Structure and Imagery: In Process with Valerie Brennan

Structure and Imagery: In Process with Valerie Brennan.

I have posted this article today that I got through a blog that I follow…. I always enjoy seeing other artist’s studios and their work in progress.

I am struggling these days with what I want the purpose of this blog to be. Last year whenI started it I had a different intention in mind. I went through wanting it to be a self promotion type of site, then an educational site, an inspirational site, and now, lately , I’ve been finding articles and writings that I like so much I want to pass them on. Maybe they’re all one in the same and I just have to be more – uh – regular with posting.

Enjoy the article.


Art Quote for the Day


” It’s painful to think of the number of paintings that don’t work, not only my own, but also what I see in galleries and museums.  Such failures may be adequately painted but they don’t sing.  They’ve left the studio but they aren’t happy about  it.  It’s simple and inevitable: there’s work we artists do that doesn’t come together.  And for each of us there’s only one solution to this problem. You just continue to  make paintings, and you make more paintings, and then for no particular reason all of a sudden you start to click and all the pieces that you’ve been working with , the direction you’ve been perceiving “as if through a glass darkly” is now open and clear, in all its glory.  We paint and everything falls into place.  That expression of being “in the zone” expresses the experience perfectly.  There is a momentum you’ve built up which was essential to this new work.  If you had been waiting  for inspiration, waiting  for that flow to begin, it would have caught you too flat-footed to notice.  It arrived out of the readiness that all the previous work had created in you  .  Regardless of how sluggish that process may have seemed at the time, things were  lining up  in preparation, ideas were formulating.

The making of art offers a poor example of efficiency at work.  Yet all that practice and preparation makes us ready when for some reason everything gets lined up and we become as if conduits for the spirit.  It shows in the result. the rest of the time we work to keep the channel open until things realign. Then, inexplicably and in exhilaration, everything goes right.

So much of our output seems destined to be merely preparation.  It’s what  makes the inevitable harsh judgment of our work when it’s not going  well so counterproductive, particularly when we compare our struggles in the studio to someones else’s edited, presented gallery work.  When we judge our output against someone else’s, we tend first to admire their mastery of their  obsessions.  We each have certain  fascinations and because of that  we excel at them.  So we may notice a painter’s handling of reflections or the way they handle paint itself and think we cna never paint like that.  And perhaps we may not.  Because that’s their area,not ours: it holds them and they have wrestled with it and perfected it. Our own obsessions are so close to us we probably can’t see them.  We’re  blind to our own magic.

The lengths an artist will go to create a particular way of painting is also deceptive.  We can think of Sargent who worked hard, scraping and repainting pieces, to get that effortless look of virtuosity.  We can’t compare that with what we’ve just finished working on this morning  Just because someone’s painting looks loose or facile doesn’t mean it was done quickly or effortlessly.

Creative Authenticity – 16 Principals to Clarify and Deepen Your Artistic Vision by Ian Roberts

Art Quote of the Day

Does anyone else have this “issue” ?  I have the most beautiful studio…… we built an addition onto our house a few years ago.  Tall windows – 8 ft. with small panes that look out on my beautiful garden. Lots of room…. of course with great light. BUT…… with this EXTREMELY COLD WEATHER we’re having it’s VERY,VERY,VERY cold in there. The room is off the kitchen, heated only from the heat that fills the rest of our little house but the room has no heat source of its own. Needless to say , I’m not very motivated to go into that room and paint. It’s not that I’m not feeling creative ….. I’m restless with ideas and desire to get to work but , really, THE COLD!!!!  I have been able to work for a couple hours before getting sooooooooooo chilled that I had to stop but that was when the temperature was at least above freezing. With this EXTREME cold, -50 degrees wind chill  factor , well, I’m discouraged.

I will dress as if I were going outside …. a few layers , boots, maybe even a hat…. see how long I can stand it. I can bring some acrylics into my living room and work at the coffee table I suppose but I have big oil paintings in progress in the studio that I really want to work on.

I should have begun teaching classes today but cancelled because of the horrible cold…. so I have one extra day  of “vacation” to ‘enjoy’. Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm….. what shall I do ? what shall I do?  Chant and meditate on the fact that


Thanks by the way  for everyone’s well – wishes about my lost sketchbook. UPDATE! It  hasn’t been found or turned in …. it’s just gone….. in the wind…. in someone else’s possession (, ENJOY! ),  in a landfill somewhere ( that’s what hurts the most) , and I’ve pretty much just resigned myself to it’s loss. Que sera – sera !


Art Quote of the Day

Greetings! A beautiful June morning. My husband and I spent yesterday moving my studio from the basement to its temporary home in the newly finished sunroom/classroom space. The next phase of the renovation on the house is putting a wood floor down in the basement , my studio… so for as long as that takes I  will be painting in this beautiful space. It may take some convincing to get me to go BACK downstairs when the floor is done  so I say to my husband who is doing the work: “TAKE YOUR TIME! TAKE YOUR TIME!”. It’s going to change my work habits alot….. since my work will be more accessible and in more light , and much warmer (temperature wise the basement is COLD even through the hottest summer days!), I might just get ALOT more work done. It was always hard to go down in the basement on a beautiful summer day…. on the other hand , maybe I’ll just sit and stare out the window instead of paint! Whatever….. its all GOOD!

Art Quote for the Day


Alice Neel said, “the will of the devil” – that you really have to have the will of the devil. And yet at the same time, you have to let the paintings lead you. You really have to let them have a life of their own.  You really have to make it a life force, and a lot of times you feel like you are being dragged by a team of wild dogs and that the paintings will take you someplace. I don’t think artists dream up art when they’re children, even though a lot of creative inspiration comes from childhood.  Artists are people who go in a room everyday, let the art drag them a little further, and then sitting back twenty years later say, “How did I get here?” You’ve made this whole other world.  You know, there was no idea of what heaven and hell used to look like. Artists made the idea of what heaven and hell looked like.  We have the same kind of job today. We’re making these worlds that no one ever dreamed of , yet they are very real .They come from reality.”


Well , the idea of low overhead is always very good.  But more importantly, to develop as an artist of substance with something to say takes a long time… You have to spend the time and pack as much energy into the work, and it will overflow into the world.

excerpt from interview with artist , Bill Jensen from the book, Inside the Painter’s Studio by Joe Fig

Art Quote for the Day


Do you work on one project at a time or several?

I usually start a group of paintings in case I get bored of ne or I exhaust my  interest in the imagery or the painting, and then I change.  Sometimes when I change, I actually feel like I want to change the way I am painting.  I don’t only want to paint with a brush that moves back and forth, four inches up and down. Then I will do something else, and I will paint a diffferent kind of painting, where I have to refocus myself.

So your process of working seven days a week for four months or so involves you staying concentrated and focused, and then you finish that particular group of paintings. Then it seems you just let all that go and forget it and a month later start from scratch?

Yes, that is what I try to do, that’s the plan if it works well. The fantasy and the pleasure of being in your studio have to do with the invention of yourself in different roles…. Earlier you asked, “Do you contemplate?” Well , you do  contemplate somehow, but lots of times I think I don’t contemplate.  I just come to the studio and work.  I come to the studio, and I want to feel like a little synchronized machine.  In that way I think of Warhol. Then , alot of times I think of myself as the amateur scientist who is concocting these strange potions and doesn’t know where they will lead and hopes that something new or different will come out of it.  Sometimes it does, and sometime it’s a mess.  You have all these head games that you can play with yourself while in your studio – sometimes you are just a kid playing and enjoying yourself, cutting school while everyone else is at work.

Do you have a motto or creed that as an aritst you live by?

I do.  LIfe is short. Life goes fast. And what I really want to do in my life is to bring something new, something beautiful, and something filled with light into the world.  I try to think of that every day so that I can remember why I am coming to my studio.  And then the other thing, just go , just show up.

Inside the Painter’s Studio by Joe Fig

Art Quote of the Day

“It has long been a rite of passage for an artist in New York to set up shop in a loft downtown, such as that mentioned earlier, often in the Soho neighborhood.  Now, these spaces are much sought-after and usually extremely expensive.  After the second world war, when the area was not zoned for dwellings, there were bargains to be had and artists were among the first to live in Soho. Jasper Johns found a loft for himself in the mid -1950’s. Robert Rauschenberg encouraged him-it was what artists did.  Johns  found a building on Pearl Street in downtown Manhattan.

“Around the corner on Fulton Street was Rauschenberg’s fifteen-dollar-a-month walk-up loft that had pressed tin ceilings so low they could be touched, old floorboards with gaping half-inch spaces between them through which the floor below was visible, a bed on a platform a refrigerator, hot plate, shower, and toilet.” – Jill Johnson

Cindy Sherman’s studio is just off the living room.  Her SoHo loft is traditionally furnished and could be a home anywhere, but the studio is another story.  At the time I was there, it was littered with body parts, eyeballs, fake accident victims, magic-store props, and all sorts of gruesome paraphernalia.  She was in the midst of directing a horror film.” – David Seidner

Donald Judd bought a building on Spring Street in Soho in 1968. Ten years later , in search of more space, he moved to an abandoned army base in Marfa, Texas.

In 1909 , Picasso moved to a new place on the Boulevard de Clichy.  Olivier said that Picasso wouldn’t allow the studio to be dusted because the dust would fly up and get stuck on the canvases.  Every couple of months, the paintings would be moved so the studio could be cleaned.

Much later, Picasso had a studio in Vallauris on the French Riviera.  The photographer and art director Alexander Liberman visited the Vallauris and noticed what seemed to be a flaw:

” Picasso works with very little of the painter’s essential – light.  The little light there is comes through the window nearest his easel in a single , intense shaft of sunlight, its blinding brightness making everything around it darker.  Sabartes, Picasso’s lifelong friend and secretary, once said to me. ‘He does not need light….he has his own light from within.’

The Artist’s Mentor – Inspiration from the World’s Most Creative Minds , edited by Ian Jackman

Art Quote of the Day

The following quote is an excerpt from an interview with the artist , Jane Hammond. The interview is one of many included in a book called  Inside the Painter’s Studio by Joe Fig. The same series of questions were asked  to many artists. I’ve chosen Jane Hammond today because I actually saw a show of her work at the Chazen Art Museum of the University of Wisconsin , here in Madison , WI . I loved the show at the time, bought the show catalog and use it alot in my teaching.

Do you work on one project at a time or several?

I’ll work on several different projects at a time.  But if I’m painting, it’ll usually be one at a time.  Sometimes I’m working on two paintings at once, but if I was, I would be at the beginning of one painting doing something like with the watercolor paper, where it takes a lot of time to dry between the stages, and there is not much to do while it is drying.  I’m rarely in this almost-finished stage of two paintings at once.  Once I get to this stage, I won’t really work on anything else but [that one painting].

When you are contemplating your work, where and how do you sit or stand?

Ahhhh!  When we went out looking for the lofts, I told the [real estate] agent I had to have at least nineteen feet of space to get back from the painting to look at it.  One time I said [to the agent when we were looking at a loft] “Is this nineteen feet?” She said, “yes,” and I said , “Gee it feels like seventeen.” So she looks at me like I’m crazy.  But I spent twenty-two years in my old loft space: of course I  know the difference.So I like  to get back like this, and I sometimes create a situation where I can go do an errand to create distance so that I can come in and look at it all at once and then have a fresh impression, almost like it’s not my painting.   Otherwise, after you have been working on it for hours – you porbably know this – you can’t even really see it.  I used to sit in the chair for hours. Like I have spent thousand of hours in this chair in my old loft looking at my paintings.  I don’t do it as much anymore.  Probably because I don’t live alone anymore”

Art Quote of the Day

“For many, the notion of the artist’s creative process is shaped by the Hollywood image of the isolated, mad genius stabbing the air for ideas and then suddenly realizing them, fully formed, on a canvas, a piece of stone, or in brisk musical notation.  We all know that films can’t help but stereotype their subjects, and these often romanticized characterizations seem to substitute  affectations for what is really a complex and amazing process.  Let me suggest instead a more realistic version of the artist in the midst of a creative process.

The artist enters the studio, armed with an idea for a painting (or sculpture,song,etc.). Often, the idea appears to the inner eye somewhat formed, but until it is physically manifest, its outline is, at best, a bit cloudy.  Marks are made, colors are applied, and the object is set in motion.  The creative spark is now lit, but the fire needs tending.  It is INSTINCT and the willingness to trust it that now comes into play.  As counterintuitive as it seems, the intuition  involves countless subjective considerations and small judgments.  Judgments? Yes! Not rational judgments or evaluations, but intuitive decisions-each one propelling the work of art beyond its limits.  The artist must then trust (or distrust) those leaps , only to leap again and again, possibly in different and even contradictory directions.  Imagine Jackson Pollock moving and  dancing with the paint, using his eye and his intuition to direct his hand in order to bring a new world into clear view.  The creative spark allowed him to begin- to see something that he felt needed  to be rendered visible- but intuition and the audacity to trust it propelled the paintings  into greatness and, finally , into history.”

Gregory Amenoff, New York City 2006 – foreword to the book Art From Intuition – Overcoming Your Fears and Obstacles to Making Art by

Dean Nimmer