Monday, May 24, 2010

Paint Dates

I am most happy and at peace when I am alone and working in my studio. My studio is my refuge, my creative space, my spiritual center. I spend most of the day in my studio.

Two years ago, I didn’t have this space. I was renting a small, SMALL one bed room apartment over in Felony Flats with the bedroom as my office and the living room as my art studio. It was only about 325 sq feet and I spend 12 to 16 hours a day there. I began looking for a small condominium to use as an office/studio. I couldn’t find anything close to home that was suitable and/or affordable. My realtor was extremely patient showing me any property that came available. Norm is also an artist so he was sympathetic to my needs as an artist. We looked for months without success.

At one point, Norm asked, “Why don’t you add on to your house?” I had considered it; however, I could only envision one of those pre-fab 8 X 12 foot shed-like rooms with a glass wall; no insulation, little room. The idea is not practical in the intense heat of Palm Springs. I continued looking at properties. I looked for a year in total frustration.

I love hour home in Palm Springs. We are still friends with the prior owner of our home. Peyton Ray is a designer/builder and did the remodel of our home. I love his work. We bought his house. I called him to ask about the possibility of adding on to our house. I thought he would laugh at the idea. Well, he didn’t! Peyton came over to look at the house and talk seriously about what we could do. He opened our eyes to the possibility.

Prior to this house, I’ve always had a studio of sorts in every house we’ve owned. It was generally space claimed in the garage or a spare bedroom: space designed for some other purpose than an artist’s studio. This house did not have that “extra” space. We worked with Peyton and our architect. Eighteen months later our home was 645 square feet larger and I moved into my dream studio.

I was able to provide significant input into the design and finishing of my studio. It has everything I wanted and more. The light is perfect. The storage is perfect. The studio is perfect. I love my space. The new addition(s) blend into the original design, looks and feels as if it’s always been this way. I have no desires to move from this house.

Everything I want in a home is here. Everything I want in a studio is here. Almost.

Every artist I know has a private studio space to work on their art. We work alone. It’s just me and my art. I pause often to consider what I’ve done then continue working. I’m not always happy with this arrangement. There are times I want criticism from another. I can ask husband who is a physician. “It’s nice,” is a standard response. I suppose that’s better than “that sucks!” But still not very helpful. I crave criticism from other artists.

About a year ago, I met an artist here in Palm Springs whose work I greatly admire. I like his style. I like his images. I particularly like what he does with and uses paint! We met at a cocktail party and spent hours talking about art. I worked in healthcare for 40 years before retiring. He also works in healthcare. There are many parallels in our lives. We hit it off.

Over the months, we began getting together to talk about art, to show each other our work. I am intrigued with how he obtains the layered transparencies in his work. He said the same about my work. We are both influenced by and incorporate grids, horizontal and vertical lines, monochromatic palettes. I asked Steven to show me how he paints. “Only if you show me how YOU paint,” he replied.

And so, our Paint Dates came to be. We meet about every other week to paint together in one of our studios. We talk about our technique, our inspiration, our vision. It’s a very different feeling working in a studio with another artist working next to you. I’ve not had that experience since my university days with open studio.

We ask questions of each other as we paint. “What are you thinking about when you add those red fields?” “What effect are you going for as you paint that?” Seeing and hearing about what another artist is doing as he’s painting can be a validating experience. It is challenging to verbalize what you’re doing at the time you are doing it. It’s too easy after the fact. Taking the time to think about and describe what I’m doing as I’m doing it adds a whole new perspective to MY work for ME.

I’ll stop my work and just watch Steven paint. I am intrigued by how he uses a paintbrush. I never learned to properly use a paintbrush and am far more comfortable using a palette knife or my fingers. (This would explain the paint streaks across my bald head.) Steven never learned to use a palette knife. He watched me use my palette knife for the longest time. We learn from one another.

In addition to verbalizing and demonstrating what/how we paint, we also share those tips we’ve learned along the way. What’s the best soap to clean an acrylic paint paintbrush? Tea tree oil soap. What works well as a reusable palette? A thick sheet of glass. I’ve learned tips on organization in the studio. I truly need that!

However, the absolute best part of our Paint Date is the honest critique we give each other. We discuss what we like and dislike about each other’s work AND our own work. We discuss WHY we like or dislike those features. For three hours every two weeks, I have immediate feedback on what I’m doing. Steven will ask questions about my work no one else “sees”. If I’ve added the tiniest spot of blue on the canvas, he will see it and comment honestly about it. Seeing your work through another artist’s eye is gift every artist should experience. I also know that I wouldn’t want to share a studio with another artist no matter how well we get along.

i treasure my time alone in my studio painting and weaving. I rather enjoy working alone, painting with wild abandon. I can scratch my butt or crank up the music without worrying about someone else. And I know that every other week, I will have an evening working alongside another working artist who I admire and trust. I can ask those questions I always want to ask like: “what were you thinking when you did that?” Sometimes the answer is “I don’t know. Nothing. I just did it.” And that’s an honest answer. It’s nice to know other artists do that too! I’m not alone.

You can see all of my artwork available for purchase on my website at . If you want more information on any of my artwork or to make a purchase, you can contact me by replying to this blog, e-mail me at (best option) or telephone my studio at 760.992.3157.

I thank you for listening!

Jerry L. Hanson

Monday, May 17, 2010

Serape Asado

In Palm Springs, there is a small family owned Mexican Restaurant called Taco Asado. It’s a no frills kind of place with no character & no ambiance. The food, however, is about the best Mexican food I’ve found in Southern California. One goes to Taco Asado for the food; nothing else. The place is always packed with all the tables occupied and people waiting for carry-out orders. The wonderful aroma coming from the kitchen is enough to make you cry. I go for the ceviche. I first tasted ceviche in Ecuador. Taco Asado conjurors up memories of my first ceviche experience.

Every Friday afternoon, I go to a Mosaic Workshop where I am the lone non-mosaic artist among 10 to 15 serious mosaic artists. I paint and I weave. I made stained glass windows for 20 years and always “wondered” about mosaics. Jennifer Johnson’s studios are three blocks from my house. I thought, “I’ll go for a couple of sessions to see how I like it.” Dangerous thoughts. I joined the workshop in November and have been a regular ever since. I’ve been working on one mosaic design all this time. It can be time consuming. I love the piece I’m working on; the process is laborious. I keep telling myself, “It will be worth it when it’s done.” I keep telling myself.

I discovered that most of the “regulars” at the Johnson Studio workshop are great fans of Taco Asado. At least one of us, if not more eat (not dine) at Taco Asado at least once a week. Taco Asado seems to come up in conversation every Friday. Which got Jennifer thinking.

Jennifer spoke with the owner of Taco Asado and reached an agreement on putting up an art show related to Mexican food and/or Taco Asado. Jennifer presented the plan to the mosaic workshop artists and we immediately agreed to participate. Thus far, there are 10 artists who will be hanging artwork for the show. Ten MOSAIC artists… I have been working on my first (and probably my last) mosaic project for four hours a week for the past six months. I am just about three quarters done with my project. I am not a Mosaic Artist. I am a painter and a weaver who is experimenting with doing a mosaic.

I approached Jennifer and told her I probably would not participate in the Taco Asado project since I’ve been working on my current piece for six months and I doubted I could complete a project in time for a June show. Jennifer said, “Who said it has to be a mosaic?”

Well! Now! That had not occurred to me! I just assumed… Sometimes the obvious is not so obvious. So, I decided that I would create a piece for Taco Asado. Related to food. Mexican food. I weave newspaper. I needed newspapers related to food. I love my local Kroger/Ralph’s store. They are good friends in that they give me lettuce trimmings for my African Sulcata tortoise. I asked the store manager for the expired weekly newspaper printout. They gave me all I could carry! The following week was “Taste of the Tropics” week with all the store employees wearing Hawaiian shirts with sales on bananas, coconuts, mango and other tropical fruit. I picked up the left over flyers the following week.

I now had approximately 800 copies of the same newspaper flyer. Woo hoo! I thought about my time in Tucson. I used to love our drives down to Nogales where we’d walk across the border to shop at the gringo tourist stores. I loved the brightly colored cotton serapes woven in bright colors in seeming random colors. Who purchased these things? I never saw these serapes in anyone’s homes anywhere. I purchased them.

I prepped 120 copies of the flier. That would provide me 120 copies of the same one inch strip of newspaper from the fliers. Images of those Mexican Serapes ran through my mind. One flier produced fourteen strips: 120 copies of each of the fourteen one inch strips. AND I still have well over 600 copies of the flier for future use!

It took nearly two weeks to prep the 120 copies of the flier. After all the fliers were prepped, they needed to be cut into strips. I can cut ten fliers at a time. Any more that than ten becomes unruly. I needed to layer and align 10 copies of the newsprint so that I would have the same portion of the newspaper in all ten strips. Fourteen strips of 10 each; not rocket science but they needed to be somewhat accurate for all 12 sets of 10. It took three or four days to cut the strips. Once cut, they are far more manageable! Thankfully!

Anyone who is a weaver will confirm that the preparation for a weaving is far more time consuming than the actual weaving of the piece. Once it’s designed and ready to weave, the majority of the work is done! Newspaper is no exception. With those serapes in mind I began. Using the same 1 inch strip from 120 newspaper fliers, I wove a 5 foot long strip. Then I added another 5 foot long strip alongside the first. I produced a 30 inch by 5 feet weaving. It was OK.

It was just OK, in my mind.

It was not a perfect rectangle. I wanted it to be a perfect rectangle. The first piece was not a perfect rectangle. They have medication for this, no? I I did a second piece. This one is 40 inches by 48 inches and is a perfect rectangle

Damn! It should have been at least another foot long! Fixated on the proportions of the two pieces, I neglected to notice that each conjures up those cheap Mexican serapes I so loved when living in Tucson. I took my two weaving to Mosaic Workshop. I was focused on the faults. The other artists were focused on the art.

This demonstrates to me how important it is to receive feedback from other artists about one's work. At times, it is difficult to step back from your work and look at it objectively. Other artists understand this and, if they are honest, will provide constructive criticism when asked. What I think about MY work is important; however, other artists' comments will always present another point of view worth considering. I love a good critique.

I will be hanging both weavings for the Taco Asado show…. I’ve named them Serape Asado Uno and Serape Asado Dos…. Join us for our post hanging party at Taco Asado on June 4th. You’ll love the food AND the art.

These weavings are for sale. If you are interested in purchasing or want more information about the artwork you can contact me by responding to this blog or e-mail me at You can contact me via my website: or telephone me at the studio: 760-992-3157.

Thank you for listening,

Jerry L. Hanson

Monday, May 10, 2010

"Cardenas Sun"

For the past thee posts, I’ve been telling you about how I began weaving with newspaper, why I began using newspaper and how my use of newspaper has evolved over the past 40 years. I this blog, I want to focus on one particular woven piece and talk about how it came together.

I chose this piece for several reasons. First, it seems to garner most comments from the viewing public. Second, it won the Commissioners’ Award in the 2010 Palm Springs Juried Art Competition. And third, it visually shows the possibilities when using newspaper.

I save newspaper. My main source of newspaper is the LA Times. Perhaps the LA Times being our local daily paper had much to do with it and for that, I’m thankful. This is Tinsel Town; home of the movie studios; the city where Stars are made. The LA Times is as glitzy as the city. We have a very colorful newspaper. Thank God!

When I have an “Ah ha!” moment for a weaving or a series, I begin sorting through my stacks of newspaper looking for my color palette. Blue ink must have been on sale several years ago. There seemed to be a lot of movie ads with blue: Polar Express, Babe, that cartoon about Penguins and some science fiction movies with a lot of blue.

I sorted through the paper looking for blue movie ads (not to be confused with blue movies). I need about 20 to 25 sheets of newspaper to produce a weaving approximately 30 by 45 inches. Lots of blue! I had 40 or 50. I could be very selective. For this piece, I wanted to have as little print on the finished weaving as possible. A letter here or there would be OK, but not entire words. I didn’t’ want the print to be prevalent. I prepped my paper and cut it into half inch strip to minimize the print. Strips this narrow presented a whole new set of problems, but more about that later.

The chosen design was simple. It was to be a circle with a disk inside of it. I sorted through my paper again looking for yellow and set them aside. For the center disk, I selected orange. Remember those Cingular ads; all that orange? I had a lot of those ads. So I used them, too. The yellow & orange provided a good contrast to the blue.

The majority of the weaving was to be blue with a yellow circle and an orange disk in the center of that. One of the “issues” with my weaving methodology is that I use a basked weave where the end result looks like squares. It’s a square grid. That’s an awfully difficult way to produce a circle and I wanted two of those puppies. That’s the second reason I cut my paper into half inch strips: smaller squares are needed for the smaller weaving to produce the circle. I didn’t want a “perfect” circle anyway, so it would be OK.

I mentioned in a prior post that newspaper has a grain: It’s stronger in one direction than the other. However, when it is cut in half inch strips, it’s pretty fragile even when cut with the grain. It would snap in half easily. Damn! I would have to be very careful! I sketched out my design, transferred it to my weaving surface and began.

I rejected quite a few strips of blue, editing for color over print. AND it took me a bit of time to learn how to manipulate the paper so as not to rip it while working. As I became proficient at it, the weaving went faster. I eventually reached that pivotal point where I needed to begin the yellow circle. What a pain in the butt that turned out to be! Think of one of those goofy palm hats with those unwoven bits sticking out along the edge and you have an idea of what I was dealing with. I was trying to “see” a circle in the middle of all those strips of as yet unwoven paper sticking out all over the place! I finally got it under control when I realized I needed to add that orange disk in the middle of the yellow one.

When I finally got the two circles completed, I discovered I had shifted them towards the top of the weaving too much. I had to extend the weaving by nearly a foot to realign the image properly. Fortunately, I had a lot of blue newspaper. I was going to name it “Cingular Sensation” but worried about copyright suits. So I named the weaving “Cardenas Sun” because the yellow came from one source: ads for Cardenas Market. My friend and graphic artist, Davi, calls the weaving the “Egg Yolk”. It’s probably a better name.

I learned a lot while weaving this image. I learned that I’m not going to be weaving very many circles, nor am I going to be using half inch strips of newspaper! I did weave another piece using the same design idea with the printed word as the design element rather than color. I used the Stock Market numbers, the daily comics and the editorial page. The design was very subtle; not as eye catching as “Cardenas Sun.”

I have people ask me questions like:

“Did you paint each one of those tiny squares one by one?”

“If you wanted blue, why didn’t you just paint it blue?”

“Did you cut out each one of those tiny squares?”

Cardenas Sun is available for purchase. You can see all of my artwork available for purchase on my website at . If you want more information about “Cardenas Sun” or any of my artwork or to make a purchase, you can contact me by replying to this blog, e-mail me at or telephone my studio at 760.992.3157. And, as always, I thank you for listening!

Jerry L. Hanson

Monday, May 3, 2010

All the News that's Fit to Weave

I’ve been weaving with newspaper for nearly 40 years. I talked about why in a previous blog. I began incorporating woven newspaper in my paintings in 2003 with a series of 12 paintings which all sold in a small, private gallery in Eagle Rock, CA.

On a trip to London in 2004, I showed an artist friend my photographs of these paintings. Andreas Vogt was an internationally known contemporary artist whose work I admire. Andreas gave an honest critique of my work and then said, “I’m most drawn to these woven bits. Have you considered doing an entire canvas of just the weaving? I should like to see that.” I told him I had thought about it but not seriously. “Think about it seriously,” he suggested, then mixed us each a fresh gin & tonic.

And my experimentation began. I knew how to weave three dimensional sculptural baskets of newspaper but not fabric with only two layers of paper. I had to figure out how to weave a large scale piece of fabric when the longest strip of paper is approximately 24 inches long. Did you know that newspaper has “grain?” You can use it when cut in one direction but not the other. I needed to produce fabric which needed strips in excess of 5 feet in length.

I experimented and I wove and I learned. I began producing weavings that were 6 feet by 4 feet. The weave I use is a simple basket weave or tabby weave. The finished piece didn’t seem strong enough to hold together on its own. I affixed them to canvas to give them support and strength. I coated them with a fixative to bind the fabric, provide protection against tear and to provide UV protection from the sun.

I was commissioned to do two weavings for a couple in Los Angeles. Their one stipulation was that the weavings were to incorporate English, Chinese and Hebrew language newspaper. Living in Los Angeles made it easy to collect these newspapers. Davi & Bracha gave me free reign on how to use the newspaper. They being dear friends turned this commission into a work of love. Although I had no clue how to pull it off.

As I wove, I learned to use the content ON the newspaper as well as the paper itself. I learned to manipulate the newspaper to provide depth, pattern and color across the surface of the weaving. The earlier weavings are pure abstract. I began paying more attention to the selection of newspaper for the weavings. I began incorporating icons or images in the weavings. I became a huge fan of the LA Times Calendar section with its numerous full page, full color movie ads.

I was leaning a lot about my chosen media but it was not providing many answers for this commission.

I did a series of twenty weavings affixed to canvas. Although pleased with the finished product, I am most interested in the weavings before they are attached permanently to the stretched canvas. The “loose” weavings have a tactile quality and truly “feel” like fabric. I began to examine my work from this perspective.

I figured out how to fix my weavings without having to glue them to canvas. I experimented with ways to hang the finished weavings. I still had no clue how to proceed with the commission for Davi & Bracha. Until my boss got married……

My boss and good friend found the man of her dreams and invited me to their wedding in Dallas, Texas. Rebecca said, “I want you to make something for our wedding present.” That was subtle, no? I was planning to do that anyway.

I had a colleague save the Dallas Morning News for three weeks and ship them to me in Palm Springs. I spent an entire day looking through the stack trying to figure out an angle for using it in a weaving. The Dallas Morning News is one of the most boring looking paper I’ve ever seen! I finally figured it out and completed Clint & Rebecca’s wedding present. My new hanging method also enabled me to pack a 4 ½ foot by 3 foot weaving into a mailing tube and carry it on the airplane with me.

The wedding present provided the clue for the commission. I did a practice weaving to test the design. It worked! After making appropriate adjustments, I wove Chinese, English and Hebrew into a design creating a diptych that is 5 feet by 5 feet. I delivered the artwork shortly after their 30th Wedding Anniversary.

I owe a tremendous debt to this commission. I experimented for three years on how to take three different languages, keep them intact AND produce a weaving that is interesting to look at. The language is integral yet not the primary focus of the finished piece.

I use the lessons learned to continue weaving newspaper fabric. New ideas and designs come to me as I’m working on the current weaving: ideas on how to tweak a design to make it different: ideas on how to manipulate the newspaper: ideas on how to weave an even larger piece.

I was never able to show Andreas how his simple challenge pushed my work in a different direction. He died several years ago of esophageal cancer before I could visit him in Switzerland. I think of him every time I begin a new weaving and I miss him and his brutally honest critiques.

I feel l I am teasing you showing photographs of my artwork NOT for sale. However, you can see all of my artwork that IS available for purchase on my website at . If you want more information on any of my artwork or to make a purchase, you can contact me by replying to this blog, e-mail me at or telephone my studio at 760.992.3157. And, as always, I thank you for listening!

Jerry L. Hanson