Photo Transfer Techniques for Painters
Instructor: Jeffrey T. Baker
1-Day Spring Workshop at OCAC
Saturday, April 13 | 9am-4pm
There are only a few spots left in the photo transfer workshop I'm teaching in Portland this spring. I'll be demystifying the various approaches to photocopy transfers while distilling ten years of trial-and-error into a selection of handy tips and hands-on activities suitable for painters and photographers alike. Read the full course description and register here.
If sweeping coastal headlands, herds of wild elk, and the waving grasses of a windswept estuary aren't enough to entice you to the coast this winter, perhaps the opportunity to meet a few artists while touring about the Sitka Center for Art and Ecology will be just the nudge you need.
This coming Monday evening the Sitka Center for Art and Ecology is hosting an open studio event that is free and open to the public. There will be food, drink, and a chance to meet the writers and artists in residence at Sitka this winter. My studio will be open for the duration with a number of completed works and works-in-progress on display. I do hope to see you there!
Learn more about the Sitka Center for Art and Ecology's residents from the 2012/13 winter season.
If the presiding metaphor of the landscape experience was that of God as supreme artist, it need only be a short step to the idea that artists were seers or priests-- if they fulfilled their mission as teachers, and behaved properly. They had privileged information. They were trained to read the Book of Nature, in which God's will was inscribed, as surely as in the Bible.
So writes the late great Robert Hughes in his American Visions (pg. 139) as he unpacks the nation's relationship with landscape painting. Anyone familiar with Hughes as a personality and art critic would perhaps not be surprised at the rather pointed follow-up sentence. . .
But these high responsibilities gave art a certain fragility. If it slipped, it fell a long way, like Lucifer.
Amidst the sodden woods, and in the hours I'm left to my own thoughts, ley lines begin to unwind from the seemingly disparate list of experiences past and preoccupations present. I pick up a book to find it explains elements of the paintings I'm working on that I could not articulate. I dally over an article online only to have it lead me back to theosophical ideas that were the essence of my professional career for years. And I stumble upon the following distillation of esoteric thought by French scholar Antoine Faivre on the same morning that I literally see the silver behind reality; just as I so often imagine it in my studio work.
Correspondence: Everything in Nature is a sign. The signs of Nature can be read. The microcosm and macrocosm interplay. Synchronicity exists, and can be found as signs from Nature and may lead to the understanding of the divine.
It is the first three points that interest me most (although I've included the other three as well) as I develop, perhaps for the first time, a more prolonged experience of the natural world. To see the signs in nature may require an act of imagination, or an expression of faith (or some fine amalgam of both), but there is a very long heritage for this that stretches back to man's earliest time when there was no distinction of nature as other or man as more.
"Theosophy." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 29 Nov 2012. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theosophy>
Years ago my grandmother completed a paint-by-numbers kit of Jesus as the Good Shepherd, and it hung in my grandparents home amongst a room of treasured mementos that included family photos, rosaries, and WWII memorabilia. I photographed it one morning, marveling at how even when blurred to an extreme it remained iconic. After my grandmother died I created this work to remind me of the sanctity that resides in the work of our hands.
Fear Not, Neither Be Afraid
toner, acrylic, metallic leaf, and wax on panel
23” x 19” - 2011
Thomas Cole - Manhood (from Voyage of Life), 1840
Oil on canvas
Permanent Collection of National Gallery of Art | Image via Wikimedia Commons (source)
There are a few studio amenities that, now that I've enjoyed them, I can't imagine going without.
Perhaps the most notable is having a sink in the studio. For years I had to walk down a winding hall every time I needed to clean a brush, which inevitably led to impromptu conversations with studio mates or waiting by the bathroom for someone to finish their business before I could even access a sink. How luxurious to just take four steps over to a faucet and then turn back around and pick up working again.
And then there's heat. You can just turn up the heaters in the studio when it gets cold. They won't blow a circuit and the button to their thermostats isn't jealously guarded for nine months out of the year in the interest of cutting energy costs. This means no numb toes and no need for fingerless gloves while trying to mix paint. I can even let go of the fact that one of the baseboard heaters is on a prime working wall which now must simply be used as a prime works in progress storage wall.
These seem like simple things, right? Yet I've never had both in any studio space I've ever occupied. Additionally, the functionality of this studio is greatly enhanced by the fact that it is temporary, and all the items in it (excluding a few tables and chairs) I've had to bring in for the interim. This helps minimize the clutter which so quickly takes hold in a permanent studio space. Work surfaces cannot be monopolized by stacks of vintage frames and one won't spend an hour looking for gum arabic amongst drawers and drawers of drawing supplies.
As it is so often the artist who renders their own studio sub-standard through a combination of materials hoarding and untidy work habits, having a short-term work space might ultimately prove to be a more productive arrangement as it necessitates a periodic uprooting and subsequent reevaluation of both working practice and materials. This experience has certainly informed some new thinking about how to arrange my permanent studio, which continues to languish in a state of near completion, as it has for months. I doubt I'll be able to plumb in a sink, but heat is within the realm of reason, as is a serious purging of items that do not immediately contribute to the creative work.
There is no shortage of precedent for glorifying death with the luster of gold. Above is one small work in progress that nods to that convention even as humanity is completely removed from the honorific.
Another memento mori on its merry way toward an end I can't quite visualize yet. Just a few days ago it looked like this. . .
Right now I'm just allowing this to be a reactive sort of process- with decisions made as they often are in life, in the wake of other decisions, some of which are good and some less so. You can try to whitewash certain elements, or perhaps scrape them away, with the hopes of starting fresh but ultimately some trace of what has come before always remains.
For over a decade Jeffrey T. Baker has explored the elegiac and sublime through his mixed media artworks. He harbors an unapologetic predisposition for the decayed and imperfect.
Presented here are his thoughts on artistic process, inspirations, tutorials, and information about related upcoming events.
Posts prior to 2011 visit Subjective: The Artful Life