Now twenty days past my second vaccine, I can start dealing with things which had been on hold for year plus. The vents in my studio needed flushing/servicing. Because of this, I could not do a painting nor start a CINEFIELD® which would put sheets of tiny cut out components everywhere.
I did my nightly drawing but also continued to hone my Lyra chops. This was perfect medium for my situation as it was like painting but each piece was one session after which I could put equipment away.
Studio is back up and running and i have started a new CINEFIELD®. As these are time consuming, i decided to post some more of my Lyra pieces.
After all the time spent on my last CINEFIELD®, it felt great to get back to painting. I feel all the mediums in which I create are of equal value even though some of my audience only knows me through one of them.
I never want to repeat myself. There are some of my direct peers whose works I enjoy but after knowing them for a few years came the feeling that once you had seen a few of their pieces, you have seen it all. One way to sidestep this is by constantly mixing things up, leaving one’s comfort zone.
For myself, I do this by shaking up my methodology, intentionally putting aside things which I know will work procedurally or which I have done already a few times.
I always like to have my work possess a sort of open ended quality so that the viewer feels that there is a story within but it is up to each person to decide what it is.
This time I changed that up making a work which is intentionally programmatic.
The two books i return to time and again over the course of my life are Homer and Dante. I am far from the first artist in visual arts or letters to find inspiration within the pages of these two works. The appeal for all of us is that they offer so many possibilities of dramatic moments. And even two artists showing the same scene will present two completely different works.
I did not choose a specific scene from Dante. Instead, it is the idea of him following the shade of Virgil, seeing all the shades in their free falls on their way to the various rings.
I only used images for which i personally took the photos. The very bottom section is water rather than flames/lava. I felt that any kind of flame thing would be a little too on the nose, also i had not taken photos of any flames. As always, there is no digital magic. I just used my trusty scissors and adhesive applied with a brush.
Sheltering in place (still), I used whatever materials I had in hand. With all the figures, I got some cardboard, from packages delivered and constructed a little stage. I then painted it white. I painted each figure, applying different coats as to get color variations of darker and lighter blues and reds. I then took photos of the figures from various angles as to have it seem a myriad of different types of people rather than merely the five or six. Top views, side views etc, further create the effect of many types of people on their way to the deserved rings.
I always have a design in mind beforehand and primitively sketch it out. More often than not, as I am actually creating the piece, i tighten up the design. This piece originally had several clock faces from photos i took of the great clock at the Musée d’Orsay. I was going have a row dark blue versions of the girl seen in upper left corner as if the line were falling off top each clock to join all other shades. I was so pleased with the effect of depth and movement in the background of the vast crowd, i decided against it, feeling that it would detract.
I have started reading The William H Gass reader. Right out of the gate I found myself deeply enjoying it. One of the first essays is on books which were touchstones for his life as an author. Early on he makes a point of drawing a distinction, it is not supposed to be a “best books” list but rather ones which resonated personally for him and which served in his journey into becoming an author.
He mentions Flaubert’s Bouvard et Pécuchet. Of the trinity of Flaubert, Balzac and Zola I had always held him in the least esteem (with Zola being, in general, one of my favorite authors). Right before returning to France a few years ago I read the excellent bio on Cezanne by Alex Danchev. Cezanne talks so passionately about Flaubert, i felt the stirrings of considering giving him another try.
That season I kept meeting Helene and Charlie for drinks and book talk. Her admiration of the trio was the inverse of mine. Her description has stuck with me:
“With Balzac, it was all money, money, money if only I had the money. With Zola it was sex, i need power to get sex, I use sex to get money to get power to have sex. But Flaubert, there is an author, the sentences each meticulously crafted.”
I decided to give Flaubert another try. I went to Gagliani and bought Sentimental Education and Bouvard et Pécuchet. I read Sentimental first. It was good, i definitely had more appreciation for Flaubert than I used to. It was Bouvard though which sealed the deal for me. I found the book darkly funny in the way early Celine had been.
What is interesting to me is that when this book is discussed it’s merits are often described via a shorthand of being “funny” ala wacky Swiftian satire. I think people perceive it this way because it and Sentimental Education form perfect bookends. The later is more outwardly “dark”. I like it, but really it is just a romantic era story of squandered potential and the dried up promises of bygone youth. And, of course, the usual chess like romantic patterns of the main characters. Bouvard is actually a darker novel.
Gass has very much same assessment. His articulation spot on and obvious, but not until you have heard him say it.
I would never argue interpretation with someone on art unless they were 100% wrong. With my own work, unlike when I was first starting out, I rarely talk about it. Fascinating though that art can have completely differing interpretations. Is one person wrong or are they merely noticing and emphasizing in talking of it, a different aspect than someone else?
The pandemic has effected people in drastically different ways. I am not talking about how they directly handle it i.e wearing a mask, not wearing a mask et al. Rather, the sea-change that has come over people in regards to their personal philosophy. For some it served as grim reminder that life is fleeting so live while you can. For others, it has served to bring on a sort of cautious vigilance less something else unexpected further swat us down.
A type of cabin fever-life is too short bubbles up in many and temporarily dictates their actions. I find myself getting notes, photos, movies which when looking at, I keep this in mind.
One of the photos which I recently received had an interesting compositional point of balance. I decided to make a painting of it. As i worked on it, I found people all had different interpretations on it. “Hot” “Silly” “Weird” “Beautiful”. Like Bouvard, it has a little bit of everything in it. The main overriding intent is not for me to say as why would I want to make anyone wrong and temper their enjoyment.
I have noticed lately that there are a lot of museum shows & installations “walk through a van Gough painting” type of things using projections and other tech. I am sure this will attract revenue. For anything which is lazy, bad or dare I say plebeian, there are intelligent people out there ready to supply articulation as to justify it. The gimmick as (art) museum show; “This will attract those who don’t usually go to museums.” It is not so much bringing culture to those who normally would not bother but rather a transmutation of it into something akin to the latest block buster movie.
The problem with this is that it makes the artist/work besides the point. It is spectacle as focus and not artist work/intent. The deeper problems with this, as it is many people can not stand in line to get their coffee without keeping their head bent down in their phones as to be blasted by digi-sensations as to distract them from their five minute wait. A Picasso-laser show type thing is further contributing to a complete lack of the public’s ability to “merely” stand and look at a work of art. All art regardless of era and medium has a component of contemplation to it. We are perhaps a few years away from people going to one of the great museums of the world, standing in front of an immortal piece; a Renoir, a Velazquez et al impatiently waiting for the razzle-dazzle to begin.
When reading about art, depending upon where you live, there is a lack of the ability to go out and actually see the painting or works by a specific artist. The internet is good to look something up and get the gist of it, but it can not compete with the real thing. There is a difference. Looking at works mainly online, going to mutli media mutations of an artist’s work have changed what looks “right” or “good” to a modern art audience. They do not want to see brush strokes or other evidence of an artist’s hands which are a part of their voice. A smooth machine like perfection as encountered online, on postcards is what is now preferred.
One could imagine Soutine talking to a gallery owner or museum director and being told “Don’t worry, we will smooth down the rough edges digitally…”
You can’t fight progress nor the populist bent but merely offer an alternative for this willing to explore. The ability to portray flesh in all its beautiful imperfections is something I will never tire of.
During the pandemic I have made constructive use of my time about 90% of the time. Of course now and then I need a break from working & thinking. I’ve tried watching some of the genre shows people talk about. The shows which take place post-apocalyptic, the writing at best is “I wonder what is going to happen next?” Missing from all of these type shows is a largely untouched upon important component.
Of course in middle of a zombie outbreak first consideration is escape, safety. Shelter, food and ability to defend oneself are the primary concerns understandably. Some of these shows have been on for years and they do not really show the toll which would be taken on humanity collectively with the loss of culture. Making things (of beauty) just for the sake of doing so or if one does not have those skills, then viewing them. Life without culture as non-stop collecting or searching for the basic essentials would see a profound rewiring of mankind’s way of acting and thinking. After “X” amount of time, would it even be worth sticking around?
This mental fast food made me reflect on our current situation. I do not think it the duty of artists to put specific messages, rhetoric or agenda in their works. I do however think that, especially in in trying times, it is every artists’ duty to do their thing, create something beautiful.
It serves as a reminder of the better part of humanity awaiting us all when the trouble is over. It unites us all in reminding us there are things which are not unpleasant that link us all all together. One can not avoid bad times, we are all trapped by history. As artists we can put beauty out there, a page saver for when our thoughts and actions can once again look past merely surviving.
Offered up beauty. As usual all the images are from photos I personally took. No digital magic was used, just scissors and adhesive applied with brush.
I do not view one of my mediums as of greater importance than any other. Regardless of what I have done during the day, painting, collage et al at night I sketch. In rough estimation, I probably carry out my night time sketching 360 days a year with arriving in and returning from Europe being the only established days I don’t.
This nighttime sketching is in the parlance of musicians, termed “wood shedding”. It is the equivalent of when a musician practices scales. I am always surprised to hear some of my peers do not do this as even Coltrane continued to constantly practice.
With every collage I do, I learn something new and refine my process. Often I find that when I discover an easier way to do something, there is the feeling that it was so obvious, how had I not thought of it before?
A few nights ago the idea hit me, to wood shed with my collage too. I mulled over initial “rules” knowing that they would most likely be expanded upon as I go.
It’s very important to me that I use my own images from photos which I personally took in my collages. There is always a component of jazz like improvisation in my collages and I worried that using them to wood shed would take away some of that spontaneity and power.
As I had no intentions of showing the results of wood sheds to anyone, i would not be concerned with using images I did not photograph. The other factor of this is that with all the images I use, I do not want to have them appearing over and over again in my work (at least not without a long break in-between). Using other images will keep mine fresh for me. The other rule which immediately came to me is that they should all be small. Usually my collages are time consuming and it would not make sense to have practice work take days on end. Also working small was nice challenge. I do not have uniform size but none of these go much bigger than 3×5.
The few people who I showed these to were very enthusiastic. I must admit that I liked them too. After the first two I established an aesthetic which is beautiful but also slightly off putting. Despite the pleasure i get from even just practicing, I do not see myself putting these up to view too often, so enjoy the initial foray into establishing a new arrow in my quiver.
The sky has finally stopped looking like a martian dawn. I was able to finish the painting which had been on hold for what felt like forever. It was an odd sensation having a painting quarter of the way worked on and having put it aside due to circumstances beyond my control.
I feel fortunate that I had other mediums I could do while I waited (collage & my daily drawing). Finally was able to suss out how to use my new slr camera. I think the photos really show you depth and detail better than i had previously capture with my phone.
“Orange Cardi” 9×12 Watercolor & Multi Media Paper
I have a pretty good rhythm going in what medium I use. Painting, collage..And regardless of what I am working or just finishing, drawing every night. Within each medium I mix things up to keep it fresh. Different types & sizes of paper.
More often than not I prefer not to give concrete explanations of my work. I would rather each viewer forms their own opinions as to what it’s about/means.
“Time of Legend” is not meant to be mocking nor satire. Originally I had imagined the skin to show more signs of sunburn but thought the splotches of angry red would serve as visual prompts for a program which I did not intend.
“Time of Legend” is about someone completely comfortable in their skin. I am sure that there are moments when the model has dark nights of the soul. Unhappy with his lot in life, angry and sad that he will never get the (beautiful) girl or some other type angst. But for this moment, he was satisfied and living the life.
I imagine at the end of the day, he goes home sleepy from the sun, his phone rings. One of his friends desiring the Joie de vivre which he brings with him to gatherings:
“Hey, what’s going on?”
“I just got back from the park, I had the best sausage sandwich, got some sun.”
I think one of the most important challenges facing an artists in any medium is to establish their voice. Fame, power etc is relative and at best a side effect. I want a recognizable voice but to never lapse into mere mannerism. One way to avoid this is to foster constant evolution. This does not mean one has to reject whatever chops or artistic mission they have established. Leaving your comfort zone of established methodology shakes things up and prevents any sort of procedural laziness.
Another important facilitator is venturing out past established influences and inspirations. Music is my main source of inspiration and while i have definite favorite touchstones which I will never abandon, i also constantly explore. A dormant aspect of creating for many artists now is an openness past what they know and like.
With my collages, once I realized how much i liked doing them I started refining my process. Then I tried challenging myself by changing the size. Further dialogues with myself, and I realized I wanted to be able to do them on the road. I figured out how to do that. I do not want my collages to be enjoyed but also with the underlying sense of “seen one, seen them all”. To keep things fresh I continue to change the size, not eliminating any (sizes) from my repertoire. My two new current challenges are to do an intentional linked series “Boplicty # 1-?” and a triptych.
All my collages are made with images of photos I personally took. I use no digital magic, just my trusty scissors and adhesive applied with a brush. I want to give the viewer a sense of an open ended, dense narrative.