Erika Allison's Artastic Blog

Breaking the rules… or not

Posts Tagged ‘studio’

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.

Paintinplace gallery

Paint-ins seem to be becoming “the thing” in the Las Vegas arts community.  We had an outdoor group painting session in late spring.  Now, there’s a regular “Third Friday” paint-in at Place Gallery, organized and hosted by Gina Quaranto.  There is a nice, large area that works well for many artists to gather and work.  Many mediums and styles were represented.  There was painting in different media, sculpting, and a number of artists were working on their skate decks for LVSK8IV The Skate Deck Art Show

Creativity fills the air.  You can breathe it in and use it.  Artists are lost in what they are creating.  And, then, they may be wandering around checking out what other artists are doing.  I think the camaraderie is good for all.  An arts community is what keeps a lot, if not all, of us going.  We get support and encouragement, which is always needed.  We build friendships.  We try to give back in the ways that we can.

It takes some effort to haul all the needed supplies for painting somewhere other than your own studio.  But, it can be worth it.  Group painting offers some things we don’t get alone, holed up in our studios, which is our natural habitat.  Aside from the camaraderie, you also get some publicity of sorts.  It may just be word-of-mouth, someone who stopped in to watch mentioning they’d watched you paint.  Or, it may be a possible collector who has seen your work on exhibit, who now gets to see you working.  You’d be surprised how many people are fascinated by seeing an artist at work.  Keep in mind that this is totally foreign to most people who are not artists.  It may seem humdrum and everyday to you because that IS your life.  You do it almost by rote.  But, to the layman it may be magic.  And, don’t forget, collectors and all buyers are buying a piece of the artist.  Meeting you, seeing you in action, talking to you about your work or your methods, all provide fodder for the collector’s interesting story for his friends.  Also, connecting with the other artists can be worthwhile beyond just the friendship and camaraderie.  The artists here in Vegas are generous with their support of each other.  Your name might come up when there’s an exhibition opportunity.  And, last, but not least – it’s good to get out of your studio and participate in life!  You need ideas for your work, life experiences!  You need to fill the well!

Here is my painting after the session at Third Friday Paint-In.  I will work on it more in my studio and post a picture when it’s completed.


Have you painted with a group?  Do you enjoy it?  What benefits or pitfalls do you find in painting with others present?

In the Works

Posted Saturday, May 22nd, 2010

I have several paintings in the works right now.  I have two that I started awhile back, but haven’t put the finishing touches on yet.  The problem seems to be that I don’t know just where I want to go with them yet.  I study them every time I go into the studio.  I rotate them so I can view them from all possible angles.  One of these times a solution will become clear to me… and I’ll proceed.

I also have two paintings that I started last Saturday at our First Annual Outdoor Paint-In.  I really like the starts I got on both.  I’m kind of amazed about that.  It’s a bit of a pain to haul all the supplies needed for oil painting to an outdoor location.  If I were a plein air painter I’d have a french easel and no complaints.  But, I’m a studio painter.  I like all the comforts of my studio.  And, I don’t really need to view subject matter since I’m an abstract painter.  Enough of that.  The camaraderie is worth the effort.  It’s interesting to see other artists at work.  And, it was fun seeing people trying to figure out what was going on!  At any rate,  I got two good starts.  And, this morning I worked on one of the paintings.  I still like it.  I’m not quite sure where I’m going with it.  But, that seems to be how I work.  For now, it’s time to leave it alone for awhile.


After first session of painting



After session 2 in the studio – on the easel

The second painting from last week is still waiting for me.  I could’ve gone right from where I left off on painting number one and started working on the second one.  But, sometimes it’s better to just concentrate on one until it’s finished.  There’s no rule of thumb on that.  It’s my call.  I think by not working on both today there’s a better chance of keeping them very individual.  Sometimes I get in a groove and what I do on one painting gets carried over to the next.  I don’t want to be an assembly line.  I want each painting to have it’s chance of shining on its own.


Painting 2, on the easel

So – this challenge is for another day.  There are plenty of possibilities, as always…

I woke up thinking about this painting I did at the end of 2009.  It has been titled and shown already.  But, I’m still thinking about it.  It’s not truly finished.  It’s missing something.  I think I realized that all along.  And, yet, for some reason, I showed it anyway.  Shame on me!

The painting, “Don’t Suck Me In”, is missing pizzaz, the final touch.  It needs that one more thing.  I remember thinking about it as I was “finishing” it.  I just never came up with what that one final touch should be.  There are so many options at this point in a painting.  That final touch could be a paintstroke, a mark of some kind, a found object…  The hard part is figuring out which option will be the coup de grace.  It’s a critical time in the process of making a piece of art.  Is that last touch the coup de grace or the disastrous mark that makes the work OVER worked?  It is critical that an artist knows when a work is done.

Many times I have made my final mark and been so pleased with myself.  Aha!  The perfect mark that adds just what was needed.  Without that mark, the painting just isn’t finished.  Then, it seems that I will forever remember that final touch that made a particular painting.  Maybe I even get a little too impressed with myself!

Well, I would like to find that perfect mark right about now!  I could use something to gloat over.  The truth is, I’m struggling with this one.  Like I said, I actually woke up thinking about this.  That’s a good start.  I  had the idea of what to do next.  And so….I headed into the studio right after getting the coffee brewing.  The idea I had come up with had many possibilities, as usual.  Now, it’s time to pick one and JUST DO IT!  And, so I did.  I did not have to change the title of the painting.  I have perhaps added some depth to the meaning.  We’ll see.

I’m still not certain that it’s finished.  I will keep it up on the easel and pop in and study it.  At some point I will decide that I’ve come up with a good finish…or not.

“Don’t Suck Me In”, 25″x31″x2″, is still in progress.  The painting posted is the “Before” version.  I never understood why artists sometimes dated their work to include more than one year.  I’d think – it took that long?!  Now, I get it.  I will have to add 2010 to the date on the back.  It says 2009.  So, now, it will read 2009/2010.  It didn’t really take me 2 years.  Well, I’m not done yet.  Who knows?

I will photograph the work and post my progress in another post.  Who knows how long this might go on?



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…