Step by Step

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Since this is a new series of paintings, there are several extra steps. I have been hesitant to work on canvas since I normally cut through layers of tape with a razor. But, the reconfiguration of the artwork layout for the Impact Returns exhibition opened the opportunity to suspend work from the ceiling. Additionally, the logistics of shipping to Japan and a very strong desire to combine my abstract and representational bodies of work (as well as move onto the line between painting and sculpture) forced me to finally concede to the use of canvas

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Because I am using a scroll format, I want to keep a ~6" pristine border around the actual 72" x 24" image. That tape is sealed real tight with 3 layers of medium. In addition, because I am working on canvas, I needed to beef it up knowing I would likely need to take a razor to the surface later. So I mixed soil into my gesso and made it the consistency of loose cement. Spread thinly and let to dry for a couple of days, the surface came out beautifully. It's a little rough and very organic and VERY dry, kind of like sandstone. I took out most of the larger pebbles, leaves and roots, but there is still some in there. All of this makes it quite difficult to tape - more on that below.

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While the surfaces were drying, I prepped the reference photos. I take them all myself at local parks like Sawgrass Lake or Crescent Lake and have a large file to draw from. I have always felt that the shadows looked like Kanji, so I picked images where this seemed most obvious and cropped the images to fit the painting format. I also made them black and white and very contrasty since I am not interested in the fine details of the plants for this project.

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We're now going to trace the making of one of the four paintings I am debuting at the Impact Returns Emerging Artist New Work Exhibition: Exit Music #64 (Kintsugi Summer).  Above you can see that I have blocked in the shadows and plants. I made some adjustments to keep it simple and with the goal in mind that they should read later on as holes, cracks and fissures. Once I was happy with it, I used tape to cover the shadows (not pictured) and then laid down a drippy repetitive pattern on each of the four paintings. In doing this, I was inspired to use the colors and energy of each season as I remembered them in my childhood. The key to the background is that is has to be pretty bold since there will be three to four layers on top of it and thus obscuring it.

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Normally, I build the serpentine forms while developing the background, but for this project I knew what I wanted and was able to execute them with precision. After the forms are blocked in, I dimensionalize them with paint. I usually like to use a palette knife for this, but this new surface was kinder to the brush. The painting is then ready for its first layer of tape. I begin with diagonal lines that follow the "rear" of the forms since I normally end up cutting the tape away and reapplying it to the curved "front".

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6 Hours later....mind you not a straight six hours since I have been spending most of my daytime schedule happily working as Curatorial Assistant at Dunedin Fine Art Center, Preparator at Scarfone/Hartley Gallery and installer for ARTicles Art Gallery clientele, while also coordinating the newest opening for CONSTRUCT, the traveling exhibit I organized, at Palmetto Art Center. So really, it's an hour or two here and there, usually late at night.

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I eventually want this painting to be green and yellow and warm. But for this first layer, I need to lay down another pattern of colors that I now will heighten the colors on the final layer. Pink and turquoise are my favorite colors, so I...

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Salivation begins when I start removing the tape. It is like Christmas. The photo below does not do justice to the beautiful tiny details where these layers are visually mixing. Especially exciting is all of the bleed under the tape. One thing I have been wrestling with is how to handle the serpentine form from a conceptual standpoint. My intuition tells me to push it into the background and to bury it. But I also am not prepared to fully let go of them since they are very meaningful to me, nor do I want to fully enter the purely Op Art arena. The forms are metaphors for cosmic forces, and as a human without a specific god, I look to these forces as a source of power and as a way to know infinity. So I can't lose them, but perhaps I can look at them in a new way - not as what they are, but in how they function as initial conditions. I'll delve into this more fully in the next post.

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And another 6 hours of taping, this time straight up-down, so that the two layers interact to create fields of movement that kind of look like wood grain.

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Now I remove the tape that was blocking off the plants and shadow. Before I paint it gold, I have to paint a solid underlayer because the metallic paint is translucent. Also, it takes a couple of layers of metallic paint.

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Detail of the finished piece. You can see the lumps of soil.

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And the entire piece, painting only, Remember that there is a 6" border of chartruese canvas all around it. There will be large dowels top and bottom and the paintings will hang from the ceiling. I am very excited about the possibilities of the work moving into the Functional Art realm, where these could hang on a wall, but would also serve as screens to separate space - ideal for any creative or medical office, or yoga studio.

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Here is Exit Music #61 (Kintsugi Fall) all rolled up and ready to take to artist, author and designer Nancy Niss, who will perform the edge binding and finishing for me since I am currently maladapt at operating a sewing machine in any competent way.

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Please be sure to follow me on Instagram @nathanbeardfineart and Facebook and browse my website www.nathanbeardfineart.com