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All About the Process

Several TAPPAN artists talk about their process, how it's evolved, what makes them unique, and what they struggle with.

Struan Teague
"My process is a constant push and pull between finding and losing control. Any changes to my overall way of working tend to happen over a long period of time without me really being aware of them until later on. In the last 3 years I've worked in 3 different studios in 3 different countries, which obviously has a significant impact on my process--it's refreshing but disruptive. But I have one small metal tool, like a odd shaped paint scraper, that I’ve used in some way on just about every painting I’ve ever made. Totally the most important item in my studio, and a constant. The nature of my painting means I make a lot of mistakes, there’s been quite a few paintings I’ve ruined along the way--but it would be boring if it was right every time!"

Jenny McGee
"My process begins by culling the stacks of ideas and inspiration that build up in my mind and deciding which to focus on. I often have a particular color combination or pattern in mind, or a particular moment that I noticed in a landscape and I start to explore what that might look like as a material and a process. I currently have a few styles that I employ that are sort of the foundation of each work that I make; collage, gouache painting, and cutting paper. I don't do a ton of planning in advance of making a work, so when I sit down to work it's all kind of coming out for the first time. A lot of my process is editing, so painting something and then cutting it up and rearranging it and then maybe painting over it again. I have a two and half year old son, so my life and artistic process has completely molded around my role as a mother first. In the time since he was born I have actually found that my process has blossomed and I have been able to expand my practice; there is a certain intention and urgency that exists once you become a parent. It's beautiful and challenging at the same time."

Anna Valdez
"My process shifts based on my studio goals. Typically my paintings start as observations. Through drawing I figure out my composition and then work from those sketches. My underpaintings tend to be the most exciting part of my process because they are completely about discovery. I find so many interesting moments and relationships by working through the underpainting. As I progress through a painting I tend to tighten up the work. Since I am always open to change, my work shifts as I grow. Each year brings a different focus or goal in the studio. Last year I was heavily focused on composition. This year I am continuing that focus but adding “light” as a goal and thus I tend to be incorporating more windows and reflections into my paintings. I like how open to discovery I am. It’s something that pushes me forward in my painting and feeds my curiosity. Studio visits, whether formal or informal, encourage new perspectives and ideas, too. I think the dialogue generated through studio visits is one of the most important aspects of my artistic development. Those conversations are not only helpful in obtaining fresh concepts but they help me articulate my own."

Stephen D'Onofrio
"My creation process is currently pretty fluid. I normally come across a couple of things a day that I’ll either take photos of or write down.  After like a week or so, I’ll revisit those images and thoughts. By then most of them feel stupid, but there are always a few that will stay put. I just keep doing this and if, after like a month or so, an idea has stuck around, I’ll sit down and begin to figure out how I want to execute it. At this point in my career, I’ve almost completely abandoned drawing in a sketchbook. I used to allot time out of my practice to just sit and draw, or carry around a notebook filled with sketches and doodles. Now my phone and computer act as my sketchbook and almost everything I do up until I make the painting is digital. It’s not nearly as romantic as a sketchbook, but allows me to constantly be sketching and taking in potential seeds for new work. I think my process differs because of the way I’m constantly collecting fragmented pieces of imagery. This leaves me with a database of different forms, images and patterns that I can then distill and index. It’s a different way of building an image but allows for more experimentation. I’m calculated when I’m painting, working in time blocks and keeping track of the paint applied per hour so I can go back after I finished and look for moments of inefficiency. I think some people like to work through their paintings on the canvas, but by the time I get to the canvas it’s mostly about the fastest cleanest execution possible. I even contemplated filming myself like an athlete would so I can review it after a painting was finished."

Alice Quaresma
"My process is about revisiting images in my archive in order to deconstruct them. I collect every image I take, so I am constantly digging into my images without any chronological order. After I print them I start to react over the photograph with paint, markers, tape, paper and many other materials that would challenge the description quality of the photograph. My intention is to create an element of surprise by making the viewer discover the image instead of the image be given to them. I confront my photographs with different materials exploring subjective qualities in photography. The final result is dictated by the way the materials react over the photo paper, making the final results out of my control. I am constantly trying to move away from my comfort zone, from controlling my work too much. Over thinking in my practice always hurts the surprise element in my work. Everything I choose to do in my life becomes part of my work in one way or the other."

Jean Nagai
"I used to draw and I wanted to show that on a greater scale. I was trying to condense as much space as I could so I would make small marks and then build on those to try and show that sense of scale to try to make it huge and slowly that turned from me just making lines to making circles because a circle just seemed more full without having a lot of symbolism. I am just looking for composition and harmony and getting the spacing correct. One way my process has evolved is maybe switching the paint. The blue I’ve been using was coming from Japanese art and I wanted to align myself with that and with the purple, this might be weird and doesn’t really make sense, but I was thinking about America being red, white and blue and when you mix those colors you have purple. To me it’s a patriotic color. I think people see, in my work, that there is harmony and respect and admiration for nature and these colors are based on the plants and the sunset and also think about people, especially being here with these dots representing different kinds of people."