Sometimes We Can Only Listen
An audio extra! Listen to Tabby Ivy describe the intuitive process of creating her abstract paintings
*Hit the play button to listen to Tabby Ivy read this piece aloud.
Often when reading’s work, or in this case, watching his documentary film Koppmoll, about the survivors of the Nazi occupation of Norway in WWII, I have to stop and savor his words for a while. Such was the case with this phrase from the film:
“We can believe we have answers, but sometimes we can only listen.”
One day in 2020 I decided to experiment with a more abstract approach to a painting, using cold wax medium. Cold wax looks like Crisco. It is beeswax with a small amount of solvent to soften, and other ingredients to aid in drying. When mixed into oils, cold wax adds a texture to the paint and lends itself to layering, scraping and solvent reductions. It brings an intuitive and spontaneous approach to the piece.
I began layering paint on the panel, scraping, removing, adding another layer, removing again, thickening layers, thinning layers, solvent reductions, all to expose underlying texture and paint. Gradually the painting began to take form. I began to slow down and pay attention to what I was saying and what it needed to become. I began to listen.
Many critics and writers have commented about how artists bring their whole life to what they paint. How each brushstroke comes from a place within themselves. Nowhere is this more apparent than with an abstract painting. The unconscious self is allowed to come forward. It is at this moment that the artist needs to get out of the way and let the painting guide us forward.
Fast forward to 2021. I decided to do another cold wax painting, again with no plan or intention, but somewhere in my mind a painting took form. The result was a sister painting to the one completed in 2020. I paired them together as a diptych.
As I look at the completed diptych now, and each and every time I look at it, I see something new. I notice an area of subtle texture, a hint of color coming through, or a line that guides me to a new place within the painting. None of this was planned but is evidence of its history. The two panels of this painting were done over a year apart but amazingly they share the same story.
This work appears in Between Artists, Life in Paintings and Prose, by Damon Falke and Tabby Ivy. You can preorder from the second printing of the “Between Artists” book (the first printing sold out!) at tabbyivy.com/books
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Tabby Ivy is a painter living in Bigfork, Montana. Painting came to her late in life. Her studio is in a converted golf cart garage. It is a sanctuary for painting and reading her vast collection of art books. www.tabbyivy.com
thanks so much for your comment, Amy. yes, that was the fascinating thing to me! I guess there was more to say after doing the first painting. I had no intention that the second one would have any connection to the first. the two together are so much more powerful, as you say.
What a beautiful diptych, and so interesting that Tabby made these two pieces a year apart. The title, "Sometimes We Can Only Listen" speaks to the subtle details that make these so strong and provocative. Thanks for sharing your story about this painting!