Hotel Internacional, Mars

People’s dreams of “The future” are never as mundane nor inconvenient as the reality. I find myself having to head back to Mars, yet again on business.

The first year or so after the war, every soldier was treated like a hero. The drinks were free. Now, a new generation of student activists who viewed the whole thing in less heroic terms. The root of which often was just a contrary streak in regard to their parents’ politics. We all took our medals off the lapels of our jackets, except a few of the older guys. In their eyes, to do so would be tantamount to a defeat.

I pulled my boots off, it served no purpose, it was safety theater for the less well traveled. Inevitably the line would hit a snag, everyone held up as prohibited fruit was confiscated from someone who didn’t want to pay those Mars prices and thought that they were slicker than the TSA.

The bell at the front desk. I appreciated that they managed to not only still have such an archaic device but that somehow even after all these years, they had prevented its theft. My fingertip hit the small nubbin atop the shiny silver dome.

“Ah Mister Wesley, welcome back. We have your usual room ready; Business or pleasure bring you once again back to us?”

“It’s Mars.”

I knew he would appreciate the subtly of allowing each eavesdropper to ascribe their own meaning to my answer.

I adjusted the strap on my bag and headed for the lift. I cast a final glance to the desk, we exchanged nods and I kidded myself that this time would be different.

Text & image W.Wolfson 8/18/21

Lyra

I have specific pens, pencils etc that I use. Of course I constantly challenge myself by using lesser quality equipment, it makes using preferred stuff feel easy. As far as travel kits, i am forever tweaking that, the cases and holders all my equipment goes into. I always have three kits; the one for just bopping around the city. This is the smallest and its just a refillable pocket pad, retractable pencil and in the pocket sleeve of the pad a blender or two. This is used as I sit in cafe or bar locally, just doing quick guerilla sketching. As a side note, this is always within reach of my hand and has been around the world with me. I realized that because of the pandemic, it saw zero action for a year plus! It has sat in drawer of one of my tabourets awaiting its chance to see some action. My other kit is for short trips four days or less of being away from home. This is pocket pad, 5×8 pad few traditional pencils of different degrees of hardness and two types mechanical pencil & blenders. It’s still fairly compact, easily carried in book bag. Short trips, I do not bother bringing any painting accoutrements. My last kit is for longer trips week or more and this includes paints etc. The long trip kit is the one i tweak the most often as it’s important for me to work but very quickly space within a suitcase can be taken up.

I discovered during the pandemic a small company that made cases geared towards road warrior artists. The case was very flat and it came loaded with “free” pencils, erasers and all kinds of other sketching swag. Obviously I have not had chance try it out on road. I did try the pencils and sharpeners. All of it was of such low quality it got thrown out. It contained a small cellophane pouch inside of which was three short, pudgy graphite sticks. It reminded me almost of tailors chalk. I had never used it before, so decided try for hell of it. I enjoyed challenge of it and was actually pleased with pieces i did. My way of thinking was that if I could make something happen with low quality version, then using some made by a quality company would be even better. I started doing some research. One thing i found was that the Lyra graphite sticks were said to be basically the same thing, with benefit of being able to sharpen to a point where as the sticks were basically short rectangles.

I had bought one along with a sharpener ages ago but had not used it. I started messing around with it and found i really liked it, the pieces I did were loose and had a painterly effect. Lyra also makes water solvable ones. I bought one to try. It is a game changer for me. It fits in my pocket and all i need is that and one brush and I can do monochromatic watercolors. This will allow me to paint on short trips and not have to up the equipment i take. The actual process is quicker than my normal painting and best of all, I do not need sunlight and can actually do these at night. Two things not possible with my regular painting.

here are my first tries with it. I am sure that the more I do this, the better i will get but I am already pleased with results.

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?”

Ourstorywhatdouneedtwoplightersfor

 

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

firstdiptych1Boobdaywhatdouneedtwoplightersfor

 

 

 

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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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”

 

blue on blue

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

shesaidflaccoarrangement

 

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

nocturne

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”

 

edgingherbetsThreesome

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.

 

Collage

There is a lot of precision in my drawings & paintings. I have always been serious about my sculptures but those are of a completely different process. They are largely improvised on the spot using whatever materials I have around. Often, they are not meant to last.

Collage is fairly new medium to me. They fall somewhere between my paintings & sculpture.There is an element of surrealism in them that does not appear in my work of other mediums. Ahead of time,  I always have in my mind the composition but i also leave room for some improvisations.

My first collages were really large 22×30 inches. They were not meant to last which made it feel freeing. Eventually being all the remained, the photos of the work would themselves become the art.

I used glue sticks and scissors to create my works. With my paintings, they need few days to dry. With the collages as soon as I was finished I needed to snap some photos as pieces would begin curling, bubbling or falling off.

Right out of the gate i got the same feeling of serving the process I get in creating my other works. People were interested in obtaining the actual pieces and not just prints/photos of them.

I invested in several pairs of good scissors and started using adhesive which also coats the works surface as well. In reading up on adhesives I found there is controversy over where images for a collage come from. Depending upon the  country, there are things which are illegal or if not that then despite semantics, a jerky thing to do. Were my images to be lifted I know that I would not be happy about it. This brought about my decision to largely use images from photos which I myself took. An added advantage to this is that it often feels as if collage is not taken as seriously stateside. Collage seems to conjure up images of of someone with nothing to do clipping pictures out of magazines while watching television. Using my own photos bolsters the legitimacy as art form and not mere hobby.

Painting, sculpture, collage, it is never an either or for me. All are part of the whole. I do find my painting helps my achieve more volume and mass in my collages. Now, all my works cross influence and inspire each other.

For drawing I constantly change up what equipment i use, the idea being that I can create work when on the road and in under far from ideal situations ( a waitress’s pencil, the back of a paper bag et al) . A lovely letter from someone compared my collages to jazz. This planted the idea in my head to start doing smaller sized collages as to be able to do them on the road.  I could do them all in pages of a nice notebook, initially using easy to travel with glue stick and applying adhesive once back home.

I enjoy going for the density of composition, which I prefer in all my works, without letting it get too muddy and reduced to visual babel. The initial challenge of achieving this in smaller collage was great fun.

“Xavier Amin Dphrepaulezz”

22×30 inches
We are all living under a fluorescent sky temporarily. To stay productive is a huge help. Anyone who can create beauty, now is the time to do so as a reminder of what we will eventually return to. I named this piece after composer/musician (a.k.a Fantastic Negrito) whose work mixes a deep soulfulness with the lament of the blues and some funk.
Composition wise I utilize my preferred density regardless of medium along w/the feeling of a sort of open ended narrative.

 

20200411_105920Xavier Amin Dphrepaulezz

“Self Portrait” 11×14

These are all photos I took and my first smaller collage. I was very pleased with the results.

WWolfsonSelfportrait