Portraits of Nature: Nizina River Rocks

Last October I took an online class with Lisa Call, Working In Series, which had been recommended to me a while ago by Maria Shell (she is a fabulous quilt artist whose work I encourage you to check out). I love being a student, and after a crazy summer, I was looking for some structure to get back into the studio. I was also looking forward to moving my work in a new direction. The last couple of years I have been focusing on field sketching and how I could bring my sketches into the studio and gallery space. I will keep working on this, as it is a great passion of mine, but I was looking to start doing some different, deliberate studio work.

In the class, each student chose a subject to focus on for eight weeks of disciplined studio practice. Each week we would approach that subject from different perspectives, such as color, texture, or line.  Each week, I created a painting and would write up a critique. It was incredibly helpful to have a deadline and to get in the habit of writing critically about my art, as well as to get feedback from Lisa and other students. 

I painted a series on rocks found on the Nizina River, where I live. I am fascinated by the endless variety of colors and textures found in the rocks. The Nizina River drains out of the glaciers and mountains of an interesting section of the Wrangells (really every portion of the Wrangells is interesting) but you can find fossils, geodes, and stones of every color in the rainbow. I wish I had more of a background in geology so that I could understand them better, but I do appreciate their beauty, and I like to make up stories about why they look the way they do.  

As I started working on my series, I realized that I was creating portraits. This seemed so fitting because I would walk around the riverbed full of thousands of rocks and wait until I found one or two that spoke to me. In time they started to seem like family and friends and I would develop relationships with them as I tried to discover their stories within. I also became more interested in how the stones were arranged on the page, and how the composition would tell different stories about their relationships. I am interested in the similarities and variations in size, shape, color, and texture. Often I like to group similar rocks together to play off their differences. 

It is just the beginning of this journey and I am excited to keep working on it throughout the winter. One of the best parts about working in a defined series is that after taking some time off, you know just where you want to start again, and it is easier to get back into the groove. I will keep painting portraits of rocks, but am interested to expanding the series to include other natural objects.