Under Moroccan Skies

It’s the last full day of painting here in Morocco.

One more day to hit the frustration wall and then let go. My best work came after I was ready to fling the panel into the palm grove and say enough.  That’s what these intensive workshops are meant to do.   To not care about the results opens the way to fluidity and freedom.  

I’m at the point where principles of design, value and color are in place and I can trust myself.  Very similar to how I can read music.  I’ve done it for so long I’m no longer reading the notes.  I see a dot on the staff and instinctively I know where it is on the keyboard and how to play the note.  That’s a visual connection.  

Perhaps painting is more like soloing where you have to know the “tune” before you can improvise on the structure.  

This week I’ve been firming up the structure for soloing.

I’m noticing in the Moroccan design and architecture the viewer is hit with a bold presence.  Huge carved, wooden doors open to a keyhole entryway.  Bedroom walls are dappled.  Berber carpets of pomegranate red, lime green and black punctuate the floors. Behind the boldness is detail that becomes more intricate as you come closer.  Faucets are etched in design.  Toilet paper covers are even decorated.  Key elements of changing size, color and design create the energy.  A place to inhabit forever.

And this is exactly what we’re looking to create in our art this week.  A painting that can live forever.  Anywhere and everywhere.



By |September 24th, 2017|Categories: Travel|0 Comments

First Impressions of Morocco

I landed in Marrakech yesterday late afternoon.  Three flights and almost 16 hours later I passed through San Francisco, New York and Lisbon to arrive in this city.  I have a few days in the Medina before I move to another part of the city where I’ll be taking an art workshop led by Nick Wilton of the SF Bay Area.  

That other part of the city is the new city.  A wall creates the inner and outer, the new and the old.  You’re either in or out.  

Inside, the city is like any bustling city, yet here you can see layers of history played out in real time.  It reminds me of my days in Salvador, Brazil where there are pockets of an era on every corner.  This is the mix I love.  Sleuthing to understand as new layers peel back or cover up.  Except here we’re talking centuries.

This is a city of veils and reflection.  You’ll miss it if you go too fast.  Peach colored walls and pavement softly embrace you and ease the morning light and afternoon sun.  In the evening the walls provide a warmth enclosing the city.  Imagine a city embraced by captured heat and verdant gardens which I’m beginning to explore.

Windows, like the eyes are hard to see through.  They have curtains, carved wooden shutters that are divided into a top and bottom, glass and an ornate grating.  Gradations of openings that visually taunt.  I pass windows and doors partially exposed and I am dared to look in.  Who can pass a door opened just a bit?  Is than an invitation for the outside to come in or the inhabitant wanting to not be forgotten?  
Interiors are illuminated darkness created by the use of metals, mirrors, lights and shiny satin fabric.  A small tiled pool in a courtyard reflects the directed sun light coming through the open ceiling three stories up.  

And then there are the scents.  I haven’t yet figured this one out but so far I’ve identified rose.  That was easy.  My room was tastefully scattered with rose petals when I walked in.  



By |September 16th, 2017|Categories: Uncategorized|0 Comments

It’s Happening Again

Just when I thought I had a handle on it.  When I thought I had my emotional toolbox well supplied.  Well, some of the tools need sharpening.

In my last post I wrote about tools I use in the studio.  I forgot about the emotional tools until today.

Come into my studio and you’ll see electric skillets, ceramic tools, drills, wire, upholstery foam, beeswax and damar resin.  Everything you might need to create the masterpiece.  What you don’t see are the gremlins hanging out in the loft hiding behind my spotlights.  They like to aim those lights at me and jump down just when things are running smoothly.  I imagine them up there, scanning the waters with their high distance lights, crisscrossing the scene below with a steady cadence. They dislike my high vibe mode when my days are buoyed by the life affirming feeling of work, connection and good deeds.

Enter gremlins stage left.

Gremlin #1 popped down when I was working on this painting I eventually called Maiden Voyage. The painting is 40″ x 30″ so it’s not small and it’s not big. It’s manageable. Size is an illusion though and I can never count on anything being “easy”. When I see something that looks easy and simple, I know the amount of work, experience and Gremlin encounters that creator went through. The only exception I can think of is Nature. Though I think she is facing the Gremlins now too. (…mirror time…)

When I start a painting there are no gremlins. The goal is to get something down with movement, color and shape.  No hesitation.  No brain.  All body.  Things are looking good and slowly it all falls apart.  Now I’m the deer in the headlights.  I’ve entered the primordial brain and we’re talking survival.  It helps to have other pieces to work on because it confuses the Gremlin.  This can go on for days and I need my emotional toolkit handy.

Eventually the painting gets done.  That’s what this work is about. Getting done and moving on.  Again and again.  Hundreds of paintings a year.  Some I throw out and others I reuse.  A few make it to Instagram and my website.  What’s in the toolkit now?   Sharing your private battles to the public requires special tools which come in the form of the stories we tell ourselves.  They are Gremlin proof.

My favorite to date is this:

This is what I do.  And do.  And do.

I put Maiden Voyage on Instagram.  Wouldn’t you know it.  My second highest acknowledged piece to date.  Take that Gremlin.



PS:  Notice I wrote Gremlins.  There are still more in the loft.  I think I’ll start a new category just for the Gremlins!

By |September 9th, 2017|Categories: Gremlins, Studio Wildcat|0 Comments

Tools of the Trade

Last week I talked about how tools matter.

Some of my favorite tools are the ones I make myself.  I’m not so fond of predictable patterns and precision marks.  I lean more towards the randomness of unplanned marks that elicit a gasp.  An OMG.  Now what.  Those are the two words that make me sweat and laugh at the same time.  It puts me into the delight of fear.  An opening for magic.  A daring.

Little Blue Door on the left was painted with small brushes and gouged with a plaster tool from the hardware store.

On the right is a photo of an assortment of tools I use all the time.  Three scrape, one scores and my favorite of all The Dental Pick.  AKA hair removal tool.

My hairs, bristle hairs and even Lila’s hair.  All my paintings come with at least one hair.  No extra charge.

Down below is Big Red created with the Big Two Handled Brush (BTHB).  A beautiful thing happens when this brush is loaded with wax; it skims across the surface unloading an expanding flood of color. A two handed backhand down the line.  The crowd goes wild!  Not sure how I got the idea of joining brushes but it worked.  In turn, I needed to find a container a bit larger than the BTHB that I can heat.  Hello Amazon.  Think turkey roasters, large skillets, huge pancake griddles and roasting pans.

These are the big strokes, the fully body gestural movements that continue off the panel.

Big Red is 48″ x 24″ and as the painting developed it became human like in composition and weight.  Notice how the large mass of blue center falls just about where my torso would be if I were standing next to it.  Why could this not be called a figurative painting?

So what’s the wood thing with the nails?  Right.  There is a handle on the other side.  I found this wood plaster tool in Brazil.  I saw it in the hardware store while buying possibly a toilet seat.  Wasn’t quite sure what I could do with it but it had huge potential and it fit in my carry on.  Because it had a handle I realized it could contribute to the large gestural marks I was trying to achieve.  It took a few tries to figure out which way to put the nails but in short time I made a companion to the BTHB!  If you zoom in on Big Red you might be able to see some deep cuts and gouges.  It’s the perfect tool when I want deep, visceral, of the guts marks.

There are no do overs with these big tools.  No way to hide.  They force you out of your comfort zone and to turn an error into a win, however gradually.

XOXO,  Francesca


By |September 2nd, 2017|Categories: Always Be Testing, Studio Wildcat|0 Comments

Are We Done Yet?

I was so proud of myself.  Feeling good about getting into the studio everyday and having some completed work under my torch…

Until today.  I walked into the studio and looked at my “finished” pieces and thought No Way.  It’s not unusual to have pieces of incomplete work around the studio but I was puzzled at how in one day my perception changed so dramatically.

People often ask me:

How do you know when it’s done?

Let me take you through a little bit of my process.  When the painting is larger than 24″ x 24″ I’ll put the panel on the floor and begin the work from there.  The size of the panel determines how close or far I need to be in order to see what I’m doing.  Small pieces are intimate and I can work with them on my table.  I can clearly see what’s on the menu.

But take the unfinished piece below.  It is 40″ x 30″ and has already gone through many iterations.  On the floor I can walk around it and get a feel for how it is coming together; plus it shifts the stiffness of trying to create a “masterpiece” to I’m painting a piece of wood lying on the floor.  Pressure release.  I stand over the work and continue blocking out large shapes.  I look for flow, contrast and surprise.

The image shows how I was too close to the painting and my brushes didn’t match the 1200 square inches in front of me.  I was already into the details before understanding what the pieces was about.  The self centered approach.

I searched for the big brushes.

How I know when it’s done.

Something stops me from continuing.  My forward moving energy slows down as I see the pieces come together.  Imagine twisting a kaleidoscope until the colored pieces fall into position that makes sense to you.  It’s a feeling similar to being in an elevator that comes to an abrupt stop on the ground floor.  End of ride.  Time to exit and get on to the next destination.  It’s not about being right or wrong.  

What I have learned is that being done does not mean the end.  A very distinct difference.  What’s the difference between the end of a chapter and the end of a book?  This is how I view a series of work. Maybe this is how Picasso felt about ending his Blue Period and moving into his Rose Period.  He was done and moved on.  An exhaustion of emotion led to the next interpretation of his surroundings.  

What made today so different from yesterday?

It wasn’t the end of the ride.  There were more edges to challenge and I was still on the elevator.  Going up?



By |August 26th, 2017|Categories: Studio Wildcat|0 Comments
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