What would you do with an endless supply of paint at your disposal?
Anything and everything is possible when you have materials at your hand, which is why the Sam and Adele Golden Foundation is such a unique artist-in-residence program. Being able to spend four weeks immersed in paint really opened the doors to testing out the possibilities of acrylics (as well as oils and watercolors).
Our large studio and living spaces were located in a big red barn just across the road from their paint factory, so our first week was spent taking various 2-hour long tech classes to go over materials. For instance, there was a Grounds and Mediums tech, a Pouring tech, a Watercolor tech, as well as some extra classes on varnishing and archival practices.
After coming straight from the MFAST summer courses (where I spent most of my time working on video and other projects) to paint paradise, it was sort of shocking, relieving, and needed to go from conversations about concept and theory to conversations about beauty, materiality, and image-making. While I love being able to push my own notions of what art can be, I truly missed painting and the power images and textures have.
In the past having worked with sculpted oil paint with drying oils mixed in, my main goal of this residency was to find a way to translate the same qualities of oil paint that I love (the buttery consistency, the elasticity it has when you sculpt semi-dry paint, and the way it dries the same thickness when applied) to acrylics. But acrylics are not oils: they dry darker and thinner than when applied and have a certain plastic feel to them.
The first few weeks comprised of a lot of utter failure. It was a bit disheartening to see things take shape in the other two artist’s studios as there was no “proof” of work in mine, but I kept chugging along. I made many tests that turned into nothing, but I made it my goal to test out every single acrylic medium that Golden makes (and even many custom products too, which I didn’t even know they did). Eventually, all of the failures came together and I finally found a few solutions to my problem of converting my sculpted oil paint process over to acrylic paint, and now the possibilities seem endless! Not only does the paint dry so much faster so I can work faster, I’m loving not leaving behind a big oily mess or being consumed by oil paint fumes.
I will say that I’ve never worked with such a sense of urgency before, working usually until 3 a.m. each morning, then waking up before eight to keep the good mojo going. Though I didn’t make as many finished pieces as the other artists, I felt that I really got the most out of my time there. It seemed like it would be a waste of a residency NOT to be a mad scientist with these materials and try everything possible. I can make finished paintings anytime, but it’s not every day that you get the chance to screw around with a gallon of light molding paste just to see what would happen.
Having a solid studio practice at home is important, but it’s also good to consider how residencies have the potential to impact your practice in ways you can’t even imagine, whether it’s meeting and talking with artists, being inspired by the new landscape, or experimenting with new materials. It’s always good to find ways to shake things up in your studio practice, and the Golden Foundation definitely did that for me.