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 mold (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 husbands 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 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.

Friday, February 14, 2014

5 Framing options for small art work

Do you always frame your art the same way or are you open to options?

Much of my art is small in scale, intimate would be a better description. I am always looking for ways to make  pieces look more substantial on a wall, but still have the work as the main focus.  There are lots of ideas on the web, but many of them are a little too folksy or crafty and would end up drawing attention away from the work.  Here are some of my favourites.

  1. White Double Frame 


Margaret Ryall white double frame and mat
Double white frame with a white backer board
 photo: Margaret Ryall

 I saw this idea in a small gallery  in Cornwall, GB this past summer.  Many of the paintings were seascapes and I thought the white double framing certainly helped to enhance the pristine blues in the work.  I liked it so much I use it with modifications to display my sky and sea encaustic series in a show at the Leyton Gallery last fall.

It didn't hurt that I just have to dream it up and hubby can make it for me.

My take:

Margaret Ryall Sea and Sky series Leyton Gallery
 Sea and Sky series,  2013 Leyton Gallery. Margaret Ryall
Narrower frames and no inner frame. To get the look my husband made the frames and routed out an edge at back to glue the backer board which was 1/4 in. MDF.  I painted the frame and backer board separately - Benjamin Moore Floral White which is a lovely  grayish white great for display purposes. The encaustic monotype was adhered to 1/8 inch plywood with PVA glue and then attached to the backer board with glue. To keep everything square while drying I made spacers out MDF.

2. Silver Leaf Mat

silver leaf mat for small black and white work
 Silver leaf mat

I saw this on Joss and Main shopping site and thought it had possibilities for displaying small work.  I think silver leaf is used here but you could also adhere paper to the surface and finish with acrylic medium.   The four together make a nice pairing. You could also frame all four in one large frame.

3. White frame with traditional mat

Floated landscape matted and framed in light colours

I must say I like this presentation  You have to admit you really notice the art work even thought it is small.

 4. Multiples in one frame

mutliple art works in one frame
9 works in one frame
I know! Another white frame.  I like how these black and white works show so well together because your eye is contained by the frame. They can be differing depths too which comes in handy.

 5. Connected frames

connected frames narrative art Margaret Ryall
Connected frames
Wouldn't this be a great way to show works that together form a narrative?  The l natural  frame lets the work shine.  Perhaps this post should have been titled The Power of Light Frames. 

Do you have any thoughts on these framing ideas ?  Would you use any of them ? 

Thursday, January 30, 2014

After a dry spell

I'm shocking myself by actually having something to share in the art arena.  Several weeks ago I went to an open studio at Torbay Bight Studio to work in encaustic.  I love the regulars who go to these events because they are friendly, funny and always up to something interesting.  I am still in my white stage (What if) which I  wrote about  last year.  I'll be in it for quite awhile if I don't get back to creating!

My What if series explores how ideas can be represented when colour and contrast are  removed  from the equation.  These new works are abstracted landscapes that rely mostly on texture to make their presence know.  The silvery sheen was created by rubbing  pearl pigment stick over the encaustic.  It shimmers like a pristine landscape in the winter sun.

 Landscape 1 (2014) mixed media encaustic , 6 x 6 in.

 Landscape 2 (2014) mixed media encaustic , 6 x 6 in.

 I see so many references to my summer life by the edge of the Atlantic ocean in a small fishing community in Newfoundland.  I never planned these at all.  They were spontaneous responses to a pile of materials I had with me.
 One of these days I will figure out how to actually photograph encaustic work.  These are looking so pinkish and they are actually white.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Painting subtlety

The opening of  Vestiges, Carol Bajen-Gahm's solo show , at Christina Parker Gallery on Friday night was special for me because I followed my friend as she wove her way toward  this stunning collection of work.

 Carol Bajen- Gahm and Margaret Ryall

 The title fits well with how I saw Carol develop this  work. My viewing at different stages,  sideways conversations and  discussion of  printmaking processes provided  just enough information to know what the work would be like, but not too much to spoil the surprise of seeing it massed together on the walls of the gallery. 

I see subtle changes in Carol's work as she spends more time in Newfoundland.  Nuances of place are creeping in and moving her work from its non representational beginnings to more abstracted  landscape references that are recognizable to those who know the area.  Torbay, a town on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean, and her house by the sea, provide vantage points for contemplation of people and the environment.  Observations during her walks in Torbay and forays to other communities are translated sometimes subtly and sometimes blatantly in this new work.

Her processes are changing too.   Oils are being integrated with encaustic and various printmaking processes to create subtle, layered works that invite close inspection.

In her words:

Ephemera Series  / collograph, encaustic on panel, 12" x 9", 2013

Seven Seas Shoreline Series /  monoprint, pigment stick, and encaustic on panel, 10.5" x 11", 2013

 " Vestiges and ephemera are all around us. We find them in old photographs, deteriorating buildings, or simply washed up momentarily on a beach. They evoke not only the thrill of discovery, but also the spirits of past generations. 

The artworks in this exhibition address the idea of impermanence. Many of the things we experience in our lives are either ephemeral, lasting only a short time or vestigial, in the process of disappearing. 

Torbay Codflake Series / oil, pigment stick, graphite and encaustic on panel, 12" x 12", 2013

Torbay Bight Series / oil, pigment stick and sand on panel, 24" x 18", 2013

  Vestiges, looks back to the salt cod flakes of Torbay Bight which are no longer in existence,

Cape Spear Battery Series / oil, pigment stick and encaustic on paper on panel, 35.5" x 29", 2013

 to the Cape Spear Battery slowly eroded by time, 

Riddle Fence Series oil, pigment stick and encaustic on panel, 12" x 12", 2013

and to learning to make a riddle fence, a vanishing art being kept alive at English Harbor, Trinity Bay. 

 The colour palette used to make the paintings for this exhibition celebrate and pay tribute to recently resurrected traditional Newfoundland paint colors."

Monday, August 26, 2013

Is this art?

Summer days by the sea and no conventional art materials, but you have the urge to create.  What do you do?  Here's what I came up with from my varied beach finds. I've collected for years without having a reason.

 Shed Reconstructed (2013) Margaret Ryall , assemblage( recycled wood, rope & bolts)

 By the beach (2013) Margaret Ryall, assemblage ( recycled  wood, rope& rusted wire)

 Once I created one piece and had a ball, I went looking for specific materials for a second and now a third one is almost complete.  I had no intention of every producing an assemblage, but now I can't wait to do another one. I am lucky that if it's a saw we have it-every kind imaginable- and I can use most of them. My mind is overflowing with ideas which are all beach related.

Now the hard part... Is this art?  Where does it fit with my other art work? Does either of these really matter?

 I would love to hear your thoughts.  I'm afraid I have lost many of my long time followers with my sporadic attention to blogging over the last year.  Hope not!