Edges, mark-making and tools

Happy New Year!🎉 Okay, granted I am a little late to the party, but I’ve had a busy couple of weeks moving into a new exhibit space for 2019. More on that soon, but today I wanted to share a bit about mark making, and neat little tool that I stumbled upon along the way.

I didn’t have tons of time over Christmas break to paint, but it doesn’t mean it hasn’t been on my mind. I have been thinking a lot about how I can loosen up, to create pieces that are truthful but not quite so literal. One of the things I struggle with is varying not only color but brushwork, so that there is not so much sameness everywhere. I vary brush sizes and shapes, but it still can leave me feeling a little bit like there must be something more. Sometimes I want to push a bunch of paint around and brushes alone don’t always do that.

Then one day, I purchased a Color Shaper. I actually bought this to spread gesso, because I have some pre-gessoed canvases that I bought that have been sitting around in my studio unused because are still a bit too rough and absorbent for my liking.

Before I even used it for gesso, I got curious. I had heard of other artists using these tools fairly extensively for applying paint in their work and I got to wondering whether it might be a useful tool for varying my edges and textures in my painting.

It didn’t really do what I was hoping for. These shapers come in varying degrees of firmness and the tool I ordered was an extra firm. Good for gesso spreading, but not for my painting. Still, I saw the potential so I went back online to see if I could get another one with more flexibility. But before I got that far, I stumbled upon these do-hickeys and fell in love.

colorshaper2.jpg

These guys, officially called Princeton Catalyst Wedges, are made of some kind of silicone or rubber and come in a variety of shapes . They are more flexible than my prior purchase but still firm enough to move the paint. They don’t have handles, but frankly I prefer this handle- less variety because it allows for more control.

What does it do? Well, for starters it pushes a heck of a lot of paint around, creating the ability to make bold, impasto passages or thinner, more ethereal ones.

coralsunset_detail.jpg

I can use it to make a fairly straight edge with the straight, thin side of the tool, or use it t scrape down passage to create softer edges.

coralsunset_detail2.jpg

I can use it as a blending tool, or a tool to separate out colors and make them stand out. In short, I can use it to exploit the properties of the paint in a way that is a nice variation from straight-on brushwork .

I first ordered the white tool, pictured above, left. Then then I discovered the black, which I like even better because you have greater versatility with both a long and a short edge. “Why not just use a palette knife,” you might ask? Well, I do love palette knife paintings but I always just end up switching back to brushes and reworking them because I have never been quite able to achieve that combination of softness and boldness I aim for. These little tools act like palette knives with more of a brush feel, if that makes sense.

“Coral Reflections, Late Summer”, Oil on linen, 24x36” ©Jennifer E. Young

“Coral Reflections, Late Summer”, Oil on linen, 24x36” ©Jennifer E. Young


I’m still not ditching my paint brushes; they are the work horses in my studio. But I’m having fun playing around with these new tools and exploring what I can do with them in my paintings.

An Evening at the Boatyard

This painting was a little difficult to photograph due to the contrast in the subject and the thick texture in the paint. But I ultimately succeeded in capturing a good shot on a flat and cloudy day when it wasn’t too dark or too blaringly bright outside. Hopefully the energy I felt in returning to the easel shines through in the piece.

“Evening at the Boatyard”, Oil on linen, 20 x 24” ©Jennifer E Young

“Evening at the Boatyard”, Oil on linen, 20 x 24” ©Jennifer E Young

I have been looking at a lot of art lately and painting a few lemons in between (both literally and figuratively😅.) As a result I feel compelled to express myself in a way that is not so literal. I don’t know how far out into the world of abstraction I want to venture, but I do feel the pull to simplify in the very least. What’s enough but not too much? That’s the question. I haven’t found the answer yet, at least not in my own work, but it’s something very much on my mind. It will probably take many more paintings (and quite a few more lemons) before I even come close to an answer.

From winter to summer, in one post!

It is good to be back to painting again. It has felt like such a long time since I have been able to stand at the easel and wipe all the cares away and just focus on art. Maybe for this reason, this painting came together fairly fluidly. This piece was inspired by a challenge from Gallery Flux, to create works for their upcoming show all about SNOW! So I thought I would experiment with a few different compositions in this theme in hopes that I'd have some good candidates to offer up for the show, and oh what fun it was! I painted from reference photos I took last winter in my neighborhood, which has its share of beautiful stately and Victorian homes.

"Victorian Winter", Oil on linen, 20x24" ©Jennifer E. Young

"Victorian Winter", Oil on linen, 20x24" ©Jennifer E. Young

And now that I have you hankering for some hot chocolate, I carry you back to summer again, with a new online auction. This plein air painting is a little larger than my prior auction listings; it's an 8x10" piece on linen-mounted MDF panel, with an opening bid of just $200. I painted this little gazebo on the dunes just in front of the beach house where my family has been staying the last several summers in Kill Devil Hills on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. I love the way the light hits the dunes right around dinner time, when the sun gets lower and the shadows get nice and long.

"Dune Shadows" Oil on linen, 8x10".  SOLD !

"Dune Shadows" Oil on linen, 8x10". SOLD!

So many paintings, so little time!

Going through my notebooks and photos from my Maine trip, I'm made aware of just how many paintings I have swirling around in my  consciousness, and never enough time to execute them all. I guess it's better than the alternative of a dry spell, but only slightly less frustrating.  

The reality is that I'm a mom with a family and a household and a very busy summer on top of it., and since my return from the trip I have had to work in fits and starts, and not without some failure. Still, I do what I can to make time for art. Here's my latest, which was first attempted on site but had to be aborted when the wind turned my painting into a virtual kite! 

"Evening at Carver's Harbor", Oil on linen, 16x20" ©Jennifer E Young

"Evening at Carver's Harbor", Oil on linen, 16x20" ©Jennifer E Young

Those boxy shapes you see are lobster cages. They are kind of an iconic symbol to me of this town. Vinalhaven once had its heyday as an island for quarry mining, but workers later turned to lobster fishing for their livelihood. The sun rises at 4:30 a.m., so I was told the fishermen are up by 3:30! Now that's dedication. A far sight more dedicated than I was on the evening I attempted to paint this scene. After my painting did a face plant there was nothing left to do but resign myself to the realities of the wind and eat a delicious lobster roll as consolation.

I have another Maine piece on the easel that I'm hoping to complete this week, and then I am off to Floyd, Virginia to paint with my fellow plein air painters in the Floyd Plein Air Festival. This is a week-long event of painting in the mountains, farmland, and vineyards in and around Floyd. I participated in the inaugural event a couple of years ago and we had lots of clouds, wind, and some rain. Here's hoping the weather is a little more cooperative this time around.