Liza Giles, Chaz Bear, Gerhard Richter, and more

Tuesday Night Painting #3

Liza Giles, Natural with Peach Flash, Mixed Media on canvas, 47 x 47 in

Hello painters,

It's Tuesday again -- how are you doing keeping track of the days? I don't know about you but time has certainly accelerated for me. I've recently finished up a series of paintings that I started back in the olden times, and so now I'm fishing around for new projects to start up. Have you been working on anything recently? Have you been able to start any new quarantine projects? A lot of artists I've talked to recently reported that they've never been busier. Put that down mostly to the fact that they are also teachers who are working hard to get their classes moved online, but also down to the fact that people are having more time to dive into projects that have been on hold for a while.

Let me know what you've been up to by replying to this message! If I hear back from enough of you, and if there's enough interest, we can fire up Zoom (the new video chat software du jour) and check in with everyone face to face.

Liza Giles, Black & coral relief, Mixed Media on canvas, 2019

I came across the artist Liza Giles the way I discover a lot of artists I like: aimlessly browsing Instagram. Her neutral colored abstract paintings popped up in my feed, and something about them caught my eye. It might have been the muted, quiet tones that stood out against the typically colorful flashy work that gets a lot of Instagram likes.

Giles is a painter and interior decorator, originally from Liverpool, who currently works out of her London studio.  She describes her painting process in this way:

"Many works are mixed media, using gesso, pumice and pigment powder. Some are multi layered, using vintage papers, worn card, on distressed board or  organic canvas. Contrasting textures are used to create tension between shapes -  the fragility of the worn card set against pure pigment colour."

Liza Giles, Untitled, Mixed media on canvas
Notice the way this painting makes use of the mediums Giles mentioned above. She mixes a quiet tan color for the background, then collages some vintage paper on top for a different tone. When you see the detail pics you'll notice how satisfying it is to see the coarse pumice texture next to the flat smoother colors. 

You can achieve this coarse pumice texture in your own acrylic paints in a few ways. You can purchase a kind of pumice medium from Golden with a variety of coarseness. You can also mix in sand or something else with a gritty texture directly into your paints. It will take some experimenting to find the ratios you like, but it's worth considering the ways you can create your own mediums at home.
Liza Giles, Untitled, Mixed media on canvas (detail view)
Liza Giles, Untitled, Mixed media on canvas (detail view)
This kind of work wouldn't typically grab my attention, but I definitely agree with Giles when she talks about how these colors and compositions have a soothing quality to them. On top of that, the more I considered her work, the more I began to see how it connected to historical painters and styles. The first connection I made was to the Italian artist and still life specialist Giorgio Morandi, and the second was to British modernist and cubist painter Ben Nicholson.
Giorgio Morandi (1890 - 1964)
Natura Morta, 1952, Oil on canvas, 40 x 52 cm
Giorgio Morandi (1890 - 1964)
Natura Morta, 1951, Oil on canvas
Giorgio Morandi (1890 - 1964)
Natura Morta, Oil on canvas
Morandi was an Italian painter of still lifes whose paintings are noted for their "tonal subtlety in depicting apparently simple subjects." Morandi completed some 1350 oil paintings, and became known for his still life depictions done in a subtle but recognizable fashion. Each still life is a quiet moment which, when repeated over and over again, begin to look timeless.
Ben Nicholson (1894 - 1982)
1939-1944, Painted relief
Ben Nicholson (1894 - 1982)
March 60 (cub), 1960, oil on carved headboard, 9.5 x 12 in
Ben Nicholson (1894 - 1982)
Painting 1943, 1943, oil on canvas, 9.5 x 10 in
Ben Nicholson (1894 - 1982)
Painted Reflief, 1939, oil  and pencil mounted on painted plywood, 33 x 45 in
Ben Nicholson was a British painter who became an important link between mainland European art movements and British abstract art. Nicholson took numerous trips to Paris to study at times with Mondrian and at times with Picasso. He cycled through a number of styles in his work, at times painting minimal Mondrian style works and at times painting Cubist Picasso like still lifes. I think you can see how the Liza Giles paintings are an interesting re-thinking and re-combination of the sparse compositions and subtle tones of both of these older historical artists.
Did you find these works relaxing? Or would you rather see some more color? I'm going to share with you a couple more shows and links for you to explore on your own. Let me know what you think about these and if you had a favorite from this week's selections. 
San Francisco based artist Chaz Bear
Installation at FISK Gallery, Portland OR

Chaz Bear is the "nom de brosse" of one of my favorite musicians, Chaz Bundick, the creative force behind the band Toro y Moi. For this series of paintings, Chaz worked on multiple canvases simultaneously and often repeated motifs from one canvas to another. I'm a big proponent of working on multiple canvases at the same time. You get a chance to work on something else while your first painting is drying, and if you like a color scheme in one painting you can carry it over into the next one.

I used this method for my most recent series of abstract works and I liked how it worked out. It's a great way to give all of your paintings a cohesive look, and allows you to work out the problems you're trying to solve in multiple different ways. 
Two final links for you

3 Art Gallery Shows to Explore From Home
First, from the NY Times, a list of three art gallery exhibits you can explore from the comfort of your own home. The first exhibit features the work of Ida Kohlmeyer, an American artist who spent most of her career living and working in Louisiana. I think you'll find some similarities between her work and the work of the artist featured in the previous newsletter.

Gerhard Richter: Painting After All
Second, from The Met, a fantastic look into the life and work of a living legend. Gerhard Richter is 88 years old and his exploration of painting has spanned over six decades. An enormous retrospective of his work was planned to be the final exhibit of the Met Breur. Sadly, the show is impossible to view now.

Likely, you are already familiar with Gerhard Richter as the master of the squeegee, with his instantly recognizable and enormous canvases. Richter has painted in a variety of styles over his long career but the abstract works he is well-known for offer us as painters an approachable way to access his working method. It's easier than anything and extremely enjoyable to load up your palette knife with some paint and swipe it across the canvas. What's trickier is finding the color combinations that work best for you. 

Read through this site and find out what drives Richter to paint. Do you share any similar motivations with him? What drives you to do what you do? Write back if you come up with any responses you'd like to share.

Newsletter number three is in the bag. Hope everyone is staying safe and staying healthy. To get you through it I'll leave you with some tunes that I've been listening to lately in the studio:

Donald Byrd - Lansana's Priestess
Hailu Mergia - Sewnetuwa
Skinshape - I Didn't Know (Dub Version)
Mid-Air Thief - These Chains
Model Man - Without You

See you next time!
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