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Working with natural ink and mineral pigment watercolors

I’ve been very excited about what is happening here in the studio lately. I’m discovering the joy of working with art materials that I make myself from found natural materials like plants and rocks. I received a grant this year from Minnesota-based Metropolitan Regional Arts Council (MRAC)/McKnight Foundation to travel and take workshops to learn about doing this. So far, I’ve traveled to Portland, OR, for a paintmaking workshop with Scott Sutton at Wildcraft Studio School, and to the bay area, CA, for a pigment foraging workshop/excursion with Heidi Gustafson. I’ve now got a little collection of watercolors made from mineral pigments, and a collection of iron ores to process into pigment myself, which I can then mix with different binders to make watercolor or oil paint. 

mineral pigment watercolor and India ink drawing by Cathy Durso

I’ve also been experimenting with making my own ink, and have been working with a subtle, warm yellow onion skin ink that crystalizes on paper and interacts with my black India ink in really beautiful ways.

onion skin ink and India ink moon drawing by Cathy Durso

Below are a few drawings made with the onion skin ink and mineral pigment watercolors. The black in the drawings is store-bought India ink and the other colors are the homemade ink and watercolors.

onion skin ink and mineral pigment watercolor drawings by Cathy Durso

I love the subtlety of the colors and the way that working with natural pigments is changing how I see color relationships. I also really enjoy this new interaction that I can have with nature, and getting to know how these materials behave. What do you think?

onion skin ink and India ink moon drawing by Cathy Durso
detail of onion skin ink and India ink drawing by Cathy Durso
mineral pigment watercolor drawing by Cathy Durso
mineral pigment watercolor and India ink drawings by Cathy Durso
mineral pigment watercolor and India ink drawing by Cathy Durso
detail of mineral pigment watercolor and India ink drawing by Cathy Durso
onion skin ink and India ink moon drawings by Cathy Durso
mineral pigment watercolor drawing by Cathy Durso
mineral pigment watercolor drawing by Cathy Durso
mineral pigment watercolor and India ink drawing by Cathy Durso
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Observational Drawing Challenge: Drawings 1-10

For the past few years I have not really done much observational drawing. I want to stay fluent in drawing, and of course there is always room for improvement. I think observational drawing is an important skill, even though I work abstractly most of the time. There is always something to learn about the play of light and shadow, the creation of form, composing an image, and dedication to completion, that drawing from life teaches.

So! I have decided to challenge myself to make two observational drawings each week for the next year, creating 100 drawings total. I am using a variety of media for these drawings, from graphite to charcoal to soft pastel, and I may eventually start making paintings as well. The important thing is that they are all drawn from observation and that they are all completed works, rather than sketches or studies. For me that means that I consider composition on the page, and that the drawings are rendered to a level that I consider “finished”.

My first ten drawings are below.

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25 Minnesota Landscapes

For the past few months I’ve been working on a commission for the city of Eagan, MN, for their annual CSA project. No, I’m not growing green beans. In this case, CSA stands for Community-Supported Art. Each year, six artists are chosen to create a series of 25 original works, which are distributed to people who buy a share at the end of the summer during the “Art Harvest”.

I thought this was an interesting model for paying artists and I was thrilled to be selected as one of the artists to participate!

My body of work for this project is now complete and I’m excited to share it with you.

25 Minnesota Landscapes

This series of collage paintings was inspired by my experiences in the landscapes of Minnesota. Having lived in Minnesota for just three years, these landscapes still feel new and surprising to me. I’m struck most by the contrast of colors within the landscape: intense, deep blues and greens in summer; spruce green and aspen yellow setting each other off in autumn; electric pink and orange reflections in the lake at twilight; barren whites and yellows against the rich blue of a winter sky. I hope that by expressing my experiences in this way, you will be struck by the same feelings of wonder and inspiration that I feel within these unique landscapes.

Lake In Summer 1
Lake In Summer 1

Prairie In Bloom
Prairie In Bloom

Lake At Twilight 3
Lake At Twilight 3

To see the whole series of 25 Minnesota landscapes, and to learn about my process in creating them, click here!

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Unnamed | Undefined : Two-person exhibition

Twelve Hundred Miles
Twelve Hundred Miles
Mixed media with rocks and thread on unprimed canvas
30 x 30 in

Join me at the opening reception for my exhibition Unnamed | Undefined with fellow Minnesota-based painter Adam McCauley at Banfill-Locke Center for the Arts in Fridley, MN!

The reception will be held on Saturday, May 19 from 4-7 PM.

The work will be on view through June 16.

RSVP on the Facebook event page, and invite your friends!

Banfill-Locke Center for the Arts
6666 E River Road
Fridley, MN 55432

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Upcoming Exhibition: Healing Arts

Healing Arts Exhibition

Come see work by 12 regional artists in the “Healing Arts” exhibition at Hudson Hospital & Clinic in Hudson, WI. I have 17 works in the exhibition.

On Friday, May 4 from 6-8 PM there will be a reception with snacks and refreshments.

The work will be on view until July 8.

RSVP on the Facebook event page, and invite your friends!

Hudson Hospital & Clinic
405 Stageline Rd
Hudson, Wisconsin 54016

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Commission for a Florida Condo: Part 2

Commissioned Artwork by Cathy Durso
Florida Stone 1-4
Mixed media collage on paper
Each piece 15 x 11 in
2017

This set of collages was commissioned for a Florida condo to go along with this diptych. Since the original diptych is two 30 x 30 inch paintings on canvas, for the second commission I wanted to create a group of smaller works so that the two commissions would not compete with each other. The final result was this set of four collages.

Florida Stone 1-4, collages by Cathy Durso

Florida Stone 1 (detail)

Florida Stone 4

Florida Stone 3 (detail)

If you are interested in commissioning a painting from me, there is more information about the process here.

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Solo exhibition: Satellite

Come see my solo show Satellite, which opens on Friday, October 6, from 4-7 PM at MacRostie Art Center in Grand Rapids, MN.

Elephant In the Forest

This body of work depicts circular forms in a variety of configurations. My painting process is determined by the urge to cut things into small pieces and the need to rearrange and move the pieces around. When working on canvas, I first paint onto raw canvas, cut circles out from what I’ve painted, and sew those painted circles onto a larger sheet of canvas. I bring chance into my work through my painting techniques: I water down the paint, I let colors bleed together and move around before being absorbed by the canvas, I spray more water onto the wet paint to see what will happen. The results are often surprising, and lead me to new ideas within my work.

The methodical and deliberate process of hand-sewing the painted circles onto larger sheets of canvas contrasts with the more spontaneous and free process of painting. This juxtaposition keeps my paintings balanced and allows me to move between different ways of working, which holds my interest in the work. The sewing process is slow and meticulous, while the painting process is loose and energetic.

I’m inspired by circular and cyclical ideas of all kinds, from the micro (cells, seeds, grains of sand) to the macro (planets, stars, galaxies) to the intangible (the circle of life, the cycle of the seasons, the rhythm of a beating heart). Circles represent many things in nature and in human society, and are universal symbols of unity, inclusiveness, movement, time, and potential. It all speaks to the concept of interconnection between all things, and to the idea that a circle can be one individual object and a whole universe containing everything that exists, both at the same time.

To see all 29 paintings from this body of work, click here.

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Solo exhibition: Orbital Resonance

How To Be Human

Come see my recent work in my solo exhibition “Orbital Resonance” at The Art Institutes International Minnesota’s main gallery.

If you’re in the area, join me for the opening reception on Thursday, May 18 from 6:00 – 7:30 PM. This event is free and open to the public. Snacks and beverages will be provided.

The exhibition will run from May 13 through June 8.

RSVP on the Facebook event page, and invite your friends!

AIM Gallery – Art Institutes International Minnesota
15 S 9th St, Minneapolis, MN 55402

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Commission for a Florida Condo

Florida
Florida
acrylic and thread on canvas
each panel 30 x 30 in
2017

I just finished up a commission to be displayed on the wall of a Florida condo. The finished work is a diptych, two canvases each measuring 30×30 inches. The stipulations for this work were that it use tropical, Florida-inspired colors, as well as that it take inspiration from the colors of a recently upholstered couch in the condo.

Florida (left-hand panel) by Cathy Durso

I wanted to use the colors in a way that gave the work a sense of narrative. The fact that it’s a diptych already makes the eye move in a narrative way, from one canvas to the next. I wanted to give a sense of time shifting from day to night. In the left-hand panel are daytime colors, which are interspersed with evening colors toward the bottom right-hand corner. There are some dark blue-greens in there as well, that might evoke a passing rain shower. Then, the right-hand panel has evening colors that change from the bright reds and oranges of a sunset to dark, dusky purple on the far right-hand side.

Florida (right-hand panel) by Cathy Durso

The circles are acrylic on canvas. They are sewn with thread onto the background canvas. They move across the canvases in a way that evokes the movement of the ocean, as if a wave is moving across the two canvases.

Florida (detail) by Cathy Durso

I like to use circle shapes as a way to focus the viewer’s attention. There is something about a circle that frames things in a way that can be very pleasing to the eye – I’ve always found circular windows on houses to be particularly beautiful. I found that the circles in this work evoked a sense of focusing on one aspect of a landscape at a time. The circles move across the canvas in a way that mimics the way our eyes work, in that they don’t travel smoothly as we look around, but rather, they hop from one point of focus to the next. The circles are also reminiscent of the way our eyes can be focused on one thing, and then when we shift our focus to another thing, everything around us has changed. This can happen when we ourselves our moving (walking, driving) or when the landscape itself is changing (the sun is setting, or clouds are rolling in). Our vision hops around to different parts of the landscape, and we take all these points of focus in to create our own sense of the experience.

Florida (detail) by Cathy Durso

I really enjoy the challenge of creating a piece of artwork for a specific space. If you are interested in commissioning a painting from me, there is more information about the process on my commissions page.