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Archive for October, 2010

The entrance to Joy Street Studios

At the beginning of each week, Mark Peterson fills the automatic bread making machine in his Somerville studio with dough mix and turns it on. He starts it early so that the bread is ready to eat when lunchtime rolls around. That’s why, no matter what day of the week I might visit, there is a lingering fresh bread scent about the place. I was once lucky enough to have an appointment with Mark on bread-making day. I arrived at 10 am to the aroma of a golden raisin and plum bread that had been baking all morning. By midday, I was biting into a thick slice of it. (Note to self: Remember to go there on a Monday.)

The comforting smell of baking bread is not what you’d expect from outside 86 Joy Street. This stretch of Joy Street is, well, not exactly inspiring. It’s drab, industrial, and noticeably void of greenery. The predominant color is grey. A garbage processing plant across the street from the studio building plays a loud, intermittent recording of seagulls squawking, presumably to keep birds away. A brick wall on one end of the street has the words “NO JUMPING” painted in dull red across it. No jumping for joy? The bright yellow door and railings of the Joy Street Studio entrance are the only real spark of color in an otherwise dull landscape.

Mark is a photographer. The charcoal-colored walls of his studio are a perfect backdrop for his photographs which include some of the bleaker pockets of Boston and surrounding towns. When I look at Mark’s photographs, I can’t help but notice how beautifully the shabbiest of elements come together. Rundown alleyways, grimy smokestacks, chain link fences. Stained concrete, rusted metal, and thick rivers of electrical cables. The wear and tear found in many of these scenes form

striking and comforting images, despite their often gritty feel. For one, the compositions alone are lovely. But Mark’s sense of color and light bring these photographs alive.

The giclée printer

Not only does Mark have a fine eye, but he’s also got a giclée printer!  I go to his studio when I want to have prints made of my digital paintings. As he explained to me on my very first visit, my images are never going to look exactly the same on paper as they do on the computer screen. The luminosity from the screen can’t be reproduced. And because I tend toward wild colors and combinations in my work, there are sometimes compromises to be made when deciding which way to go with a print job. If I really want the purple to look a certain way, I may have to compromise a bit on, say, the rose color or the lime green. If I’m not willing to compromise the rose or green, then I may end up with a purple that lacks the intensity or depth I think is important to the piece.

Considering color options

Sometimes we’ve had to consider cropping versus reshaping, when a piece wasn’t quite going to fit the matted frame I’d bought for it. Occasionally a little electronic stretching or scrunching in one direction doesn’t affect the look at all, and other times it can make a cat’s face look oddly bovine or a landscape lose some of its airy feel. Mark is great at understanding what the heck his color management program is telling him and in pointing out the color and sizing issues to me. He’s also remarkably patient with flipping back and forth between my options until I settle on the one that works for me.

Fresh prints

Today I went to pick up some prints he recently made for me, including the portraits of two feline friends, Mildred and Fig. I was very pleased with the color on these pieces. There were also a couple of experimental florals—something I don’t usually paint, but I thought I’d print them and see. They’re okay, but I think I’ll be sticking to other subjects.

If you’d like to see Mark Peterson’s photos in person, he’ll be showing “Near and Far: East Boston” as part of the Joy Street Open Studios November 20-21 from noon to 6 pm. For more information, visit www.joystreetartists.org.

If you want to see more of my digital paintings and illustrations, drop by http://iodine.redbubble.com

Cheers,
Paula

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"Stained Glass Branches," copyright © Paula Ogier 2010

Are you an exhibiting artist? Has a piece of your artwork ever disappeared from a show? A framed piece of my art, “Stained Glass Branches,” disappeared this week off the wall of a gallery in Harvard Square. It was part of a group show that includes abstract works by 39 different artists. We are all either current or past students of Sheila Rice—a remarkable and experimental 80-something hardy New England powerhouse who produces abstract art regularly amidst a busy schedule of teaching, taking care of her grandkids, and being a spirited friend and inspiration to local artists. I thought it was an engaging and very interesting body of works, and I enjoyed meeting the other artists at the reception in early October.

When the new gallery coordinator called to tell me my piece had gone missing, she clearly felt awful about making the call, and at the time I may have felt worse for her than for me. I was a little fascinated by the irony of the situation. Up until this past spring, I was the coordinator of that same gallery. I had that role for several years and I knew that I would have hated to make that call, too. I’d have put it off for at least 24 hours, combing the building first. I had never seen a piece of art stolen during that time, although I think it had happened in its history. It’s a public building and over the years some things have mysteriously disappeared from it—a laptop, some desk computers, wallets, gloves. Even my favorite black cloche hat once vanished inexplicably from the building. But such occurrences were rare overall.

A fellow artist encouraged me to post an image of the piece on Facebook and ask others to re-post it. He sounded sure this would cause the piece to show up again. Completely unconvinced, I did it anyway. Some suggested it was a kind of honor to have a piece of one’s art stolen. Maybe they were being playful or kind, but I had to admit I had quietly entertained that notion myself. One friend wrote, “They say that increases the value of your other pieces,” and another wrote, “Cheer yourself thinking that someone loved your style so much he/she could not resist, and will now and from the rest of his/her life stare at your piece with a smile of content on his/her face and think ‘can’t believe it’s mine’.” Yet another wrote, “OMG-that’s terrible! But also a commentary on its future value…Already worth stealing!” I appreciated this positive spin, despite knowing I may never get it back.

I am a digital painter, and this piece was a giclée print on rag paper of an image that was painted entirely digitally. I still have the digital image, so if I wanted to, I could have it printed again. It would still be a first generation print. I like my art to be affordable and I don’t do limited edition prints—that’s why a medium-size print like this, framed and matted, can still have a sale price of $150. If you ignore the cost and effort invested in having this piece printed and framed, having it stolen certainly isn’t the worst thing that could happen to an artist. Would I like to have it back? Of course. But I do hope that whoever is in possession of it loves looking at it. That was the whole point in the first place. Maybe they really needed it. I’m willing to believe that.

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