I’m excited to have Gigi Liverant as a guest blogger this month. I have featured her work in monthly roundups ( October 2017 and December 2018) and love her vibrant colour, bold compositions, and expressive marks.
I know you’re going to find her process fascinating as well as inspiring. And I LOVE her insistence on the necessity for failure and risk-taking to move towards a successful outcome. Read on!!
Gigi Horr Liverant Bio
Gigi Horr Liverant’s work is experiential and inspired by inconsequential episodes in life. She enjoys juxtaposing rich colour to encourage the observer to experience an ordinary scene with a new perception. Gigi is an IAPS Master Circle member, a PSA Master Pastelist, and a Signature Member of the Connecticut Pastel Society. Gigi has worked with pastels and
In case you don’t know her work, here’s a sneak peak:
Now here’s Gigi Horr Liverant to share her work and process with you.
Incidental events and everyday life motivate me. My artwork is experiential with visual patterns and
Creating artwork is an exciting and an ongoing learning experience with life’s events impacting my approach and execution.
In over 35 years of painting, my artwork has evolved from representational imagery depicted from direct observation – either still life, figure, or landscape – to statements focused on the patterns and rhythms of color and light.
My introduction to pastel was in the 1970s while attending workshops by Robert Brackman. Brackman attracted nationally accomplished artists and many were working with pastels, including Flora Giffuni, founder of the Pastel Society of America. Though I was an oil painter at that time, I witnessed the variety of applications used by the skilled artists attending the workshops. Eventually, I implemented pastels as a plein air medium, translating the pastel studies into studio oil paintings.
During the 1980s, having been an oil painter for over a decade, my studio time became encumbered by small children. Limited to only snippets of time, I began gravitating to pastels because they offered spontaneity through sticks of really juicy color. Trying to work while entertaining children in a small studio, I became fascinated by the children’s exuberant, freewheeling application of color and line, and in a revelation, I knew that “I wanted to paint like that!” My mark-making technique was an innovation borrowed from children!
Pastels I Use
I use hard pastels for studies and first layers: NuPastel and Holbein. For initial broad
Life often gets in the way of time in the studio, but the desire to resolve works in progress, and the yearning to revisit recalcitrant work, is relentless. I try to retain objectivity by working on three to ten pieces at the same time, all in varied stages of development, ranging from small studies to pieces awaiting final tweaking. This practice keeps my somewhat A.D.D. mind occupied and helps me maintain a fresh perspective.
When studio work is hijacked for lengths of time, I find that upon my return, the extended absence offers a silver lining by providing a fresh perspective of works in progress. Objectivity is inevitably compromised by overexposure. I lose focus on the inspiration when I work too long on one piece.
First the inspiration: I capture the experience with mental notes, camera, or sketch.
- Allow gestation: give the idea time to percolate, for years if necessary.
- Work out composition:
- Small thumbnail studies
- Black and white charcoal study
- Execute several small color studies
- Execute medium-sized study in color
- Because I work large, medium-sized studies provide a needed transition
- Evaluate: does the composition, value, and color convey my message?
By now, I have a mental picture of the painting, and I generally put aside any reference photos. The painting should be allowed to take on a life of its own. The photo or visual reference will encumber the ability to let my imagination take over.
Preparing larger version of imagery:
- Layout large shapes in black, white, and grey hard pastels followed by an alcohol wash with a large brush
- Pause to reevaluate composition a.k.a, walk away from painting
- This step reveals the “make or break” for the composition
- Using hard pastels, lay in color with broad strokes followed by another wash with alcohol
- Reevaluate – walk away
- Using preferred studies as reference, apply color (hard pastels for underpainting) with constant emphasis on the juxtaposition of colors, value, and color temperature (warm vs cool).
- Reevaluate – walk further away!
- Set aside photo reference and refer to it for detail reference only
- Continue with soft pastels and address the painting with beautiful color relationships and with values that direct the viewer around the picture plane
Some examples followed by lessons learnt
I let the concept for “Rotary” gestate for as much as a year, prior to exploring the imagery. It emanated from a week-long stay in a Philadelphia hotel that overlooked a busy rotary. I was fascinated by the cars constantly moving around the arcing roadway, particularly with illuminated head and taillights in the evening.
Initial attempts at the imagery, were literal, based on the photos I had taken at the time. However, despite investing considerable time in creating multiple large paintings, I ultimately recognized that those pieces did not illustrate my vision of the experience. Letting go of months of effort, time, and materials is not easy, but not being satisfied with the outcome of the works I had created was intolerable. Days later, after admitting failure, I prepared yet another new board and began once again to tell the story. The result was the painting, “Rotary.” It stands as a very simplified, and hopefully more resonant, expression of the experience.
Lesson: Take risks. Don’t settle for something that doesn’t quite capture the experience. Take the risk, dig deeper, and push yourself to explore uncharted territory.
In over three decades of painting, I have learned to accept failure as a byproduct of risk. I share many images of failed paintings in this blog. Those failures were integral to the process of discovering a more succinct image. At times the failure was a compositional imbalance, a lack of contrast, or poor color relationships. Managing all of those components to express an experience takes planning and often much trial and error.
Don’t ever let failure deter you. If you want to make a bold statement, you may need to fail boldly! I have and I’m willing to share that with you. Always be willing to take a bold risk, failure is just a step on the way to success.
“ROUTE 2, WESTBOUND”
“Route 2, Westbound” grew out of months, maybe years, of
Sketches and studies began to define the image, but again, that effort sometimes went awry during the process. Would a high horizon or a low horizon better illustrate the experience? Bare trees or fully leafed? These possibilities not only entered the conversation but became paintings in themselves. Still the resolution of the fleeting highway image remained elusive. Finally, after numerous failed attempts, and finally with more ease than anticipated, the resonant imagery came together.
Lesson: Don’t accept an image that compromises your vision. Stick with it. Let go of failures. Try again. In your many attempts, the solution will arrive.
Motivation is a product of inspiration, and I am badgered by inspiration continually. The act of painting begets a diverse stream of creative solutions. The resolution to an active painting often sparks the elusive resolution to a dormant painting.
“Tuesday Morning” has been a most cantankerous piece. Again, inspired by the view from a hotel window onto a city street below, the imagery has had endless iterations on its way to the current artwork. Over several years, it morphed from a fairly realistic view of a city
The most recent iteration tilts heavily toward abstraction. For me, the impetus from the onset was a dark triangular shadow and I eventually let the exploration of the imagery take me for a ride. I have learned a lot from these visual experiments, with many failures along the way.
Lesson: Allow failure. It hurts only briefly. There are lessons in failure. Learn from it and move on. Get back to the task and try again, your work will be better for it.
When we venture into the unknown, be it new materials, subject matter or size, we risk failure but we also flirt with discovery. Experience has taught me that a fear of failure will stagnate the development of innovative work. When we embrace familiar subjects and habits, we become comfortable at predicting an outcome, but when we do that we stagnate. I believe that in order to push work to a more personal imagery, we need to take risks and embrace the inevitable failure. Through failure we grow. The painting process in multilayered and continual from one artwork to another.
“Winter Commute” is another artwork that grew out of years of observation. From our home, we have a view of cars, headlights glowing, sliding silently back and forth along the nearby road. The cool evening blue of a snow-covered ground transforms the scene into something magical. I was fixated on capturing the contrast of the cool dark snow and the warm bright headlights.
During the development of this artwork, I experienced my mother slipping into dementia. Her heartbreaking splintered mental decline was unwittingly captured by the fractured imagery in the depicted trees. The gift of the creative process is experiential and personal. Explore it and relinquish yourself to it.
Lesson: With foundational tools in hand – composition, color, value, temperature, and line – let your personal experiences influence your work. Creating artwork should be personal. Your experiences are unique so allow that uniqueness to influence your work.
When a viewer relates to the imagery through their own experience, connection is made. That connection completes the circle of communication from the artist to the viewer.
Colour!! Glorious colour! Sooooo yummy. And as I said at the start, I love Gigi’s emphasis on taking risks and being unafraid of failures. Speaks to all of us yes?
Now it’s your turn! We’d love to hear what you think of Gigi’s post so leave us a comment and tell us what you think about her work, her process, her ideas. And what about questions?? We want to hear from you!!
Until next time!