Category Archives: how

Mid-November

"Astral Beauties" - Carraher 2019

Astral Beauties
2019.  Acrylic on panel, 11 x 14 in.

These two paintings were completed almost exactly a year ago.  They were new in style and exciting to me.  I felt the hint of something I’d been looking for.  A lot of work was launched from this new direction. 

They both feature acrylic paint manipulated with brayer and brush, as well as china marker and ink pen.  They are both fully improvisational.  

"The Goldfish" - Carraher 2019

The Goldfish
2019.  Acrylic on canvas, 11 x 14 in.

I suppose I might say something about titles.  Titles are integral for me.  If they’re wrong for the work, they just don’t stick; I will hate the painting until the title is fixed.  If the painting is in some way unsuccessful or I don’t care about it, the title will be just as unsuccessful.  Most often, except for untitled works, the name arises to my mind sometime during the process and is then stuck like glue – even occasionally shaping the work itself, in the end.  It’s the poet in me, I guess.  Words matter.  Sound matters.  Rhythm and melody matter.  

Untitled works are usually not paintings for which I cannot find a title.  They are, rather, paintings that reject further comment.  I do not wish to contextualize their reception with words.

It actually means a lot to me.  Can’t live with wrong titles. 

What Is Behind, What is Ahead

"What Is Behind, What Is Ahead" - Carraher 2019

What Is Behind, What Is Ahead
2019.  Acrylic and paper on canvas. 12 x 16 in.

I struggled a lot with this painting.  I felt completely lost over and over again, and abandoned it any number of times.  I kept coming back to it, convinced that at least I should be able to learn something from it.  There were several Hail Mary passes, including the white disks and the construction paper collage pieces.  And then there came a point where, suddenly, I loved it.  It expressed something I didn’t even know I felt.

That was about a year and a half ago.  I’m struggling with a similar sort of disaster in the studio right now – in fact, nothing is going quite right in there.  Pushing into new territory.  Can’t say it feels good.

Looking forward to joy returning.  Aren’t we all, right now?  When you’re deep in the struggle, joy seems so far away…

Aquaria

"Aquaria No. 1" - Carraher 2020

Aquaria No. 1
Acrylic and ink on panel. 10 x 8 in.

So I’m having fun with these.  Brush, brayer, ink pen on white-gessoed panel.  The smooth surface gives me very different results than the rougher canvas I often use.  An exciting difference.

"Aquaria No. 2" - Carraher 2020

Aquaria No. 2
Acrylic and ink on panel. 10 x 8 in.

2020 Suite

"2020 Suite No. 1" - Carraher 2020

2020 Suite No. 1
2020.  Acrylic and ink on canvas, 11 x 14 in.

I’ve been working at a relatively rapid clip these last few months, with several pieces usually in process at once.  I’ve been frankly voracious in my need to make things happen in the studio, almost like needing a drug high – not surprising, I suppose, considering the sense of futility that drains so much of our lives at this time.

Having multiple pieces in progress contrasts with how I worked for many years in pastel.  In that medium I most often worked with the piece flat on the table, applylng the pastel with a brush, and due to the fragility of the surface I needed to keep a lot of clear space around.  So there wasn’t much room to have more than one thing going on at once.  These pieces also tended to take more time in the planning and preparation than the execution.  Here is an example from 2016, from the Additional Dimensions series which derived from gesture drawings of deteriorating homesteads in my neighborhood:

"Three Walls" - Carraher2016

Three Walls
2016.  Pastel on sandpaper, 12 x 22 in.

Clearly my work now often skips that planning and preparation stage, as I increasingly prize spontaneity directly on the substrate.  With pastels the spontaneity usually went into the informal gestural sketch from which the painting was developed.  I did draw directly with the pastels at times however – as in this homestead from 2007:

:Blue-Green Cabin" - Carraher 2007

Blue-Green Cabin
2007.  Pastel on paper, 18 x 24 in.

…or this one from the same year:

"Desert Gothic" - Carraher 2007

Desert Gothic
2007.  Pastel and charcoal on paper, 22-1/4 x 13-1/2 in.

Those seem like idyllic times, now, but of course they weren’t.  But they were easier.  They were easier.

The Path Forward

"Jul11" - Carraher 2019

Jul11
2019.  Acrylic and paper on panel, 14 x 11 in.

A favorite collage from last year.  It’s on a heavy wood panel and feels very stable and solid to me.  I guess I wanted that today.   The black and colored papers are from my cherished stash of ancient construction paper that I’ve had for many years.  The white/ecru bits are cartridge and typing papers, and there’s a slice of silver tissue paper, as well.

The design of the painted background is borrowed directly from a pastel I did at least 20 years ago that got damaged, but I’ve always liked the combination of colors and shapes.  So it showed up again here, in acrylic.

I love this piece.  It feels so stable and strong, I almost think I could stand on it.  A stepping stone into a better future.

Negative Shapes

"Granite I" - Carraher 2020

Granite I
2020.  Acrylic on canvas, 14 x 11 in.

The work informs the work.  I started the “Granite” series this spring not long after concluding “Plague Faces”.  The crossover in technique is easy to see:

"Plague Faces No. 17" - Carraher 2020Plague Faces No. 17
2020.  Acrylic on canvas, 12 x 16 in.

I start by creating a complex surface (in both these examples largely with rollers), then use a single color to paint away everything that’s not the shape I’m foregrounding.  “Negative shape” painting, a common technique.  It can bring the work to a magical conclusion, but you have to have faith that it’s going to come together because in the meantime it doesn’t look like much.  I liked “No. 17” a lot, and found a way very soon to go there again in “Granite I”, a totally different subject.

Battles

"Embattled Boy" - Carraher 2020Embattled Boy
2020.  Acrylic on canvas, 10 x 8 in.

I’ve been away for a couple weeks.  Just got back in the studio briefly today, mostly just tidying up and trying to remember where I was at.

Not sure why I decided to post this image, painted earlier this year.  It’s on a textured canvas, and I used sponge, roller, and brush.  I worked pretty hard on it, actually.  Some paintings start to take on a personality for you early in the process, and even if you try to ignore it it keeps insisting.  Each layer could have obliterated its character, yet I found myself continually trying to bring it back forward.  And you have no idea if any of that character will be apparent to the viewer.  But you feel compelled to let it realize itself anyway.

Some people in my life are having a hard time right now.  A very hard time.  It’s necessary to fight for them, or to encourage them to fight for themselves and hope that they can.  A happy outcome is not at all certain.  I may have that hard a time myself someday and I hope then someone will fight for me, or that I will be able – and willing – to fight that hard for myself.

More Granite

Granite VIII - Carraher 2020
Granite VIII
July 2020.  Acrylic and ink on canvas, 11 x 14 in.

Still interested in the shape of the granite boulders, but not so much in their texture here. Where I’m really (always) heading is toward simultaneity.  The interpenetrability of the substance and the ether.

This started with a quick contour sketch up near Stirrup Tank in Joshua Tree National Park.  The umber and ochre are applied with a brayer for randomness.

I’m continuing to work with the same sketch, using different approaches.  More to come.