Friday, September 4, 2015

Endings and beginnings

Yearly transitions have marked my life since I first began teaching in the early 1970s.  September still remains a month for new beginnings and untold possibilities.  I need that this year after a dismal summer of cold weather,  unexpected house repairs, and then a fire in our Duntara workshop.

The way it was....


Summer is my time to create art and our workshop was where it happened. My summer art pursuits changed over the last three years.  If you aren't familiar with my new work you can read about my Compositions in Time here and here.

I lost most  of my salvaged wood  gathered over the last three years,  2 partially finished assemblages, encaustic medium, my lovely band saw and lots of small bits and bobs.  As a result the sum of my  assemblage creations this year was 2, one of which has smoke damage. That might not be so bad if I weren't getting ready for a group show in July and a  solo show September 2016.

Samples of past compositions  ( better composed  than photographed)

                  2014 (Private collection)                                   2013 (Private Collection)

2013 ( Private Collection)

 The pressure is on.

It's not like you can order my materials from a store.  I came upon them in dribs and drabs, and I was so proud of my collection of "specials",  the objects/woods that usually prompt a composition.   I loved them so much I had them standing along the work benches to ogle them.  Ah pride goeth before the fall.  These were the ones that were damaged beyond use with smoke and noxious gasses.   They're gone now, and with them all sorts of possibilities.  Interestingly, the insurance guy describes them as scraps of wood with no monetary value.   Really?

 Up to this point all my wood came from the  areas around my summer house on the Bonavista Peninsula.  I liked the colour consistency that automatically happens when you are working with a palette limited by location.  Some of the work was obviously sourced from outside buildings as the third one above and others were woods used  inside. It's clear that the wood controls the composition and the feel of each piece.

 September: Begin chapter 2

Friends have taken up the cause and are bringing me any salvaged wood they find.  My criteria of must be worn and have paint on it is seems to make it easy to find these gems.  If it has bits of wallpaper even better.

 An artist friend began my new collection after hearing about our plight.  I now have a new colour and the compositions will be from the Avalon peninsula,  specifically  Bay Roberts.  Thanks Peter!

 I've collected some new wood myself while walking.   I'm getting calls from other friends who have things for me.

 My husband is getting worried because all of this is ending up in our small workshop in St.  John's, his domain, not a shared one.   I am not allowed to take over, and I have to store the wood in my studio.  The ground rules have been laid.  Many I not end up consumed by creativity and forget my place!

For the first time in a month I feel optimistic.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Making meaningful art

Have you ever watched as you back up your IPad photos?  I just saw my life over the last four  years flash before my eyes.  My IPad 2 turns 4 in nine days.  It just won't hold its charge any more.  I see parallels with my own life especially with art production.  I am all intention and I quickly dwindle.

But back to the photos.  There were a lot of photos of my work and vacation pics.   As they flitted onto the computer I understood why there is so much blue in my recent work, and why water and sky have begun to dominate my imagery.  Many of the pics were of a Mediterranean cruise out of Venice and various shots from the south of England = sky and water.

Minack Gardens, Cornwall

Doc Marin, Port Issac view
View from Doc Martin's House, Port Issac, Cornwall

Grand Canal, Venice 

And of course my summer place is always about the scene in front of me, sky and water.

And from those experiences work springs forth.  Some make it to the Leyton Gallery and others are experiments....

 Above and Below 10 x 12 in. 2012 encaustic and paper on cradled panel

Lost fishing nets floating in the vast ocean under a moonlit sky

Experiment...  Water on sun lit pebbles in a shallow pond, encaustic monotype, later chopped into squares and rearranged into a grid

 Experiment (Gulch Duntara), encaustic, just to the left of my house looking down from the road into the water

On the bay, 2012 encaustic monotype applied to hardboard

This work is a direct response to sitting  in my rocking chair looking out the bay for hours over many days.  An artist friend now has it on his wall.  That makes me very happy.  Of course having his work on my wall makes me even happier.  

So my work is becoming more landscape oriented.  I didn't plan this; it just happened. 

Some artists are  very focused and develop a "look" that is recognizable. They strive to achieve this and many buyers like this predictability.   My work is not like that;  I am an intuitive responder to all that is around me.  One of my friends often points out  (not in a negative way) how different my work looks from year to year, but I admit, it makes me feel like a bit of an artistic fraud at times.

 While these land and sea pieces have a coherency, they are very different from my  Remnant series and my Reading a Garden work. But, when I stand back and consider this I realize that to the untrained eye it might appear that way, but woven into everything I do is my response to the passage of time, and no where is it more obvious than in nature.

How about you?  Is there a tight coherency in your art making or does the work evolve without your planned consent?

Friday, April 3, 2015

Studio organization Part 2: Works on cradled panels

  Big blip since my last post.  Life sure does get in the way.   All my great ideas for organizing my art space were just that, ideas.  After saying the final good-bye to my mother, I now feel like I just might have some art in me.  I'm slowly getting back on track.  But my studio is only slightly more organized than it was in my last post.

On to storage of cradled panels in this post....

Most of my work is on cradled panels ranging from 4 x 4 in. to 24 x 36 in.    I tend to want to hang any work I think isn't finished on the wall so I can reflect/critique it. That requires one type of organization, and then there are works that are waiting to go to the gallery or have returned from the gallery.  They require different storage spaces. Right now some of them are hung higgly piggly on the walls and some are wrapped and stored wherever I can find a place.

Because many of my pieces are smaller than 10 x 10 inches, I think using eavestrough has merit.  The ones  at the top are  metalwhich I'm assuming you can still purchase. I've only every seen plastic which should hold small works.

This is a good idea for work larger than 10 x 10in. because I could still see the work and it could be placed on one of my many counters. 

Even better is a floor to ceiling one that could be placed in a corner, nook or under the stairs.

Why not make use of  small vertical space under a stairs if you have it?  

Or in a closet or the tall space under your stairs?

I love this idea of pegs on evenly spaced strips for work in process or at the critique stage.  I would just have to figure out the smallest piece I would do standing up and go from there.  I often sit to paint small works.   Right now I have long screws mounted on each stud.  It works to a degree but I often can't find the right placement to hang  smaller work.

 If I had a tilting tabletop like this one I could do small and medium work there.  

Now that's a lot of ideas, all are reasonable.  Which will I choose?  We'll see. 

Check out all links on my Pinterest board, Art Studio 

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Studio organization Part 1: Hanging works on paper

This is not my studio.  I wish it could be because  I crave light.

This is my studio.

My studio is in the basement of my house and currently it is a mega mess.  That's what happens when you have two studios and you're away from your main one for four months.  It becomes a catch all for the family.  I now have ceiling tiles, a bicycle, a half finished guitar, a ladder,  paint cans, art supplies, and my work hung randomly around the room.    Thankfully the folding 7 feet studio acoustical panels are gone!  It is not a pretty place, but it has great potential.

My art is all over the place; I don't even know what I have anymore.  As a result I've been thinking about ways to hang/store art in the studio so I at least know what I have.  In the past I've put art away and completely forgotten about it.

 It hasn't always looked like this.  I've featured it here. Messes happen when you let the little things slip.

Fast forward... I'm developing a long term plan for the studio that will encourage me  to actually go there to create work. If I try to do it all at once I will never have time to work.

 I need...
- more lights;
- a way to  hang/store paper works;
- better organized storage for  art materials;
- storage for work on cradled panels
- a better painting table that tilts;
- a way  to mount larger works on the wall while they are in process;

This is Part 1 of a series of posts on Studio organization.

Hanging works on paper 

Cork board 

I've always been a fan of cork board and the more space you can use the more display area you will have.

If you don't want to stick pins in your work this clothes pin/tack combo would be great or you could also use a paper clip hung on a tack or a metal grip. You won't be limited by a permanent layout.

I love this idea of display and storage that swivels.  Efficient and effective. 

Paper Clips


This is a simple and versatile idea for studio use when you do works on paper and want to get them out of the way or critique them.   These boards look a little heavy to me, but the ideas of bulldog clips has merit.  Check out some other options ...

 I would be more inclined to mount a long strip of wood and space clips along it.  That would accommodate different size work. You could have two rows of wood strips if you wanted.

Variations on a clothesline

Good old clothes pins have lots of uses.  I like rectangular hanging frame below.  It is compact and out of the way of other things.  Space above your head isn't useful for much else.  I'm noting this one  is hung  near a corner which would keep it out of the way for bumping.

What could be simpler than a strip of wood and clothes pins.  I would use the top pins for photo references or other reference material and the bottom one for art work.

And a plain old clothes line idea.   


I'm a fan of pegboard because it is so versatile.  When you paint it white or the same colour of your wall it becomes unobtrusive. The flipping pegboard provides more storage because you can use both sides.  As to how I would mount it, just move that problem over to the resident handyman.

This is a multipurpose piece that gives me several ideas.  You can make it wider for more exposed pegboard space.  Have one door opening and you can use it for storage inside.  Put it on a lazy susan and it will swivel.  It would also look great and fit well in a corner.

There's great storage ideas here.  I like the framed pegboard to hang finished work.  Painting it the same colour of the wall will help to give a more open feel to the space. 

Clothes hangers

Whew!  Lots of choices here. Which ones will work for my space?  If you have any new ideas for hanging works on paper or you use on of these do share.

Links to all of these ideas are on my Pinterest page under Art Studio

Friday, November 7, 2014

Full moon series

Whew!  Just got back from a whirlwind trip to close up the summer house and say good-bye to my wood assemblages until May. Living on the edge of the Atlantic this time of year is cool and noisy. The sound of the sea's movement gets louder and more ominous.  Winter there is not for the faint of heart. All those things help me pack it in  sometime around late October or  mid November.

And here I am, officially a townie again.

It's been a busy couple of days getting  ready for a group Christmas show at the Leyton Gallery. The series of work in the show is called Full Moon, Duntara.  Living in this magical place  in the summer months  puts me in tune with landscape and nature.   I rarely paint landscape, but it has been creeping into my work in different ways over the last several years.

All five pieces in this series to date are mixed media encaustic.  They are small snippets of reflection about one of my favourite time-when a full moon rises over the hill across from our  summer house. The whole harbour lights as the moonlight  plays across the hills, water and grass.  It's pretty spectacular.

mixed media encaustic, moonlight on water,
Margaret Ryall, Full Moon, Duntara #1 (2014) 6 x 6 in. mixed media encaustic

mixed media encaustic, moonlight on hills water, landscape
Margaret Ryall, Full Moon, Duntara #2 (2014) 6 x 6 in. mixed media encaustic

moonlight on water rocks, mixed media encaustic
Margaret Ryall, Full Moon, Duntara #3 (2014) 6 x 6 in. mixed media encaustic
moon rising over water, mixed media encaustic, landscape
Margaret Ryall, Full Moon, Duntara #4 (2014) 6 x 6 in. mixed media encaustic
mixed media encaustic, moonlight  on hills, water
Margaret Ryall, Full Moon, Duntara #5 (2014) 6 x 6 in. mixed media encaustic
And now I have to wait until the opening to see them again.  

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Compositions in time

I've titled my new assemblage series from reclaimed materials Compositions in time to describe their content, the media used, and my process in creating them.

They begin with beachcombing on the Bonavista Peninsula, NL or from materials collected by friends who have taken  an interest in my process.

The majority of wood and all my "attachments" are old.  They had a previous history that I can only guess at when I look at the information contained in stains, scratches, peeling paint and shapes.  The paint colours too help me understand what their previous life was because there is a history of favoured paint colours for houses and sheds in the communities surrounding my summer place.

These structures have been torn down, fallen down or blown out to sea.  Then I find them from my various sources, bring them to the workshop to dry, spray them against mould (antifungal spray) and bugs (solution of bleach and water). Sometimes I have them for a year or two before they speak to me.  I know that sounds hokey, but it's true.  Each work starts with one inspiration piece, and then I am off with my sorting and resorting of materials.  I'm continually going back to my stacks in this process. There is a rhythm to the process of creating, and to the structures that I develop for each piece.  I am not in the least musical, but I see these as  regulated compositions with variations.

The band saw, PL Premium adhesive, and my husband's workshop have become by best friends.

Composition in Time R#3 (2014) 20 x 44 in. Margaret Ryall (Private Collection)

The lovely purple boards came from Bonnie, a local  Duntara lady who provides me with such interesting bits and pieces of wood.  I was so excited when I saw my favourite colour, I couldn't wait to get it home.  Luckily I didn't have to wait too long for them to dry out because  July was a hot month for us.

The wallpaper remnants in this work came from a renovation in Dunfield, NL.  They were peeled off and reapplied to board using acrylic gel.  The part of an old iron headboard came from a friend as did the three roofing nails and heads.  Thanks Helen and Ken. Too many connections so....

 This piece rests proudly over the sofa in my summer house studio.  It is mine! I know! I can't keep them all. But so far I have claimed 4 that I can't part with.  My husband tilts his head,  looks around, and says nothing.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

A summer's work

  Over the last two summers I have devoted my time and creative energies to installations from reclaimed wood and other found materials.  I wrote about my initial interest here and posed the question... Is this art?  I've decided it is.

This summer I realized that I was compartmentalizing  my art making by location.  I paint in  the city (St. John's, NL) and I create installations at my summer home in Duntara.  It makes perfect sense really.  My head is in a totally different place in the summertime.  I spend my days looking at the ocean, prowling beaches, seeing the effects of the passage of time on buildings as they slowly sink to the ground or are blown into the ocean only to wash up in another location.  I watch summer people lovingly restore old homes that would otherwise have fallen into disrepair.  How can I not make work that references my most immediate  summer life?   Added to that is the practicality of not having to drag all my painting supplies and supports  back and forth.

assemblages, wood, beach finds, driftwood, Newfoundland, Margaret Ryall
Composition in Time #2, 18 x 28 in., Margaret Ryall, 2013 (Private Collection)
Thanks Carol Bajen-Gahm for loving #2 and giving it a home where I can visit it whenever I want!

This piece created last year, is totally composed of beach finds that were cut and composed (no additional colours are added. The bandsaw and PL Premium adhesive have become my new best friends.  These constructions are heavy and my regular adhesives just didn't do the job.

 I never set out with a preconceived notion for a composition;  I determine its size based on my inspiration piece/object.  In this work it was the worm eaten red piece of plywood.  The curves are a natural extension of this choice with the driftwood replicating the rounded lines.   The nails and roofing materials came from another piece of wood and were added strategically.  The yellow clapboard is a constant colour for houses on the  Bonavista peninsula and the red  is the preferred colour for sheds.  These colours creep into many of the compositions and bring consistency to the body of work without  much thought on my part.  A palette controlled by the foibles of nature, people and location is  a narrow one.  Lots of variables doing  their own thing removes a great deal of decision making for this overthinking artist.

 It was a fruitful summer.  I created 14 assemblages varying in size from 16 x 16 to 36 x 36 to add to the 4 I created the year before.  I sold three of them (always a bonus), received a request to show three  more in a group show in 2016, and organized a venue for a solo show that same year.

Yes, things are moving along nicely and now that my summer fun is behind me, I am looking forward to starting back to work at my White series.  Stay tuned for much more art blogging this year.  I'm excited and back on track.

And yes, I have to stop taking photos of art work with my iPhone, and yes I am getting a new camera and a tripod!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Installations with a difference

 How often do you go to a museum or gallery and feel lost because of the large scale of what you are looking at?   I just came across a great introduction to the work of Chiharu Shiota, a conceptual Japanese artist, written by Richard Rabel on his blog   The Modern Sybarite.  Shiota's  artist's work is very intriguing because of its smaller, more intimate scale and the way she uses everyday materials. 

Rabel  begins ...

The contemporary art installations of conceptual Japanese artist Chiharu Shiota (b. 1972) use found objects like beds, books, toys, suitcases, shoes and windows enveloped or suspended in a cobweb of strings.  It’s a fascinating concept: think about it – what’s your automatic interpretation when you see used objects through the prism of cobwebs? I think of abandonment, decay, and the dichotomy between life and death, past and present.  This is exactly her premise, and in addition she explores the memories of the people infused into these everyday objects.
 I felt an immediate attraction to the work of this artist because the themes explored and how she uses everyday materials.

  Take a look .

Sunday, March 2, 2014

From my mother's house


Making art is like life, unpredictable. You never know how things will turn out or even what you will find interesting and absorbing.  This time last year I was in the midst of cluing up the closure of my mother's house as she prepared to moved to an assisted living home. If you are old enough to be involved in such life changes you already know that they are bitter sweet. One of the positives for me was finding all sorts to objects that had meaning to my mother and  family.

 While I had many ah ha moments, I was quite taken with Mom's collection of doilies.  Of course they are white (my current obsession) and  many were hand crafted (very important to me).  I couldn't see donating them to a charity, so I bundled them up and away we went. Since then they have been in my studio in a bag - I knew they were destined for art; only the what, how and why remained elusive. I'm moving along with them.  Here are my first creations:

encaustic on cradled panel Margaret Ryall
Doily #1 (2014) encaustic on cradled panel , 8 x 8 in. Margaret Ryall

Margaret Ryall encaustic on cradled panel texture and memory
Doily #2, 2014, encaustic on cradled panel, 8 x 8 in. Margaret Ryall 

  Both works were created by using a doily as a stencil.  I built up a bed of natural white encaustic  in four layers.  Then I warmed the surface and pressed a doily in lightly so it wouldn't move about.   A final layer of encaustic was added  and after 2 minutes I carefully pulled the doily out to leave its impression .  The impression was enhanced with a light application and buffing of   R & F pearl pigment stick.

Where do I go from here?

This work seems to fit nicely in my current white series  that I've been working on for over a year.  Doily #1 & 2 do not need colour for interpretation.  They exist and are readable solely by texture. The small square format will allow me to present them in grid format as a sampler.  Fitting given the topic.