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Mason-Steeves, Painting
Janice Mason Steeves, Silence 11, 24"x24", oil/cold wax on panel, 2012
Artists Using Cold Wax Medium

Speaking of Silence Series: The Process

by Janice Mason Steeves

Janice Mason Steeves
Janice Mason Steeves, Silence 11, 24"x24", oil/cold wax on panel, 2012

In painting this series, I work (mostly) without using any tools or brushes. I choose the colours I intend to work with, mix up many gradations with cold wax medium, and have them ready on the palette. I wear latex gloves on my hands. I've been going through many, many pairs for each painting because I either have to wipe them carefully each time I change colours, or put on a new pair. Then I put my fingers into the paint, rubbing my hands together to spread the paint/wax mixture evenly on my palms and fingers. Sometimes I even mix the paint right on my hands…dipping say into one colour and then into another colour and then blending them as I rub my hands together. I love the intensity of the physical contact with the paint and with the surface. There is a quiet patting sound as I apply the paint. The sound of silence perhaps. I began my art career as a potter so getting my hands into my work comes naturally and it feels like the energy moves into the work more directly, without the intervention of the brush or other tools.

I work so intuitively that I never know how each painting will progress. Sometimes I work a contrasting colour on the initial layer, letting that set up before I work other layers over top. But often I don't plan in advance and simply choose the colours I want to work with that day and begin. I have the panel flat on my worktable at first, gradually applying the layers and colours, blending and mixing them together. Then as the painting progresses, I set the panel up on the easel and work on it more there, where I can get the distance from it to see how the composition is working. It goes up and down from the table to the easel and back countless times. It's a physical process especially if I work on 60x60" panels! There comes a time when the paint surface is quite thick, and it needs to set up overnight or for a few days. So I set it aside and work on another painting in progress. When I work on it again the next day or subsequent days, I find I can't just work on an area or section. Most often I have to rework the entire surface to have the colours blending as I want them to.

I'm working in silence right now in my studio. Painting Silence and working in silence. Often I listen to classical music as I paint. Sometimes jazz. But this series seems to demand that I paint in silence.

A friend mentioned to me that the paintings seem to be about breath. Painted breath. I love that idea. Breath caught in an image, like your warm breath making fog on a cold winter day.

Another friend came into my studio and before I told her what the series was called, she whispered, "These are so quiet."

Silence. Breath. Another word for inspiration.