Check Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself

An artist's non-art beliefs can manifest in their artwork abstractly. Within many of my paintings, the compositions and color schemes are set up into "rules" by which I challenge myself as I design the image. Those rules are born of the visual externalizations of control I try to impose into my daily life. 

The deeply held belief

Nobody is 100% good or 100% bad, being a good or bad person comes down to one’s motivations and ability to live a life by personal edicts; context and circumstance.

 The style

Very simply, a background color in a mid-value tone is joined by a light and a dark; and is occasionally accompanied by a contrasting mid-value and/or a metallic. The colors are flat and the forms are simply rendered in outline. The figures are always the same colors as the backgrounds: this commitment represents my partial disbelief in true, free will; and using contrasting lights and darks to bring forward and highlight clothes, furniture and atmosphere suggests my belief that “circumstances” boss the subconscious. Stripes and patterns, again, represent my disbelief in free will and belief that (without personal edicts) we live largely in patterns according to circumstances.

Contests of Power

In a black and white episode of Perry Mason that I saw as a rerun in 2000, some fashion illustrations were featured as an important clue in a case. The designs were a kind of illustration in two colors plus a black definition line, where there was a “background color” that included everything that was not the garment, the garment was contrasted in white, and then the entire design was given form and detailed with black line. The effect of only contrasting the dress against everything else stunned me with how effortlessly it gave importance to the garment and withdrew importance from the figure, and that it communicated from this mode with no rendering and minimal suspension of disbelief. It moved into a style that was sleek, low effort/high concept and could occasionally show a controlled, reserved facility of talent.

Artistic Question

“Can simplifying a description cause a more intense narrative? Can limiting colors in an image somehow adjust perceptions of the subject’s behavior? What can a figurative subject do, under these circumstances, while still being less noticeable than their dress?” I saw these as rich questions and the three-color system to be the best tool to contrast the ideas of conformity of behavior and conformity of form against one another.

Plastikote Paint

There is a direct correlation between the availability of the Plastikote paint, my studio production and the evolution of my concepts.


When I started painting on wood, it was to embrace a surface that could withstand abuse and yet not be so precious that I might need help to install or transport it. The preparations to seal the surfaces would alternate between a transparent whitewash undercoat and pastel finish; and a glossy, more direct saturation of color sealed up with a coat of high gloss. On top of the prepared surface, I used a favorite paint by Plastikote, now no longer available, I’m sure because of some horrible percentage of lead or ingestible plastic within the pigments. My materials trifecta required few visits to art supply stores – I could get everything at Home Depot and Longs – and what I needed from Longs I could get 24 hours. For a single artist with a day job who is also a woman with limited storage; the nature of an all night paint supply transformed my schedule. The simple possibility of buying the perfect paint 24 hours a day bore an edict that materials purchases were to be done on “non-studio time” and that (irrationally, I now realize) if the paint supply was open all night long, there was never a reason good enough to reschedule or interrupt studio time. It was more likely for me to buy paint while out on a date than during studio time.


During this wonderful time in my life, from 1999 to 2007, while it may have been an almost ten year avoidance of art supply stores, it also was when I really dug my heels into a certain way of thinking about making artwork. I became very regimented about my schedule: wake up early and paint for two hours, then prepare for day job; day job; go to 24 hour Longs/go out; come home and prepare to paint the next morning. Because of the structure of my schedule, I imposed more structure into my compositions and color schemes. For example, early paintings on wood without Plastikote attempted to discuss contrast of behavior to expectations of form in three color compositions, with some variances in finish (that never could photograph anyway). The introduction of Plastikote into my work expanded my palette to include four then five colors at a time – this in turn enabled me to express implications of motivation through much more complete compositions.

plastikote changed my compositions