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Just another THE WHOLE 9 weblog

Amy Bernays is an artist living and working in Los Angeles, California. Bernays graduated with a BA (honors) in Fine Art from Central St Martins, London in 2001. Her paintings are landscapes of personal interaction; poems to the love of line. Amy is a prolific and engaging anthropologist and mother whose work is gaining momentum.

How Long does it Take to Paint a Painting?

Somebody asked me the other day how long it takes to paint a painting.

I have been working on this one for 5 years.

Well, maybe not this same canvas. (I did have a neurotic Art History professor at college who had been working on the same painting for 8 years. He was also obsessed with Vermeer’s floors)

I first painted this back in London in 2006.


Last weekend there was an artist workshop at the conference center where I work. The workshop leader wanted participants to complete their paintings in one day. I don’t think anyone managed.
There are often times I think I have finished a painting in one day but I usually go back to them after a few days have passed and change or add something.

Depends on how intricate and demanding the subject matter is, what medium you’re using, how large the painting is, how confident you are in your vision, how experienced and adept you are, how many revisions you make… Obviously there is no answer to this question. I have artist friends who have been working on the same painting for years (usually along with completing a number of others). Leonardo da Vinci took 4 years to paint “The Last Supper”. Picasso created over 13,000 paintings and 300 sculptures in his lifetime. You do the math.

To Crop or Not?

I sometimes cheat by just tacking canvas to a large board. This way I can stretch and prime the ground of paintings but I don’t have to nail my self down to a particular size.  It then doesn’t matter if the image strays off into its own tangent.

The two small Power House paintings happened this way. They were perched onto the cut off of one such “free scale” canvas. There was about two foot of primed, stretched canvas just hanging out at the edge and so I scribbled these paintings that had occurred to me one October evening.

When I went on to make the Power House a bigger painting, I wasn’t totally sure about how it would sit on a much bigger scale. I thought I wanted to close in on the big sky. Perhaps cut out some of the clutter and let the great, cold, sky loom lonely with just the power pylon for company.

But now I am not so sure. I kind of liked the original’s stilts. It sat regally atop a hill like a grand mansion or noble forgotten past. This cropped image has more simple and deliberate geometry. More contemporary compositional shapes but it also seems sadder; like the back-story was lost.

Anyway, it is good to talk it out and to crop it digitally before I co tearing through the real canvas.



Power House

Power House 8×10″ 2011

In this painting the cross of the power cable to mimics the Christian Cross. The new power over people is in electricity and our digital footprint rather than the control religion used to have over our lives.

I think I will make it bigger as this one is only 8×10inches. I like the dusky handling, the ‘about to rain’ highlights, the slight dystopian feel…


The way the power cable looms in this painting makes me feel almost trapped. But the negative spaces give me hope that one day electricity won’t have such a hold on the world.

Thanks, I thought it might be a little dark and depressing. With these shortening days I find myself turning on all the lights in the house. next painting I want to include the glow of illumination but I don’t want the ‘hope’ in the painting to come form the artificial light… not sure how to compose it.

Religion’s still a surprisingly powerful force in much of the world, including the US. I like the idea of electricity in an apocalyptic battle with theology for dominion over the hearts and soul of mankind. It’s such an oddball conflict, although I suppose electricity could be stand-in for science, or progress or communication, or any number of things. Let there be light! Electricity is not artificial, nor is it an artifact of man: A lightbulb may be, but then so is ‘art’. And if ‘god’ created all these things, as most Judaeo-Christian adherents believe, then there is no ‘unnatural’ thing in the universe. someone should do a graphic novel about the adventures of Jesus vs ‘Sparky’.

Really like your painting, by the way. I don’t know if I’d describe it as electrifying, but it’s gray fog atmosphere is evocative and the composition is powerful.

Wonderful. Great concept and technique. I love your work.

Planning Painting

Blue Picnic

Oil on Canvas 30×24 2011

There are paintings drifting in my thoughts; snaps of thoughts and memories. They are breaths and wisps of colors and forms.

If I let my mind not my brushes do the painting, if I over plan the final work turns out stale; like my hands were bored when it came time to commit it to canvas.

I wanted to paint something more like a memory, less literal, more emotive. Like a Sunday picnic, a weekend plan, a date in the park that I didn’t quite get too. I am peering through the trees, the cross of the branches keeping just out of the scene.

Hints to the shape of the leaves that surround me, the purple, the greens, the slight yellow of a cool sun; I meant to be there.

Sun Hats

I went on holiday with a bunch of girls, it was like being back at college. We all sat in a row beneath our sun hats and shades, reading glamour magazines about the new prints and pumps and fall collections.

I started this plan for a painting. I wanted the two figures to be one, like one was the alter-ego of the other. I want to combine the weave of a thick heavy canvas with the weave of the lounger. I want the lines of the sun hat, strait and rigid, to juxtapose with a free brush stroke of her cascading hair.


How fun!….I am looking forward to seeing the painting you do from these sketches.

My Summer Holidays

I keep looking at patterns, the stripes, the leaves on the lawn, the blue of the plumb tree, the hash of the fence.

Does it still count as my art if I  painted the fence and not the image?


I think they call that an “installation piece” !….again, your photograph is art.

My blues

I was listening to a song today, I want to make art like the blues.


This would be a great theme for a show….I Love your photograph.

4th of July

What joy, to have the holidays looming. Here’s to a million mowed lawns. Happy preparations, may the 4th be with you.

The End

It started out as this little study of two people walking home. I wanted to know where they were going. I wanted this painting to be some sort of plan for the future, a metaphor for marriage maybe, or retirement.  A promise of future plans, a future life you might have.

The End of the Dune 12×10

I loved the dry of the scene with the toothy texture of the thick weave canvas. I liked it so I made it again on a much larger scale.

The End House 24×48x2

I never really got to love the large one all that much. It came one day to hang in my living room. The painting that usually hangs there is being used at the orange house.  To fill the living room wall, I dragged the bigger less successful version out of the studio.

It was on a Saturday night, as I watched a friend look at it I felt both guilty that the painting was not as good as I wanted it to be but secretly hoping that he would see the feeling underneath. For the evening and in my sleep that night I thought of how to fix it.

This may seem strange. I painted over both of its major features; the couple and the party house. I just didn’t think that people belonged in this painting of the future. That somehow by it being populated, it meant that I was not there. I thought that perhaps an empty painting might get the feeling across.

The End 24×84x2

I am so glad to be back in the studio.





I like all 3, but respond most to the first one. It seems the most poignant. There’s a certain evocative atmosphere you’ve captured in the colors, textures and composition. I like the slightly greater distance fromhe 2 people and that you’ve given them more personality (clearly they are a man and woman, friends, probably lovers or married; something not apparent in the 2nd painting). Paintings 2 and 3 have more of a flat look; less detail, less texture, the yellow glaze… for me, this makes them appear more decorative and more lonely, downright empty in the 3rd. Personally, I like the ambiguity of tone and implication in the first rendition: You don’t know whether to read it as happy or sad, tranquil or discontented, pregnant with promise or sadness. That uncertainty gives the painting more depth and resonance.

Orange House

I know that it is not throwing paint at a canvas but if William Leavitt’s exhibition Theater Objects at is anything to go by that’s okay, it can still be art.

3507 Marathon Street

This Sunday, June 5th 2-5pm it is our first open house, we have done our best to make this house a great place to live and maybe even a work of art.

Walking in across stepping stones made of tree trunks, it is like walking through a cut down forest. A large lawn lazes at the front of the house, a romping area for kids to play. Stretching out to a place at the end where you can lie in the sun under a tree and read a the Sunday papers.

I love to grow vegetables. I am terrible at it. My peppers are small, squat and crusty but full of pluck, and the squash lounges like an unwelcome teenager creating mess wherever it grows. We tucked the raised vegetable beds behind the wall of the sun room, out of sight of the horizon of lawn.

The whole garden is private by a hedge of leafy Podocarpus. Because we are organic in our gardening it is filled with ladybirds, even a brightly colored cricket likes to sun himself under the purple Rubinia tree.

The interior had many of the original fittings: the old telephone cupboard, a great O’Keefe and Merritt stove, the original wood floor inlayed with the history of the house.

We had to do months of boring, expensive, unglamorous work to get here: the foundation, the heating and air, the water heater, the electric, the drainage all needed to be addressed. Modern homes are massive complex machines and this one has had a total overhaul.

Like the discrepancy between saving plastic bags vs air travel, 70% of the volume of modern landfills is building waste. Remodeling is one of the greenest things one can do. By intelligent design we can use a fraction of materials that demolition or new build do and create homes in traditional central urban areas that are both stylish and efficiently use resources.

We have made sound ecological choices throughout the house. A tank-less water heater, energy star appliances, even down to the gutters that gather the water that falls on the roof so that you can use it in the garden. This is a really green house.

We started with a forgotten old house with a failing foundation, out dated, ugly, and unloved. We have poured creative energies into it, which was easy to do as I am with out a studio right now. Both aesthetic and functionally ecological, we have made a really beautiful home,

Many more photos at

Please come to our open house on Sunday and see it for your self.

Thanks for looking,


You can see my paintings at or on the walls of the house!


Nice job. So modern! Is that your furniture, or has the house been ’staged’? It looks like it originally was a Spanish style house from the late 20’s or early 30’s (fireplace, arched doorways, picture window- although it’s been replaced, and of course the inlaid floors and other historic details you speak of). After putting all that time, effort and no doubt $ into the house, why are you selling it? Why not live there awhile and enjoy it while waiting for the real-estate market to rebound? Silver Lake’s a cool area.

I know, I would love to live there but my husband will kill me if I make him move. It really feels like a holiday every time I go there. Plus art sales are good but now quite enough to pay my mortgage so we have to sell.