Thursday, October 21, 2010

Voice Catcher 5

Voice Catcher 5 Available Now
Voice Catcher 5 is an anthology of Portland area women artist and writers. I am honored to have one of my paintings illustrating this gorgeous volume. All proceeds go to benefit grant programs to help low income women take writing workshops. This is my first time having one of my pieces published in a print publication.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The joy and challenge of commissions

Demeter, a new stylistic direction I went for a commission.

 Working with patrons and creating commissions is a collaborative creative act. I find that it offers me challenges that increase my creativity and take me in exciting stylistic directions.

Commissions always come to me out of patrons seeing my other work and loving it. I start talking to them about the work and ask them if they have a favorite saint or mythical figure. If I haven't already painted that subject, I reveal that I would be more than happy to make one especially for them for an upcoming special occasion.
A more naturalistic icon of Mary Magdalene

The excitement of tailoring something specifically for a patron has pushed my style and skills to new heights. For my first commission I pushed myself to paint more naturalistic. For another commission I improved my skills painting loose hair. There is a part of the movie Goya's Ghost where Goya reveals his commission sliding fee scale, a thousand per hand shown in the portrait! My extras are wings and horses--especially horses. And of course, one of my patrons wanted: the four horseman of the apocalypse!

A patron gave me the opportunity to explore the theme of fallen angels.

After agreeing on subject, size and cost. I go to do some research and make some concept drawings. I return to the patron and show them the the drawings or color studies. If the client likes what I have planned, I might ask for a bit of money to pay for supplies (gold leaf is something I often run low on and a new book can be $50).  I usually feel very confident that if a patron falls through on paying me (which hasn't happened yet), that I could sell my paintings elsewhere so I don't demand payment upfront. It protects me in case I am unable to complete the project for any reason or it takes longer than planned.

In addition to providing commissions, this year I began taking care of framing for the patrons too. It is very satisfying to bring the piece and put it directly on the wall.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Gold Leaf versus Gold Paint

Gold Halo, amber and pewter on gold crown, metallic under painting.

In my quest to explore the power of sacred figures from world religions in my art, I often enhance my paintings with precious metals in the style of Greek and Hindu icons. Applying precious metals and stones directly to paintings of saints and goddesses has a long tradition back to ancient Egypt. As a modern painter I have access to a large variety of gold and metal leafs and paints. When composing a picture I might use only leafs or include metallic paints as well. I have included below links to the art supplies I use with an amazon affiliate program.

I most always use gold or metal leafs for halos and auras. Nothing short of diamonds outshines a 23kt Gold Halo. I don't see the point of using metallic paints instead, they cannot be burnished for greater shine, and the mica used to make the paints glitters rather than shining.

Smaller details on a painting like lettering or patterns on a dress are harder to acheive with gold leaf, and metallic paints make a good stand in. I have utilized shell gold (flakes of gold suspended in Gum Arabic) for this, and I have found it isn't opaque enough for some of the effects I seek. Metallic paints don't have as much shine and power as metal leafs, and sometimes I prefer the lower sheen of mica as I don't want the clothing to upstage a halos focus on the face.

Gold Halo, silver wings, metallic paint highlights in hair and pearlescent crown.

Speaking of halo's framing the face, sometimes the dullness of hair painted with regular paints interrupts that focus.  I have tried an under-painting of copper paint for red and brown hair and gold paints under blond hair to good effect as a smooth transition between the halo and the face on the heads of saints. Truly, if a saints head shown that much light with a halo, the hair would reflect some of that metallic color. Alternatively a few strands of hair lined with metallic paint or shell gold enhances the transition to the faces.

The gold in the lower half of this picture points they eye up to the main figures.

The modern sensibilities for composition conflict with the sense of space in medieval iconography. I have found that perfectly good paintings don't balance when the only bling in the painting is the halo. Picking out details elsewhere in the picture with metallic paints satisfies the antique and modern needs of a sacred subject.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Painting a week: Tillikum

This is Tillikum, a Sea World Killer Whale.
Study for Tillikum

I saw Tillikum at a Sea World in Victoria B.C. when I was a young girl.
My brother with Tillikum or one of his wives in Victoria BC

Since that time he has fathered 16 children and killed three humans. I have an interest in the evolving perceptions of whales, from Free Willy, Keiko, who I also saw in person as a teenager,
Keiko aka Free Willy at Newport Aquarium

to a food and energy source for local Coastal Tribes, and to Moby Dick.
Concept photo for Moby Dick Movie slated to hit the small screen.

I think I know which of these is Tillikum's idol.

This little painting is a study of Tillikum for a larger painting about the Sea World Orcas.
Study for Tillikum and the little model I used to aid with proportions.

I used a combination of memories of Whales I had seen in aquariums, a little model of a female orca I picked up at the beach, and photos of Tillikum on the web. Then I remembered my own family photos of whales, so I will utilized those for future paintings of the orcas.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Angst Gallery October Art Show

Duke DesRoschers and I are holding a collaborative art installation at Angst Gallery, Vancouver WA for this month. I was initially struck by one of Duke's stunning sculptures and I wanted to work with him. Due to working opposite shifts, me on the day shift at an office and he on a night shift as a carpenter, we rarely connected, but when we did our art made miracles!
Sara Star with the collaboration she made with Duke DesRoschers

Above you can see the frame Duke made for my painting. I really enjoy how they compliment and contrast.

Sara Star and Delilah at the Ruins of the Temple of Dagon

I love doing large paintings, but I think it will be a long time before I do another one. It takes a lot out of you!

And I really adore the small pictures. They have a special intimacy, while the large ones have a more dominating power. I can't wait to post more pictures, this is just a preview.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

A Place for Us

Sara Star and Toni Partington at Voice Catcher Pre-release Party
I participated this year with an incredible non-profit that makes an anthology of NW Women writers, and this year for the first time, included art as well. What a phenomenal experience let me tell you. The way it worked was that the writing submissions were accepted and reviewed first, and then the art was accepted and reviewed.  The synchronicity of art and writing was amazing. Among the many incredible poems and short stories, was a story that matched near exactly my painting triptych Vagina Nightmares, it is named Vulvar Fantasies--could you get any more similar without it being planned?

Of course there were many other similarities, but for me, and I am sure many others this was a very striking similarity. This anthology has been coming out annually for five years now. And I often hear accusations from young men that it is ridiculous that women need their own anthology and that it is reverse sexist. I never agreed, but after participating with this incredible group of women, I am armed more strongly with the rightness of this publication. The choice of a women's anthology is not because these writers couldn't compete with male writers or vice versa, this annual creates a theme, an experience unique to a certain demographic and that is so very clear when the art is paired with the writing. It is something that women will read and identify with and a point of strength and a place of power building that everyone should have a right to create for their demographic.

Vagina Nightmares Triptych by Sara Star

I participate also with a group of artist who feel alienated, representational artists. Local abstract and pop artists and enthusiasts make the same accusations of us, why can't we participate in the main art scene (we do) and why do we need to exclude non-representational art? We use our theme based club to create power, to define a theme and to touch a specific experience in its own place. Our work often goes together better than it ever does against a pop art piece. There is a unity of experience and expression. The same goes for this uniquely female and NW anthology.

It seems the choice for both Voice Catcher and the Neo-Romantics breeds a bit of suspicion and a tiny bit of jealousy (maybe?).  There are jokes and attempts to intrude. This is perhaps natural, when a group in the majority feels it is still the minority and is wary of other minority groups taking some power away. This a scarcity model, and I believe there is abundance and a creative endeavor is the greatest sort of energy for creating new markets rather than taking from existing pools.  There are no less opportunities for men to publish their writing due to women's publications, and no less opportunities for abstract artists when representational artists open a new gallery.