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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Boo-Boo’s Birthday & Other Tales

Currently I am working on a large 22×30 painting. Before & after, i refresh myself by working on my sculptures and collages.  I received so many compliments on my triptych that I decided to continue my challenge/explorations by doing a diptych. I was curious what it would be like to work even smaller, so the two sections of it are 5×9. (smallest so far for me!)

As i continue to refine my technique I have found that I do not go about creating my collages in the same way right across the board. I have a few techniques which I switch back and forth from depending upon the size & images of collage.

Regardless of the size or images I prefer a density of composition & the feeling of an open ended narrative. This allows the viewer to return time and again to the work and find new things, new threads of thought.

My process is old school. I use my trusty scissors and adhesive applied with a brush. There is never any digital magic and I utilize images from photos which I personally took.

“Pinks, Blues & golds. Silhouette sprinkles, the lights all turn to cake. Good or bad everyone is committed to their midnight.” B-Day W.Wolfson

 

“Boo-Boo’s Birthday” 12.5×9 (1st diptych) & “What Do You Need Another Lighter For?” 12×17

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Paper

I had unintentionally lucked out. Where I lived in Paris had five art supplies stores all within a five to ten minute walk. Each was good for specific things.

One aspect of all which was nice was that each was for working artists, this was reflected in the pricing, quality and selection. All the places were “historic” except the one closest to me. This one was still good though, it just meant the Soutine had never bought his pencils nor charcoal there.

All the staff at each place are artists themselves but they are almost shy about it. There is none of the (sometimes) overbearing networking as occurs in North America. I became Pals with Quintin. He finally showed me some of his work. intricate ink on paper works. I did not just offer up the small talk compliments but discussed technique with him which cemented our friendship.

After that, for years, every time I went into his shop I would get the sale price plus employ discount on my basket full of stuff.

A few years ago I went in early in the morning on my way to an afternoon of sketching and heavy lunching. We chatted and at first he seemed distracted but after a few minutes of talk it became clear it was more a type of embarrassment.

He was going to follow a girl he liked, really liked, to Ibiza where he would also work on his graphic novel. It was unclear if they would take him back on the staff when he eventually returned to Paris. I should load up as much as possible now as to take advantage of the deep discount.

It was the end of an era. Most likely a mistake on his part but that and/or an over earnestness is right of passage for youth as they find their way. I put things in my basket, he handed me blocks of watercolor paper. Seeing me doing math in my head, assured me not to worry about it.

Standing at the counter i knew to let the woman behind me go first, feigning to have forgotten something.

We were alone now, we shook hands. He turned around and grabbed a bunch of stuff off the backboard which he put in my swollen bags. Shaking hands, we exchanged information.

Back in my studio looking at all the stuff he gave me, I was pretty sure they would not be having him back. I had blocks of 7×10 French cotton paper which became one of my mainstays. I had so much of it that it lasted me several years.

I am constantly, from piece to piece switching what paper I use as it keeps things fresh. I do not know how it works for others but in my head i envision a piece before executing it and this vision includes its size too. This has kept my piles of paper dwindling but at a leisurely pace.

Despite plans already solidified, shelter in place finds me on the wrong side of the ocean, Paris right now for me as for most, just a magical daydream. I am very fortunate to be able to continue to work though. My stateside studio has taborets full of supplies.

Since I am going to be around, as i mulled over a new piece I carefully emptied them as to dust inside them. Something which was more busy work to contemplate by than actually needed. To my surprise I found that I had finally reached the end of my Quentin paper! It is all right I have plenty of other paper but this was, for me, the best cotton paper.

I decided to get a new paper to try, a 9×12 non-cotton paper. Right off the bat I enjoyed using the paper. It handles different from my French cotton paper but still enjoyable. Using the new paper, despite all going on, I get that familiar pleasure of serving the process & my craft. I hope Quintin is on some Spanish beach with his hippy chic drinking wine and looking out at the sea, I hope that I find myself walking around my arrondissement sooner than later.

 

“Blue Pillow” 9×12 Watercolor & Paper (new paper)

“Hand Selfie” 8×5 watercolor & Paper

 

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Hero

This is the face of a nurse showing the effects of wearing a mask 65 hours worth of shifts in six days. She is one of many heroes putting it on the line for strangers asking for nothing, no glory or even mention, in return.

 

There will be no parades, nor most likely can we ever adequately thank all who acted without hesitation to try to make a difference. In my more jaded moments, I imagine once this is over, people like her finally wearily able to take a moment to sit down as throngs of people rush past them, not even slowing down as to get to the store to buy armloads or microwave pizza pockets or to the beach to take side standing poses to post on Instagram. That’s probably at least for North America, close to the truth. The hope however is that going forward  we find a better way from how we were as a society, “returning to normal” not necessarily a good thing.

I thank and salute these people regardless of how collectively they are treated after the fact.

 

This is watercolor on 9×12 paper. I used a brand new paper which I liked and will continue to use.

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Green Clogs

The nature of fame has changed. Like a lot of things, it’s properties are no longer agreed upon facts. Where once it was tied in more with the possessor’s talents and the work put into achieving the abilities, now it is often more align with coveting the “fame”.

The reality star/internet influence is largely the ultimate ambition of an entire generation. A main element of this phenomenon is the “look at me/look at what I have” aspect. It allows for feeling good about oneself without having to really work (i.e practice to become the best guitarist et al). This new fame is done by of looking down on those without while also being watched.

Social media (Instagram etc etc) is full of postings of people showing others their fab lives even if it’s largely artificial. People taking photos of their tropical vacation, Parisian jaunts. (mostly) They are not trying to show you the poetry of the sights but rather what they have that you don’t, where they are but you are not.We should all try to be the best version of ourselves but this is perversion of that concept, people putting forth an idealized, artificial version.

There is a company now where you can rent a private jet by the hour, it doesn’t go anywhere, it is for photo ops, so you can post photos of yourself chin on hand gazing out plane window or leaning back in plush leather seat champagne in hand smiling at the start of your adventure to nowhere.

The zeitgeist? Immediately pre pandemic a celebrity gave her boyfriend half a million dollars in cash, putting it up on social media. Putting aside whether the money was earned, in what way is any purpose served aside  from “look what I have”? (although Marie Antoinette didn’t actually say it, and the proper translation is brioche not cake) if ever there was a “Let them eat cake” moment that was it. Art should inspire. Even bad art can inspire as the viewer feels that they can make a better painting, write a better song etc. There is no discernible culture involved in any of this. For now we all live in self imposed exile and the “celebrity” peacock(ing) to some extent continues, albeit from living rooms and bedrooms.

My studio windows face a new building with the same color scheme as mine. People go out onto their little Juliet balconies to drink coffee and smoke. They are too far away to talk to but we have now all become part of each others daily lives via our mutual observation. I can chat while painting but I am also simultaneously absorbed into the process so I do not mind being a show for neighbors.

It will be interesting once we are all through this, to see whose values change.

Of course I have no idea of their web presence and its content but I have yet to see anyone leaning back against the railings of their balcony glass champagne in hand looking up, duckbill faced to raised phone, snapping a selfie.

One of them, i have noticed seems to have learned my easel working hours. We have a tacit understanding, I do not mind her watching and I do not ogle her when, on sunny days she walks around in the nude. We sealed our social contract with a series of casual waves.

I have started working big. I will not switch the usual scope of my pieces but I like the occasional challenge to keep things fresh. I slip a larger piece into my oeuvre now and then. I am still learning my preferred paper, trying a new one with each large piece.   I do have my method down and size too. The large pieces are all 22×30.

Regardless of size and subject of my piece, I seek to convey beauty from the real.

 

“Green Clogs” 22×30 Watercolor & Paper

 

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M Shelter in Place

The building across the way from my *studio, I had used images of it in my last large collage. I knew to Wait for no one to be around as to not have my phone being pointed in that direction misconstrued.

When it is my painting hours I am now sometimes watched by others  from their Juliet balconies. At first it was just something for them to do while getting some air, cup or coffee or smoke in hand. After first week of this i know there developed some curiosity about what I was working on.

Now, when I finish a piece I turn it towards the window so that they may from their concrete and steel nests, see it.

I am currently working on a large 22×30 painting. I must go slower as its new paper to me and the weather has been wet. So far I am pleased with the results.

During tough times I think it important anyone capable of creating beauty to do so. Not as a means of distraction but rather a reminder of what we eventually will return to once the crisis is over (beauty/culture). It is the reaffirmation that as long as the night seems, there will eventually be a dawn.

Beauty & culture also serve as a reminder during a crisis of who we are, not merely people trying to survive but a small part of a greater whole.

*I have live/work studio and am not breaking quarantine

This piece is 9×12 Watercolor & Multi Media Paper.

 

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Fa-Flex

The propaganda aspects of a lot of renaissance art has been lost to the more casual peruser of paintings and sculpture. The shorthand of what they were doing has now become that Michelangelo, da Vinci et al were presenting the physical ideal. The ideal being equated to something to strive for regardless of its impossibility.

Part of the magic of painting which started with the immediate precursors to   impressionism (Courbet, Fantin Latour, Millet) was that they were begging to slowly move away from the subjects when not a still life or landscape being restricted to  those of myth, biblical or historic. The heroic, idealized.

When the Nazi occupation of France became inevitable there was a scramble to get the high profile residents, thinkers, politicos and artists to safety. Matisse was on this list. At the last minute he backed out of fleeing, saying:

“If everyone who has any value leaves France, what remains of France?”

After the fact asked to expand upon what he meant in greater detail he cited culture not personality as what he had been getting at. If the abstracts which gives us pleasure, define us and add to us are gone then what is the point?

Unfortunately in current times art and culture by default often is associated with an elitism. Art has a duty, not in the sense of promoting a message or agenda though. Now is the time for any who can, to create something of beauty. And if you can’t, it is of equal importance to appreciate and enjoy it.  The purpose art and beauty can serve now has changed since the renaissance. None of it should be tied in with any sort of “ideal”. It represents something not necessarily perfect, an impossibility to be striven for but rather something outside of ourselves, the “I” becoming part of a greater whole.

This should bolster the thought that no matter how bad things get, we all have to live with ourselves when it’s over and back to normal. Paraphrasing Matisse’s train of thought, to lose what we value about ourselves as a society just to stay around, well what would be the point?

W.Wolfson 2020

“Fa-Flex” Watercolor & French Cotton Paper 7×10

 

Fa-Flex

 

 

Si G

This is 9×12 Multi-Media Paper & Watercolor. It is spiral bound but not perforated which means every piece must carefully be cut out of the book with an exacto knife.

I sought to capture the merging of public & private emotions that played upon the face in this piece.

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Cinema

Regardless of subject matter, I always like my work to give the sensation of the viewer as voyeur to something.

If you take footage of someone, whether they are crying, laughing even just talking, looking at the action one frame at a time the face distorts. There is a difference, sometimes drastic, from how it looked even a few frames beforehand. A neck will swell out, the nose seems of a different shape. The difference can be markedly different, each frame going towards forming a crowd of people who look similar but not exact as can occur within a family.

I decided to do a short series of 3 panels each 9×12 sequentially of a scene. I achieved the effect of what I was viewing.

 

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Macaroni & Pancetta

Everyone’s face is akin to a great symphony. In constant flux, this ever changing canvas upon which we paint our feelings, secrets and ambitions never ceases to fascinate me, nor compel me to capture it. W.Wolfson

 

Watercolor & Paper 5.5×8.5

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