Archives for posts with tag: oil

There is a lot in my work that is about tension, space, density and relation between objects and people. Recently I have been looking at past work and realizing that I really have been exploring these issues for nearly ten years. The work drifts a bit, but the core of it always holds tight to these themes. I find the way we as people fill space, whether it be by cars on a road or with silence, something is always there. Filling or leaving us wanting.

I Wish We Could Speak by Heather Riley

I Wish We Could Speak
7.75 x 5.5 x 1.75 inches
Oil and found wood on panel


Saturday in Lima by Heather Riley

Saturday in Lima
20.5 x 12 x 1.75
Oil, wood floorboard on panel


There has been plenty of work happening in the studio this past month. It’s always reassuring when the work gets into a bad place and then I eventually can get it out. Some works often have to be taken apart, painted over, or partially destroyed in order to move forward, but I have accepted this as part of the process. Both 328 (60 x 24 inches) and Witnesses (48 x 30 inches) below have gone through several lives and are finally settling into themselves. Balloons at Night (30 x 22 inches) always knew what it would be -and that happens sometimes too. All of the works below are still in progress.

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I’ve been busy in the past months making plenty of work and finally getting my studio site up and running. Check it out at

I’ve continued with the wood pieces that I started making in February, and they have lead to other work of course. After a trip to Lima, I returned home to find that most of my work has been dealing with density and space. Here is a little slideshow showing the work in progress in the studio right now:

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I’ve been spending a decent amount of time walking around the city taking pictures – so that I can use them for landscape reference in paintings. One day, after a particularly warm day with storm clouds, I came back to the studio and painted this.

City Summer
24 x 18 inches
Oil and graphite on canvas

This piece was an excellent example of how I can go too far… or rather not stop myself early enough. It’s like I passed the point where the piece had a decent resting place and just kept going… much to my dismay. This created a bunch of issues with the work. I ended up liking parts of it, but not the whole. Too — fractured. Going forward I will isolate the parts I like and then paint and draw from those parts. It has become apparent to me that I can use collage as a starting point as well as a medium.

The Middle by Heather Riley, Philadelphia Artist

The Middle
Colored Pencil, conte, graphite, paper, acrylic and oil on wood
2′ x 4′

My friend Matt King saw this piece and said it looked like my Greatest Hits – which I of course thought was super awesome and hilarious. He is right in a certain way – many of the elements in my work are returning… but in a new way. This is satisfying, but I struggle with not falling into old comfortable habits. In the past I never would have taken a black conte and drawn a big fat line across a piece. I definitely would have paused, talked myself out of it and let the weaker piece live how it was. Now I don’t hesitate because I have become so comfortable with my line. This is a success. The piece is still in progress.

Thanks to my friend Matt Herzog for helping me to navigate the tricky waters of occurrence, choice and a feisty diagonal.

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Intersection 12
Graphite, ink, glued paper, oil, acrylic,  and conte on paper
22″ x 30″

Collage and assemblage has been creeping into my mind in recent weeks – must be all that Rauschenberg I’ve been looking at. Most of my work for years had some element of collage. There is something about torn paper, repositioned words, flat colors and photos that just grab that graphic image lover in me. In the studio I am trying to not judge my ideas when it comes to my work – so if I think, “I want to put a piece of paper on there,” I do it. If the paper is on there and I want to take it off, I do. I don’t question – and it leads to wonderful (most of the time) little discoveries. This is a work in progress.

“Intersections 3”
Oil on board with printed paper
4 x 2 feet

Detail of “Intersections 3”

Further exploration on a theme – intersections, reactions, moments, withdrawals – within the context of spacial volume, infinite time…

“Intersections 2”
Oil, charcoal and graphite on canvas
30 x 40 inches

Both color and shape are making their way into back into my work. It is an interesting challenge to welcome and incorporate them… after working in the black, white and grays that I have been prevalent in my work for weeks. I admit it was a little shocking to mix up this yellow. It does feel a bit like awakening however… both with myself and my work. This process of returning to line, to basics to a limited neutral palette has opened up a wider world in terms of art making. My work now doesn’t look like how it looked before. Everything is becoming much more possible.

“Streamers in the Storm”
Oil and charcoal on board
4 x 2 feet

Detail of “Streamers in the Storm”

I am continuing to experiment with materials in conjunction with line, space, volume and texture in my studio. It had been suggested to me several times by one of my critics to take up oil painting once again so I took her up on it. It is a slow process getting back into it after almost 15 years away from it – but I am remembering why the medium was so wonderful to work with.

Oil, charcoal, matte medium on paper
28 x 30 inches

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