Thursday, July 13, 2017

Looking at My Work

I'll pause today to look at my work, using suggestions from Jane Davies in her new book Abstract Painting: The Elements of Visual Language. If you followed my posts when I took Jane's 100 Drawings on Cheap Paper last year starting the last day of August, you know that I really had to work hard to make objective observations about visual content and not fall into describing process or materials.

She breaks observations down into visual content, emotional response, and personal references.

Visual content:
I see patterns of dots in differing sizes and densities, amorphous patches of black with some differentiation of size and two bleeding off different edges, fine gray lines, fine black lines, heavier darker curvy black lines some of which bleed off the page, white scribbles, muted green scribbles, hints of lilac, a limited and fairly neutral color palette, some veiling, an overall ovoid composition with relatively quiet(er) space in the center, and contrast coming from black and white elements.

Emotional response:
I like the tension between the overall busyness of this piece and the calming structure of the curved black lines as they run through the black amorphous shapes and hold the elements together. The neutral colors and b&w are soothing. I like the raw chaotic energy of the scribbles and dots.

Personal references:
This piece suggests outer space to me—planets and other matter orbiting and swirling in the universe. It also suggests inner space—thoughts and feelings and conflicts and ideas bumping into each other. However, while I was painting I had no idea what it might suggest.

Life Rarely Fails to Offer Some Consolation
4x5"; acrylic, ink, collage, and watercolor and oil pastels
on manila stock


  1. Hi Dotty,
    Great descriptions. I am trying to do more of this. It doesn't come naturally but I will keep trying. Thanks for the insight.

    1. Hi Marion, my learning curve remains steep! Looking at my own work WITHOUT the filters of what materials I used and what my process was is CHALLENGING. It's challenging even to observe other's work with objectivity—to be able to say, for example, "I see many circles" vs. "There are too many circles" or "The circles dominate this composition."

  2. Thanks for your wonderful observations. I also ordered the book and counting the days. I feel that these observations wi!l help me to develop the various stages in my work!
    Love that yellow green.

    1. See my above comment to Marion! Plenty to learn and, even once the skill of making objective observations is strong, there are so many options as to where one might take a painting next, many of which have nothing to do with knowing/following 'rules.'

      Thank you for your subjective comment of loving the yellow green!

    2. How do you find the book? Is there much overlapping from g the courses you have taken?

  3. Wow! Sounds like a book I need to order! Thanks for the detailed observations...I haven't tried looking at my own work this way, but I can see the benefits of doing it. I am captivated by your emotional response description!

    1. Jen, I like the idea of having this kind of observation as one option in my repertoire. I am a newbie for sure, even in emotional responses and personal references as defined by Jane Davies. When I took her online class last fall, I went in feeling comfortable about the idea of commenting on both my own and others' work. HA! Jane pulled me right up short in no time. But I was fascinated by the idea of learning this visual language and dove right into rewriting every one of my observations for all six paintings for one lesson. ONLY TO FALL WAY SHORT AGAIN! So humbling. And amusing to me. Still loving the challenge of gaining some traction here.

  4. What you said Dotty! LOL. I love the dots in different sizes, the bit of veiling, the strength in the black, and the calm in the green. My eyes are excited with so much to take in, but the chaos is exciting, not overwhelming. The touch of lilac seems to me, subconscience sunlight. Noticed and appreciated, if not fully acknowledged in that moment.
    After traveling here and there, and all around. My eyes are drawn to the upper right quad. And there they want to stay ;)

    1. I especially enjoyed your mention of subconscious sunlight, and the experience of having your eyes' moving all around but being drawn in the end to the upper right quad. Fascinating.

      I further appreciated your using the word 'veiling,' as I did, because in hindsight I'm thinking that word may represent my having unwittingly (and NOT for the first time) fallen right back into vocabulary that speaks of process and technique more than what I see. It may veer away from the visual language I am trying to practice using. I wonder if for my purposes I might have said I see several small patches that look foggy. ??? Still finding my way with this visual language thing.