The following article appeared in the Bangor Daily News on 10/27/11:
New art exhibit unveiled at Maine Capitol Complex
Posted Oct. 27, 2011, at 1:19 p.m.
The artwork of Alexandra Tyng, including this one titled "Painting on Cadillac," is now on display in Maine’s Capitol Complex as part of the Maine Arts Commission’s Arts in the Capitol program.
The artwork of Alexandra Tyng, including this one titled "Back to the Lakes," is now on display in Maine’s Capitol Complex as part of the Maine Arts Commission’s Arts in the Capitol program.
The artwork of Alexandra Tyng, including this one titled "Boat Sailing in Sunset," is now on display in Maine’s Capitol Complex as part of the Maine Arts Commission’s Arts in the Capitol program.
Augusta, Maine — The Maine Arts Commission announced Thursday that the artwork of Alexandra Tyng and James Dodds is now on display in Maine’s Capitol Complex as part of the agency’s Arts in the Capitol program.
The exhibit has been loaned by the Dowling Walsh Gallery in Rockland, and will remain on display until February 2012. The work is viewable by the public throughout the week at the Maine State House from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and at the Blaine House from 2 to 4 p.m., Tuesdays through Thursdays. Those wishing to visit the Blaine House are advised to call ahead.
“The Maine Arts Commission is delighted to be hosting this exhibition of paintings,” said exhibit facilitator Donna McNeil. “These world-famous artists depict familiar visions of life in Maine and guide the viewer toward a deep and joyful attachment to Maine’s landscape and way of life.”
Tyng began drawing and painting the Maine landscape as a teenager while staying at a nineteenth century rustic camp on one of Mount Desert Island’s lakes, and at her brother’s lighthouse home in Penobscot Bay. In the 1990s she began chartering planes so she could take reference photos of the glacially carved land formations of coastal Maine, which she uses as references to create large-scale paintings. She also paints panoramas from mountaintops, and closer, more intimate views of places. Every summer she spends several weeks painting outside on Mount Desert, Monhegan, Deer Isle and various other locations.
Tyng has had solo shows in Maine, New York and Philadelphia. She was selected as one of Maine’s outstanding artists by Maine Home+Design in 2008. Her Maine landscapes have been featured in “The Art of Monhegan” by Carl Little, and in art magazines, including “Fine Art Connoisseur” and “International Artist.”
Dodds was born in the small fishing town of Brightlingsea, which is nestled on the east coast of England. He trained as a shipwright in the nearby town of Maldon before moving to London to study painting at both the Chelsea School of Art and the Royal College of Art in London.
Dodds, who is a frequent visitor to Maine, has exhibited paintings and prints of boats throughout England and here in Maine at the Dowling Walsh Gallery.
All Arts in the Capitol events are free and open to the public, however, exhibitions are self-guided and may only be viewed within prescribed times. For information on this and all programs available through the Maine Arts Commission, visitMaineArts.com.
Many thanks to juror Richard McKinley and the editors of The Artist's Magazine for awarding my painting Morning Sun over Monhegan Village an Honorable Mention. A photograph of my work was included in the magazine's December 2011 issue. This year, my work was also awarded finalist status in the Portrait/figure category.
I was just reading a post in my friend Terry Strickland's blog about how and why artists (including herself) paint in series, and I thought it was so interesting I felt like continuing her thought in a post of my own.
I definitely do paint in series, and like Terry I have several running at once, simultaneously, and they continue on for years. I go back and forth between themes.
When I started painting in the 70s, it was fashionable for artists to paint in "series." They would do a series for a certain show, then move on to the next series. I just didn't get it. It seemed boring to make a whole show about one theme. And then, to leave the theme, never to return--well, that seemed artificial. I knew artists did it, and enjoyed it, but it just wasn't for me.
Then I started realizing that I actually was already working in series, that I had my own series to paint. I liked painting the rustic architecture in Maine, the exteriors and interiors of these old camps, and I also enjoyed painting panoramic landscapes from mountaintops. Suddenly I saw all these paintings as part of the same series. Rather than a linear examination of a subject, it was more of a hierarchical approach, seeing and understanding certain places from different levels of distance. I had always wanted to fly over these areas to see them from even farther away, to see how everything related to each other from the air, so once I got up my courage to do so, my particular approach to a series began to reach another level, so to speak.
My fascination for certain subjects is long-running. I still paint camps and now also lighthouses and islands in Maine. Even the people who inhabit these places have become incorporated into my series. There are other themes that interest me, too. Who knows--they may run for my whole life, since series are really themes of an artist's life. If they are major themes, they will sustain the artist's interest over a long period of time.
A couple of years ago, I heard artist Mary Whyte speak at the Portrait Society of America Conference about inspiration. She said something that resonated with me. To paraphrase: "Think about the things that you were interested in drawing as a child. These are likely to be still the things you want to paint, the things that make your paintings unique." Then and there, I asked myself if I was doing that. The answer was yes. I'd been doing it unconsciously, but now I do it much more consciously. These things are my themes, my series.
We all have themes in our lives--it's just a matter of living long enough to begin to see all our experiences not as a collective jumble of "things that happened," but as interrelated groupings. We give meaning to these groupings by remembering things in a certain way, according to what is most important to us, and how we perceive life. These meaningful themes become the "stories" of our lives. Authors use this stuff to write books. Artists use this stuff to make paintings and sculpture. It's our visual language.
So if we are painting series that really mean something to us, they will never really end because they are the major themes of our lives, and getting in touch with them is crucial to getting to the root of our artistic inspiration and expression. If you want to know what makes artists tick, all you have to do is look at the ongoing themes in their work.
The MLG Painters 9/17-9/24, Clockwise From Left: Judy Carducci, Sue Braswell, Linda Brandon, Greer Jennison, Alex Tyng, Diana Cobb Ansley, and Carrie Lewis.
In September I headed back to Monhegan Island, off the coast of Maine, to paint for a week with the Maine Landscape Guild. The Guild has expanded: Linda Brandon flew in from Phoenix Arizona, Sue Braswell came from Virginia, Judy Carducci and Carolyn Lewis from Ohio, and Greer Jennison all the way from Nevada! We also split into two houses plus a few staying at the Monhegan House. And to make things even more complicated, another group of MLGers (Eliza Auth and Mary Walsh) came the following week.
Judy and Greer painting outside the Red House. Diana and Sue painting on the rocks at Gull Cove. Linda painting Manana from our front deck. And here I am at Gull Cove, trying to figure out how to salvage my fog painting. Another one of Diana and Sue from where I sat on the rock.
The weather wasn't always "drop dead gorgeous" (as Diana Cobb Ansley is fond of saying), but the varying weather patterns made for some interesting cloud formations and even some days of fog. I tried to paint the fog at Gull Cove, but made a miserably dull mess. The master of fog painting was Judy, who produced some wonderful pastels, one from inside the hotel during the worst weather. We all got together for dinners, wine and cheese, critiques, and some great conversations.
One foggy afternoon, Linda and I decided to try painting each other. We each posed for half an hour.
Linda's painting of me--what a speed demon! My painting of Linda. Sue and Diana were amazed at how differently we mixed paint and approached the work.
There was a propane shortage on the island when we got there, and people were eagerly awaiting the next shipment from the mainland. We had to conserve fuel, which meant no hot showers for the first couple of days! Boy, were we glad when the delivery man arrived to hook up a full tank!
Sue, Diana, and I were up on Horn Hill behind our house painting when the delivery truck arrived. YES!
We walked up to the lighthouse museum, and again the curator was kind enough to show us the wonderful portraits by Alice Kent Stoddard. In all it was a truly wonderful week, a perfect ending to the summer's painting adventures.
This is old news already, since the September issue has been out for a while now, but I'm very pleased to have my recent show at the Dowling Walsh Gallery reviewed by AAC Editor-in-Chief Joshua Rose for the August issue of American Art Collector. It's such a nice long article with so many photos-thanks, Josh, and all the staff at AAC!
Last week, I and two other artists, Ellen Cooper and Alyce Grunt, were marooned (not really, but it was fun to pretend) on a small Island off the coast of Maine, We had our painting supplies, of course, and some food, and all the necessities.
It was a very small island. If you like lots of distractions, it probably wouldn't suit you. If you can't be without internet service, it would definitely not suit you. But if you like to paint, there's almost too much to do. Everywhere we turned, there was a painting waiting to be painted. As the light changed, or the weather, the possibilities multiplied. I've visited this special island many times over many years, and I've never been so constantly busy.
I've always liked painting both landscape and architecture, and when the two are combined I think the tension between natural and man-made forms makes an especially interesting painting. On a technical level, I am interested in how different brushes, and brush-marks, can be used to express these forms. Walls are straight yet a structure can feel organic; tree branches grow in curves and forks, yet the patterns are predictable. A rock and a tree trunk can be painted using almost the same color, but what makes them look like what they are?
Color makes a fascinating study. There are many colors in nature, but an artist can mix them with few colors on the palette--or many. I especially enjoyed painting the white buildings on the island, because the different facets of a white object are the best and purest indicators of the color of the direct light and the halftones at different times of the day. A photo will only approximate the colors you see in real life.
When we weren't painting, we cooked, read books, talked (a lot) and just hung out. We even went to the mainland and visited some galleries and the Farnsworth Art Museum. Being in Maine, even for a short time, gave us a break from the stresses of work and everyday life, and put us in touch with what is really important in life. Hopefully as we head into fall we can carry with us memory of our island trip to help us put things in perspective.
The Dowling Walsh Gallery is offering a 22-page color catalog of my show Right Here: New Maine Paintings for the very reasonable price of $5. You can pick one up at the gallery, or contact Jake Dowling at 207-596-0084 or at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like one sent to you via mail.
The catalog includes 20 color reproductions and an essay by Carl Little, author of Edward Hopper's New England and other books. His article on Fairfield Porter and James Schuyler appears in the 2011 Island Journal.
Last Friday, on August 5th, my solo show Right Here opened at the Dowling Walsh Gallery in Rockland, Maine. It was a busy night for the arts in Rockland--First Friday Art Walk with gallery openings all over town and in nearby Thomaston, The Farnsworth Museum open late with free admission, and the famous annual Lobster Festival all coinciding--so I met lots of art lovers that evening! Jake Dowling and his talented team never cease to impress me. The work was hung beautifully. And the food (thanks to Hilary) was out of this world. If you are tired of gallery openings at which only wine is served, go to Dowling Walsh for a multi-sensory experience.
I first met this couple a few nights before at the CMCA Auction.
Suzette McAvoy, Director of the CMCA and former Curator at the Farnsworth, and my long-time friend and painting partner, Diana Cobb Ansley. Suzette wrote the essay for the catalog for my 2009 show at Fischbach Gallery in NY. She has known Diana since she interned for her at the Smithsonian.
Artist Lea Colie Wight flew in from Philadelphia to check out the Maine art scene.
Becca in front of Overlook.
Julian in front of Elemental Balance.
Here I'm standing in for Nancy Bea Miller in front of Star at the Edge.
Artist Richard Ranck and Cartoonist/author Tony Auth.
If you are in Rockland, or anywhere on the coast of Maine, in August, please stop by and see the show.
I'm so pleased that my painting The Franks Playing Mozart(oil, 52" x 46") was awarded finalist status in The Artists' Magazine 28th Annual Art Competition! This painting was shown in the Inspiring Figures show at the Butler Institute last year, and was featured in The Philadelphia Magazine and the University of Pennsylvania Gazette blog, so it has had quite a year!
Many thanks to the judges and the editors of The Artist's Magazine for recognizing this work. I also want to thank musicians Claude and Pamela Frank, without whom this painting would never have come about. When I look at the painting I can still relive the sights and sounds of watching them make music together.
In response to those who ask me about how I create a painting, from the beginning stages to the finished work, I'm posting a step-by-step description of the process of one painting, Star at the Edge.
Every painting I do evolves a little differently. Sometimes I am painting on location and I know right away that my plein air sketch will need almost no compositional changes to turn it into a larger studio painting. Or the small oil sketch might become part of a larger painting. But in this case, I was working in Gull Cove on Monhegan Island, ME, and I had a vague idea of painting a figure with the trees and rocks as the background. The only problem was, I wasn't sure exactly what part of the scenery, and what angle, I would use. I didn't even have a clear idea of who was going to paint, or the idea behind the painting. So I decided to just focus on some trees and rocks that would make a pleasing composition, and worry about the larger painting later. Here is my oil sketch, Rocks and Trees, Gull Cove, 14" x 11".
While I was in Gull Cove, I also took some photos of the rest of the scene.
You'll notice that the oil sketch gives me an accurate idea of the color and value range, while the photos provide some additional information, but certain things are washed out, like the sky. Even with Photoshop you can't bring that back, so I often take more photos of just the sky. It's better to have too much information than not enough.
A few months later, a friend of mine, Nancy Bea Miller, came to a turning point in her career. After many years of working as a professional artist, she decided to go back to school and get an MFA. I decided to paint a portrait of her at this turning point. We had been discussing the idea of "star quality" in art, and how much was determined by popularity, publicity, and connections, as well as talent and hard work. I thought of the starfish, a sea creature with five arms, i.e. a five-pointed star. Here are some symbols associated with the star/starfish: the eternal, the undying, constancy (the Pole Star), aspiration, education (five-pointed star), spiritual wisdom, and divine guidance.
I was also "playing" with the tidal zone between ocean and land, where the waves churn up things that are beneath the sea and throw them onto the shore. To me this brought to mind the border between unconsciousness and consciousness. If we can go to this "zone" we will find all sorts of treasures that can lead to a fuller, richer life.
One thing that I wanted to convey was the uncertainty of finding a star and wondering what to do with it. Because we can find a treasure and use it in many different ways, or not use it at all! So in Nancy Bea's expression I wanted to convey some of this uncertainty.
Since Nancy Bea didn't have time to pose, couldn't hold the expression very long (the sideways look led to dizziness), and the weather was becoming too cold, I took photos of her and worked from them. I made sure that the lighting conditions in the photos were the same (time of day and direction of sun) as they were in the setting.
Now to the nitty-gritty of painting. I decided it was important to show just a bit of the ocean. There were a few days of tremendous surf that created a golden haze (visible in the distance), and this added a feeling of mystery and excitement to the "zone" between water and land. So I decided to set NB's figure against the long view. My oil sketch of rocks and trees was just to the right of the composition, but nevertheless it came in handy for nearby colors, values and brushstrokes, and also the color of the sky and clouds.
When I plan out a composition, I like to print out photos, paste them together, and move borders in and out until I like the balance. I also print out photos of the figure, and play around with size and position in the same way. Making a polished reference in Photoshop doesn't interest me. I'd rather do this cut-and-paste stuff, because the motley-looking photo-pastiche that results from this process is just a compositional guide. I don't want to just "copy" a finished-looking photo with every detail already worked out. I also have my oil sketch to refer to. The real synthesis is in my head.
Here are some progress shots:
I stretch my own canvases with unprimed Belgian linen, prime them with acrylic gesso, and tone them with a warm neutral wash of black, burnt umber and white. First I drew a grid on my photo-pastiche and a corresponding grid on my canvas. Since I work large, the grid helps me to place complex things like rocks. I keep the grid very large so I don't feel like I'm connecting the dots, and I am still drawing freehand.
Here I'm starting to fill in the dark trees behind NB's backlit head--the focal point and area of greatest contrast.
Starting to differentiate light and shadow areas and put in a color mosaic.
More "puzzle-pieces" of color."
Adjusting values, colors and refining the figure.
Further refinements and adjustments.
The finished piece, Star at the Edge, oil on linen, 34" x 42".
Here are details of the head and hands.
This painting, along with 30 + others, will be in my upcoming show, RIGHT HERE: NEW MAINE ISLAND PAINTINGS, opening August 5th at the Dowling Walsh Gallery in Rockland, Maine. The gallery is located on 357 Main Street, right across from the Farnsworth Art Museum. Catalogs include an essay by author Carl Little, and will be available through the gallery.