Years ago, I saw a show by South African artist William Kentridge, and was transfixed by his charcoal animation technique of creating different frames by erasing and re-drawing. Over the past few months I finally got around to applying the technique to my own artistic vision. Using “Dragonframe” software, I was able to make my first animation.
An inordinate amount of the time I spent working on it went into learning the software, in addition to “Garage Band” and “iMovie”, but in the end I am pleased with the result as a first try, and look forward to starting the next one. My first attempt, “Origin,” is now on YouTube, and you can check it out here. I simply started drawing with no script or real idea where it would go, and drew and erased until I felt done. The whole animation took place on one sheet of paper.

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Charcoal!: Group show at the Schick Art Gallery

I am pleased and excited that several of my drawings will be on view at the Schick Art Gallery during November and December. The gallery is on the campus of Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York. At the end of this post, you can find the full info. Having been up to my elbows in charcoal for the past several years, I am pleased to be included in this group show entitled quite simply “Charcoal!” I am also honored to have one of my drawings featured on the postcard.

Schick Art Gallery
Opening events: Friday, November 1, 2013
Reception: 5:30 – 7:30

Artists’ Talk with Kate TenEyck and Scott Hunt: 6:30 – 7:30

Dozier Bell, Dragna Crnjak, Maggie Evans, April Gornik, Ken Greenleaf, Scott Hunt, Susan Hauptman, Anthony Mitri, David Nash, Emily Nelligan, Kate Ten Eyck, John Walker

Saisselin Art Building, Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, NY

Image: Threshold (detail) by Kate TenEyck

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Happy Accidents

For over a year I have been trying with limited success to find a way of working with color that approximates what I have enjoyed about working with charcoal on paper. Finally I have found the technique I have been looking for, and as many great discoveries go it happened by accident.

Over the summer, I found a very solidly built nine foot by four foot stretcher that had been abandoned by a senior thesis student who had graduated. I kept looking at the stretcher, being attracted to it, and yet what was I thinking? What would I do with a painting of that size? How much would it cost in paint to cover the thing? After several weeks of ambivalence, I decided what the heck and brought it home. At a certain point I thought about abandoning it myself, but in the end I stretched some linen over it, put some coats of gesso on (which caused it to stretch and warp more than I thought it would, so I had to re-stretch) and then it sat in my studio for a month, leaned against a wall. Every time I walked by it, I had thoughts of self-doubt. Last week I found myself with an evening that included a couple hours of studio time and the energy/desire to try something new. I put some screws on the wall, attached the painting, and began to make marks and see where that would lead me.

I was enjoying myself, and the imagery began to emerge. At the same time, I became aware that I was going through paint VERY quickly. To finish the painting I would need to drive to the nearest art store, which meant a little over an hour in the car just in driving, never mind the time spent shopping. It became late, and I needed to stop for the night. I hoped to continue working in the morning, but feeling demoralized, I knew I only had enough time to either drive to the art store OR work on the painting, not both. In the morning I chose to work on the painting, with the thought that perhaps making due with the supplies I had would be an interesting constraint.

As I was working and running out of supplies, I started to thin the green that I was using, in order to at least get a base coat out to the edges of the canvas. When I was done, I realized that the wash I had created was acting as a counterpoint to the more heavily painted area. Then I began to experiment with wiping away parts of the more heavily painted areas to bridge the two worlds that I had created. The effect was exactly what I had been looking for all year.

Going out on an artistic limb more times than not results in dead ends and big messes. However, it also leads to major breakthroughs. I have had this experience many times, but somehow I still find myself hesitating, or being disappointed when an experiment does not “work” like I think it should. I have learned over the years to listen to the part of me that is attracted to a material, even if it doesn’t make sense to the more logical parts of my brain. This painting is too large for any wall in my house, it will be difficult to transport, and I don’t have anywhere to store it. People who would like to purchase my work ask if I make anything smaller, which I have not for a very long time, and this painting is as large as my largest drawings. Despite all this I am still glad I made it, mainly for the technical discoveries that it forced me to make which I can then apply to other work. This whole experience was a great reminder to be patient, have self-confidence, and keep trying new things. This is easy advice to give, and much harder to live by.

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For the past several years, I have been making drawings in black and white using either ink or charcoal. Since my last show, I determined that I want to work in color, and since October have been experimenting with different color media. Trying to explore with an intuitive approach, I tried color india inks and from there moved on to oil color. Oil seems to be the way for me to go, although I feel like I am only scratching the surface of the possibilities, which is both intimidating and exciting. While I enjoy the luminous nature of colored ink, the nature of my process does not seem to go along well with a medium that cannot be developed. I find myself being most drawn to working in a way where like with charcoal, I can cover up and erase and keep working an image until it “works” for me.

Although I feel somewhat intimidated by the possibilities of oil media, I am also excited by it. The content of my work continues to be gesture based, and I am struggling to incorporate movement with oil. A loaded brush doesn’t go far if I make a sweeping motion. Oil bars are a good solution, and I have been experimenting with those. The problem with oil bar is that the color that you get is the color of the stick. I found myself scraping the oil bar off the paper, mixing it, and applying it with a scraper. Interestingly, applying with a scraper allows me to get a more continuous mark than with a brush. So far, I have been working on heavy paper. Now I am experimenting with canvas, stapled to the wall.

Aside from gesture, I am also primarily interested in the illusion of space. The gesture inspires the image, and the image comes from my innate spatial interests reacting to the two-dimensional marks. I am sharing these recent images on the post. I don’t know whether to call them paintings or drawings, but I feel like they are on the way to creating a new body of work.

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And the Show Goes On…

Voids, Portals and Passageways continues to be on view at the Paul Mellon Arts Center through October 28th. Gallery hours are 9 am to 9 pm every day, and the address is 333 Christian St. Wallingford, CT. The show spans two adjacent buildings, so if you visit make sure you don’t miss half the show! I had a great time at the opening talking with friends old and new, and meeting Choate students who had a lot of great questions about my work. Most of my immediate family was present, and it was great to share my work with Wesleyan students and colleagues. The evening was topped off with the Choate faculty concert, where my husband, jazz pianist Noah Baerman, premiered a wonderful new composition.

Now that much of my work from the last two years is out of my studio hanging at the PMAC, I am inspired to create new work. I am following a similar process, but experimenting with color. Since January 2012, I have been working with black India ink. Starting this week, I am working with India ink, but in vibrant color. I have been thinking about color for some time now, but have been unsure how to get there through my current process. After some experimentation, I think I have found my new direction and look forward to exploring. As the days get shorter and the colors grayer outside the window, I look forward to the colors in my studio blooming over the coming months.

Voids, Portals, and Passageways

On September 8th, I will be loading in a show of my work from the past two years to a gallery space at the Paul Mellon Arts Center. The gallery is part of the arts center complex at Choate Rosemary Hall, an exceptional private high school located in Wallingford, CT. Preparations beyond making the work have included making a scale model, and discovering a new method of hanging drawings without using tacks. If you are curious about the no tack hanging method, you will have to come to the show and try to figure it out. If you still can’t tell, I will tell you, but I am curious to see how successful this hanging method will be. Hopefully it will seem like the drawings are hanging through pure magic!

As the load in date approaches, thoughts of who might come and what they will think of the work inevitably arise. As I have been creating work over the past two years without a venue lined up, I simply enjoyed making the work for myself and whoever might come by my studio. In the Spring of 2012, when I received the offer to have the show at the Paul Mellon Arts Center, I felt excited to have the opportunity to share my work with a large audience. The space is also very large, nearly 200 feet of white wall.  Fast forward to the end of of summer, and I still feel excited about the show, but naturally I also feel somewhat nervous. After all, what I put on the walls is deeply personal, the result of hours of solitary time and my imagination. Fortunately, I am not someone who gets stage fright, as although it will not literally be me that people will be looking at, in essence I will be hanging on the walls.

In sharing my work, I feel like I am joining a conversation. I am responding to arts events I have experienced throughout my life. My imagination has been shaped by films, music, visual art, writing, dance, etc…that I have experienced. Now I am putting myself out there for others to absorb. There is so much great creative soup out there, it is exciting to be adding to it!

The opening reception for my show “Voids, Portals, and Passageways” will be from 5:30-7:30 on September 14th, and it will be on view through October 28th. The address is 333 Christian St. Wallingford, CT.

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Since I was  teenager, I have always had a sketchbook. Sometimes, I have been reticent to use it, as it takes a certain level of focus to have a worthwhile sketchbook “practice.” However, as I look back through the large stack that I have gone through over the years, I am so glad to have engaged in this activity. In fact, I wish I had dedicated more time and energy into them. Going back through the pages, sometimes I remember where I was when I made a specific drawing and sometimes I don’t. It’s a little spooky to me when I read something that I wrote in the margins that I don’t remember at all, such as references to a book I don’t even remember reading, or a dream I don’t remember having. Some of the drawings are just for fun, some are documenting things I was interested in/studying, and some are working out ideas for two dimensional works or sculptures.

As I look back through the pages, interesting trends emerge. One of the most obvious is my interest in structure, whether it be architectural or anatomical. In my earlier sketchbooks, I wrote more, and boy is there a lot of confusion, searching and angst going on. I am relieved that although my current life is not without insecurities, the extent to which they dominate my thoughts is much more sustainable!

I have started to require a sketchbook for the Drawing I class that I teach at Wesleyan. Some students don’t take advantage of it, and others dig in and create page after page of interesting stuff. I am not exactly sure what makes keeping a sketchbook appeal to some people and not to others, but one thing is sure: everyone likes to look at them! I think the appeal lies in the surprise of not knowing what will happen next when you turn the page, and the extremely personal nature of the content.

Of all the benefits of keeping a sketchbook, I think the most valuable one for me was learning how to draw. It was in my sketchbook that I made many of my biggest breakthroughs in understanding how to translate the three dimensional world into two dimensions, and also how to do so with a personal mark-making technique that I enjoy. My all time favorite sketchbook is from the Fall of 1994 when I began my studies in Rome. That sketchbook contains my most exciting page turn where I went from a bland drawing of an alleyway utilizing shading with pencil to a much more exciting drawing of a church interior using, of all things, ball point pen. The lines are accurate but full of energy, and the difference in line weight lends a wonderful sense of space.

Of course, my sketchbooks contain page after page of bad drawings and failed experiments. However, it is the freedom to make a mess that makes possible tremendous growth. Although they are not the pages I would share with others, I value the messy pages as much as my favorites.

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Why Drawings?

When I completed my first semester as an undergrad at the Rhode Island School of Design, I had to chose a major. RISD has many interesting majors to choose from, how could I possibly know if I would enjoy film and animation, industrial design, apparel, etc… without ever having taken a class relating to those fields? So I asked myself, what have a I enjoyed the most during my one semester? The answer was drawing. However, of all the majors that RISD offers, drawing was not one of them. So, I ended up in illustration for a semester, as that seemed closest to drawing. It was an unhappy semester which was discouraging after the thrill of the freshman foundation program. By the next semester I was a sculpture major, which was a better match. My junior year was spent studying in Rome where I kept an elaborate sketchbook, learned black and white film photography, made some sculpture, but mainly absorbed as much as I could. Of all that I did during that year, it was the drawings in my sketchbook I felt the most proud of and connected to. Post graduation, I didn’t find it easy to continue making sculpture, although I was building and designing sets, props and puppets for the youth theater I was working for. I explored printmaking and eventually got a graduate degree from the Hartford Art School where I learned all about relief printing, monoprints, etching and lithography. Printmaking seemed like a way to make drawings, but have them be “real art.” Somewhere along the way, I had become convinced that drawings could not be final works, and were instead only a way to work through ideas or make studies.

Imagine my surprise when I saw the work of Leslie Snipes, who I met when she was hired by the Wesleyan Art Department in 2003. Her drawings at that time were imaginary landscapes completely built of meticulous placed graphite lines. Subsequently,  I learned about Sol Lewitt’s wall drawings and got a book on the drawings of Louise Bourgeois. I gradually became aware of many artists who were using drawing as a beginning and an end. As a result, when I found myself for the first time with my own studio in January of 2010, I thought about what I wanted to do in the space and determined that I wanted to draw, not as a study for a sculpture or a print, but purely for the love of it. I tacked big sheets of paper to the walls and just started making marks. Two years later I am still following the same process, and enjoying the process of making art more than at any other point in my life.

Drawing is immediate gratification. The direct action of making marks is deeply pleasurable. The feeling of dragging charcoal across paper is sensual and profound. I am intrigued by the residue left behind after erasing as much as marks themselves. While I enjoy drawing from life, I see that activity as simply a means to make beautiful marks. In my own work, I use marks as the inspiration to create illusion of form and space.

I find it strange that as an undergraduate at RISD, there was such an emphasis on drawing as a foundation skill but only as a means to an end. I now see drawing as both means and end, and am quite relieved and happy to have come to this conclusion.

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