Am I Lucky Or What

Whenever I’m painting and it’s going well, whichever part of the process I’m involved in (presently there are two, quite different from each other) is my ~favorite~.  I work away thinking “I love doing this.  I like this best.”

How lucky is that.  How many people get to say that about what they’re supposed to be doing?  (I did just have to go back and change the opening phrase from “Whenever I’m working…” because work – actually making a living from painting – involves all kinds of things I don’t like even a little.  And this is just about painting. 

The canvas goes back and forth between table and easel several times before it’s finished… today so far has been at the easel, working with airbrushes…

MARCI MCDONALD | painting in progress | October 2014

… on the canvas that started here  (see 10-15-14 post)…

MARCI MCDONALD | painting in progress | October 2014

… and on that day I was sure pouring and throwing paint with abandon was definitely the best.  Pretty lucky.




This canvas was set aside a while back because there were areas I liked in spite of having worked it to death, and I wasn’t sure how to fix it.  Last week I was down with a cold, and thought poking at something that was already started might be a good way to get really rolling again.

MARCI MCDONALD | painting in progress | October 2014

But things only got murkier…

MARCI MCDONALD | painting in progress 2 | October 2014

… so I played with lights, basically starting over but hoping to see a little of what was underneath.  And as usual kept pouring it on (I’m working on that! see 9-29-13 post), ending up here.

MARCI MCDONALD | painting in progress |October 2014

The ~impressions left by a dynamic force~ (see 9-20-14 post) thinking is still with me, so I started throwing and layering again with that in mind… we’ll see…

MARCI MCDONALD | painting in progress | October 2014 MARCI MCDONALD | painting in progress 2 | October 2014

MARCI MCDONALD | painting in progress detail | October 2014


Never Say Never

It seems I’m just not going to get the lesson put forth in the adage “never say never”.  No matter how many times it comes up.  And I don’t just say something like “You know, I’m done with such and such. I’m not doing that anymore.”  It’s more like “I WILL NEVER, EVER IN A MILLION MILLION YEARS EVER DO SUCH AND SUCH AGAIN!!!”

For example, in the late 90s, experiencing something like burnout after 25+ years of doing art fairs, I stopped doing art fairs, making the usual unassailable edict to that effect.  And I didn’t just say I was never doing another art fair, I was never looking at another art fair.  Ever again. 

So earlier this year when my adorable sister suggested we go to Mainsail – one of the nicer Florida art fairs, which happens to be right here in St Petersburg – I surprised us both by agreeing.  And then was surprised to kind of enjoy being there, and even more surprised to find myself actually entertaining the idea of participating!

There have been things to miss about the fairs and the constant travel – getting immediate feedback, meeting a lot of great people, being with my partner 24/7, room service… but all in all I’m happy to have gotten away from them, and to be thinking more about working with galleries these days.

Life after art fairs has been too quiet for me, and I certainly miss the money (although that’s more a result of my disappearing from art entirely, not just the show scene).  But considering exhibiting completely different work in that venue is what made me come home from Mainsail thinking that to actually do the show might be interesting.

Entering shows requires submitting photos of your display along with photos of your actual work, so this week I’ll be up in the rafters dragging down dusty old road gear (which of course would have been right out the door at never-another-show-decision-time if I’d had my way)…

Long's Park circa1998

… (everything is so SMALL… and so OLD…) and which would need to be at least double to accommodate the size of my new paintings… it could be fun… we’ll see…


Airbrush In The Abstract

I have a tendency to make rash decisions.  Regarding matters large and small, all or nothing kinds of decisions.  I’m not proud of that, but there it is.

So it was characteristic for me to tear into painting in the abstract ignoring everything else.  The decision had been made – in my mind I was now an abstract painter.  I no longer did representational work.  Or used any of the techniques I had used in my ~old~ work.  Nevermind that I’d spent years developing them, and was recognized for them.

Painting abstract and turning my back on anything from the past eventually produced some things like this (‘high and low’, acrylic on canvas, 48×60)…

MARCI MCDONALD | high and low | acrylic painting on canvas

… which I like well enough but could be anyone’s, and I began to think that some visual connection to past work was more important than I thought at the beginning of my transition.

Acting on the astute advice of someone much wiser, I reincorporated a few of my familiar practices into the mix of new things I was trying with such frustration, and found myself struggling way less to produce paintings I was at least okay with.

My representational work had also been done in acrylic, using an airbrush.  I was happy with the images at the very end of that period, and felt like they expressed some things that are really important to me (‘blue tattoo’, acrylic on board, 40×32)…

Marci McDonald | blue tattoo | acrylic painting on board 40"x32" | c.1995

… that meticulously refined, illustrator-y look still pleases my eyes but the accomplishing of it makes me absolutely CRAZY.  Like painting in a mummy bag.

I love long, beautiful curves and easy, sweeping lines.  They’ve always been a part of my work and I now realized I could incorporate some of those precise curves in my newer, looser paintings without feeling the old crazy-making confinement.  Now I just quickly make a lovely long line on the canvas freehand, either with the airbrush or with charcoal, and use tools similar to my old shields (sort of like French curves on a bigger scale, cut to my own shapes)…

shields on tables shields

… to develop the sharp edged curves, moving the shield and the airbrush along the curve at the same time.  Resulting in images whose contrasts between controlled and uncontrolled please me… (‘a path to all wonder’, acrylic on canvas, 48″x60″)…

MARCI MCDONALD | a path to all wonder | acrylic painting on canvas

… and that I feel relate more to work I’ve done in the past.  Not as loose as I see for the future, but happy progress.


But I LIKE Losing Control

When I think about what really makes me happy, being productive is way up on my list of top five.  Productive as in being able to look with some degree of satisfaction at what I’ve accomplished at the end of every day.

As I’ve been undergoing the ENORMOUS shift to working in the abstract, there have been many, many days when I’ve just had to suspend my need for that daily artistic accomplishment fix and be satisfied focusing on the positive;  the work IS getting better, and I’m finally learning that even though what I see on the canvas might not be what I had in mind to do, it is still often beautiful.  And worth keeping.  Not as easy as it sounds for someone whose techniques meant things were never out of control.

Part of my current process involves working flat, using very liquid pigments.  So often as I lovingly watch their magical mingle and flow, I’ll see something like I was hoping for… that’s it! Okay! Okay, stay right there! Okay, stop flowing!  Riiiight.

Today for example, this area, which is very cool and had the textures and blends (and spots! see 9-20-14 post) I had loosely in mind…

MARCI MCDONALD | painting in progress detail

… became this, which is also beautiful, but much softer than I had in mind.

MARCI MCDONALD | painting in progress detail 2

The important thing is I didn’t just wash it away or paint over it like I’ve kept doing and kept doing for months… I went on from where IT wanted to end up.  Which might not seem like much, but for me has been a difficult place to get to.

I’ve also learned to use a less wet surface and less paint.  Loving thick, glossy pools of luscious colors, I want to just keep pouring it on!  Problems with that kind of way overdoing it have been crazing – a network of cracks that form as the paint dries (even with the use of several additives designed to address that) and/or the loss of wonderful blends and textures as that much paint continues to flow. By using less paint I’ve found I have a little better idea of where things might end up when dry, cutting down on my frustration (and unproductive time spent) a LOT.  And restraining the impulse to keep pouring only cuts down on the fun a little… 



Experimenting With Spots

What I like most about this painting (just finished, acrylic, 48″ x 60″, no title yet)…

MARCI MCDONALD | as it grows 1 | acrylic painting on canvas

… is its movement, and I like the orange spots.  I love spots – freckles, bird eggs, moldy rocks, Dalmatians, leopards, appaloosas – the changes in value are just so much fun for the eyes.

Then it figures that in terms of paint, I like spatter.  But with movement in mind, I’ve been wanting to make spatter on a grand scale – BIG spots of color that are flying (and not just falling) when they land.  AND flying in wide arcs, so they want to land in big beautiful curves, and layer dynamically with areas that move in more gentle but equally unmastered ways.

So I’ve been experimenting, throwing paint in every way I can think of, making really big messes and loving it…

MARCI MCDONALD | splatter tools

 MARCI MCDONALD | splatter experiment

MARCI MCDONALD | splatter experiment

I never ~see~ paintings ahead of time, but the idea of a series that feels like impressions left by some dynamic energy force? (not turbulent, but powerful) has been in my head, and I’m working on it…



Getting Back to Work

Just getting started again is always hard.  No matter how much I’ve been dying for the moment when I can get back to work, there’s always a period of time in the beginning when nothing happens, so I just wait.  I used to think  maybe this is the time it’s gone for good   but have finally learned that I just have to wait.  I’m usually pretending to be waiting patiently for the time to be right.

I had to ignore this painting for a MONTH and this time it took four days… I was here in the studio with it, and would kind of poke at it, but it was four days until I could SEE again.

MARCI MCDONALD | painting in progress

MARCI MCDONALD | painting in progress

MARCI MCDONALD | St. Petersburg studio | 2014


That New Attitude I Mentioned

So part of my new attitude is that I’m liking the idea of doing this blog.  Most business-self-promotion-related tasks just have to be done, but I’ve decided I kind of want to do this.  And that being required to formulate my artist thoughts (because I’ve said out loud that I’m going to do this) will be a good thing.

Acting on my resolution to get my artist self current online, I’ve been reading a lot – things like “Facebook for Dummies” and “Social Media Explained” and “The Tao of Twitter“.  (There’s only so far I will go.  I’m NOT tweeting.)  And looking at lots of facebook pages and blogs and timelines and profiles and strategies and statistics and hearing “content content content” and feeling like everyone’s been reading the same books.

I’d like what’s written in this blog to enhance the experience of looking at my art.  I’d like its presence on the internet to make me more accessible to people who are interested in me as an artist.

One of the most important things I learned from over 25 years of doing art fairs was how much people loved meeting the artists.  People who bought my work felt like I’d given them something, and they wanted to know me.  In spite of not being face-to-face, this may be an even better way provide some meaningful insight, because I can sit here quietly, writing regularly and thoughtfully, about some of what goes on with a serious artist.

Besides all the reading, I’ve been fluffing up my website, and laboring over a better bio, and writing an artist statement relating to my newest work.  All good, and satisfying to see progress being made, and now that I’m back in step, I’m determined to stay that way.  Because needing to spend so much time catching up has meant that this painting…

MARCI MCDONALD | St. Petersburg studio | 2014

… has been quietly, knowingly waiting for me for over a month.  And I really need to get dirty.  So today, I’m working!



My SECOND post ever!

So I imported a copy of my first post ever (from another blog site – I wanted to start again fresh) and included it below:

Friday, August 14, 2009

My first post ever!

Everyone who knows me at ALL knows I have a {{thing}} about words. They’ve forever heard me explain sudden silences or disappearances by saying “I ran out of words.” I have always choked when I know something depends on me coming up with the “Right Words.” In school I thought it might be a good idea to meet this shortcoming head on, and enrolled in a debate class. I prepared meticulously for the first one and was fine making the initial presentation, but when the time came for rebuttal……. there I stood……. at the microphone on a big stage in a BIG auditorium……. and NOTHING CAME OUT OF MY MOUTH! I JUST HAD TO SIT DOWN!! It’s been YEARS now, and just the thought still makes me feel faint and sweaty. So here goes, another attempt to confront the word thing. And writing IS a little different. I keep hearing it’s easy, it’ll be FUN! We’ll see…

 As you can see, it’s five years old.  Five years since my first flurry of attempts to get  {{ social }}.  I’m a recluse.  Not unfriendly, just not big on sharing.  Which makes the social media phenomenon not my cup of tea, but as an independent, self-publishing, self-promoting artist determined to make a good living from my art, I know there’s no getting around it.  So I made a new business page on Facebook, and here I am on a new blog, working on a whole new attitude.  I’m back!