Yesterday I was in the studio in a mild panic.  I had three canvases in various levels of completion staring at me.  They were each a non-objective abstraction, a somewhat new area of endeavor for me and each in a square format, 24″ x 24″, a new format for me.  This means that I am taking on two specific challenges simultaneously, as designing in a square is much different from design in a rectangular piece.

Instead of one of these paintings being under my brush, I sat at my desk staring at three canvases arrayed on the floor, propped against the flat file.  As they stared back at me in the chaos of my over-filled third floor studio, I wondered what to do.  I have been on an exploration of abstraction, progressively taking my imagery to the abstract, constantly aware that translating the world onto a two dimensional–flat–surface is an exercise in abstraction in and of itself. Painting is the endeavor of creating shapes and placing them on to the grid.  The grid represents the surface of the canvas, paper or board on which the color is placed.  This concept is complements of one of my teachers, a great artist, George James.  George takes his imagery, usually people, and creates an abstract composition that includes images of figures.

Looking at his paintings while squinting your eyes, you can easily see the abstract design in his work.  George emphasizes design as he teaches, noting that placing work on the grid matters little whether you depict things realistically or not, the design is what makes it work.

But to get back to my predicament.  What to do?  I really hadn’t the faintest idea.  I was sorely tempted to run downstairs, get on facebook and post “Baffled and feeling totally out of my depth.  Perhaps I am inadequate to the task.” Ahhh, what a crutch our technology is.  It would have felt like I was doing something while changing nothing except some people’s estimation of me.  So I toughed it out.

I kept mixing paint and putting it on those canvases.  Sometimes it was only a few strokes before I put the canvas back in its perch and pulled up another.  I had no idea what I was doing and where it was going.  However, I think this is where experience and knowledge come in.  My left brain (the logical side) could not, for the life of me, figure out what to do.  But the right brain (the side responsible for creativity, invention and putting you in the “zone”) took over the show, moving me back and forth between color, canvas and stroke.

Up to the last moment, I had no idea how any of the paintings would ever finish.  Then I placed a few more strokes on one that was very pale and that I thought would need to travel a long way to get done.  But it was complete.  I don’t really know how it happened.  It must be magic!

Here it is.  Working title:    Clearing

 Clearing — detail  This lets you see some of the texture in this piece.

"Clearing"  detail

close up view showing texture

Have you ever been surprised with magic?


About karenfriedland

I am a visual artist-- painter, sculptor, photographer-- coloring the world. My travels take me to many places around the world and I love connecting with others at home and on my trips. I am also a teacher (art), business person and creativity and business coach. My website is: I am so glad you have visited my blog!
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6 Responses to MAGIC

  1. Marianne Connor says:

    Thanks for your faith in your work, Karen! It inspires me to keep going when lost in the dark woods of my own work. I am also working on something bigger and more ambitious than I’ve done in the past. I hope that evokes the magic!

  2. Thank you, Judith. I can imagine that you make magical discoveries in your work.

  3. Ila says:

    We just have to listen and be open to the Magic! Love your story.

  4. Karen: Your work is stunning and your post spot-on. I’m a personal historian, which means I write heirloom quality books that preserve stories that link generations. Often, at the beginning of a project, I’m tempted to go clerk at K-Mart. Then . . . MAGIC.

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