Monday, January 30, 2012


Blue Streak, oil on linen, 24 x 24", 2011

What are you working on in the studio right now?

Currently I’m working in a small-scale with black and white (and grayed color) in something I’m tentatively calling “Milk-Paint Drawings”. I’m combining drawing techniques and process with painting media and attempting to blend the two.

Can you describe your working routine?

Ideally, a daily routine means I wake early, meditate, get to the studio, put on wordless music or a song in a foreign language I don’t understand ( ex: Nusrat Fateh Ali Kahn, Philip Glass, Virginia Rodriguez, or experimental sound works by my friend, Daniel Hill, etc…)If I’m working large I’m often on the floor (pouring paint, etc.) or if small-scale I work on a shelf – always mindful to step back and see the work in a fresh way.
At noon, I break for lunch and have time to just sit still and really look at what was done, scrutinize it. Recently, I found a small trampoline by the dumpster and brought it in my studio – I’m experimenting now with bouncing as I look – especially if I’m feeling restless. Sometimes I write notes – almost like poems in a sketchbook – but this is something only for me – it’s very personal, open-ended, associative kind of thinking, like a dream diary.

Can you describe your studio space, and how if at all, that affects your work?

My studio has a wall of windows facing north, with good, even light. The view is of another Pencil Factory building,-- not very spectacular or distracting. I have a decent amount of floor space and a large palette on wheels. I want to keep everything is easily moveable.  One wall is for storage of paintings and supplies. The other two walls are devoted for making and viewing paintings. I keep a full-length mirror to view my work backwards – a trick I use to surprise my view of the work and keep it vital. Also, my husband has the studio next to mine – (his sculptures and method are quite different from my work) during breaks, we’ll take a peek at one another’s studio --offer observations and encouragement. However, we try not to critique when either of us is “in process”. 

Silverpoint styllus, vine charcoal
& graphite on paper, 8 x 6 ", 2012

Tell me about your process, where things begin, how they evolve, etc…

I tend to create work in series, though not necessarily on purpose – by this I mean, I don’t wake up one day and set out to make a body of work, on “plant life”, but I actively invite and pursue inspiration by noticing what’s around me/ available. – I “trust my muse” and I keep working. Then, one day, looking back, I’ll say “Oh, this appears to make a group of a sort” --It happens organically. Often one series bleeds into another. I try not to worry over this anymore (as I used to)  – it’s how creativity evolves.

My latest work began during this past summer in France, with a pocket sketchbook. I had been intensely involved with color before my trip, but travel made me limit what I could carry and reduce my media to a silverpoint stylus, charcoal, graphite stick and eraser. The black and white became an interesting limitation. Thinking about it now, it also seems to signify the “memory of a time” to me.

These drawing-paintings I’m making in my studio now, come out of looking back on those sketches, but they are also their own things. Recently, I saw a terrific print show in Baltimore and I think this has been an influence on me as well, especially the lithographs by Odilon Redon. In some of my new work, I’m using birch panels so I can really wrestle with surface, etch into it, do some mono printing and even a bit of carving!

What are you having the most trouble resolving?

Initially, I had a hard time acknowledging this new shift --I thought: “OK, I’m working in black and white while looking at seed pods or drawings of plants.”—It felt like a big departure because I view of myself as a colorist who makes abstract paintings. Allowing a touch of muted color has helped. Still, I wonder how long I will continue in this vein. I’m itching to move into larger scale paintings and suspect I will want to involve more color (perhaps indigo dye) – and I want to continue to explore drawing space as well as light and value range. Additionally, I’m coming to terms with the jumble of re-occurring themes: Nature; landscape; pattern and abstraction. Sometimes my paintings may appear to the viewer as completely non-objective and at other times quite specific. Then I’ll think of those exquisite botanical drawings by Ellsworth Kelly and it brings confidence. In any case, I believe the debate of figuration vs. abstraction is a non-issue.

Duo, oil on birch panel, 14 x 11", 2012

Do you experiment with materials a lot or do you prefer to work within certain parameters?

I love all paint media. – I love the malleability of paint and how its viscosity can go from watery to buttery, and the surface changes from chalky to juicy. I love the range and variety of pigments and their history – all of it is enthralling to me. However, I’m not so much a technician as an alchemist. As a gift, I received a book on paint recipes that I’m eager to try some involve eggs and various oils and vinegar emulsions, lavender spike, and that sort of thing. It may just be art lore, but I’ve heard that de Kooning tried all kinds of things in his paint – even mayonnaise! In fact, working within a narrow color-range has opened me up to even more experimentation with paint-stuff. I’m using milk-paint (which is a wonderful saturated, flat-matte surface made from lye) in combination with high-gloss enamel and graphite powder and even a little silver leaf.

What does the future hold for this work?

Well, I suppose I’ll post some of my new work on my website --and see if anyone salutes.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Thank you Valerie, it's been a pleasure

Hay-maker Moon, oil on linen, 48 x 36", 2012

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this interview and the glimpse into Molly Herman's studio and working processes. You've given us a lot to think about -- and I do really like both this work and the work from 2011. Wonderful work...