Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Meditation with Pink Fish

Just a bit of quiet time after all the chatter.

The Blue Snake Seduces

At times I take trips from paint and line and create in other mediums. Food, with its intriguing color, shapes, and flavors, grabs at my attention many evenings. The backyard garden canvas with its seasonally shifting textures, forms, and colors has also attracted me and taken up years of my concentrating time.

I can see that this visual blog idea, which I avoided doing for years, has now taken hold of me. Who can resist this enticing light, the velvet darks, and the saturated colors? Writing one's story and seeing instant publication is so satisfying.

Yet, even as I burst with posting ideas I feel an uneasiness settling in. I am an image maker. It is time to crawl out of this silky virtual space and get back to the often cold and harsh reality of concrete image work.

This is the blue side of things. Not sad, but serious enough to cause pause. We must continue to check and recheck the path that we are on. Are we even on a "path"? Of late I've been thinking of it more as a jungle ~ where we climb through the tree-like vines and pause to check out the beauty, gasp at the oddities, and peer into enough scary shadows to find soul satisfying insight.

Bon voyage!

Windy World

The creation of art, if approached with a sense of adventure, is a great tool for learning.

Direction Comes Drifting Through the Air

I was listening to earth beat music while working on this piece. It was fine going until I reached the sky/cloud-like area. Here I felt stuck. I had no idea where I was.

A few days later I heard sweet choral music drifting from across the art complex. Intrigued, I left my earthy, deep-drummed painting scene, went across the patio, and settled myself outside the door of the wafting music, which turned out to be a collection of Bach cantatas.

I could feel my sensibilities drift upward with the music and relished the lightness of being the music infused into me. Returning to my studio light years later I saw where the painting wanted to go immediately. My neighboring artist let me borrow his music and with its spiritual-like accompaniment I was able to complete the piece.

This 3' x5' painting is meant to do a push/pull on the audience. The shapes shift in and out of abstraction/representation. This piece encompasses such a magnitude of complexities it was difficult to name. I did not want to lead the viewer in too straight of a thematic direction. I finally settled on the both practical and abstract "Confronting Brown."

Monday, January 25, 2010

Out with the Old, In with the New

About Me (...the old)

I apparently can look through you, am too short, need to correct my voice, talk too fast, don't talk enough, am judgmental, do not have an opinion, am chatty, am a dud, fascinate, am silly, should gain weight, don't read books, read too many books, know too much about you, don't know enough about you, don't look like anyone who you'd imagine creates art like I do, try too hard, am not ambitious enough, am relevant, am nobody, don't pay enough attention, over think, used to be a lot of things that are no more, and am too used to doing it my own way to listen well to others. In other words, I'm uniquely indefinable, just like you.

Looking Close Can Bring More than Clarity

As anyone who reads this blog backwards (which is really forwards) knows by now, I am exploring ideas about perspective. Here is a graphic that I've set up to explain the process. The original inked part of the drawing is about 3 inches tall. If you were to see this rendering from across the room it is a small, odd shaped nothing. Getting closer it begins to take on some sense of being. From two feet away it resembles two very different things to my mind. And then I think about those things and realize they are actually connected! A-hah! Click on the lower image for a microscopic view.

The wonder of rendering is that drawn & painted images can be more than depictions of visual reality. They can represent a more physically obscure but very present emotional reality.

I have often heard poets describe living with human awareness as being a fight. Depicting our feelings is all part of the big fight. Acknowledgement of distress is the first step to healing. As a visual artist I draw to plant seeds of hope, in myself as well as in others.

(I am thinking of the airline emergency instructions to put an oxygen mask on oneself before we put it on our children. HA! I'd be a pile of healthy earthworms by now if I didn't pay attention to that warning!)

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Abstraction to Realization in Bird Songs

Our brains are constantly shifting between abstract thought and cognitive thought. I enjoy making art about this phenomenon, and I enjoy even more finding great art out there that represents this atmospheric sensibility. Think Michelangelo's emerging slaves as a very early example.

The American contemporary composer/songwriter Andrew Bird plays with this idea. He often uses the sounds of words, rather than their meaning, to inform the exquisite musicality of his work. In his song "Souverian" he relishes the French sounds of that word (sue-ver-ee-yoh(n)), repeating them again and again... and we English speakers are mesmerized into tripping on the sounds which mean little but music to us. Then at the last minute he makes almost invisible sound switches and all of a sudden we have English word clarity: "So very young."

Sure, we can concentrate on catching the words... and even occasionally go to our dictionaries and figure out the possible exact meaning behind so many of his obscure references, but the essence of Bird's musical genius is found in drifting with the musicality of his sounds, in the lilting ride from focused to unfocused thought. Life is full of abstract atmosphere. I think Bird revels in it.

Another Bird song I can't resist, but doesn't feel as abstract, word-wise.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Feeding the Artist

When I painted "Diet Pizza" I knew it had problems. And why, if I know this, am I posting it here? It must be that I want to learn from this failure.

Compositionally it has major issues, so I cringe when I look at it, and even want to chop it up and throw it away. But then I think of why I painted it and I tuck it aside, facing the wall.

This piece has thematic meaning to one person. Me. Is it ethical for an artist to create art that only the creator understands? Can a mystery piece, if well done, be a piece of art if no viewer understands its true meaning?

A critic said, "Put more color into it." I would have preferred that she had instead asked, "Why is the color so dead and empty?" I think the failing of this piece is that she didn't ask that question.

Maybe someday I'll paint over it in a way that she'd understand, if she saw it again, that the lack of color is the point. In other words, I guess I didn't make the painting feel empty enough.

Friday, January 22, 2010

We the Critics are Gathered Here...

We are all critics. We all have opinions and a desire to be right. We (humans) are also very complex organisms.

Today I listened to a documentary about the jazz musician Dave Brubeck. Early on jazz folks thought his creativity was totally out of place. Jazz was about swing back then. He didn't have any swing. "You don't speak our language, you don't belong!" is the gist of what they told him over and over again. He probably thought these people were amazingly close minded because he continued on his way, connecting with the sounds of music he heard in the most honest part of his soul, and connecting with anyone who would listen. History tells that a lot of people did listen!

Brubeck is a very successful artist. We are not all in that very public boat (flower, seed pod?) but we are all leaders in our own tiny little art gardens. When we look around at the art of others, do we look to see originality, insight, some element of truth? Or do we look with an attitude of "You don't speak my language."

When we look at our own artistic practices, do we think "I must follow the rules laid down by those in the know." Or do we know in our hearts that we are speaking a language coming from so honest a place that no regional philosophy can deny it.

Design is attractive. Truth is not always so. But truth resonates and makes one's life worth living, whether we are seeing it in the work of others, or in the art we create ourselves.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Beauty is in the Eye of the Lover

I'm reading a book describing an artist who surrounds herself with beautiful people (sculpted cheek bones, smooth skin, elegant lines, etc., etc.), because of course, she is an Artiste! She wants to be surrounded by beauty at all times.

Sometimes I play a game about beauty and perception: I look at a stranger, someone who is considered homely, plain, non-descript by the media standards. I concentrate, zone in, and immerse myself with a fantasy of being in complete and utter love with this individual. It takes about 3 seconds for me, and then reality shifts. The result? This "nobody" becomes the most beautiful person in the world.

I appreciate elegant and symmetrical beauty as much as anyone else, but I have a suspicion the Artiste, above, misses out on quite a bit of earthy magnificence.

Rembrant was not a handsome man, yet how we do love his self portraits. Alice Neel was a master at finding beauty in shadowed humanity.

Perhaps the trick is to fall in love.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Caught Unawares

I woke up last night feeling like this. Go away, I yelled. The monster didn't listen. I used his tail to wipe out the story. It must have worked because I didn't remember this until now.

The Element of Surprise and the Risk of Failure

One of the stumbling blocks of the creative mind is that originality often goes hand in hand with fear of failure. Falling back onto safe ground is much easier than flying into new territory. What I'm referring to here is the tendency for one to relive past success by duplicating what works well. This is a huge subject with octopus arms miles long.

"Cleaning Chaos" came from doing a bit of window washing. It was safe to do the miniature nature of the work. The topic is surprising and therefor interesting. The fear factor came with the physical act of drawing. There was no prep pencil work. I'd never drawn this theme before. I started inking at the left (the squeegee) and built it to the right. There is a lot of self trust in this type of drawing. It's either that, or foolishness.

The cactus drawing is a much more safe drawing. Even though there was again no pencil prep work, the elements have repetition of form that is more easily controlled. From a distance this piece of art feels uninteresting. The surprise is in the story, which is visible only to the viewer who looks closer. Of course, with this type of art there is always a risk that the viewer will not think to stick his nose so close.

That Martini is the Beginning of the Trip

"Martini Chaos" came from nowhere and took me all over the place, from a head trip, to the desert, to science fiction, to snakes and sex and rats, to ships and war and girls and skiing and maybe angels and drinking too much. This is the treasure of the artist. We get to travel! Endlessly. Mine are very selfish trips: I am my own travel guide.

The Richness of Originals

I have bumped up against the predicament of drawing so small that it is difficult to reproduce the archive image of the piece. "Fertile Chaos" is a pen and ink that measures a little under 4 inches in width. The inking is extremely delicate. The scanned version, above, appears much more dense than the original. Herein is illustrated why I love looking at original art, as opposed to duplications of art. The originals have a life to them, a texture, a delicacy, a realness that can not be duplicated.

I just bought a tiny piece of art by Brooklyn artist R. Nicholas Kuszysk. Half the pleasure of viewing this intricate robot drawing/painting is imagining the artist sitting there painstakingly, with perhaps an invisible smile on his face, constructing humor and visual delight from nothing more than board, brush, and pen. This board, this paint, this ink!

A Final View at the Door

Speaking of art going on to a new public, I just got word that "A Final View" has been stimulating a lot of conversation in the welcoming hall of the collector's new home. This acrylic on board is not large at 18"x24", but incorporates so many stories within it that one can spend many long moments chasing down different paths and links of thought. I included a tiny dpi image of this painting earlier in my blog ~ which I realized later was rather useless since nothing important about the piece could be seen except general color and composition. Here it is in a larger form (click on it) that should give a better idea of the complexity of the work. Even at this size many details can not be seen. There are crowds of people that only the near-sighted can see. It helps to have a magnifying glass nearby.

One of my quibbles with online visuals is that the art is not usually reproduced large enough to reveal the intricate dynamics of the work. It's paranoia that keeps us from revealing the whole, and well placed from the point of view of control, but not very generous in spirit. In the case of artists who celebrate detail work, such as me, it is similar to cutting off one's head in order to feed one's belly.

Friday, January 8, 2010

To Post or Not to Post Prices

I feel myself tooting my (OW)n horn...
(detail from "37 Chaos Constructs.")
Referring back to the comments below, I must now deal with the nature of an art blog as being a virtual "open studio." Do I post whether the images I put up for display here are for sale? If I do, then money becomes a big part of the reality of this blog. Yuck. To me making art and making money are in two different worlds. I do visit that second world, but the first world is where I live, and is of more interest to me.

After some face-grimacing thinking (face-making is quite constructive in solving sticky conundrums, by the way) I have decided that I will not list availability of the art as a matter of course. As reference for anyone who might be interested, I'll just say that about 90% of the artworks I've posted so far have new physical homes in the imaginations of collecting others. Far be it from me to define each individual reality.

Think about it: When a piece of art leaves my space it is in someone else's space. That could be the physical space of a safe, a box, a wall, or a gift envelope to another individual. Where it really resides is in memory and awareness (or lack thereof). In the best of cases it goes off into a space that is visible to a whole new group of viewers and takes on new character in the lives of those people. Each piece can be thought of as a student sent out to the world by his master, ready to perpetuate the teachings onward (and perhaps spiraling out of control? Do we really know what is in the inner mind of a visual but non-verbal artist, devoid of the influences of outside professional critical thought? How much control do we really have over art...?)

(Note: I once had the pleasurable job of typing up Herb Caen's columns to be sent out on the AP wire. Here is where I learned about ... well ... three dots and then the correct use of that rare ... and so misunderstood, don't you think? ... fourth dot ... or not.... Do you even know who Herb Caen is? Then you know quoting HC as a grammatical expert is downright foolish.)

Is an Art Studio a Gallery During Open Studios?

I got in trouble last year with this painting. I sold it within a couple of months of painting it, my condition being that I could keep it in my studio until I felt I'd learned everything I needed to learn from it.

During the time that it hung on my wall our art complex held a few Open Studio events. I was thrilled by the various interpretations people had of this work. We all bring such varying life perspectives to each piece of art we view. In looking back I can now say that this work was pivotal in directing me towards the perspective drawings I have been doing in the past half year.

The trouble came when a visitor wanted to buy the piece. I felt like I was taking candy away from a kid when I had to tell him it wasn't available.

This brought up troubling questions: Is an Art Open Studio merely a selling event? Should all personal items be tucked out of sight in deference of the almighty selling mentality? If not, must one put price or NFS on every piece of visible art? Do many viewers recognize the benefit in visiting a studio that is a working space, not merely a selling space?

I've never thought of my studio as a shopping venue, but maybe I will have to rethink this... at least whenever visitors are present.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Riding Chaos

Last year was quite a wild ride. Making the best of it, I turned the chaos into imagery. Hanging onto a magnifying glass helped direct my thoughts: Look close, focus, wow! what an enlightening adventure.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Riding (?) the Boat

I love the way symbols emerge out of the canvas ~ treasures I discover while I work. At the bottom right of this brown painting you can see a boat. This symbol has appeared frequently in my work for the past few years. An imaginative person can see another questionably floatable boat in the background of Bearly Chaos, mentioned below. Both the Bear and the Brown belong to the Musician.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Bearly Chaos on Bare

Back in the early '80's I had the pleasure of hearing (second hand from the informed perspective of Beano editor Jonny Whiteside) that the legendary San Francisco tattoo artist D.E.Hardy enjoyed looking at the black/white drawings I did to illustrate "The Wonderful World of Animals" (humorist veterinarian Dr. Frank Miller's syndicated daily newspaper column). I always wondered what it'd be like to design tattoos, but didn't pursue the idea.

Decades later I have received the ultimate compliment. The bear-like mini-chaos painting above has been converted to shades of black by a very talented contemporary tattoo artist, and now graces the body of a vibrant classical musician. The facts that the art has a mobile new home, the design's graphic qualities have been lyrically intensified, and that I'd always wondered what it'd be like to make a mark on someone's life, make me think about movement, music, and chaos in a whole new way.