Two Tales: Vertical intoxication/Elation

I can fully appreciate nature. It offers a different kind of inspiration than that of the man made kind. However, I can only go so long without concrete under my feet and the smears of neon streaking the air like forgotten halos.

When based out of Europe some of my friends teased me about this but for them, coming to visit me was their vacation, so it’s understandable that they wanted to see things as would not be encountered elsewhere. A few hours train ride and you can get your fill of mountains, Forrest or ocean. I enjoy it for a day or two, all of it being bearable as I have my pencil in my pocket along with its accompanying little sketch pad.

Right by one of my Parisian watering holes they put up a plaque a few years ago for Poulenc, who had lived in the building. When all his peers were going to Italy, the warmer climes of the South of France & Brazil, he largely preferred to stay in Paris with the concrete under his feet and the availability of a place to stop for a drink every few feet. Now further inoculated against the good natured teasing I swim through the currents of streets and alleys which I could probably now do blindfolded.

“Ok, have fun in Giverny, I am around just working, drop me a line when you guys get back.”

“It’s going to be hot, you sure you won’t come, we can catch a later train.”

“No thank you, I am just working.”

One can not become a connoisseur of a thing without a component of snobbishness. It is an earned right though and so long as it’s not utilized against anyone else, is permissible. I like all kinds of cities and feel the better ones all have something visually to offer by way of inspiration.   The older ones, aside from their obvious architectural attractions, have their winding streets and the sense of happy ghosts. The newer ones, a vertical frenzy, which  when done right is a poem, when wrong (as is the growing case with San Francisco) a generic sprawling mess of metallic stalagmites.

I tried some new things with both these collages. Both are 12×17. As is always the case, I used no digital magic. My trusty scissors & adhesive applied by brush to photos which I took. Two urban valentines of a favorite city.

 

“Our Story” & “What Do You Need Two Lighters For?”

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Lola Wants To Kiss

I do prefer working on smaller pieces but I feel it important for all artists to leave their comfort zone as it fosters evolution. Pre pandemic I had bought several large hand cut pieces of paper in different styles (cold pressed/hot pressed/cotton etc) with no immediate idea what I would do with them.

This was my first time with this paper which is 22×30 hot pressed and not cotton. It handled very differently but I am pleased with the results. The photo taken was with my phone as to give the viewer the gist of it, the skin in person (or had i a better camera) practically radiates a heat of blood flowing just below the surface.

 

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Magic Hat #2

In the past I have written extensively about how the ready availability of cameras via our phones have made people forget how to look at paintings. People want the same realism in painting that they can achieve with their phones.

This has had a ping-ponged effect  to the mentality of a lot of painters. They seem afraid or embarrassed to have a painting or drawing look “merely” like that. It is pursuit of the hyper realism that makes many works by artists who have chops look freeze dried or still born.

The best authors have always been the best readers (diverse and ever exploring & expanding their taste). Painters have their own version of this, which is looking at art. The internet & amazon make it so that even with sheltering in place, one can have a wealth of images at hand to peruse. And there is no longer any restrictions in regards to what one likes or pulls inspiration from. Read any biography on previous eras and the new had to reject the old or  face harsh criticisms from peers & critics. Now it is possible to catch a spark from both Rothko & Frans Hals and no one would care. It’s a freedom that’s invaluable.

With no chance of doing my yearly European museum crawl this year, i have delved back into my sizeable collection of art books. Even had i only looked at the images, it served as an empowering reminder:

“It is ok for a painting to look like a painting.”

I recently had done a collage where i sought to intentionally make something beautiful for everyone to look at. I have just finished a series of collages and decided to do the same thing with a painting. I was helped in this by utilizing a long time model, her comfort making it natural, the organics adding to the beauty. I just used my cell phone to take the photo, it gives you the gist of the work but in person (or with a better camera) there is more going on).

9×12 Watercolor & Paper “Beauty; Magic Hat #2”

 

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Stretching Forms

I am fairly new to collage. Although I had a small learning curve, I continue to refine my process. Once I feel I have it “perfected” I do not want to ever be mechanically go through the act. To keep things fresh I give myself little challenges, or in lieu of that set out for uncharted (to me) territories.

A friend of mine is really into triptychs, so i decided to give that a try. each section of it was 7×10. I was very pleased with the results. The small book I got as to be able to collage when on the road finally came out of quarantine and  I got to try my hand also at working small. These two collages represent firsts for me. I am very pleased with the results. As with all my collages the images I used are from photos that I personally took. I never work any digital magic on them, merely utilizing old school methods of scissors & adhesive applied with brush. Most of my collages are available as prints on my satchi page.

“Triptych” & “Manual Style #1”

 

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Blue on Blue

I wanted to make something beautiful but which also gave the viewer no hint as to its size. I will always eschew the standard poses and traditional idea of beauty. It is boring and all blurs together. For me, the real will always be beautiful. A true emotion, bodies and flesh as encountered in everyday life.

This piece is 5×8 Watercolor & Paper “Blue on Blue”

 

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Two More Tales

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.

“She Said” & “Flacco Arrangement” 11×17 inches

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Nocturne

Everyone’s phone now gives them the ability to take great photos & movies. This is a blessing and a curse. It is nice to capture something, especially when on the road that one wants to show friends. The downside to this is, go to any big city in Europe and you see tourists so busy hunting the perfect instagram shot that they are not actually there in the moment. Ambient sights, sounds and smells are  not absorbed into memory. The old adage that “travel broadens the mind” is a sort of shorthand for being open to experiences and impressions so that they add to you and become part of you. I’ve seen some lovely shots of Paris on friend’s social media sites but when asked about their travels, they can not convey anything aside from the day of their trip they were at the local.

This is not recent news though. Another less apparent negative effect is that, with the ability to snap a photo of anyone, hundreds of photos of a night out with new friends, people under a certain age have forgotten or never learned how to look at a painting.

The relationship between painter and model/subject is not supposed to be one of exacting reportage. Ideally, it is as if the painter is describing the model but using their own words. Words in this case being the painter’s style. Because of the ability to document in photos, a person, people want an exacting reproduction all done in hyper realism. (like their phone photos)

When Matisse painted a woman reclining on a couch, you knew her foot was her foot but you would never dream of doing an  anatomical study from it. Largely, people do not want to see a painting which looks like a painting, where brush strokes are evident as is the artist’s hand. With my recent foray into social media, i have met some wonderful painters who are held back by trying to make their work look too real, too exacting and so stillborn. “Painterly” aesthetics is currently not as appealing to the masses as overly processed and perfected type thing which could be a glossy Haute couture ad.

Some museums during shelter in place have been offering free virtual tours. In a recent New Yorker column, Peter Schjeldahl, one of the finest living authors on art, suggested that viewing art online was not great. He drew the ire of many. There is though a huge difference between seeing an image of a work and actually being there. The digital image, even when shot in high definition still has factors which effect its appearance and impact such as the aspects of the device one is looking on. And the reality of looking at photos of paintings online, more often than not there will not be a sense of communion since chances are one has the television on or other distractions, the myth of multi-tasking. If one goes to a museum, instagram moment hunting aside, ostensibly you are there to experience art and nothing else. There is just an indescribable aspect to being in a building, in the same room as a work with it in front of you and others around you. There is not a “feeling” seeing it flattened out on a device’s screen. It gives the gist of a piece at best, it is akin to hearing a recorded voice not the voice speaking in the same space as you.

I get great pleasure in portraying human flesh in my works. How i do it is not a matter of degree of chops but intentional. It’s painterly and expressionistic. To do close up parts, it almost borders at times on abstraction. I have done pieces, close ups, where there is not the guide-indication of an eye or finger to tell of a body. It is even more abstract yet there is something fleshy about it. I feel very fortunate to be able to work the magic the makes a white square seem as if it has volume & mass, heat of blood flowing just below the skin.

Nocturne Watercolor & Paper 5×8 inches

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Tan Lines

9×12 watercolor & paper

During having to stay home she took sun baths on her balcony. From there she could see into my studio window, watching me work. Hers was one of many faces who while away the time taking in the mellow rays of the sun, which after an hour or so almost managed to trick the body into thinking everything is all right,  watching me work. when I finished a piece I would turn it towards window so she could see what I had been working on. shyly at first, she started informally modeling.

To me, the real is always beautiful. It facilitates emotions which in turn allow the viewer to return to a work over and over without becoming bored.

The size of my works is intentional. Their size helps bolster the feeling of happening upon a scene from an open ended story. Shelter in place has shown a lot of us that our living space is smaller than we realized. The wall sized pieces so often emphasized make a collector live under the piece and not with it. The larger size and familiarity also eventually creates the effect of a work just becoming first visual static, then merely a wall. My smaller pieces engage the viewer as one is making the choice to look at it rather than having it loom over them.

I also keep in mind the burgeoning collector who is just starting to collect. Large pieces, especially for an apartment dweller can dictate the style of the collection while also limiting the amount which can be displayed. I want my works to be able to be included in a collection as it and the collector’s tastes grow.

Ultimately bigger is not better, there is just more of it.

 

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Two Tales

I have always felt that one must have constant inner dialogues, even about things which are already known or established. Further articulation can give more or new ideas in regards to the thing, a jeweler sculpting a gem of thought.

There seemed to be very little learning curve for my collages but I continued to refine my process while also feeling there is always more to learn. An important thing for all artists in any medium is to leave your comfort zone and put aside established methodology. Having to leave the comfort zone fosters evolution and creates stronger chops.

These two collages are both 11×17. I have switched to a wonderful adhesive which allows the actual collages to last (as opposed to initially when only prints of them could be sold) I still do not use any digital magic, Just scissors, adhesive applied with a paintbrush on photos which I took myself.

“Edging Her Bet” & “Threesome”

 

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Erratum: I am fairly new to the blogging world. A few observations which may help others out.:

Everyone is blogging for different reasons, some just for fun others with professional aspirations. If you are doing it as more than a way to constructively kill time, spring for the add free version. You could be writing or showing the most inspired content and then in the middle of your efforts is a toe fungus or travel ad. If you were going to job interview you would wear your best outfit to show your seriousness, same idea.

Regardless of why one is blogging, it comes down to wanting to be seen/heard and connect with an audience. If you fire off several posts a day, unless you are H.L Mencken, it is too much. Most people are following AT LEAST a few hundred others. This means you are faced with constantly checking your phone as someone will always be posting or if you set your preferences to receive weekly updates you suddenly have one day (at least) a week with hundreds of emails. It becomes akin to having several televisions on at same time, a sort of babel. There is no way you will be connecting w/as many people as you would like as posts get lost in the stream of non stop deluge of content. At some point the pervading wisdom was “shoot enough bullets into the air you will hit something” Maybe at very start of everyone being on social media but not now. Less but better crafted posts will ultimately do more for you than machine gun approach which as the number of people on e follows grows, becomes too much.

 

Schnabel Flag & A Portrait

I decided to  switch to mostly using cloth napkins. While sheltering in place it makes it a little nicer when finding oneself at the same table meal after meal. When the second wave of people being sick hits and those without empathy become even more animalistic than they had shamefully been during the initial outbreak,  (paper napkins) it will be one less thing I have to worry about being hoarded and unenviable to me. I ordered a few extra packs online so i am not perpetually washing them.

One pack i got looked like the pattern of the type of pajamas Julian Schnabel wears out in public. By coincidence the night before they arrived I had a dream that he had come over. I had made tagliatelle with my Palermo sauce.  After eating we sat at the table not bothering about clearing it, talking. I doodled on a napkin. When it was time to go home, without asking permission, he took my napkin doodle .

I took one of these Schnabel napkins and tacked it to my studio wall like a flag. A flag under which I serve, a flag of a conquered nation. A totem that there are others out there who also live to serve the process.

 

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I just completed this portrait. I used multi-media paper. The most important aspect for all my work is that emotion comes through. The true is always beautiful and i do not think in my ever growing body of work there is one face that is not.

“This Moment” 9×12 Watercolor & Paper

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