Today I am starting a new series of paintings. One that I am doing for the joy of it. 

I have great reverence for the art of Ikebana, the ancient Japanese art of flower arrangement. It is an expression of balance, harmony and beauty in nature. As such, artists usually use flowers or other natural plant items in their practice, but may also incorporate inorganic objects. Ikebana is the art of composition, irrespective of what is being arranged.

Canvases drying outdoors

Canvases with first coat of paint drying in the open air

I will be working with the abstraction of flowers and leafy matter; and to get into the proper "zone," I will work outdoors. It's finally truly summer in upstate New York and I plan to enjoy it as much as possible. What better time to begin Ikebana painting?

Getting started with any of my paintings means applying a seemingly meaningless coat (or two) of paint on my canvas, or a number of canvases. I prefer to be working on multiple paintings at once; one reason being optimizing paint usage. Acrylics dry quickly so once the paint is out of the tube it needs to be used.

Today's sole objective is base coating. The base-coat serves an all important purpose which is to act as a set of initial conditions - inspiration for the direction of the piece. The base, which is a completely random mish-mosh of multicolored brush strokes, has a way of talking. It is a starting composition that works in places and fails in others. The parts that work are inspiration for more. The parts that don't get modified or annihilated.

The base-coat must cover all of the gesso thoroughly. Once a painting begins to take form and develop, it will be too late to try to go back and cover up "bald spots."  A good base coat insures that there won't be a need for fill-ins. This is important because randomly occurring natural beauty happens as a result of the painting techniques that are employed. The generative process that produces the final result is not planned, but rather inspired by each addition to the work. As a result some base-coat areas will become part of the final image, but it is impossible to know which areas will be preserved and which will be destroyed. 

I have coated eight canvases of varying small sizes, including two ovals, two circles, three rectangles, and one square. The current plan is that these will be divided into two sets of four, with each set representing one artwork. Individual pieces will be joined to create one piece of multiple parts.

The next time I get back to my makeshift outdoor studio, I will base coat a single medium sized canvas. With this piece included there will be three works in progress. Three is a good number for keeping the overall creative stimuli emanating from the developing paintings at an optimal level. I like to bounce from one canvas to the next as inspiration hits me.

As for today, I am happy with the way these initial canvases have turned out so far. Unfortunately, working outside means having to set up and break down whatever work station I've chosen. Cleaning up took some time, but it was a pleasure all its own. Today I escaped without bug bites but not without a sunburn.



Copyright 2014. Sylvia Rabeler Skok. All Rights Reserved.