Erika Allison's Artastic Blog

Breaking the rules… or not

Posts Tagged ‘ideas’

Executive Acres

Posted Tuesday, February 12th, 2013

Executive Acres, oil / mixed media on panel - Dimensions: 24 7/8" x 32" x 1 3/4"

I usually don’t know what a work is about until I’m done with it and have it titled.  I concentrate on design, composition, color, texture.  I view it in all directions.  I turn it upside, sideways and back up again, checking to see that I have a good composition.  I feel that if one has a good composition the painting will work in any direction.  Of course, I eventually have to settle on a direction that I think works best – or that I like the best.  Then, I’ll start studying the painting to see what I “see” in it.  Abstract work invites the viewer (including the artist) to see what he/she sees in it.  Different viewers can see different things.  Eventually, something will hit me, a title will come to mind and I’ll know I’m finished.

In this painting I felt like I was seeing outer space.  Maybe planets, asteroids, the unknown.  And, there’s all this talk about space travel, the new frontier, etc.  Private companies are talking about trips into space.  And, of course,only the very wealthy will be able to afford this kind of adventure.  I’m thinking maybe a home on a new planet takes the place of the big house on the hill.  But, then, you may see something altogether different.  One of my artist friends sees a moon pie!  She’s from the south, in case  you couldn’t guess!

This original oil/mixed media painting can be seen at R Space Studio in The Arts Factory, 107 E. Charleston Blvd, Ste. 125, Las Vegas NV through February.

If you’re going to paint in a series you must know what it is that you’re painting about. You know where you’re going. That’s counter to my usual method of working. I usually don’t know what a work is about until I’m finished and it’s titled. When I come up with a title, everything falls into place and the meaning reveals itself to me.

I do have one series that I started several years ago and I keep adding to it when I’m moved to do so. I didn’t start out with series in mind. That idea came to me after I’d completed the first one and titled it. My “Twelve” series now has six paintings in it. I don’t know how many will ultimately end up there. The possibilities are endless. I like that!

My latest painting in the series is “Twelve and Twelve More”, a 10″x10″x1 5/8″ oil/mixed media painting on panel. It’s actually a variation on the theme of “twelve” because it actually contains twenty-four! It has twelve circles (the original premise), but also has twelve bars. I thought that was a fun variation.

"Twelve and Twelve More" by Erika Allison

"Twelve and Twelve More" - oil/mixed media on panel, 10"x10"x1 5/8"

Back to the beginning: I painted a 16″x16″x1 5/8″ painting containing twelve circles. The challenge was to make it interesting. The inspiration was a package of paper towels in the studio. In addition, I chose a complementary color scheme of red and green. So, I think I had a real challenge there! After I finished it and titled it (clever title, eh?) I thought I could paint this subject endlessly and have interesting variations every time. That’s how this series got started – with twelve circles. Most have twelve circles. One painting I decided that the “twelve” didn’t necessarily have to be circles, so I used a few squarish shapes. I will say that I think that one is the weakest of the series.

"Twelve" by Erika Allison

"Twelve" - oil/mixed media on panel, 16"x16"x2"

I really enjoy working on this series. I find it challenging. I’m taking a simple premise and painting it over and over again – and expecting the results to be unique and exciting every time.

I have a funny anecdote about my second attempt to add to my new idea of painting a series. I went from the smallish 16″x16″ to a large 60″x48″. I really like working large. My color scheme challenge was to use monochromatic scheme with yellow. Yikes! High key painting coming out! I finished it, thinking I had a ready-made title “Twelve.2″ I was about to write that on the back when I realized I had actually painted sixteen circles! Oh, no! Now, what? Obviously, I had to come up with a different title, which took awhile. I had to do a lot of thinking and studying before coming up with “Evolution/Revolution”.

"Evolution/Revolution" by Erika Allison

"Evolution/Revolution" - oil/mixed media on panel, 60"x48"x2"

I’m sure I’ll keep adding to this series.  I have no idea when it will end, if ever…

What DOES “filling the well” mean?  I’m guessing that most artists have some idea of what it means.  It’s a huge and necessary part of the creative process.  In order to say something, one has to have something to say!  When you work and create and move on to the next project to work and create again – eventually that well can run dry.  It needs time to re-fill.  The well is what you draw on for ideas.  You may consciously dig down in that well, looking for something.  But, I think it’s usually a more subconscious thing.  It’s not something you think about doing.  It just happens.   So, when that well is dry or nearly dry, time is needed while it re-fills.  And, how does that happen?  How does the well fill up again?  All  your life experiences are part of that well.  Every vision, every thought, every encounter, every experience – contribute to filling the well.

So – time and living are the key requirements to filling the well.  You need to take some time away from your studio and your creative process.  You need to just “be”.  Don’t be putting pressure on yourself to come up with ideas for your next creation.  There will be plenty of ideas in due time.  Your experiences and visions and subconscious thoughts are always pouring into that bottomless well.  Even your daydreaming contributes.  But, let it all be subconscious.  Try to consider  yourself “on vacation” from your art.  You’re NOT, really.  You’re never on vacation from being an artist.  It’s who you are.  But, TRY to just let your artist lie fallow for awhile.  That is when seeds are being sown, ideas are percolating…  And, soon enough, you’ll be heading into the studio again, ideas flowing, more than you think you have time to even work on.  As if by magic, new ideas appear on your canvas, or whatever ground you work on.  It’s an ongoing cycle.  Take from the well…refill the well…

Do you have thoughts on filling the well?  I’d love to hear from you on how it fits into your creative process.

I love Las Vegas artists!  They are so vibrant, enthusiastic, generous, helpful…and full of great ideas.  There’s always a new idea, a new event, something to keep the arts district in motion and in the news. 

This new event, First Annual Open Air Painting Day, should be fun for the artists.  It’s great for camaraderie.  It’s a good opportunity to get to know your fellow artists a little better.  And, it’s always cool to be able to watch other artists at work.  That’s not always something you get to see!  It will be an opportunity to share tips and anecdotes.  Who knows, you may even accomplish something!  And, the public is invited, of course.  Anyone can come watch the artists at work (and play).

I have been in Las Vegas for three years now.  I felt welcomed from my first venture into the arts district – attending First Friday.  I have found the artists here to be generous in offering opportunities, in helping when help is needed and being generally supportive of each other.  All are interested in growing the arts district.  When there’s a charitable cause, you can count on the artists to pitch in and donate time, talents, paintings.  And, the most enduring quality is their willingness to support and promote each other.  It’s not just ME, ME, ME.  It’s “Check out this artist’s work”.  So, the painting day is yet another opportunity for all artists – and another event to keep the arts district in the news. 

This event is sponsored by Place Gallery and PeaceN’art Studio.  Tents to protect us from Las Vegas’ fierce sun are being provided by The Arts Factory.  What a nice collaboration in the spirit of offering an opportunity for all!  Thank you, Gina, Alex and Wes!

Jill Of All Trades

Posted Monday, April 19th, 2010


“Can We Get There From Here?”


Oil/Mixed Media on Panel

Yup, JILL.  That would be the feminine for…you got it – jack of all trades.  I suppose I shouldn’t focus on gender.  All of us artists are up against the same thing:  the need to be able to do it all.  It seems that ALL is getting bigger and broader and more demanding.

I wish that being an artist meant that one would CREATE ART.  That’s all.  Times  have changed.  Our needs have changed.  And, there’s more than ever to do as an artist.  There’s so much preparation.  There’s promoting oneself.  Showing the work.  Being a good salesperson.  Keeping accurate records.

Before I can begin a painting I have to come up with a painting surface.  Sure, surfaces are available to buy.  But, there are many things to consider.  What kind of surface do  you want?  Can you afford to buy a prepared surface of the quality you want?  Or, if you want a “custom” surface that isn’t manufactured, you will need to create it yourself.  This is where the “fun” begins.  A knowledge of building materials and tools comes in handy.  Tools needed to build the surface are  needed.  And, a place to work at building is needed.  Time is spent building the painting surfaces.

The best part, for me, is the actual creating of the artwork.  I get the most joy out of painting and whatever else is involved in the creation of my work.  I work rather quickly as far as the actual painting goes.  But, I can spend a lot of time thinking, viewing, coming up with ideas of “what’s next”.  Do I want to include this or that, do I want to add this or that found object, do I want to add marks in pencil, oil stick or spray paint?  This is where I really enjoy the process.  These are the decisions that truly affect the final outcome of the work.  The answers to each of these questions make or break the success of of the work.  I love it when I feel like I’ve made the right decisions.

Now, I need to be able to promote myself.  In the past that meant being able to photograph your work well (or hire a professional photographer), keeping your resume up-to-date and searching for opportunities to show your work.  Opportunities to show your work is still the goal today.  But, there are so many more opportunities for promoting yourself.  Hello, computer!  If one has the skills to create one’s own website and keep it up-to-date and photograph and photoshop one’s work – that One is in good shape!  Hooray for you!  If, on the other hand, one (ME) is a bit of a dinosaur in this area – there is a lot of frustration.  I feel like I’m spending all my time learning how to do everything that needs doing.  And, where is my painting time?

Well, I’m not giving up!  I’m still plugging away at it all.  This painting, “Can We Get There From Here?” shows how making one’s own painting surface contributes to the end result of the painting.  I’ve altered the shape of the rectangular surface by cutting out three semi-circles with my handy-dandy electric jigsaw.   I photographed the finished work.  With help from my fabulous webmaster, Trillian, I’ve come up with an image of the work.  She’s still working with me on how to do all this stuff.

I’m always looking for opportunities to show and sell my work.  I watch for competitions that I feel are worthwhile to enter.  And, when things go well, I have to get down to good record keeping!

Some artists swear by the sketchbook. They maintain it’s important to keep one, to be constantly sketching, and wouldn’t go anywhere without it. That’s not me. I’m not much of a sketcher. I never have been. I love to draw…and I’m decent at drawing. I just don’t have much use for sketching, if that makes any sense.

I can remember my freshman year in college. We were supposed to keep a sketchbook for Drawing 101. The night before it was due to be turned in I was in my dorm room scrambling to fill it up. I did numerous drawings of my left hand, feet, tennis shoes, loafers, whatever I could find to draw at the last minute. I wonder if the prof could figure that out? Surely, I wasn’t the only last-minute student!

Recently, I came across my “current” sketchbook in my studio. I opened it and was somewhat appalled to find that my first entry was dated 2002! See? I told you…not much of a sketcher. And, there’s still plenty of room left. I leafed through the whole sketchbook, curious to see what I’d sketched a few times over the years. While I didn’t have sketches of paintings-to-be, I DID have lots of IDEAS jotted down (with a few hastily scratched in sketches to help me remember how the ideas were to work). I was actually amazed at all the ideas I’d had – and had sense enough to jot down lest I’d forget. Some ideas I’ve already implemented, and are the backbone of my current method of working. Others are still waiting for me to try.

I’m glad I decided to thumb through the sketchbook. It reminded me that I come up with lots of creative ideas. And, it reminded me that I should be TRYING some of these ideas. It’s always good to inject new ideas and new methods into one’s work. An artist shouldn’t get too comfortable with one way of working…which reminds me of a good Picasso quote: “Success is dangerous. One begins to copy oneself, and to copy oneself is more dangerous than to copy others. It leads to sterility.”

I’m sure I still won’t keep a sketchbook the way many artists do. But, mine is every bit as valuable – to me, anyway!

Sometimes it seems like life gets in the way and interferes with my ability to make art… when I want to.

It’s hard when I’m  “inspired” to paint and all kinds of things interfere with my plans. It tends to make me angry and/or frustrated. I have ideas. I want to paint. I NEED to paint. But, I have to do this and I have to do that. And, the car needs to go in for some repair …and ends up taking all day …and into another day.

Why me? Aaaaaagh! I try to remain calm and just go about doing what I have to do. I know that getting angry and grumpy isn’t going to help. As a matter-of-fact, that usually makes everything worse. That makes the people around you angry and grumpy. It’s not their fault that everything isn’t going smoothly.

So – the Big Irritator this week is the car. It needs to go in to see what’s wrong – and get repaired.

I went “prepared” for a long wait. I took my crossword puzzle book and two pencils. I never work crosswords in ink. It’s guaranteed I’ll be doing some erasing. I forgot to mention that I like crossword puzzles that are HARD – ones I’ll most likely not be able to finish completely. I took along my Washington Post crossword puzzle book. I used to have the New York Times crossword puzzle book that I loved.

I also took along my copy of Julia Cameron‘s Walking In This World. I have read it through several times. I can’t remember how many times. But, I get something from it every time. When I finish it, I will either go back to The Artist’s Way and read that again, or I will re-read Walking in This World again. The books are full of reminders about what it is to be an artist, what one should be doing, the pitfalls to watch out for, and all those wonderful quotes.

So, while car problems got in the way of my plans to attend a holiday coffee and to spend a day painting, maybe it was meant to be. It provided some probably much-needed time to slow down, think, and think some more.

I could read a lot more than I do. I used to read a lot. But, it takes away from my painting time. I tend to think in terms of creating time and other things that interfere with creating time. Perhaps I need to expand my horizons and remember that all those other things fill the well. Where does one get the experiences to paint about if one isn’t “experiencing”?

So, maybe life doesn’t get in the way after all. Life is what it’s all about!


Posted Tuesday, December 1st, 2009

I don’t walk into the studio to find inspiration. It’s not that it can’t be found there. It can be found anywhere and everywhere. Inspiration comes from living life. Any little thing can trigger a thought, an emotion, a visual that makes me want to create. I’m especially vulnerable to textures. And, they’re everywhere! Shiny, smooth, rough, cracked, polished, jagged, crumbly…the list goes on. I can see patterns in the textures. Sometimes a certain texture will evoke a memory, a fleeting thought, an idea…inspiration to start creating. It can be frustrating when all these ideas start cascading in my head and I’m NOT in the studio and probably won’t be there for some time. I guess the ideas go into a storage module somewhere in the brain. Hopefully, they will come out again when called upon. That’s what I mean when I say inspiration comes from living life. These experiences are constant and unending. They get stored somewhere…in the experience bank?

When I go into the studio I often DON’T have an idea of what I’m going to do. I go in because I LIKE it in there. It’s my favorite place. It’s where I do what I love most to do: paint and create. So, now, I NEED an idea. I NEED inspiration. Where is it? Stored somewhere in the brain. And, how do I get it out here where I can use it? Turn on the music, start putting paints out, look around the studio…Anything can trigger a thought, a memory, a visual. Oh, yeah, remember that beautiful rusty stain? The patina on the copper gutter? The crackled ice on the puddle in the street? The rough bark on the tree? The colors in the sunset last night? The change of color from the sunny spot to the shady spot? The dancing light on the lake?

Then, of course, I have to decide what I’m going to DO with that inspiration. The fun begins…