Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Paula Roland: Santa Fe NM


Entry to Paula's studio, with Paula
and Lefty the Wonder Dog!

Here is a brief introductory video to Paula's interview.
(It is my first attempt, so be kind...and you may see more soon!)

Where did you grow up and what, if anything, were early influences on your work?

I grew up in Biloxi, Mississippi, on the Gulf of Mexico, right on the beach. Back then, in the 50’s, the Coast was a tourist mecca. My parents moved there for the beauty and to build a business, tourist cottages, which over the decades became a larger motel. The beach was practically our front yard, and wild, lowland woods, with tangled vines, were behind the house. It was a little paradise, with hundreds of trees, including palms, and tropical fruits. I had free run of the grounds, except for the woods, which, though forbidden, were my favorite hide-out. Playmates were seasonal, mostly in the summer, so I had a lot of alone time. The woods were active with life, growth, and decay. They contrasted sharply with the (usually) calm ocean and a horizon that seemed to continue forever. I feel these contrasts, minimal and maximal, are ever present in my works. 

Some of my earliest memories are the sense of peace I felt in the outdoors. There I found total acceptance, a place to “be.” It was a wonderful way to develop imagination and skills of observation, a sense of adventure and change (inspired by hurricanes), and a romantic side—all essential for my art. 

My Universe (detail)
Encaustic Monotype (two layers, pierced) lights, 24” x 24”

Language of Beauty III
 Encaustic Monotype, 39” x 25”

Language of Beauty VII
Encaustic Monotype, 39” x 25”

Did you receive any formal art training? At what point did you become interested in making art, and was there a point when you decided you were primarily an artist? 

My very first art class was in college, in New Orleans, my second home. All the bells and whistles went off, and I never thought of another career. Prior to this time, I sketched and doodled elaborately (vines, scrolls and other intuitive markings) all over my notebooks, book covers—everything. I was compulsive. But in my community, I had no exposure to art through museums or galleries, and I didn’t know that an average person could be an artist. I guess I thought all artists were born great, not made. Art was not offered in my high school, but I studied music and dance. I majored in art in college and 12 years later earned an MFA at the University of New Orleans. It was in grad school that I gained the confidence to dedicate myself to my art. However, it has taken many years to feel that I am an artist.

Can you talk a little more about your practice and your process for creating?
I have ideas, lots of them. The strongest and most pertinent of these persist and become a series. When working, I hold my ideas loosely, in the background. Over my 30+ years of working, I have been drawn to media and processes that are a bit out of my control and have developed ways of working with acrylic paint, and later encaustic paint, to suit my needs. I consider the materials to be a partner when working. I observe them and utilize the unexpected. It’s not about happy accidents but rather about recognition, dialogue, synthesis, focus, and applying a conceptual overlay.

This way of working subverts the conscious mind, allowing the unexpected to surface. I strive to not repeat myself, but to go deeper and further until the series is complete or another fertile path takes over. Some series continue over time, with other bodies of work in between. Some are finished, exhausted, never to be revisited. This path of mine veers from what I was taught about having a consistent look or direction. Because the work has a deep and examined source in my psyche and the natural world, it holds together as a unified vision, or at least I hope it does! 

Paula giving me some tips for the HOTbox

Tell us about the encaustic monotype, your teaching, and other jobs, if any. 

For over 30 years, teaching has been parallel with my practice of making art. Since 1997 I have focused my teaching on encaustic monotype process, other encaustic techniques, and more advanced studio practice for artists. I am most known for teaching the encaustic monotype, which I did not invent but took from obscurity and brought to wider awareness. I have taught the process widely and developed a curriculum that provides artists a sense of predictability with this mercurial process and a connection to their own interests and vision. I come from a painting and installation background and focus more on artists choosing the best path for their expression, rather than on preserving the sacred print. In my own work with encaustic, and in my teaching, I pursue other formats such as installation, painting, and mixed mediums—mostly works on paper. I become bored easily, but this process continues to inspire me, and therefore I am jazzed to inspire others with its many possibilities. The wax monotype intrigues me because it never fails to reveal my innermost feelings and interests, connections that were out of my awareness, and to provide new ideas and paths to explore. 

To facilitate others in pursuing the process, I created an instructional DVD, Encaustic Monotypes—Painterly Prints with Heat and Wax. I also manufacture the equipment, the Encaustic HOTbox™. These, and related items, are available on www.RolandWorkshops.com.

Untitled (detail) Encaustic Monotype with Graphite, 8" x 10'

Language of Beauty I 27" x 24 "
Language of Beauty IX
Encaustic Monotype, 39" x 25"

Taiko I
Encaustic Monotype, 39” x 25”

Taiko IV
Encaustic Monotype, 39” x 25”

Roland's main studio area

What is your current work about?

All of my work reflects my interest in the natural world, its intersection with humans, and related concerns. These include science, spirituality, ecology and systems such as weather, populations, and art itself.

Most recently my work has taken a different turn. Last year I faced a life threatening illness, and during my recovery I began to experience the work differently. I could only think of creating beauty, and I did so by exploring the language of beauty, without my typical conceptual filters. I have never experienced such joy and freedom while creating. I intend to explore all aspects of beauty, wherever that leads me. More than ever, I find making art is a metaphor for life. I learn who I am, find my place in the world, and discover ways to connect with it through my creative process. 

After attempting to eat several rubber gloves,
Lefty was put outside. But he made his
presence known at the window!

Do you ever get stuck with your work and how do you remedy this?

These days I don’t so much get stuck as feel hesitant. So I start more works. At the moment, I have seven or eight in-process encaustic monotypes pinned up around my studio and work back and forth between them. If I only have a few, they tend to get precious. If I have a lot, they inspire each other, sharing patterns, colors, ghost images, and other parts that unite them. If I do get stuck, I put the work aside until I’ve lived a little more, worked a little more, and hopefully I find a solution to the puzzle. Sometimes it will take years to complete a piece.

Walking in to Roland's creative space

Do you have particular habits that support your art practice?

Yes. I only live in interesting, inspirational places! Santa Fe provides beauty as well as intellectual stimulation. It is a nexus for big science and the study of chaos, complexity, systems theories, and the many projects of the National Labs. It is a spiritual mecca for Buddhism, Hispanic Catholicism, and new age thought. There is cutting-edge art, and artists, writers, and environmentalists of all stripes that help inform my art.

I have big windows in my new 1,600 square foot studio that open to the mountains, hills, and arroyos of Santa Fe, where I take long walks with Lefty, my near-famous circus dog. And I collect stuff, just as I did as a kid when I would beach comb. In New Mexico, I collect natural objects and things that humans have left behind, such as twisted, rusted, wire and weathered sawn wood. I also collect books and objects from other cultures and other times that inspire me.

another view of Paula's studio

I read a lot and travel as much as I can, mostly to look at art. I’ve had residencies in France and Italy and have traveled to teach in all corners of the U.S. Also, New Orleans and the Gulf Coast are often visited, and their hurricanes and ecology continue to stimulate my thoughts and inform my work.
You may view more of Paula's work on her website.


Lefty: thanks y'all for following my blog!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Two Sides of the Paper

Here's a summary of what I learned in my monoprinting workshop. Some of the variables that make a difference in your prints are:
  • paper absorbency varies, texture varies AND there are 2 sides to the story (see below)
  • paint how it's milled-- if the pigment is coarse or fine will effect it's application
  • heat less heat=less saturation in the paper
  • patience and time good to have more of than I did
  • surprises—the best part if you let them happen and appreciate them
  • imagery— in my case, this was only about process and not about imagery or concept. If I do more work using these methods, I suspect pieces of the prints would become integrated into my paintings or 3D work

The first surprise I discovered is that various papers allow saturation in different ways. In some cases the prints come through more interesting on the back side, and you can change your focus to rework the piece! 


Color and texture on japanese calligraphy paper 


More of the same, but on Masa a heavier paper (above and below)


a metallic paint above and below, I'm not sure which paper

My Favorite First Prints

On Johannot paper, I'm starting to feel more confident with volume of paint

More ability to combine texture and saturation; with a few passes

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Monoprinting in the Land of Enchantment

This is the beautiful skyline and dirt road entering into Paula's studio

Last week I visited Santa Fe, New Mexico. My husband grew up there, so we visit regularly. While he was in a workshop in Ojo Caliente, taught by Liz Koch, I decided to visit Paula Roland and take a monotype workshop in her new studio, using her hotboxes. I had a terrific time, and well, her studio is gorgeous. (You will need to stay tuned for an interview with Paula, coming soon!)

Paula's double hot box set up to work on

I have done mono printing before, with oil paint. This process is quite different, because of the properties of heat, wax and the absorbency of the paper there are a range of effects you can achieve. Along with the hotboxes, there are a few other essential tools, first to regulate the temperature:

two surface thermostats for the hot box

Once you are ready to to burnish on the hotbox, you'll use these:

Japanese barens 

My first application of wax, pulling off paint with tools

Here's the first paper I pulled, where I'm learning about how much paint to use on the aluminum, it varies with paint, paper and what you are trying to achieve.

This is the print I pulled from above

Later in the day I decided to try a large sheet, and to try to register a few passes on the plate. Unfortunately, my heavy hand with the paint gave me more blobs that I intended...

practicing registration on the hotbox

after a few passes with registration on the  hotbox

ghost image
Good lessons learned and now I can try this on my own. I think I will most likely use pieces of my work within my paintings.

Check back tomorrow I'll post some pix of the prints!

For those of you interested in seeing a demo of this process, R&F Paints has this video: