Story of a Commission

Earlier this year, I was commissioned by a client in California to create a large oil painting. It was a piece in reference to one I had completed earlier that year. Here is the process from start to finish. 

If you are interested in commissioning a custom work from me, please contact me here and give me some details on your project. 

 Starting out with base layers of color in oil. 

Starting out with base layers of color in oil. 

Before the start of a project, I ask the client a series of questions about their project. Specifically, I ask for color palettes and compositions they would like to see, plus size of the work. This client wanted a piece with lots of light blues, pale teals, and greens, with accents of yellow and orange. This project was based off of a previous painting I had done that they enjoyed, so I had a good jumping off point. I cannot create the same thing twice, but can work "in the style" of an older work.

 The completed work, after many layers! I named it "Finding the Flow." This work is oil on canvas, 40" x 40.

The completed work, after many layers! I named it "Finding the Flow." This work is oil on canvas, 40" x 40.

This piece took about 4 weeks to complete, with another 2 weeks needed for the oil paint to dry completely. Project completion varies by size and materials used.

 Installed in the client's home.

Installed in the client's home.

It was a joy to complete this special piece for the client, and I received a message after installation of the work that warmed my heart:

Your beautiful piece was installed yesterday, and we are all just crazy about it. The kitchen truly is the center of our home, and we spend hours here every day. It’s such a treat to have this special piece in our home. Thank you again for sharing your talent with us!

I look forward to future custom projects! Let me know if I can complete one for you. :)

Every painting is a journey.

One of the most common questions I am asked as an artist is how long it takes to complete a painting. This question does not surprise me. The process of making art is foreign to many. And abstract art, despite existing in the cultural lexicon since at least the late 19th century, remains mysterious in its meaning or worth, leading to the dreaded declaration, "My kid could do that."

It's true. Kids make great art. But, I'm going to show you how I make art.

I don't know how a work starts. Something strikes me- a word, a color, an image from nature, a shape I feel like making, a composition that has been flashing behind my eyes as I drift to sleep- that incites a need to create. I head to the studio. I prep the canvas or paper, lay it out on table or easel. I mix up my color, dip my brush, and I start. Immediately I react to what I just did, adding new color, a charcoal or graphite mark, or a shape, repeating the process until I built up to a composition that feels like it has balance.

The process can take minutes, hours, days, weeks, years. I never really know. Sometimes I sit with a piece for months, photograph it, market it, and then a few months later, paint over it.

This is a painting I began months ago. I painted it at the same time as two other pieces, and had some extra paint to use up from those paintings, so I quickly did began this one. Then it sat in my studio until two days ago, when I finally decided that it wasn't finished.

I initially liked how fresh it felt, and the lightness of the marks. I love simple paintings. But this one didn't last as a design. It needed more. Here is the story of where it went from there.

 

At first, I added some drawn charcoal lines and shapes, and started painting in more colors: turquoise, green, navy blue, gray. I turned the piece upside down to take a look at how the design drew the eye through it, and how "balanced" it seemed (did the parts on one section relate to parts on another section). Did the parts relate to the whole? Did some stick out, or become distracting? I decided to keep going.

I actually forgot to photograph the step in between these two steps, but no matter: it was terrible. WAY too much pink. I had nicknamed the painting "Miami." Yikes. Here's where I went from there, subduing the warm colors, and building up the surface more.

More blues, more grays, more greens, more layers. I turned the piece around again, and covered up quite a bit of the underpainting with cool colors. Shapes begin to connect through the middle, creating relationships in the composition, moving the eye around the piece like guideposts or bridges, from one section to the next.

I felt like the piece was at a stopping point, or almost. I just needed one more thing...

BitsandPinks-Progress3.jpg

More blue.

Where will it go from here? I'm not sure. I'm sitting with it for awhile longer...

What do you think?

Harnessing Chaos

AtWork-1 Life is what happens while you're busy making other plans. ~ John Lennon

For the past month or so, I have been wrestling with a painting. I tried all my usual tricks- sneaking up on it with white paint to "cover up" the parts that were not working, simplifying it, making it more colorful, making it more complex- none of which worked. I ended up with a bit of a mess.

OK, it was down right ugly.

The colors were, frankly, atrocious: acid yellow with earthy teal green, pale pink, weird beige (is beige ever weird? Well, I figured that one out!) and baby boy blue. Their dissonance haunted me for days. In yoga class I would find solutions to the problem, only to not have time to act on them. Finally, this past weekend, I attacked the piece. I knew it needed red, but not just any red: CORAL. That almost-orange-and-almost-salmon color that is gracing all the home decor blogs and catalogs this season.

Oddball

 

So there I was, painting some circles on this piece, with each one thinking, oh, crap, there's another thing I'll have to fix.

But I kept going. Trying to relate the halves of the work, add points of connection, reference and movement, and balance the color scheme so it stayed weird, but not unnervingly so.

This painting is really about trying to find structure in chaos... at some point making peace with the chaos. Therefore the work is not "pretty," but it has a jolie laide quality that makes it work. It is not at all what I set out to do, but somehow, I found a way to harness the chaos and coalesce it into a loose sort of structure. That's why I named it "Oddball."

 

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Elemental Beauty: Line and Texture

Relic, mixed media on paper, 30" x 30", ©2013 Julia Rymer Whenever I think of line- in the design sense- I think of the word mark-making.

Mark-making is one of those art terms that you hear in art school as an artist, but it doesn't really mean much to anyone outside the arts. (Frankly, it doesn't always mean much to artists!) However, it is a term that encompasses what creating with line means: the primal instinct to leave one's mark somewhere. It is this very human urge that compels one to "art"- to use art as a verb- to create, build, make, craft- to say with the hands, rather than the voice, "I was here."

Texture goes with line. Rough, smooth, silky or crisp, texture is the design element that relates most to the physical world- often coming from it, with the materials reacting to the surface on which they are used.

The piece above, Relic, was created by layering watercolor on paper. While the paper was still wet, I drew into the work, activating the charcoal and deepening the black, giving the marks depth as they melted into the paper. While the paper dried, I sprinkled salt and old paint granules on the paper, so that when it dried there was a mottled look, like stone or rock. The marks in this piece are primitive, simplistic, inspired by seed pods I've been collecting from my garden. The title of the work refers to history in the geological sense.