"Immerse yourself and be transported" *|MC:SUBJECT|*

CULTIVATE: Enrich and Grow

CULTIVATE: Enrich and Grow

Chroma Collective Gallery's April show opens today! View it now. I've challenged myself to see how the titles for our monthly exhibitions can apply to my art process. April's show is CULTIVATE: Enrich and Grow. Let's see what that prompts!

Important to my art practice is recharge time. For me, that means spending time out in nature, in wilderness areas, in my garden, walking on the mesa listening to the wind and the birds, watching the sky. I need this time to feed my soul, to enrich myself. I find it vital for my creativity to occasionally take time away from my studio, out in nature, the more remote the better. It's a time for me to unplug, go offline, slow down, listen and look.

Recently we took a short road trip to southern Colorado and eastern Utah, visiting Canyons of the Ancients and Bears Ears National Monuments. Hiking each day in the canyons and gulches of these areas was ideal for recharge time. I love to take close up photos, rock, water, ice, cactus spines, light, the macro view is what grabs me. Nature makes the best abstract art!

Close-up photos from "Canyon of the Ancients" and "Bears Ears"

Not only was I filling up my creative well with macro views of the natural elements, the area is rich with sacred sites, remnants from ancient peoples, stone walls still standing after hundreds of years and pictographs, all tucked up in large south facing alcoves.

Sacred sites in "Canyon of the Ancients" and "Bears Ears"

So inspiring, they knew how to shelter from the elements, welcoming warmth from the low angle of the winter sun, protected from the blistering sun in the summer. Following in their footsteps, my house and studio are passive solar. Facing south to let the winter sun warm us, with overhangs to block out the harsh summer sun, thus heating and cooling my home in the most efficient way.

I say my inspiration comes from nature, but I never know how it will manifest itself. The experiences go into my subconscious mind, and then come out in mysterious ways. When I begin a new painting, I don't have any specific plan. I just start by laying down color and seeing where it goes. I plant that seed and let it grow.

The beginning stage is total freedom, and then the piece takes on a life of its own. For the middle stage, I let the painting tell me what it needs, which direction it wants to develop. I often have no idea where new shapes or types of lines come from, I just know to let them “grow”.

"Curvature" and "Enigma", 5"w x 7"h, Mixed Media on Paper, Matted, 8" x 10", Framed, 9" x 11"

Last year, I was creating small mixed media paintings on paper. On a few of them, I noticed curved lines that I loved. They are now coming out in some larger oil paintings, I'm loving these new shapes and lines.

And then it dawned on me that these same type of lines that are surfacing now in my oil paintings, I was overlaying in my art quilts more than twenty years ago. Fascinating how this works! The piece below has been hanging over my bed for years, I see it every day, but never consciously decided to use those accent pieces as elements in my paintings. They just started appearing.

"Didn't We Have Fun", 24" x 36", art quilt, hand dyed textiles, 2001

So I've been cultivating and developing my art for a long time! Painting over an older unfinished piece is always a little disorienting in the beginning. I often start by rotating the canvas, so what was a landscape is now vertical. It feels like split personalities, the old unresolved painting showing in places and the new starting to cover over. I've done it enough times with great results to know to keep pushing through. Once enough is changed, the new personality takes over.

Lots of pieces in progress to ponder!

Here are a number of new paintings in progress. I like to hang them on my viewing wall and ponder what they need next. It's the parts peeking through from previous lives that add such complexities.

The question always becomes, should I cover up more? Or scrape back and reveal what's underneath? The history lying just under the surface adds a richness not achieved any other way.

Favorite details from new pieces. Will they all stay? Or will some be painted over for the greater good?

I will continue to explore and experiment with these new elements for a period of time, until suddenly it's time to evolve and move on to new ideas. Growth is so important; I never know how long I may work with an idea, or why I suddenly need to move on. I've just learned to trust myself in this process. At the moment I've moved on from my sky paintings, but I'm sure the skies will come back into my work in the future, who knows when or how.

For this month's Chroma Collective Gallery exhibition, I am showcasing "Rain Dance". I'm hoping for the skies to open up and douse us with life affirming rain which makes all new growth possible.

I think my rain dance is working! As I write this email, we're being pelted with hail and rain, every precious drop of water is welcome and appreciated. By the time I hit the send button, the sun will most likely be out and this rain a distant memory, recorded here to remind me. I will continue to do a rain dance and hope for more!

"Rain Dance", 20" x 20", oil on canvas, framed

I am continuously captivated by the incredible and ever-changing skies here in Taos. I soak up what I see daily, and then in my studio I try to recreate that feeling. I’m not interested in painting what I saw, so much as conveying what I felt. On the canvas, color and values create the light.

Here are some close up details of "Rain Dance"

I love to see my paintings in a home or office setting. These images are from an app, but if you'd like to see this painting in your own setting, I can do that.

I just need a photo of the room and some reference dimensions, either the dimensions of furniture shown in the space, a sofa, piano, side table, arm chair, etc., or else the dimensions of the height and width of the space shown in the photo. I can then size the image of the artwork to show it to scale.


Here are photos to show you the frame on "Rain Dance".


View these details on my website

This painting is on a 1 3/8" stretched canvas set in a 1.5" deep contemporary floater frame. I love how the floater frame sets off the artwork. The inside space is black, as are the outer edges. The front face is a burnished gold.


Please be sure to visit Chroma Collective Gallery to see all twelve fabulous works of art this month. Enjoy!

View "CULTIVATE: Enrich and Grow" April 1st - 30th

If you'd like to receive notice of these monthly exhibitions, be sure to subscribe to Chroma Collective Gallery. You'll find the sign-up at the bottom of the page. There will be one email sent out each month to let you know about the upcoming show.

Lastly, if you'd like to see my works on paper, they are now up on my website.


If you'd like to see my larger paintings, this link will take you to them.


All the best,

Lydia Johnston's Fine Art
"Immerse yourself and be transported"