the desired product will be achieved. In contrast, Kim Lakin’s fiber work is surprisingly improvisational, the initial design so loosely imagined that she has no idea what the final size of the piece may be. She focuses on shape, pattern, proportion, constantly evaluates and makes changes, and always “remains open to ideas”. It’s a sort of game, one with no clear end, and with a lot of problem solving throughout: how to make the root impulse succeed, how to reform the current state of the piece into one that is both instantly appealing, but also complex enough to warrant multiple viewings.
In ‘Meanderings’ shapes similar to crooked piano key teeth in an open mouth of green and red streak across the piece, interrupted by grays against a background of white further marked with wandering stitchlines. The piece has a hectic energy, though further study reveals that the repeated motifs are actually rife with subtle variations. The piece is both playful and studied, a result born of experimentation: exactly how far apart do the elements need to be to balance each other, how can the right amount of movement be achieved. It is impossible to tell what element started the piece or how much else once resided on the piece that has been stripped away, but what remains bears the mark of solutions found, of a victory.
Lakin’s textiles could be called painterly, and it begs the question: Why fabric? Lakin admits, “I ask myself that all the time. Could this be done better in another medium?” It seems illogical to pair Lakin’s intuitive process with the rule-based and precision loving media of sewing, but that challenge is part of what makes the results refreshing. Further proof that this should by all rights be the wrong media for Lakin comes when she pronounces, “I don’t like to use straight lines.” This disposition made her “a lousy seamstress” in making clothes the way her mother instructed her in her youth, but now she has made it a touchstone of her artistic style. In every piece her lines wobble, rove, and shift in a cubist manner; she has bent the media to her will, made a tame horse wild. It comes down to this: she says, “I like the feel of the materials,” and that the finished work “has a subtle dimension, [occupies] a middle ground between 2-d and 3-d.” The fabric simply has qualities one can not achieve in paint, her work literally and figuratively has more depth because of the medium she has chosen.
Lakin started as a painter and had only a brief foray into fabric art, before she set both aside to pursue architecture, specifically historical preservation. Her years in this field led to a heightened awareness of and concern for harmony, organization, and division of space. Her spatial harmony is rarely achieved by a obvious method, as with Room with a View, where a snaking line of intense red dots severs a tan frame, the right half of the rectangle sliding away. At first it seems broken, but all the lines that no longer match are more dynamic for having been split, they justify their current positions. Over and over in her work Lakin demands you accept that certain dissonance is not only intentional, but correct. Parallel and straight lines are not always best, the disjointed shape that is not a rectangle should not be one, they are part of a new language of geometry.
Kim Lakin is artist #92 in the 2011 Portland Open Studios tour. For more information about Portland Open Studios, please see our website at: https://www.portlandopenstudios.com.
She is currently the Featured Artist at the Retail Craft Gallery at the Oregon College of Art & Craft: http://www.ocac.edu/#/about-ocac/campus/galleries/retail-gallery/
You can see more of Kim Lakin’s work on her website at: http://kimlakin.net.
by Careen Stoll
I’ll let Alan Rose tell you about his youngest years of school:
Then as now, he describes his sense of time as slower than that of others; he was chided as a boy for dilly-dallying, but I venture to say that perhaps it is this slow contemplation that yields the quirky humor inherent to his paintings. He says that he wants to create “complicated pieces that reveal themselves over time”, such as “So Much in Common”, below.
Rose joined the Navy after high school as a way of finding adventure and “wisdom” about the logistics of life that he didn’t necessarily have opportunity to learn at home. He spent three years as a radar-man off the coast of Vietnam and then used funds provided by the GI Bill to enroll at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts with a major in cartooning. His mother had been artistic, and he had always enjoyed drawing. After two years, he transferred to the Art Institute within the fine arts department, as it was more in line with his interests. Following his degree, he took various desk jobs managing inventory in Denver and Tucson where he met his wife Kathy. They moved to Eugene and then Kirkland, WA where Rose tried to get into freelance illustration or art therapy. Instead, he ended up doing graphic design at a company in Portland for more than 17 years. Four years ago he retired and took up painting full time.
Using his skill with graphic layout on the computer, Rose transfers his sketches there and develops them into a final composition complete with color selections before moving onto the canvas. He paints in several thin layers of acrylic, so he finds that working out all the details on the computer saves him plenty of time should he change his mind about something mid-way. As it is, it takes him about a month to complete a painting.
When I asked Kathy what her favorite painting is, she gestured to the one near their dining room table. It is about ten years old, and struck me in how it contained the building blocks of his subsequent work as one might assume, but had a completely different feel.
Alan Rose’s studio is number 66 on the Portland Open Studios Tour this year. Check out alanrosestudio.com for a greater sampling of his work. His work is on exhibit at the 12×16 Gallery in Sellwood through September. Click the link for location and info.
What do Kamala Dolphin Kingsley and Andrea McFarland have in common? As artists, their subject matter, style and use of medium are quite different. In age they are a generation apart. Yet they both share a love of nature, gardening, and the mysterious, darker side of things. They are also both artists who spent their formative years as back-to-the-landers in the same tiny coastal town before coming to live and work in Portland. As friends and as participants in Portland Open Studios this year, they decided to interview each other.
Andrea interviews Kamala:
A: Your work is highly detailed and layered. Can you talk about your media and what techniques you use to achieve this unique style?
K: I use watercolor, acrylic, glitter, sequins, rhinestones, and gold leaf, layered over one another in many passes to get at the look I’m after. I do a lot of dropping water and salt and alcohol onto the wet paint as well, to get the bleeding and crystallized crunchy aged effects.
A: You often include seemingly unrelated or incongruous things in your pieces, such as flamingos and artichokes or a glamorous woman and a toad. What is it that determines your choice of objects in your pieces? Are you driven more by the symbolic, the emotional, the sense of shape and texture, or…?
K: As a kid I obsessively made collages and I think this led to what I make now – a sometimes random mishmash of things, that end up working out together through much finessing. Sometimes it’s planned out in my mind beforehand; sometimes it’s not at all and I just toss things in there like some made up salad, curious to see the result. I’m also sometimes inspired by outsider, ‘uneducated’, psychedelic, or children’s art. I find allowing the painting to reveal its meaning after creation to be more interesting than having it all figured out beforehand.
A: You use a lot of shading, sepia tones and black silhouettes. Is this a visual or mood preference?
K: Since I was a small child, I’ve always been drawn to the more moody, darker, what some would call ‘creepy’ things. Bright happy and ‘normal’ always bored me. I’m usually aiming for a moody, mysterious, dense yet quiet vibe. I try to create a sepia look to make the paintings appear older, like they could be from 100 years ago. Ancient looking things feel soothing to me. My tendency to outline things in black might have come from watching my mom lead her detailed stained glass windows when I was young.
A: You are an avid gardener, and your garden includes many interesting arrangements of found objects. How does this relate to your artistic life?
K: Same thing with the collage-y mishmash of my art… I love to arrange my thrift store knick knacks into setups that work in certain areas of the garden. I think this might come partially from my childhood interest in miniature dioramas and Natural History Museum-type tableaux. I like scenes that look kind of real, kind of fake and I love seeing what happens when you put different plants next to one another.
A: You started creating art at a young age. When did you first know that you were going to be an artist?
K: I always drew: I was the kid in school doodling in the back of class. But I finally knew that I really wanted to pursue art “for real” when I failed the math part of my Marine Biology courses in college. I realized that I couldn’t hack that part of it, and I remember thinking “OK, I guess I need to switch to art.”
A: What is the biggest challenge for you as an artist?
K: Making art. Hah! I’m a horrible procrastinator and getting worse. Once I get started it’s good, but getting started on a painting is usually really hard for me. I have a tendency to work in the garden rather than on my art.
A: What part of the artistic process do you enjoy the most?
K: Selling art to a happy home is pretty good. When I make a painting for someone and they love it and put it on their wall to look at forever, that’s a good feeling.
Kamala interviews Andrea:
K: What is your medium?
A: I work in dry pastel on sandpaper. People think of pastels as a sort of oily crayon, but dry pastels are more like chalk only with very strong pigmentation. What I love about this medium is that you can get a very smooth texture with blended colors, or a rough textured look with no brush strokes. The almost pure pigments give it an intense, velvety color.
K: You started doing art full time when you were older than many artists are when they start. Do you think this has any effect on the work you do, and if so, what?
A: I did draw a lot as a child, and I took one college course in drawing. But at that age it was all about getting it done and seeing the result. I think I was more impatient then, and my preconceptions and opinions were stronger. As an older person, I think I am more relaxed, with a less intense need for control. Because I’m still new to the process, it holds a lot of excitement for me, but I can let the drawing take me where it wants to go instead of having to drive it consciously. Also, I think that having slightly blurry middle aged vision actually helps me to see color and composition without getting lost in fussy details.
K: You’ve been a musician for a long time. How does this interact with your visual art? Any overlap, a similar vibe you’re trying to convey or a particular story you’re trying to tell with each medium?
A: I play Irish music on the fiddle. I think the paradox that I try to grasp in both music and art is the coexistence of joy and sorrow, how they not only blend in our lives on a long term basis, but how we can be aware of them both in our hearts at precisely the same moment. There is a strange joy contained in our longing itself, an imagining of other worlds, perhaps, mingled with the aching sweetness of ephemeral life. The tunes I try to play are melodically like rippling water, skillful blends of light and darkness. I find it interesting that since I started to do visual arts, my ability to hear the music has improved.
K: You’re an avid gardener; does this love of plants and garden design influence your visual art and if so, how?
A: For many years I was a back to the land hippie, and had a huge garden where I spent most of my day growing food for the family and the local farmers market. I developed a sort of lust for unusual shapes, leaf colors and flowers, but I also think my experience with gardening taught me to be minutely aware of color and shape without thinking about it.
K: You do a lot of scenes of the Columbia Gorge – why?
A: Because it’s one of the most beautiful places in the world! People come from all over the planet to see it; I can’t believe there are Portlanders who never do. When I first moved from a rural environment to Portland, I was depressed until I discovered the gorge. It is my church and doctor combined. There are very few of my problems that a hike up to Angel’s Rest can’t fix. I want more people to be aware of the gorge and to inspire them to explore it, enjoy and protect it.
K: In your art, I see a lot of use of water, and of drama, heavy skies, a portentious feeling – is this on purpose, or do you think you’re just naturally drawn to such things
A: Well, the easy answer is that there is no shortage of clouds here where we live. But this question makes me think of my childhood. My dad was an avid photographer, and taught me a bit about it. He had a special lens filter he had to make the clouds look more dramatic. I thought this was a thrilling, magical thing. I guess I do love the mystery contained in water and rainclouds. I think some people find the infinite hugeness and power of nature to be threatening, but I find it comforting. I’m glad to have my minuscule problems put in perspective, and to be reminded that I’m a very small part of something so astounding and incomprehensible.