Raspberry tart

Where a painter who eventually becomes famous worked/lived does not necessarily reflect their posthumous reputation.  This is because more often than not the factors in no particular order are location, price and availability.

Not apparent from the work with which he became known, Paris was very important at the start of painter Ellsworth Kelly’s career. Several years ago, address in hand, I hoofed it over to this first studio (which remains just an apartment, having probably passed through dozens of hands since he lived there).

It looked just like all the other apartments arround it, neither more spacious nor with better light.

This year having read Jed perl’s excellent book on Alexander Calder, I decided to take a look at where on of his studios was. Once again, it was the same thing with the added touch which I think he would have appreciated, of a Chinese restaurant below his place.

Most people, when they think of an artist’s studio are imagining a large space, perhaps with a skylight or two. Or at the very least something which will look suitably dramatic and cinemesque upon seeing it after the fact.

For every Cezanne studio museum, there is Kelly’s or calder’s.  This is because no artist is thinking in terms how it will look once they are famous and gone. Calder liked most of his Paris studios because they were an easy walk to the cafes he frequented and his friends, yet slightly set back as to avoid the noise keeping him up.

Kelly’s motivation  had been the even more pragmatic financial one.

Another aspect of the painter life which many give no conscious thought to is the personal visual lexicon. This ever growing vocabulary is made up of the intentional such as portraits but also the instinctual. This is the every day as encountered by the painter, not made dramatic but rather it’s beauty drawn out. Cezzanne’s apples, soutine’s elevator operator et al.

The painter is not bragging of the incredible life lived a la some instagrammer’s vacation or food photo. They are recording the every day encounter(s) whether it’s the view from a studio window or some utilized necessity such as hat or groceries waiting to be put away.

I had no ambitions towards this as I had been unaware of the phenomenon until I started practicing it. The concept of “draw/paint from the guts” doesn’t mean to viscerally go at it until some sort catharsis is achieved. This misconstrued point is more about conveying the true, the reality without over thinking it nor worrying about drama.

Now one of my greatest pleasure in life is capturing on paper some little thing as it is from my daily existence. As ever, serving the process has become the pay off to me.

This is my second Paris painting this year. A dessert I had meant to try for a while, which was delicious.

I used 5.5x 8.5 spiral bound canson watercolor  paper 140 lb. When i first started painting i used exspensive blocks of french cotton paper. This was initially my practice paper. Although the paper’s “voice” is inherently different, I have now long used it for fully realized pieces, espcially when traveling.

Raspberry tart

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Paris Painter

I have said time and again, for me truth is beauty. I am interested in the real, real bodies real emotions. Even and espcially those which seem counter to traditional ideas and portrayal of beauty.

This honesty has  always been the facilitators of the emotional resonance that is my raison d’etre for all my work.

By no means am I doing something new. From Lucien Freud and Jenny Saville back to Tintoretto and courbet, honest portrayal of people has been utilized to create a powerful, real beauty made even more so because of the seeming imperfections.  Proudly, I am merely adding my voice to the chorus.

Traditional beauty bores me except in the smallest doses. It’s akin to the frosting flower off of a cake. I’m not adverse to now and then taking a bite, but it’s sweetness has no true flavor.

The thought of using my work merely to shock or insult is anathema to me. I work too hard on my chops and conveying my philosophy for such things.

This is my first painting back in my Paris studio. Unintentionally approp as today is mothers day in North America.

It has been overcast. The sun would come out, then retreat like a shy friend, then blaze too bright to see the paper properly.

I had to go slow,  it ate into my record buying time, but I am pleased to the extreme with the results.

5.5x 8.5 watercolor and paper

Michelle

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Equipment

As much as I say & feel that I do not watch much television, being in Europe makes me start to suspect my assessment is a little off. This is reinforced by the amount of books that  I go through away from the states. Halfway through my Parisian residency I always need to restock my bedside pile.

There are certain publishers which one can not go wrong in choosing almost anything by them such as NYRB and Green Intenger. The same goes in non fiction  for certain authors. For art writing & biographies, it does not matter if you know or like the artists, anything by Jed Perl, Richard Ellman, Ross King and John Richardson is worth delving into.

To almost zero notice John Richardson passed away recently. He had become a gallerist, putting together some amazing Picasso shows, often in conjunction with the artist’s family. He wrote articles for such magazines as vanity fair. His earlier years he had sat at collector Douglas Cooper’s side, moving through (art) history, bearing witness to important events and also the behind the scenes dynamics. He wrote several fantastic books on this which shows the all too human side of great artists without ever lapsing into mere salacious gossip.

Perhaps the most important thing John Richardson did was the massive multi volume set on the life of Picasso. He was working on the fourth, final volume when he died. These volumes get into meticulous detail about the artist’s life, those around him and the times he lived in. Impressively, over the course of all the volumes Richardson manages to write without agenda, neither praising Picasso to the sky nor trying to tear him down. The artist as a talented yet imperfect man is presented.

Picasso is sometimes talked about as a magician for the protean way he seemed to conjure up new genres. He was mercurial in his ability to shift styles, often creating his own new ones before dropping them to birth a new phase. However, a point Richardson goes into and one which has become more public knowledge was that he did not spontaneously create from nothing. Picasso was a bit of a magpie. Direct contemporaries used to tell each other not to have works on display when he came to visit the studio or he would borrow ideas that he liked, making them his own. Many opted to turn unfinished canvas around to face the wall like an ill behaved child.

All artists wear masks out in public. Piccasso’s public persona was that of a sui generous, fully formed at birth. There is no disputing that the talent was there from the get go but like even the most individualized genius, he took from and was inspired by ideas from outside of himself. According to  him, all his then radical ideas which freed up generations of painters were solely of his invention. There seemed to be a feeling that he would be a lesser titan were sources to be cited. Oceanic art, Matisse et al were kept hidden ingredients in his recipe book.   Great trouble was taken on his part to hide or camouflage the sources not his own which he turned to gold.

To me, this always seemed oddly tragic as much time and energy was wasted on trying to cover up that which has become common knowledge. Even some of the poorer written biographies on Picasso now easily trace some of what ideas from others went into radically new and important works.

I am paraphrasing here but towards the end of the third volume it was said that he still possessed a virtuoso’s voice but with very little to say. I think part of this was that he was existing outside of the stream of life. The vitality of being in competition with his peers or if not that then at least among them at cafes, parties and studios serves as stimulation. Being surrounded by a crowd who hangs on your every word and who in one way or another are dependent upon you is not the same.  On the first flush of huge fame it was more important to him that he keep his secrets. After that, that he not be wrong, corrected or not the alpha.

By comparison, artists like Renoir, Matisse, Calder and Giacometti even once famous and older, would make it a point to still put in appearances  at cafes and studios to see what was new with the upcoming generations while chatting of their latest works.

All this inspired me. I would never waste any time nor effort in being secretive. If someone created an effect in one of their works which I do not know how to do, unashamed, I will ask “how?”. If anyone asks me about what equipment I use/used on a piece, i will gladly tel them.  Much to my surprise, not all my peers are like this. Asking a slightly older painter how she achieved an effect, what she had used, I received a curt “watercolors”. When I politely asked for specifics it became clear she did not want to tell me. This is absurd as two people can have same recipe and ingredients yet when the dish is made they will be different from one another.

We should all feel free to ask away as none of us are Picasso.

When back in Europe I always have my painting kit & my sketch kit. Over the years the painting one is largely unchanged. A few colors added, a few taken out of the palette. My sketching kit is ever in flux. The Blackwing pencil & Kuro Toga .5 MM pencil being the two constants.

 

2019 Sketch Kit for the Road:

(Left to right )

Sharpener, .5 MM Kuro Toga, Staedler 2MM Lead Clutch, blender, two writing pen refills Waterman & Parker) Tombow Mono Zero eraser, two sided Faber Castell Lead extender, BlackWing Palomino w/Blackinwing Point Cap, Faber Castell 2B pencil w/Blackwing Point Cap, Faber Castell 7B w/Blackwing Point Cap, Staedler Eraser, two blenders Faber Castell HB Pencil, gum eraser, 2x 5MM Pentel  Lead refills 4B & 2B, Pad of Sandpiper to custom hone Lead Clutch point, Rubber eraser (bottom)

 

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Sina Queryas

I wanted to capture mood  through subtly of true emotion, not what is exaggerated as to clearly broadcast for easy understanding.

Collecting art has become rarefied. Where as formerly passion and an eye (personal sense of aesthetics) were the main & most important prerequisites, they have been supplanted by space and money.

The size of my works is intentional. I have in mind new collectors for whom space is at a premium. Apartment dwellers should not feel it an impossibility to start a collection.
I also have in mind burgeoning collectors who are just starting to delve into the myriad genres of art out there. A large piece starts to dictate what directions a collection will go in for people living in normal sized spaces. Smaller works do not create a visual limitation.
I want the collector to live with my works and not (feel as if) under them which may occur in apartments.

I am starting with a handicap in that works which seem to garner the most attention are those which have components of novelty & gimmick or that look reminiscent of established (“famous”) artist’s work. I follow my own North star even when it is a more solitary journey, hoping to pick up a few others along my way.

Always is the striving for emotion to come across in my work(s) and this size bolsters it by almost creating a senses that one is witnessing a scene, the viewer as a voyeur.

 

watercolor & Paper 5.5×8.5 (Last American Painting for now)

 

Sina Queyras

Songs About Women: Song Five: Tina

Does/did abstract painting.

When i first started painting I did acrylic pieces on (often) large canvas. They were “ok” but lacked volume & mass that I now achieve.

Looking back, I sometimes think that the art was in people watching me work on these large pieces, as I often did them in front of impromptu audiences.

I am way outside of trends and so do not worry about such things. However, it also became apparent to me that no gallery wants to give a show to a relative
(self taught) unknown of whom two pieces would take up all the wall space. The completed pieces were also taking up lot of room at home & in studio.

By happenstance I was given a little watercolor kit as a gift. I started to delve into that. I got some great effects and with little work fell deeply into it. I abandoned acrylics, being far better, faster, than I ever had been with those. I reduced the size of my work, with the largest being 9×12. I found great watercolor paper which is 5×8. The paper comes in spiral bond pads. This combined with my pocket paint set allows me to do fully realized pieces when on the road. Everything easily fits in my book bag or coat pocket.

Right away, people responded to what I was doing which drove me to work harder. Without the rigidity of formal training or classes I was able to develop my voice without having to fight against the academic veneer that many painters must fight to shake off.

I met Tina around the time I had just abandoned acrylics. I had always enjoyed painting, the process was the pay off for me. With watercolors it was a whole other level of enjoyment, something which instantly felt a part of me.

We chatted about painting, process & the gallery game. If you blinked you would miss the time that our lives intersected.

This was years ago, before social media was so prevalent and one (more often than not) only heard from direct peers when they wanted something. She seemed satisfied with what she was doing, which is all any artist can ask of themselves.

W.W 2019

 

Tina 5.5×8.5

 

Tina

Anniversary

Sometimes with my paintings I will do a piece where the viewer is only seeing a part of the subject(s). Just a torso, an arm, a breast, freckled forehead or knee.

There is the interesting dichotomy of the viewer only getting part of a piece, a close up, of a larger scene. Yet these pieces of larger going ons are fully realized works unto themselves. There is no need to see what the hand attached to the arm is doing or where the head not visible is resting.

The point & challenge of this is to have the emotion(s) come through to the viewer, conveyed only by the part(s) seen. By emotions I do not necessarily mean the subject is upset so hence, an angry arm. Rather, by emotion, I mean the viewer feeling something despite not being clued in by the usual facial or body language clues. The fact that there is no obvious programmatic aspect  allows for each viewer to put their own emotional resonance into it.

This piece is 9×12 watercolor on multi media paper. The couple were celebrating their anniversary and birthdays (50’s) which fell around the same time. Initially, I had no idea what they were going to have me paint. In their pose is not an acceptance or giving in to age but rather an earned knowledge & strength. To hear them talk, as you get older, all the superficial illusions drop away, certain ego driven worries do not distract nor hold one back any longer from ambitions towards different enjoyments.

 

anniversary

Ganache

The relationship between artist and subject/model goes back almost to mankind’s nascence. The advent of cell phones has made expectations veer off from a portrait’s purpose. This is especially true in regards to  the public’s expectations.

The ability now of anyone, at any given time to whip out their phone and make a movie or take photos makes the casual viewer come to expect a work of art to lean towards hyper realism.

This defeats the purpose of art, exact visual reportage down to the smallest skin pore and one might as well just snap a photo. Portraits allow for multi layers of enjoyment and contemplation. Done right and they can be revisited, offering up new things with each viewing.

It is a matter of choice for every artist, but personally I always want my pieces to look like the subject. A commonality is that for every artist the dynamic with the subject. It  is  as if the artist is describing the subject but instead of words, utilized are the technique and style (voice) of the artist. I describe you, but my words are my own.

With portraits, the likeness is captured but so are  psychological insights. Not only are the subject’s positioning and posing conjured up but present too are aspects of personality that do not come to the fore in photos unless blatantly apparent (i.e drunk, crying, laughing et al)

I always try to use subjects who are not professional models as I want the body language to be their own and not the expected or academic positioning. Ideally, subjects are people within my orbit, the added trust of knowing each other bolstering the organic conveyance of emotion, which is the ultimate goal for all my work.

 

Ganache 9×12 Watercolor & Multi Media Paper

ganache