I'm ruminating on a trip I took to New York three years ago today. It was three days on my own, an "intense art immersion to help get my painting mojo back." I wrote in my blog about the painting slump I was having, and my goals for the trip (here, here, and here).
At the time I was working on a series of oil paintings about places and memory that I called The Memory Disease. The trip helped it along - I made small black and white paintings when I returned. But at the time I didn't know that within two months we would be initiating the process to sell our house and buy another, disrupting my art-making for months. I also didn't know that a year later I would make the decision to take a break from oil painting and abandon that series altogether.
But now, after a year and a half of working on small ink, watercolor, and gouache paintings (Story of Travel and Small Worlds), and creating a story told in images and rendered in ink (Story of a Girl), I am back at oils working on a new series I'm calling Place Shapes (for now).
I decided to look back at my sketchbook from August 2015 to see my notes about the art I was seeing. What I thought might help me in the studio then could also be helpful to me now.
,But when I looked at it I realized how much of what I saw and experienced there lives with me still, even after abandoning the series that was giving me problems, even going through different ways of working in the studio.
Jacob Lawrences' Migration Series is still a narrative without text and slightly abstracted, flattened out, graphic, with a focus on shapes, and all of that lives in the place where I keep my art knowledge. The thing I bring to the studio other than the intrinsic drive - the thinking and looking and talking and writing - has been been a focus since my dinner and talk with Paul Behnke and Robin Stout (predates that - they got me refocused). The Moroccans by Matisse is still a justification and a goal for every new thing I want to try. Sargent's balance of loose and tight, detailed and not lives in my veins. And the 8th floor terrace at the Whitney is my happy place.