Saturday, July 11, 2009

My favorite magazine: The Palette

Very few magazines reach my "favorites" list, and naturally only one can occupy the top-spot in my mind. The Palette magazine is it.
Produced by artists Christopher Schink and William "Skip" Lawrence, the Palette is a 32-page full-color bimonthly periodical. The focus is on using water-based media such as watercolor and acrylic paint to make art, but the editors (who write articles for each issue) have a penchant for mixed media, too. They seem to love teaching as much as painting, and while they know the "rules" extremely well, they also take delight in breaking them.
One rule in particular is their frequent target: the idea that watercolor paintings should be transparent in appearance, and therefore anyone who paints in watercolor should dilute the paint and apply it in thin washes. Bolderdash, according to 'Toph and Skip. Why not paint a thick, heavy application of watercolor paint on paper or canvas? And in many feature articles written either by the pair or individually, they demonstrate a wide variety of possibilities using their favorite watercolor paints.
I really appreciate an artist who knows the rules, teaches them well, and occasionally, gleefully breaks them too. Skip and Toph are masters at this.
The June-July 2009 issue is devoted to the theme of abstract or non-representational art. Last issue (#29) focused on realism and was quite educational, but I have to say, I LOVE the current (#30) issue!
Rose Metz's abstract "Brown, Red, and Black No. 2" on the cover gives some indication of the delights found within. On page 2, the editors jump right in with a coauthored article on "Collage: Painting with Scissors," a must-read for anyone interested in this art form. They cite historical examples and provide full-color reproductions of art by Matisse, Robert Motherwell, Kurt Schwitters, Andy Warhol, and contemporary artist/author Gerald Brommer.
The next article is called "Raising the Surface," and discusses the work of Southern California artist Katherine Chang Liu, an abstract painter who also uses collage in her compositions. More work by cover artist Rose Metz and other artists is also featured, along with a brief discussion on going non-objective with your art.
One of my favorite articles is on page 12, a feature on artist Phyllis Jacobs, who incorporates pieces of her own used clothing in her work. She takes old painting pants and shirts—replete with paint stains and worn-out seams—cuts them up, and adheres them to her canvases. She makes amazing abstract artworks this way.
The Palette always offers thought-provoking and inspiring how-to articles that encourage creative exploration and expression rather than the typical "copy me" approach you often find in other art magazines. "Breaking Up is Hard to Do" on page 16 is a good example. Artist Linda Fruhwald provides a wonderfully simple, child-like approach to designing an abstract composition by starting with the simplest of geometric shapes. Cut them, enlarge and simplify them, arrange them in various ways... and, pretty soon, you'll have an arresting composition ready to be painted or made into a collage.
Linda also provides tips for better page design (abstract art is all about design) and full-color samples of beautiful watercolor still-life paintings based on her concepts. Every time I see an article by Linda in the Palette, I thank God for her kindness, generosity, and creativity. What a talent! I'm always sorry to be reminded by the editors in a brief mention at the end of her articles that Linda passed away in 2007. If I could ever meet Linda in person, I'd give her the biggest hug.
Believe it or not, there are still more articles to be found in this little 32-page periodical: a feature on "taking a collage point of view to affect how you compose your paintings," distorting shapes in your art, an incredible article by Jossy Lownes on allowing "emotion to take precedence over craft" in art (this is an artist who has mastered design principles, drawing, painting, etc.). Her mixed-media paintings are gorgeous, and she generously shares her break-out experience with her readers.
Finally, if you need inspiration for landscape painting, try the unusual approach of looking down! Paint the landscapes you'll find at your feet—literally—and you'll discover a whole new world of compositional possibilities.
I just love the Palette (have I mentioned that?) because it is so encouraging and inspirational. I love taking a positive approach to art, but I do get tired of being copied by my students. More for their sake than for mine, really, because when a student copies my jewelry she's just doing over something I did years ago, and by the time I'm teaching it in class I've moved on, artistically. But I ache in my heart for students who don't believe in themselves enough to try designing their own works of art, whether it be with paint and canvas or wire and beads. The Palette encourages individual expression, experimentation, and the positive joy of doing your own thing. Lots of great instruction, inspiration, and encouragement with full-color examples of great art and no advertising—now that's my favorite magazine!
To learn more, click here.

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