Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The Fire Eater

Connie Kleinjans contemporary art30 x 40 x 1.5", acrylic and mixed media on stretched canvas

12/2012 update: I first took this to a textured abstract class and mucked with it, then painted over it. It now looks like this.

It's been a busy time, getting myself settled in at Gallery 2611. I have some studio space there, yay!, but I needed to set that up. That meant a trip to Ikea, and two -- two! -- repeat trips to get missing parts. I also treated myself to a gorgeous new easel, and bought more paints, brushes, and texturing supplies. So I haven't made much time to paint.

However, I did this piece last month or so. I almost named it The Fighter, but the current title feels right (and almost sounds the same). But the reason I almost named it The Fighter is because it was one of those paintings that just had a mind of its own, and wasn't going to cooperate with any plans or concepts I had. I cajoled it, changed compositions, let it sit, revisited it, and, finally, here it is. I think maybe the struggle shows a bit, and I like that.

For those of you interested in art process, here's how I got to the final image:

Step 1: I wanted to play with my drippies (I really need a better name for those...), but on the diagonal instead of up and down. I played with a few compositions in Photoshop, along with a few palettes, and came up with this as my concept:

Background goes from dark to light, and the stripes are in a middle value, so they kind of merge with the background in the middle. I also looked at it the other way around:

That's a funny thing about abstracts: They are not glued to an orientation. I mean, seriously. Those of you who do landscapes or figure painting, do you ever rotate your work to see if it would look better oriented that way? Isn't that a bizarre concept? Well, kind of. Ultimately a work flies or falls based on the composition and we do often look at art from a different perspective to see what we can learn.

Step 2: I had a couple of nails on the wall, and I hung the painting so the drippies would go at an angle. I put another canvas underneath just to see what would happen with the drops that fell off this one. Here's the first version.

Frankly, meh! Not so good. The Photoshop version made promises I was unable to keep. (And if I'm wrong and you like it, tell me!) I think I thrashed for awhile at this point, and eventually decided I had to have a new concept.

Step 3: Now, one of my theories in making textured art is that no underpainting is wasted; it is merely source material and adds richness to whatever you put on it. Personally, I like success by definition. So, after "meh," a small explosion occurred and this emerged:

Kind of ghostly, kind of interesting, but, aughh! it still wasn't there. (Again, feel free to totally disagree with me. I'd like to think everything I touch is brilliant.) (Yeah, right. Maybe if I was Picasso.) You can see where the drip lines cross near the middle, though.

Step 4? Sadly, I didn't document the transition from the penultimate to the ultimate painting. But, like an earlier painting, I'm surprised at the iterations and how different they were. (And now, glad to have this record of it.)

End note: And interesting resource. I found a wonderful blog whose author talks straight to artists. It's Edward Winkleman's blog. He works out of Chelsea, New York, and gives wonderful, honest information, much of it useful to emerging artists. Here's a link to his excellent page on finding a gallery.


  1. Just never know where your painting is headed, love it!

  2. I don't either! I seem to start with some sort of compositional concept. But if it doesn't work, well, all bets are off. Kinda fun, really. :)

  3. Hey Connie,

    I actually really like the "I think I see a teddy bear" one.
    You painted over it though, huh?
    I mean if I'm buying, I want the onion, but just to look at, there is something very appealing about your "meh". Can I make it my desktop?

  4. Lovely painting. The Fire Eater is really magical! Glad to have found your blog! Very nicely done.

  5. Hi Cara. Sorry for taking so long to get back. Jury duty loomed for a few days. Anyway, yes, I did paint over the teddy bear image. But I like that you said that, since I do see some goodness in it. The color or spookiness or something. And, yes, you can totally make it your desktop. That would be cool, in fact.

  6. Hi Leslie. Thanks for dropping by. I love your painterly technique! And those bold colors! I surfed your website a bit. Yes, Brian Blood rocks! And interesting that you link to Scott Christensen. A branch of my husband's family is from near there, so I've been told I must go see. Keep up the good work.

  7. This is very cool. Love seeing steps and the evolution of a canvas. How is the gallery going? I hope to see it in May when I go up to pick up my son from SJSU.

  8. First, congratulations on hanging your work in the gallery and getting a studio space ready! (I'm drooling at the thought of having an actual room to myself to paint in.) Your paintings look amazing hanging on the gallery wall. I can see why they are interested in having you teach a workshop, your techniques are intriguing. I hope you have lots of eager students!

    Seeing the progression of this painting was interesting. I would have liked to see more but I'm sure you were busy painting not taking photos. I love how the focal shapes of this one seem to be emerging from the deeper colors. It's very powerful and beautiful!

    And yes, sometimes I do turn my canvases upside down. Often the new orientation is an improvement, ha ha.