Category Archives: line

Faces

"Henri" - Carraher 2020

Henri
April 2020.  Acrylic on canvas. 10 x 8 in.

I miss seeing people’s faces.  It’s a feeling that has reached a point of sadness.  I am 100% on-board with the necessary effort to universally mask until it is safe to once again reveal our full selves.  But I will be happy when that day comes.

So in the meantime I’m posting this rather cheerful countenance from last spring – painted in the first days of the pandemic, when masks were still novel, and home-made, and not yet a symbol of division.  Before faces became in short supply.

He’s created with alizarin crimson straight from the tube, on a canvas stained by a sponge with a mix of alizarin and raw umber.  He got the name Henri I think because I was reading about some fin-de-siecle Parisian artists, or their dealers – I no longer remember who – and he just came to life for me that way.

I miss your face.

Late Eden

"Late Eden" - Carraher 2019

Late Eden
2019.  Acrylic on canvas, 12 x 16 in.

From almost exactly a year ago.  What doesn’t seem to change for me:  the interest in line, in pure color, in ambiguity, in the power of black on white.  And unrepentant faith in the spontaneous gesture.

Prodigals

"Untitled (12 2 20)" - Carraher 2020

Untitled (12 2 20)
December 2020.  Acrylic on canvas. 14 x 14 in.

Some paintings do quite a bit of wandering before they come home.  This one started months ago as just a black gesture on white.  It felt unfinished and…kinda lost.  Didn’t know where to take it from there.  It sat around for quite a while, until I got tired of looking at it and attacked it with the red.  At that point I thought it was done.  I didn’t love it, but I kept thinking I should learn to love it.  I put it up on the studio wall with some others and it always felt lightweight, but I thought maybe it was just because it was…different.  I finally put it in the stack to sign, photograph, varnish, and put away.

But when the time came to take those last steps I suddenly grabbed it and came after it with a big brush full of titanium white, and – presto!  It found its weight, and its depth.  It’s quite at home with the others on the wall now, even though it is somewhat different in style.  It has made it home.

"Untitled (12 9 20)" - Carraher 2020

Lisa’s “Promenade”
December 2020.  Acrylic, ink, paper on panel. 10 x 8 in.

This piece, also, was one of the wandering stepsisters for a while.  It began as one of the Aquaria, but despite a lot of fussing it fell short (it was not alone in this failure).  The efforts to save it got more and more wild, including the cadmium yellow, until at a certain point all hope was lost and out came the brayer and opaque titanium white – time to wash clean.  If it wasn’t to be an Aquaria, then it could be anything.  That’s when things got fun again.  The final touch was the three phthalo green stripes.  They are actually deli paper painted, cut out, and collaged on.  I secretly love stripes and was easily convinced they would be just the right thing here – which, in the end, I believe they were.

It occurs to me I should include this post on the thread about line, because both these paintings started with black line on white though they went far afield from that.  But line starts so many of my paintings, that thread could start to become meaningless.  I might include it anyway, though.  Lines seem to be the heart of the matter.

Heights and Depths

"Heights and Depths" - Carraher 2019

Heights and Depths
2019.  Acrylic and paper on canvas. 12 x 16 in.

There are paintings that feel to me like I made them in the greatest innocence.  Where I experience not a hint of a preconception, and every portion is an exploration of new territory.  In this case I was starting with an instrument new to me – a marker I’d filled with a high-flow black acrylic paint – and was just seeing what I might be able to do with it.  I then, in the lower right, used another tool somewhat new to me, a brayer, to roll on the gold color.  Still with no thought of where it might be going, I used a sponge to bring the viridian from the upper right to the lower left.  And slowly, after that, things started to take shape, but all still an experiment – all the way to the end.  The “fish” appearing, adding the pink, continuing to whiten the “birds” – it was all the free play of the child.  It still gives me pleasure.  I don’t know if anyone else would like it, but I do.

Line Turns into Shape

"Crystal No 3" - Carraher 2000

Crystal Form No. 3
2000.  Pastel on sandpaper, 7 x 6-3/4 in.

My interest in the mutable relationship of line and shape goes way back – how a line, if it wanders long enough, often creates a shape.  And then can wander away again.  It’s a very basic phenomenon, but it’s slippery nature keeps me intrigued.  It’s one of the reasons I worked with pastels for years, I believe – after all, the pastel is both an instrument of drawing, and of painting – of line, and of shape.  The piece above is typical of the way I worked with pastel for years, as is this one:

"Crystal No 4" - Carraher 2000

Crystal Form No. 4
2000.  Pastel on sandpaper, 7 x 6-5/8 in.

At the time I would apply the pastel to the sandpaper by scumbling and then smoothing the powdered pigment to varying degrees with a brush.  The line itself, in these examples, was painstakingly recreated with pastel pencil or charcoal from an original pencil sketch.  The nuances of the surface I was able to create, as well as line-becoming-shape-becoming line, kept me beguiled.  Still does.  The works I do now look different, but the evidence of the fascination is still in there.

Line

"Untitled (April)" - Carraher 2020

Untitled (April)
2020.  Acrylic on textured canvas. 14 x 11 in.

I have a great deal to say about line.  Line dominates much of my work.  A lot of the works start with line.  Some finish with line.  And some of the works are nothing BUT line.  

It took me a while to accept this piece as it was:  nothing but a single line, and not such a fancy one at that. But after quite a while of it hanging around, I accepted that it was finished.  It simply didn’t want anything else. 

So…alrighty then.  

I drew with burnt sienna straight from the tube, a technique I’ve found to be alarmingly satisfying.  So satisfying that I kind of dole it out, reluctant to indulge in it too often for fear it might lose its charm. 

It was applied to a canvas that had been textured with Golden’s light modeling paste, leaving some places smooth and some bits of canvas exposed.  I then rubbed on a thinned burnt sienna with a sponge. 

And that’s the beginning of what I have to say about line. 

Pursued by Winter

"The Bear Pursued By Winter" - Carraher 2019

The Bear Pursued by Winter
2019.  Acrylic on canvas, 12 x 12 in.

The season is coming on slowly this autumn.  The temperatures are still warm, and the usual returning social celebrations that mark this season in the desert are muted in this covid year.  But at this time last fall, almost three years into this malignant Administration, the weather was already decidedly cooler, the days crisp and shortening.  The wildlife was noticeably changing their routine, and the vultures had already passed through on their annual migration to Baja.  I’m not sure why but I felt the impending winter keenly, a foreboding of darkness and potential loss.

And that’s when these two paintings happened, the one above and the other at the bottom of this post.   I showed them last winter in the Members Gallery at the 29 Palms Art Gallery.  They occasioned an interesting discussion with a musician couple from out of state, one afternoon while I was docenting.  The gentleman was particularly struck by their calligraphic character – a subject I can certainly hold forth on – and later he sent me images from a book about the evolutions connecting pictures, hieroglyphics, and alphabets.

But my interest goes beyond that, to the existence of line not as a sign, or in a literary, textual or narrative sense, but rather when line exists in a further dimension, as a manifestation in itself, of itself.  (See for example here and here and here.)  I’m most interested in what might be described as line’s abstract expressionist potential.

But then again, sometimes my line will indeed end up with that hieroglyphic or narrative quality, as might be seen in the images on this post.  Sometimes that happens, and I’m content with it.

Anyway.  Whatever my own thoughts or intentions with the work, in the end they bought the painting and I was glad they had it.  🙂

"Death Creeps In to Winter" - Carraher 2019

Death Creeps in to Winter
2019.  Acrylic on canvas, 11 x 14 in.