mariposa studio blog   december 2016     Studio Records
Mariposa Studio Blog:
December 2016

Studio Records
the trail of a painting

by Anna Dal Pino
S everal years ago during a visit to Santa Fe, I saw one of the most interesting
presentations of fine art I'd seen in a museum gallery.*  It left a big impression.  Next to
each painting, there was a display of relevant documentation by the artist.  Field notes,
sketches, photographs.  Paste-ups with drawings and photos combined.  It gave me a
sense of something being worked out for that specific painting, not just appearing fully
formed onto a canvas.  I couldn't get enough.

*(My record keeping being imperfect, I have misplaced the notebook with the names of the
museum and the artists.)

Skip forward many years, and I realize every painting I make has some kind of supporting
objects and documentation.  Sometimes not much.  Sometimes there's a lot; not all of it is
saved or even savable.  (A smelly piece of kelp comes to mind.)

For some time now, when a painting is purchased, I send the owner a copy of my
worksheet that summarizes some of this information.  I also keep a file on each piece, for
whatever scraps of notes, samples, sketches and photos I have.

Here's the kind of stuff that collects there:

Field notes, which could be painted swatches, notations, quick drawings or photos.  
I wrote about road trip field notes
here in Coastal Trip - field notes.

photograph of a broken window taken on the road in 2009 proved a vital element for
Coming Undone in 2015, which was essentially a work as much concerned with composing
space as coming apart.

A photo of a plaque describing the history of the stockyard in Magdalena, New Mexico
kept me grounded in the scene I was painting for

Since a lot of my work is still life, I have boxes of objects that I use and reference in
paintings.  Mostly household things and bones.  Even if I'm doing an invented composition,
I like to look at, and hold to the light, the actual object when I can.  Here are some early
sketches on tissue paper with deer mandibles on the left, as I begin the composition for the
final painting
Metamorphosis on the right.

Especially for larger works, I do drawings and even paintings as studies, which can be
artworks in their own right.  For the large work,
A Profound Silence, I did several.  The one
shown below was done working out under-color and geometry, and didn't have much to do
with the style of the final piece.

Composition notes, which may be typed up, handwritten or sketched, keep me on track
when making decisions about which elements are essential, and which are superfluous
ideas that should be discarded.

Swatch cards and written notes record the
color palette I'm using.  Working both in
watercolor and oil keeps me trying things out with pigments, lessons that carry over
between media.  Here are swatches and a detail from
Invasive Species.
In my worksheets, I keep track of my materials, such as type of paper or other support,
pigments, varnish, coatings, and framing.  The worksheets are available to the owner and
can be useful not only as back story, but also if the piece needs repair, restoration, or
identification in the future.  (I wrote about a case of stolen art
here in Purloined Paintings,
where the worksheet turned out to be useful.)

I'll note pertinent
history of the piece, such as when it was in a special show or
publication.  I record if the piece sells, or changes hands, and its
location when I know it.  
In short, the provenance.

Progress photos are sometimes kept.  I assembled them for this video on snapshots
along the way: Crash.   Below is another, Flow in progress.

And I'll leave you with this one:  early progress photos of Western Exposure along with a
link to a video
which shows it in certainly its biggest finished glory to date, behind drummer
Curt Moore of the Bernal Jazz Quintet as they performed F.S.R. here in the studio last