New paintings by S.Tudyk beckon you to inhabit giant hand-written letters, magnifying the art of correspondence to a monumental scale.
In her daily life, Tudyk seems as dedicated to letter-writing as one of my all-time heroes, C.S. “Jack” Lewis, who was known to spend daily time carefully responding to all his fan letters. Her letter-writing habits and love of the old-school “Palmer Method of Writing” might make her a counter-cultural phenom: in an email-heavy culture, she prefers snail mail, and the beauty of a well-formed letter. She secluded herself on an artist retreat in creative haven Marfa, TX in late 2014, focusing on the ideas that became this body of work.
I have only been able to enjoy these paintings online; I live nowhere near Portland, OR, where the work is exhibited. But Sam took the time to answer my questions about her art via the interwebs, talking about her specific processes and some meanings behind her newest collection of artworks from “Eid Ma Clack Shaw” on view at Oranj Studios in Portland, OR.
mosleslie’s note: I commented and asked questions work by work, in the order they’re presented online at Sam’s website. Some of my questions apply to the body of work, but all the questions are inspired by something from the particular painting in focus.
I Started Out in Search of Ordinary Things
acrylic on canvas 48″ x 36″ x 1.5″ 2015
The bright white seems to be literally reflecting off the inner, dark “letter walls;” I love the glow! Can you talk about your process for planning the painting? What did you do first, etc.?
Before I started painting, I set up photography, determined my values and prepped the canvases for a smooth finish. Then I plotted out where the lines should fall.
After I painted in my lines, I set song lyrics into a pattern with a handwritten typeface on my computer.
How did you get that glow?
The glow was set up initially with contrasting values, and at the finish I added a white glaze to boost it.
What specific types of acrylic paints and techniques did you use?
I painted with a combination of high flow acrylics, absorbent ground and acrylic flow release. It was a process of trial and error.
Can you tell me more about the song lyrics?
Most of the song lyrics were taken from a compilation of music made for me during my stay in Marfa. It was the first time I didn’t use my own stream of consciousness for the content. I think of letters as containers for memories. And I knew that the memories of my time spent in Marfa would attach themselves to those songs I listened to repeatedly in the moment. Within the songs, I chose content that related to dreams, memories, and some of the things I was processing in my mind during my retreat.
I’m very curious about how you made those crisp lines and what made the blurry lines blurry…
A lot of the trial an error was with laying down the cursive with a soft focus. I tried high flow acrylics in a marker cartridge. This offered a terribly precise line, which wasn’t always what I wanted, but good for an in-focus affect. I also used Open Acylics with a brush. I applied just a few letters of a word at a time, then pushed it with a brush called “Scruffy.” It makes me laugh; I lost it for a few days, and just kept wandering around asking, “Where is Scruffy??” It’s a cheap brush made by Plaid – you use it without water. An overall glaze in the end softened the lines.
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