14/48: Visual Artists get to play, too!!!

14/48: The World's Quickest Theater Festival  is one of my favorite Seattle theater experiences. It's been going on for over 10 years, I first participated as an assistant director when I was in college, and was floored.  A bunch of playwrights, designers, musicians, actors, directors, and stage managers show up on a Thursday night at 7:30, tap a keg, write some themes down and then draw one out of a jar, lottery style. Seven playwrights scurry home, each one writing a ten minute play on the chosen theme, and emailing it in by 8am the next morning, when the rest of the party returns to the theater to direct, rehearse and design seven brand new original plays and perform them that night at an 8pm and a 10:30pm show for a live audience, before doing the same dang thing again for the next night! LOVE THIS FESTIVAL!!!

This is the first year, they've asked visual artists to come play, and I got to be one of them!

Here are the two paintings I did, and some of my thoughts about them, and what it was like participating in the festival as an visual artist.

Night #1: "Last Stand"

The first thing that came to mind when I heard, "Last Stand" was the Wild Wild West, and then a toddler, and then, as I was walking home with my 18" x 18" blank canvas, beneath the trees still decked with twinkly white lights lining the streets of downtown Seattle, I thought, "What would a tree's last stand be against winter?" and I had an image of a tree holding a bundle of green glowing life, staunchly displaying it's leaves against the cold winter winds, even as they turn rust red.

It was a detailed idea, and I was concerned that I might not have enough time to complete it by the 6pm drop odd deadline for the silent auction. I got home at about 11pm, to discover I had no white acrylic paint, oil it was then, drying time be damned.  I painted until 9am, and am quite pleased with the result. 

I think the secret to painting quickly is being generous with materials, making strong decisive choices, and prioritizing where to spend the time.  The most trying part of this painting for me was the winds, which I painted AFTER the branches, having to carefully go between them. This however, was followed by the delightful surprise that the smudges actually helped build the effect of the snow flurries, which I painted last.  In some ways, I prefer the painting before the snow, but that wouldn't have reflected the "last stand" as well.  You can see the painting in it's different phases by clicking through th slideshow below, and see what you think!

(click through the slideshow to see the painting in process)

Night #2: "Over Indulgence"

My first thought on hearing "Over Indulgence" was that it wouldn't be a very pretty painting, not a painting I'd want in my home, because over indulgence feels too-full, and at the same time empty, grotesquely sickened by something once desired, not something I want to feel when I look at art.  I didn't really start usefully musing on "Over Indulgence" until I was snoozermeditatercising in bed the next morning.  To me, over indulgence is about a lack of balance, scales being tipped too far, sometimes a catalyst for change. I thought about too much sun, too much water, and mostly I thought about humans as the only creature in our ecosystem that routinely over indulge, threatening the delicate balance of our biosphere.  Where is the lifeguard as we break all the rules in the pool and threaten to destroy it for everyone?

Aha! -I would paint extinct creatures drowning in an abundance of bubbles at the swimming pool, while the life guard slumps dead on her stand, shot by a film noir villain in a bowler hat!

Turns out, I didn't have time to get to all that in six hours; the bubbles look more like balloons; I cut down on extinct and endangered creatures, and just painted a drowning dinosaur and a threatened polar bear (sinking-but-not-quite-drowning-yet in our over indulgence of all things powered by fossil fuels) to represent them all; and instead of the full film noir background scene, the life guard just went MIA.  Yet, somehow, it all still works, simultaneously cracking me up and making me sad, achieving that weird emotional place of over indulgence, as well as symbolizing the too-full and emptiness with too much color and not enough.

(click through the slideshow to see the painting in process)

Overall Thoughts on my First Time as a Visual Artist for 14/48:

14/48 was a new challenge, and I discovered and realized new possibilities for myself as an artist. I can't believe how quickly I painted two fairly detailed quite successful 18" x 18" oil paintings! Painting so quickly pushed me to be more painterly, more generous with paint, and less careful. I realized I've achieved a certain level of mastery that I set out for years ago- to be able to paint ideas from my head without needing to use precise visual research, because I can actually build a scene in my head, from the structures, to the light, to the color. Painting from a theme was a bit like solving a puzzle; it engaged me more intellectually, and I really enjoyed it.  I think I may continue this practice in the future, maybe requesting themes from my fans...

As usual, I hate letting go of pieces before I've had sufficient time to appreciate them in person myself. I felt like a too-attached-new-mama, coming up at intermission to see my paintings one last time. There doesn't seem to be a fix for this, besides painting more.

It was so inspiring to see so much variety in the exploration of the themes; People played with them using different mediums, techniques, styles, and perspectives, and each opened up the themes for me in a knew way.  My mind is full of sunsets, imaginary friends, the moments we haven't unpacked yet, spelling out lives, witty-laugh-out-loud-to-remember-physical-comedy and so much good music! All of the artists in all of the mediums who participated this year,  blew me away.  There are moments and visions and songs created and shared this weekend  that I will remember and  play with for years to come. I can't wait for the next 14/48! Next time, I think I'll pack up my stuff, and go make art in the same space as everyone else, to see what that's like...