Art Studio Renovation (part 1 of what seems like a million...)

I work out a studio in my home. Most of the time I love it; there’s no commute, no dress code, no weather to handle, just a groggy walk across the living room floor to the kitchen for coffee and a slow shuffle into the welcoming walls of my studio.

But it’s not always ideal.

In-home studios come with their own unique challenges and complications, and as I’m currently displaced from mine — I thought I might share a little bit about the current project.

We’re in the process of fixing/replacing the caulked and painted shut windows in the house, and the next batch up is my studio.

I’ve spent the last few days clearing everything out of the room to allow the work to begin, while simultaneously wrecking the living room with an influx of supplies.

 Clean and empty studio! (yes, that’s PLYWOOD standing in for a storm.)

Clean and empty studio! (yes, that’s PLYWOOD standing in for a storm.)

 Living room explosion….

Living room explosion….

I know the windows don’t look too bad in the nice bright photo, so here’s a close-up; they definitely are in need of some love.

window.jpg

As an artist that relies so heavily on light and patterns in the light I’m so excited to get these restored. To have the broken glass replaced, the paint spattered panes cleaned, the mechanisms fixed so I can actually open them. The few we’ve already done look so incredibly clear, I can’t wait to see how much light will fill my workspace.

But for now, this means meetings are conducted somewhere else quiet (in the car!) and I’ll be painting outside until the carpenters finish their work.

In the end I know the hassle will be worth it.

 Renovation in the studio - means meetings are held in the car!

Renovation in the studio - means meetings are held in the car!

A Look into my Composition Book

The other day I posted a look into my composition sketchbook on instagram and received a flurry of questions on the process, materials and ideas behind keeping this collection. Rather than write out paragraphs to respond there, I thought I’d take some time to provide a more detailed look into these studies.

comp_book.jpg
 This book cover has seen a lot of paint/chalk/pencil.

This book cover has seen a lot of paint/chalk/pencil.

The Book:

I’m a big fan of keeping multiple sketchbooks at one time - each with a very clear and defined purpose. Color tests, travel sketches, morning sketches, still life contours, and a composition book. Keeping things separated like this allows me to reference sketches and images faster and it just appeals to the side of my personality that likes to have a space for everything, and everything in it's space.

For the Composition book I use a large sketchbook from Canson. This book serves two methods of organizing compositions;

1.) Collecting sketches from other books/cut paintings with particular compositions that I feel could use more exploration and gluing them in.

2.) Creating purely compositional study sketches on the pages.

By adhering to these two tenants I end up with a book of painting ideas divorced from color (mostly) and subject - but focused on rhythm, movement and motion.

 Lines and movement.

Lines and movement.

The Why:

I use these pages to explore ideas for paintings in a pre-sketch phase. If I’ve got an idea that I want to work with, but it lacks form I open up this book and search through the studies until something clicks. If nothing does, I make however many more studies are necessary.

The Result:

Often times at first glance the final painting doesn’t look very similar to the composition work. With so many layers and lines making up the final piece the initial blocking out can be hard to spot - but if you look close enough most of the time it becomes apparent. (I say most of the time, as there are definitely cases when the final work morphs into something totally diffferent!)

Looking back on years of composition studies has been pretty enlightening as to the evolution of my process. The forms I work with are so dependent on location and my surroundings that’s it’s pretty easy to pinpoint when I moved from Miami, when I spent time in Ireland, Thailand and Japan, when we were snowed in last year and couldn’t leave for 4 days… at this point it functions almost as a journal with no words.

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 Testing indigo/gold/gray.

Testing indigo/gold/gray.

 Glued-In page.

Glued-In page.

 Cut pieces.

Cut pieces.

How my Tools and Space Inform my Process

My favorite paintings to work on usually are borne out of two conflicting modalities; Chaos and Order.

The push and pull between the two forces drives a lot of the interaction and movement of my work - and it’s something I only “half” control.

I control the sketches, the fine details, the colors of the paints I mix - but I don’t control the way the paint moves on the surface. I don’t control the spills, the drips, the intermingling of pigment and resulting colors. Working in this intuitive way imparts a focus that I haven’t found with another process. The work is informed by the process and the process informed by the work. It’s a cyclical opposition that relies heavily on my space and tools.

EH Sherman - tools and process

My space is crooked.

My studio is in a building that pre-dates 1891 and the floors show it. There is a 2.5 inch slope from one side to the other, which doesn’t seem like much - but when you are working with water media it’s very noticeable. I absolutely could have evened the floor out, but chose to accept another facet of the unplanned; gravity was going to change my work. When I put down a pool of paint it runs downhill. I can leave it as it, or spin the work to change it’s course, but that is about the extent of my control. I can’t leave a work unattended either, as sometimes in the drying process areas of the painting will overflow into another, pushing the paint down the canvas. This has resulted in a relatively different studio experience for me - rather than leave as a work dries I now sit there (usually with another painting or some other facet of my job that needs doing - like blogging!) and literally - watch. Paint. Dry.

Sometimes I catch the drips and move the painting, sometimes I happily let them spill all the way down, grabbing other colors as it moves.

It’s another part of the chaos and I love it.

My tools also have a part to play in the balance between planned and unplanned.

Probably best characterized by my two favorites; the loose hake brush and the precise rubber wedge (or squeegee). I frequently have one in each hand and move the drying paint around with both, one making hard to control splutters of the pools, the other cutting through and leaving small, tight lines in it’s wake.

Eh Sherman squeegee
Eh Sherman Fine Art - hake brush

It’s in their interaction that I learned to love and embrace the dichotomy of chaos and order and begin to seek it out as I worked. And then, I saw it everywhere.

The flower growing in the crack in the cement; just a flower in a field - but here in this moment it’s transformed into something miraculous.

But I have to love it loosely. If I let myself get too caught up in the order aspect and find myself ‘planning’ the chaotic elements, I lose that magic that the flower possesses. Then the work is an exercise in making something look ‘unplanned’ and in my mind, fails at it’s purpose.

Allowing my tools and my space to contribute their essence and spirit to my process has made for a far more fulfilling and challenging studio practice.

I’d love to know more about your practice - do your tools inform your work? Does your space change your paintings? Leave me a message below!

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Collage as a Sketch

When I get into the studio first thing in the morning I like to take a bit of time to wake up, drink my coffee and check -in with my plans for the day. During this time I usually doodle on spare paper, make a few quick thumbnails or throw together a collage really quick. Nothing that requires any significant thought, just a little exercise to start moving the day in the right direction.

 Collage materials!

Collage materials!

I keep a box of pre-cut, (or ready-to-be-cut) things next to my desk for specifically these times. Paint chips, magazines, old photos, print-outs, old sketches.... anything goes! I look for pattern, form, movement, anything that catches my eye or begs further exploration and cut those moments out. Once I've assembled those I start cutting further, grabbing for the essence of what drew me to them.

EH Sherman - cut up paper
 I really want to play with the shadows on these pots.

I really want to play with the shadows on these pots.

EH Sherman collage materials

Materials Used:

Head over to my Amazon shop for links to all the materials:

- Canson watercolor sketchbook

-Elmers Adhesive Spray

-Derwent pastel pencils

-Ultramarine Acrylic Paint

EH Sherman collage assembly

At this point I just start playing. Layering color on pattern, adding daubs of paint, pencil lines... all that matters is I'm experimenting and staying curious.

EH Sherman finished sketch

Sometimes I take the finished collage and sketch around it, playing with color and rhythm - just expanding on the shapes found. It's a great exercise before digging into work and other projects!

I'd love to hear about your experiences with collage - how do you find the pieces you use?

Winter Forms

I love the winter.

This may come as a surprise as I spent 10 years of my life in Miami - but winter has always been and will always be my favorite season. A changed landscape, the snap of cold air in my lungs, the layers of blankets to keep out the chill... everything about it energizes and invigorates me.

While I can't reliably run as much in the winter, and the long days of painting in the woods take a bit more planning and layering, I do still get outside to sketch and explore.

EH Sherman Winterforms
EH Sherman Winterforms

The forms of winter just seem so much more dramatic; the deep reaching purple shadows on the snow, the sepia gradients of leaves frozen at the bottom of a pond, the barreness of the landscape, it all speaks to me so much louder than other seasons.

Winterforms by EH Sherman
EH Sherman Art - Winterforms

If weather doesn't allow for me to sit out and sketch (we've had a few weeks of negative temperatures, makes it a bit hard to hold on to a paint brush and concentrate....) I rely on taking photos and sketching from those when I get back indoors. 

EH Sherman Winterforms sketch

I try to remember the colors that struck me, the rhythm of the shadows, whatever it was that drew me to photograph the scene. Not necessarily to 'reproduce' the arrangement - but explore it's dynamic via paint and line. To play with the forms of winter and discover hidden moments, translating them to paper with a brush.

For these sketches I'm mostly concerned with speed - they aren't something I labor over and risk forgetting the initial spasm of motivation. I use watercolor sticks and block out the forms and colors as quickly as I can. Once I've got a few sketches from the photos made, I slow down and approach the final painting.

I'm a little sad to see this winter season winding down, though I can't say I'm upset about not having to shovel the sidewalk. Spring brings it's own inspirations in different forms and I'll be ready to sketch them too. 

Wishing you all a lovely week!

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