First Her Tears were Purple, Then Blue

I finally had to bite the bullet and get a real camera to photograph my work. This coincides with a greater complexity in my collages. Gone now will be the caveat accompanying images of my work;

“I just used my phone to take the photo, it gives one the gist of the work but not all the dynamics.”

Being a complete luddite, it’s going to take a little bit to become proficient with my camera. The timing of getting it worked out perfectly though as I just completed my most complex work. Ideal thing with which to try out new camera.

As is always the case, the components of the piece are from photos which I personally took. I work no digital magic on the piece, utilizing old school method of scissors & adhesive applied with brush.

I try to alternate between doing my painting and collage. The idea for this one came to me during dinner (the original sketch on back of grocery list pad). I decided to change up my rhythm and do another collage before a painting. Going forward, it will be interesting to see what added vibrancy will be added to my collage as I will be using a far superior camera to photograph my source material.

“First Her Tears Were Purple, Then Blue” 11×17

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Time of Legend

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.”

“You’re a legend man..”

 

“Time of Legend” 9×12 watercolor & paper

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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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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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New Pencil

Ages ago I had received a 5 MM pentel mechanical pencil whose lead sleeve retracted into the barrel. On first look, i did not like it. This was back when the aesthetics of my equipment were still a major factor in my choosing of what to use. Aside from the retractable lead sleeve, the other feature often promoted were the soft rubber bumps all over  the area your fingers gripped. These were supposed to provide an anti slip aspect along with preventing your hand from getting tired as quickly. At the time I thought it further detracted aesthetically from any potential appeal the pencil might have held for me.

Once you are doing something all the time, for long stretches of time, any feature of it which can be specialized as to make the process less arduous is a must. Does the trumpeter who plays in weddings and parties on weekends as reprieve from their regular nine to five work week need a special custom mouth piece? No. Did Miles? Of course. I now spend seven days a week, hours on end with pencils in my hand. Anything I can do to lessen the negative aspects of this from  the type chair I use to what pencils, I will. While I still like the look of my equipment to  be pleasing, functionality is now the main consideration.

Now wherever in the world I am, I have one of my preferred pencils in my equipment case, but I also have one of the Pentel. This is because on the road i do not necessarily go out all the time with my trusty book bag,  I can throw it in a  pocket and not have to worry about the lead sleeve being bent, nor having it punch a hole through a pocket. An added appeal for me is that, while the pencil is by no means “hard” to use, it does not work with same intuitive ease as my preferred ones. However, getting the effects I want and doing good work with it makes using my preferred pencils feel all the more easy. I enjoy the modicum of challenge and will sometimes use this “lesser” pencil even at home in the studio just to stay limber.

For Christmas, I just received a new kind of retractable pencil made by company that makes my favorite to use. Aesthetically, it’s nicer looking than the pental. As with the Pentel, it does not operate as easily as my preferred type but I do enjoy using it. And I have already found that much like the Pentel, if I can make the magic with this pencil, then the preferred ones are even easier. The whole effect I would compare to when a runner trains with weights on their ankles, the day of the race removing the weights to run unfettered feels easier. The retraction mechanism is different from Pentel, neither better nor worse but just different. Pentel you press on the pocket clip and the sleeve retracts, with this one it is a twist and lock.

This is the second drawing I did using the new pencil. 9×12

It was worth paying for his drink if only because he tried getting a free round by telling  the bartender:

“I have crossed rivers of time to find you.”

W.Wolfson’19

 

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Dior Glasses

There is a pleasure to exploring when on the road. A different but equally satisfying thing is to have places all over the world where one is known, a regular. This is a self portrait of me at one of my favorite places while on the road.

Watercolor & Multi Media Paper 9×12

 

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Caro Diario

On the road. This paper was just laying around. Although it was generally being put to use as scrap paper, it is landscape style. It was nothing fancy nor great but I decided to improvise part of my trip diary on it. It is not whether something is frame worthy or selleble but the process itself which brings me joy and is the personal payoff for me. I was pleased with the results.

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Left Bank

What makes for a good trip or proper travel is not checking off a list of places to see with their associated objects;

The Louvre, Mona Lisa….

It is absorbing the feel of a place, ambience of scents, sounds..In taking time to do this, one notices how others live their lives & what is important to them. It also allows for a deeper memory retention of the entire experience which then adds to the “you”. It is what is actually meant by “Travel broadens the mind”.

For artists there is even more of a potential benefit.

Every artists works & travels differently. I am always “working” regardless of where I am in the world. The only variation is what equipment I am utilizing. Short trips will find me leaving the paints at home, filling my coat pocket with my trusty pocket pads as I like to travel as light as possible and most likely would not have time anyways.

Any give place should effect an artist. Not in the most obvious way such as “I am in London, I painted Big Ben”.

It is ambient light, the lines of architecture, they become further accoutrements to the palette. It does not mean that one enters artistic phases ala Picasso and Cubism et al. Rather, work done in one place  does not look exactly as it appears back home. The artists voice is ever present but there are different components to the fore, mixed in with some of the more familiar.

If you have never been or only as part of a tour group, then every place in France is lumped in together. Despite some commonalities, each area is distinctive with their own cuisine and habits. It is the same with the ambient light.

Aix-en-Provence is all beautiful yellows punctuated by bursts of trees and the sounds of fountains. Lyon is soft pinks as if the buildings are made or at least coated with the delicate charcuterie which they are the masters of making. Paris in itself is diverse. From arrondissement to arrondissement, from the Left Bank to the Right .

People, myself included, proudly proclaim themselves of their side of the river and which number arrondissement.

I like even some of the seemingly “ugly” streets with their time worn dirty gray and fatigued creams. These areas tend to be where some of my artistic heroes lived, cheap rent and every third door a no nonsense bar having been the draw.

I like working with colored pencils on gray or brown paper. I limit my palette intentionally as a challenge to myself. Getting the effects that I want in this way makes it “easier” when using paints. Although I use mainly pinks, it is realistic in that in the real world there are seemingly limitless colors but go out on street  look at buildings and the street. On encounters a fairly limited palette.

These pinks, urban children of Fauvists, remind me of some parts of Paris. Not that this color is found there but it is same effect, translated in my minds eye. This little corner I continue to pass almost daily. It has been there forever and i do not think it ever had any straight lines about it.

I initially encountered it when staying at my first great apartment. It was en route to my groceries and favorite bars. Four floors, impossibly winding stairs that made you drag your shoulder against the wall as you ascended since the light was always broken. The biggest part of the place was the bathroom, with a large old tub, frosted glass windows which opened up onto a shadowy verdant courtyard with its cracked flagstones. I kept the primitive hi fi in the bathroom doorway since it was connected to the bedroom. Only music with a minimal of voices sounded good as it was a mono player. Mostly Zoot Sims duets and Lester Young trios.The neighbors would lean against their window boxes of geraniums smoking and slowly nodding their heads to the music. Dark silhouettes with one wavering orange eye-dot that would flare with inhalation.

Hard work and I was fortunate to be able to trade up apartments. I remained in my neighborhood just moving a few streets down. The building has become one of the visual shorthand for the deep affection that I hold for the every day in Paris and those first exciting years.

W.Wolfson ’19

Left Bank 9×12 colored paper and pencil

 

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