Out of the Comfort Zone

People are always urging artists to get out of their comfort zone.  What exactly is wrong with a comfort zone, anyway?  I wish I knew — I wish there was something  that I could nail every time out.   But there are certainly ways of making art that I am more comfortable with than others, and I’m not talking about the difference between painting in my studio or getting outside in zero degree weather.  I am most comfortable painting and drawing in a representational way, in a traditional way, in oils, on a stretched canvas, panel, or in the case of the drawings, a pad of paper.

This week I have decided to go public with three new things that are out of my comfort zone.  Two of the three are combined:  (1) Painting on glass.  (2) Painting with acrylic paint instead of oil, on said glass.  The third:  Painting symbolically, as opposed to realistically.

First, the reverse-painting-on-glass project.  A client bought an old clock at auction that boasted a glass panel reverse-painted with a once-lovely bucolic landscape.  The paint was peeling and  flaking off the glass.  Here is what it looks like :

original reverse-painted scene

He asked me to replicate, roughly, this scene freshly painted on a new pane of glass.  I did some research, and discovered that you can use either oil or acrylic for reverse-glass painting, but acrylics are preferred because of the faster drying time.  I already had some acrylic paint, which I use to tone canvases before painting with oils.  (You can paint with oil over an acrylic base, but should not paint with acrylic over an oil base–for fear of the oil not having dried completely underneath–maybe that is what caused the above painting to start to crumble.)  Except for the gold, which I have only in oil paint, I used my acrylics to make this loose reproduction:

painted side of reproduction

My client did not mind if I reversed the image, so I traced the image with black pen right onto the surface I intended to paint.  I wanted the black markings to show up  in the first layer.

Viewing side of reproduction

I need to work on the gold “frame” and plug up some holes, but basically this is it.  The only way to change anything is to scrape off and start over.

My other uncomfortable project takes a bit more explanation.  I belong to an organization called “Women’s Caucus for Art“.  I am on the Board of Directions for the NH chapter, and also serve as Treasurer for the NH chapter.   Every year the WCA organizes a number of funky exhibits.  I have mentioned the 6×6 here, and I have participated in the annual “Flowers, Interpreted”, and my “Farmers Market” painting was juried into an exhibit on a theme of locally grown food.  My offering for one called “Old Wives Tales” up at Plymouth State College did not make it, nor did my very first submission a few years ago to an exhibit of female nudes called “Go Figure”.   When I saw the art selected, I better understood the meaning of the title.

Point is, they do some weird stuff that my rather sober, traditional take on on images does not fit into, comfortably.  But good sport that I am, I keep trying.  So here is this new one, called “On Target”.  For this exhibit, one must use this as one’s inspiration:

The "On Target" inspiration piece

My first reaction was, “Huh?”  That was my second and third reaction too.  How on earth do I fit that thing into my way of being artistic?  Coincidentally, I had recently watched a movie called “Vincent” by Paul Cox.  Van Gogh is one of my favorite artists.  The movie consists of Van Gogh’s words, written in letters to his brother, recited against images of his paintings and the countryside that he painted, and a few reenactments of his painting process.  I was particularly affected by the reenactment of his painting of “Starry Night”.   Suddenly, it came to me that the targets were very similar in shape (you know, round!) to stars, and that the circles around them were analogous to the  auras that surrounded the stars in Starry Night.  All I had to do was reverse the colors.  I was inspired!  So inspired that I jumped on it right away and spent all of  yesterday on it:

Starry, Starry Night, under its inspiration

I am titling it “Starry, Starry Night” after the Don Maclean song, because that opening theme keeps running through my mind.   As always, it may not be finished yet.   Actually, it may be just my first stab at bringing this idea to fruition.  Does it have enough merit to make it into the “On Target” exhibition?  Stay tuned for word on that.  But if satisfying the theme counts heavily, I think it should.  What think you?  Here is the large, in your face, version:

Starry, Starry Night

Aline Lotter is currently exhibiting:

at the Gallery at 100 Market Street in Portsmouth; at the Sage Gallery in Manchester; at the Hatfield Gallery in Manchester; at the Bartlett Inn in Bartlett; at the Red Jacket Inn in North Conway; and at her studio by appointment.

Link to website: www.paintingsbyaline.com

8 responses to “Out of the Comfort Zone

  1. Hi Aline,
    I just took an old painting out of my attic that was painted on glass. It was disintegrating very badly. If longevity is a concern you might want to know that and find out what the parameters are for storage.
    I think Acrylic on plexiglass would give you the best adhesion.


    • Thanks, Marion. I did not find any advice bearing on longevity concerns. I never noticed anything about plexiglass either, but maybe that is because I was given the glass already cut to the correct size. Are you going to restore the disintegrating painting?


  2. I like the Starry Night painting, but might add a bit of color – stars are defined as blue, red, yellow, and white – if it was ME. But then I see other possibilities for being “on target” too! I hate themes that are odd and unexplained!

    As to the glass – nice job on the painting, and I’m not sure as to potential longevity. There are old “tinsel paintings” on glass that are over 100 years old, but not many. Without using glass paints (sold in craft stores as stained glass paints or something like that – but I haven’t seen them around in awhile), I’m not sure anything COULD be permanent. I don’t think it would matter if it’s oil or acrylic – the simple fact is that glass reacts to environment … to sunlight, to atmospheric vapor/moisture, etc … by getting steamy. And I would think that those little teeny water molecules would eventually break the bond between the glass and the paint to cause the peeling. The process would probably happen more quickly if the clock was in foyer or hallway where it would be subjected to temperature and humidity differences when the doorway is opened and closed on a regular basis. Paintings survive the longest when the ground expands and contracts at the same rate and by the same percentage (remember, that’s why Renee paints on copper) – and paint and glass are not going to behave the same way. But that’s not to say that your painting can’t survive for 100 years or more!


    • You continually come up with these surprising insights. I hope your students appreciate the breadth of knowledge that you come equipped with! I’m just not to going to worry about longevity any more. I don’t want to change the color scheme on Starry Night because the black and tan are part of the translation from target to stars.


  3. I love the starry night painting. It fits the “target” theme and is innovative. I wouldn’t add color to it at all-it’s great as it is.


  4. I think this is a big success. The stars have such a sparkling quality and the light radiates out of them. That said, an interpretation of a suggested theme isn’t going to be the same as a painting you choose from the topic to the colors.
    The New Yorker magazine has on the back page every issue a cartoon that doesn’t have a caption. You are supposed to supply that. Quite different from the opposite approach.
    This project of yours reminds me of that.