Black Shirt

For me, truth will always be equated to beauty. It is the imperfections of someone you find yourself caring for (or desiring) that your mind calls forth when thinking of them. That crooked smile, a small scar on the chin from scratching too much during bout of childhood chickenpox. Traditional beauty, the yardstick many use in their aesthetic aspirations becomes generic and boring very quickly.

When the more casual art fan is given a bit of art history, almost always a shorthand is used. The impressionists are reduced down to a bunch of guys with beards who used seductive colors in a lush, hazy sort of way. This was one aspect of it. They were the first (building off of their immediate predecessors Courbet 1819-77, Millet 1814-75) to be showing people as they were. There was no idealization of the denizens of the boulevards and theaters. The paintings are stunning but one encounters broken capillary noses, clothes that need laundering, eyes with lids heavy from lack of sleep. It was the real, every day life as they encountered it, caught on canvas.

Since then, every single painter did not stick to this direction. The impressionists freed up art and from aspects of what they did has sprung a multitude of genres, sub genres. But, there will always be a section of painters out there capturing real life with their brushes and pencils. A favorite painter of mine, Wayne Thiebaud is often lumped in as a “Pop Artist-Painter” because of his subject matter, cakes & candies (his portraits are among some of modern paintings best and he should be better known for these). What makes pop art is not what is portrayed but rather an ironic coolness. Thiebaud is not aiming for this but in the tradition of the impressionist portraying his life and what is in front of him.

One of my first times going to the Musée d’Orsay, a painting which held me before it, showed a man in red pajamas not looking very well as he lay covers pulled up almost to his chest. His skin was very pale but with waxy yellow undertones and little suggestions of green. You know things most likely are not going to end well for him and the painting itself is unpleasant to look at but also beautiful in its execution.

One of my greatest pleasures in life is portraying flesh in my painting. I never want to lapse into mannerisms though and so constantly challenge myself. I portray flesh in all its varieties, hot from a blush, pale from sickness, bruised from some mishap. One of the best self portraits I have done and which is frequently used as my author’s photos shows me with a black eye I got. There is no program or symbolism in any of this for me. For this piece, although one could look at it as encompassing all of 2020, it was just meant as a challenge to myself to show one person’s very bad day, the truth being beautiful in its honesty and execution. Terrible beauty.

Black Shirt Watercolor & Paper 9×12

V-Lot 1311

A contemporary thinker & social theorist has said that a big problem with society (North American) is that most people’s idea of happiness has strictly become when things go their way. This seems to reduce down joy to a sort of effortless achievement whose main prize is not being bothered/challenged nor reprimanded. This mindset also eliminates the possibility  of simple, spontaneous pleasures, such as a good conversation, cup of coffee or unexpectedly discovering some previously unknown work of art which resonates.

Another contemporary  thinker said that we all must allow ourselves to be bored. He himself had come up with some of his best ideas waiting for a train or doing some of life’s other mundane but necessary tasks. In being bored one’s mind is not taken up with the immediate things to be done or superficial distractions and can wander. Without being preoccupied by the “must(s)” there is also more of a receptive aspect to contemplation.

Two ideas which call for the cessation of immediate, effortless reward.

As easy & beneficial as letting oneself be bored is, more & more society is regressing back to childhood en-masse. Most can not stand in line for the two minutes in at Starbucks to get their coffee without massaging the screen of a device with fingertip.

I like traveling but not the logistics of it, all the time tables not of my own making which must be rigidly adhered to. The seemingly endless waits when en-route. I will admit though, when forced to wait as is required when on the road, i have eschewed digital distractions and come up with many ideas for later use in my works.

There are trips with destinations that I do not like but must go to. This is almost like a concentrated form of allowing oneself to be bored (or miserable). As even in this , there is often fuel for my work.

I just returned from one such trip. While on the road I did work with which I am pleased. Once home, ideas I had while away inspired some further works. When going through a bad time on the road, while it is happening it is unpleasant but once out of the experience it can prove to be a currency of sorts. Even if you are not an artist, give yourself the occasional gift of being bored.

V-Lot 1311 colored pencil & paper 11×14

 

VLot