Bright, billowy clouds

I feel like I’m moving into new territory with this painting. Not only in scale - at 4 feet by 5 feet it is impressive! - but also because of those bright, billowy clouds. I work from photos I take, and so much of the year Los Angeles is blue skies, casting the most amazing light. But sometimes I miss clouds - almost as much as I miss rain and thunderstorms! - and we were blessed this springtime with some amazing ones:)

I could talk a lot more about this painting - including how that pink wall wasn’t really pink, but was inspired by some color palettes I saw in the 1/4 exhibit of Robert Rauschenberg at LACMA - talk about large-scale! But I’d love to know what you think about this piece, any questions you have, comments welcome!

Currently on view at Keystone Gallery through July 1.

C. Rasmussen, Ave. 20, oil on canvas, 48 x 60 inches

C. Rasmussen, Ave. 20, oil on canvas, 48 x 60 inches

New Exhibit Up @ Hive Gallery

I'm pleased as punch, as they say. This month I'm renting a wall space at the Hive Gallery & Studios, so instead of craning one's neck up to see work displayed on the banister of my studio, you can now view it at eye-level. 

My display at Hive Gallery, April 9-30. 

I'm showcasing one piece from my She Was Just A Dream series, and 20 paintings from my Windows series - click on the link to read more about my 50|50 project. 

The show will be up April 9-30, with events on:

  • April 9 for The Hive's 11-year Anniversary Show (8-11PM) and
  • April 14 for DTLA Art Walk (1-11PM). 

Regular gallery hours are Wed-Sat, 1-6PM. 

"What's that?" you ask. The wall is covered in faux-fur from the last occupant. This place is quite an experience! Come check it out. 

New Work: "Peeping Tom"

One of the perks of having a studio at The Hive Gallery is that I get to participate in their monthly group shows. This month I'm putting a piece in the "Erotica"-themed show (mature audiences only). Mine is a playful take on the subject, using body-less clothing as I'm wont to do. 

C. Rasmussen, Peeping Tom, 2016 | $193 | 12"x9" | Oil on wood panel. 

Show opens February 6 (8-11PM) and is up through Feb. 27 (gallery hours Wed-Sat 1-6PM or by appointment). 

Click link to view a short video on Instagram of me painting the cloth.

Work in Progress: First Painting of 2016

It's already more than halfway through January, and I'm still writing "2015" and having to correct myself, sigh. None-the-less, here's a behind-the-scenes peak at my first piece of the new year - 2016, that is.  To get me warmed up, I started by fulfilling a commission request from someone who liked my Windows series, but wanted a painting from their own travel photos; in this case from a trip to Spain. 

C.Rasmussen.  Room with a View, Spain. 2016 . Oil & acrylic on canvas. 6x6inches.

C.Rasmussen. Room with a View, Spain. 2016. Oil & acrylic on canvas. 6x6inches.

So how did I go about painting this scene? I started off on a canvas that I had already painted a dark gray color with some texture in acrylics.  Then I taped off the edges with the basic archway shape so that I could paint the landscape view, in oils. 

Next,  I added the archway itself, painting over part of the landscape to make the illusion of looking through more complete (photo is shiny because paint is wet). 

I waited for the greenery in the bottom of the painting to dry before beginning to paint the bannister on top of it. 

Finally, I added the cross-hatching on the bannister and some highlights on the archway. And that's how you make a small painting. 

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Featured Artist: Roberto Matta

I dread it when I tell people that I am an artist and they ask me who my favorite artist is.  I don't have many favorites in life -- I'm either too enamored by multiple things or too indecisive -- and I certainly could never have just one favorite artist.  That's like having one favorite band or one favorite food - impossible! But I do have artists who influence my work. One of these is Chilean artist Roberto Matta Echaurren (most commonly known by his first two names only), who was an artist prominent in the 1940s and '50s.  When I first saw one of his paintings in the San Francisco MOMA back in 2006, I immediately fell in love.  I didn't know anything about him or his work, but that painting, Invasion of the Night, was enough: Roberto Matta: Invasion of the Night, 1941 Invasion of the Night, 1941

I was taken with the colors, with the depth, the creation of this whole world that seemed somewhat familiar yet so alien.  It seemed amazing that someone would be making something this weird and abstracted in 1941, yet it felt so contemporary.  Above all that the technique is what really got me.  I couldn't figure out how he had created the thin, wash-like yet cloudy layers of paint that make the shapes more bulbous, add shadow and depth, or make something appear see-through. So I did some research and found out that at least one of his techniques was to wipe away the paint (subtractive glazing, if you will).  I have experimented with this and it is fun and sometimes effective, but also more difficult then it looks!

Unfortunately Matta's work is surprisingly difficult to find - it's hard to find good reproductions of more than just a handful of his work, which is such a shame because having bought a book with plates of his work I feel like everyone who does a Google search of his work is missing out on some gems. I feel like this is indicative of how overlooked Matta has been, despite his work being so influential and important for both Abstract Expressionism and Surrealism.  I am particularly drawn to his work from the 1940s, when he was hanging out in New York with a bunch of other Surrealists exiled from Europe, including one of my favorites, Yves Tanguy.  Matta's work differed in that while they created landscape-based pieces, he was creating what he described as "inscapes". In other words, he used "'psychological morphology,' a fusion of the psychic and the physical that refers to the idea of interior landscape" (from an essay by Elizabeth A.T. Smith and Collette Dartnall in Matta in America).

The Earth is a Man, 1941-42

The artist himself puts it nicely: "Painting has one foot in architecture, one foot in the dream."  That is certainly something I am interested in exploring in my own work, albeit in a stylistically different way. Being inspired by an artist doesn't mean that my work has to look like his/hers; rather, as Max Ernst says, "Art is not made by one artist but by several. It is to a great degree the product of their exchange of ideas with one another."

A Grave Situation, 1946

Handyman Artist

I have been thinking a lot the last couple of months about what it means to be an artist.  The word has so many connotations and often negative ones, as if people still think becoming an artist is this easy thing that rich, privileged kids get to do for fun.  Well, that hasn't been my experience nor that of any of the artists that I know, so I thought I would so a shout-out to all my hard working artist peers who pour their sweat and blood into being an artist, which requires being a bit of a renaissance (wo)man.  This is installment #1, and is dedicated to my mom, who gifted me my trusty toolbox, my artistic talent and most of my handyman knowledge.  Thanks Mom!

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Almost all the artists I know are very handy, especially the female ones.  Even non-visual artists, particularly those into theater props or costumes.  I find it sort of amusing (and terrifying!) when people ask me what I do as an artist - meaning, do I paint? If so, what?  But there is so much more to it than simply rendering a picture on canvas.  Occasionally people do ask about my process, and I enjoy explaining how I take (amateur) photographs or sketches, collage them together and then create a painting.

And then there's the nuts and bolts part of that question.  The part that makes a hardware store my 2nd most favorite type of store to shop in (after the grocery store and before the art store, which has many, many beautiful and unaffordable things).  As a painter, my first order of business is making my own stretcher bars, stretching and prepping my canvases, and when the painting is complete, attaching the proper materials to hang the piece on different types of walls.  That is pretty standard, but then there is the harder stuff.  Like painting walls between every show at the gallery you work at, or tearing up the old nasty carpet and replacing it with faux wood flooring in the building you are helping renovate for your new art collective.  The stuff that builds your muscles, or as Calvin's dad would say, "builds character."

And this is not necessarily a bad thing!  I know many artists who have worked as house painters, construction workers, home-improvement builders and/or in hardware stores as their day job to support their art.  One often reaps benefits from this type of work: discounts on materials, free use of tools, seasonal work that allows you to work on your art, introduction to cheaper, non-traditional materials that inspire new and more interesting art (not to mention the know-how to make your own home improvements when you do become rich and famous and buy a house!).  All-in-all I think there is a sort of toughness that develops the more serious one is about pursuing art, and this translates into the work, whatever medium it may be (stand-up comedy, musical theater, poetry).  This sort of thing weeds out the people who became art majors in college to study something "easy" from those of us who are (maybe too) serious about our work.

 

Featured Artist: David Mills

Like most artists, I am very process-oriented: the thrill of creating rather than the final product is where I really feel alive.  When I look at other people's art, I am often trying to figure out, how did they do that?  Not because I want to steal their idea or try and one-up them, but simply out of creative curiosity.  So being able to visit another artist's studio and talk with them about their process is one of my favorite things to do. Recently I found out my friend and fellow artist David Mills has been uploading time-lapse movies of his painting process (and by "painting" I don't just mean paint and a brush like most of my work; this guy really takes it to another level with all sorts of cool materials), so I thought I'd share one with you:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BCUSKBcBGWg

You can see more where that came from on his youtube channel, blog, or Facebook page.

See my art this weekend!

So I have a couple of shows this weekend, would love to see you there! 1) Group show "Vital" @ The Usuals

Opening reception: Friday Jan. 25, 7-10PM

Where: The Usuals, 1020 The Alameda, San Jose, CA 95126

vital_flyer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2) Meet-and-Greet (closing reception) @ Barefoot Coffee Campbell

What: Last chance to see my show Heavy Traffic before it comes down on Jan. 31st

When: Sunday January 27th, 2-4PM

Where: Barefoot Coffee, 1819 South Bascom Avenue, Campbell, CA 95008

Why: Opportunity to meet me and ask any questions you want.Last chance to see the show before it comes down. Fulfill your New Year's resolution early (you know that one where you said you wanted to buy more original artwork in 2013?)! Get some awesome Barefoot coffee!! Come on, what else have you got to do on a Sunday afternoon?

Falcon_small

New paintings and what inspired them

Here are two new paintings to prove that although I have been slacking off in the blog-o-sphere, I have been hard at work in real life.  I hope you like them.

We Celebrate the Freaks

The title of the above piece is a paraphrase from a passage in a Salman Rushdie book that I love, The Ground Beneath Her Feet.  The imagery is from photographs I took in the Recoleta Cemetery in Buenos Aires, Argentina. (NB: Although many famous Argentines are buried here, including Eva Peron, this has nothing to do with my painting).  I am inspired by the architecture of fancy graveyards and I like how the statues look silhouetted against the sky, something I accentuated in this painting. I was also reading The Angel's Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon while painting this, which is set in Barcelona and has several scenes in graveyards. Although a great read, this is quite a dark book about a writer selling his soul to the devil, so I'm sure some of that got into this painting too...

When I'm Alone I Get Carried Away_small

When I'm Alone I Get Carried Away

The title of this piece is not a quote, but rather refers to the stir-crazy feeling I had while painting this piece.  Really, the turmoil I was feeling was in other parts of my life, and painting this was calming.  Yet some of that anxiety and loneliness got into the painting, something a friend pointed out to me upon seeing the completed piece.  Perhaps I subconsciously think that by having control in my painting I will be able to exert some more control in my life.  Isn't psychology fascinating? And just to thicken the plot, I should note that I actually painted these two paintings simultaneously... And yes, the dresses continue, albeit in an evolved way.

You can view these hot-off-the press pieces at my current show at Barefoot Coffee Campbell.  The opening reception is tomorrow, December 8th from 4-7, but the show is up through Jan. 31st so just pop by whenever.

Heavy Traffic - My upcoming show @ Barefoot Coffee Campbell

Come check out my upcoming show at Barefoot Coffee Campbell December 1, 2012 - January 31, 2013.  OPENING RECEPTION: Saturday December 8th 4-7PM.  1819 S. Bascom Ave., Campbell, CA 95008

The title of the show (and the featured painting above), Heavy Traffic, is inspired by that Neil Young quote I read in a Rolling Stone interview some years ago: “There’s many different people inside you. Many different beings traveling through you. On the outside you may look like you, but it may be that several different things are coming through you, and it’s heavy traffic.”   This idea is reflected in the range of the work I have selected to show, which will include some never-before-shown older paintings along with some brand-new ones straight out of the studio.

Join the opening reception event.

"Like" my Facebook artist's page.

www.christinekeenarasmussen.com

I Still Don't Know If I am a Falcon

My newest finished painting: [singlepic id=110 w=125 h=250 ]

Again, it was inspired by this poem by Rainer Maria Rilke:

I live my life in growing orbits which move out over the things of the world.

Perhaps I can never achieve the last but that will be my attempt.

I am circling around God, around the ancient tower,

And I have been circling for a thousand years,

And I still don't know if I am a falcon,

or a storm,

or a great song.

New Work: In Progress

I am painting again! Here's what I'm working on:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It's inspired by this poem by Rainer Maria Rilke:

I live my life in growing orbits which move out over the things of the world.

Perhaps I can never achieve the last but that will be my attempt.

I am circling around God, around the ancient tower,

And I have been circling for a thousand years,

And I still don't know if I am a falcon,

or a storm,

or a great song.

And in case you're interested, here's some photos of the painting in different stages:

First I sketch an image, then I pick out source materials to get guidance.

If I Could Dance...

Back in June and July I made a series of paintings of body-less dancers titled "If I Could Dance". While I received good feedback from many people, I also feel like I left a lot of people hanging by not having an artist statement to go along with the work.  Here I am talking about the values of making "ugly" paintings whilst making (purposefully) "pretty" paintings.  Yet it is not so hypocritical as you might imagine - the "prettiness" is part of the message.

I grew up in a culture where my first consciousness about my body was one of shame.  I was taught an extreme form of modesty to be culturally sensitive to, and safer in, the norms of Muslim Pakistan.  The idea was to become invisible and not react to the stares or calls or groping which my white skin and reddish-blonde hair sticking out in a sea of brown people did not help.  I remember being embarrassed at age 8, which led to being self-conscious almost all the way through high school.  When I wasn't hiding my body under baggy clothes, I was trying to play sports and pretending to be tough.  I thought any attention from the opposite sex was negative, and I scorned the "cheerleader"-type and swore to never be a "girlie-girl".  Along with this I tried not to make "pretty" paintings because I wanted to be taken seriously as an artist and my lack of knowledge about successful female artists led me to believe that by simply being a woman my art was at a disadvantage - relegated to the cute category of "hobby".

Then a couples years ago I started to embrace the "girl" inside of me.  I started wearing dresses, make-up and jewelry -- heels even! I gained confidence as a woman and decided owning my femininity was to my advantage.  But I still resisted it in my art.  I now knew about and admired many successful women artists, but I still didn't want to make paintings about gender, again, out of some kind of fear of being taken less seriously.  Until this series.  I decided I wanted to celebrate the female form, critics of "pretty" paintings be damned!  And what better way than through dance?  I have always lacked confidence in dancing, but I love watching it - dance inspires me and makes me appreciate the human body even more. I feel connected through dance.

These dresses show the form of the dancer while being body-less because I didn't want to put a face or race or body-type to cloud the universal beauty of dance.  One of the amazing things about dance to me is that it can be so expressive and convey whole narratives and complex emotions without a single word, hence negating any language barrier.

I explored different types of dance from around the world because I find them beautiful and I suppose I was being instinctively culturally inclusive.  Dance is a celebration of the human body, and I've decided to be a part of it and celebrate in my own way.

Human motorcycle - where paint, photography and yogis collide

Get it? I didn't the first time I glanced at it, even though I read the title. It wasn't until I read the description that I realized that that motorcycle is made out of super flexible yogis with body paint. It's really amazing to see how they do it:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ATzONfFRU0U

If you happen to be in the San Jose area, you can actually meet the artist, Trina Merry, and watch her do her thing over the next couple of weeks, check out the schedule (under Art Alive) here.

Making of "Shadows"

One of my original ideas for this blog was to post in-progress paintings so people can have a look into my process and/or get painting tips.  Since I haven't been able to paint in awhile, here's a step-by-step guide to an older painting - "Shadows", completed in June. Sketch: I often find that students new to painting want to draw with pencil on their canvas before starting with paint. I never do that. I map out my composition very simply with a brush and some paint like so. You can see how I changed the size of the figure dramatically, not worrying about erasing because I was just going to paint over it anyway.

 

 

 

 

 

Color & Texture: Next, I start blocking in the painting, making adjustments and adding texture as I go. Painting is a very layered process for me, so there are often layers that never see the light of day, but add a richness (both in body/texture and in color) to the final painting.

I have been on this kick where when I use photographic references, I print them out in black and white and then paint my own colors. This has some challenges but also adds a level of mystery and excitement for me, the painter, because I'm letting the painting tell me where to go.

 

 

 

Figure: In this case I painted the figure and her dress in monochromatic colors because I was planning on glazing the colors on later. I purposefully kept her skin very light, while keeping the dress dark because I wanted the glazing to be more subtle on the dress.

 

 

 

 

 

Details: The picture I was working from was a night scene, so all the colors got more bluish in this stage. I also added more detail around the figure.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Glazing: I finally got to the glazing stage, but by this time had decided I didn't want to glaze any of the skin. I liked that it was fresh looking and yet nostalgic because the burnt sienna base made it look like an old-fashioned tinted photograph.

Critique stage: At this point I felt kind of stuck with the painting, so I went to the art collective I am a part of to get some some constructive criticism from my peers. It's always good to get some outside feedback, to point out glaring errors and/or minor tweaks that make a world of difference.

 

 

 

Final: The suggestions I got were most helpful and definitely helped finish the painting. By darkening a shadow here and changing the direction of a line there, I was able to get a better and more effective painting.

I was also reminded to include reflective light. This means, simply, that if the reddish dress is next to the purple pail, then there should be some purple on the dress and some red on the pail. Likewise, there is some color in the shadow from whatever object is casting the shadow.