Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Thin Line or the Shadowed Form?

Colette and Mark are two visual artists, married. 
The imaginative force that runs positively 
between these two is phenomenal.
Mark Roller (Hunters Point studio, SF)

Quirky Little Lifelines, Personalized as Best I Can

The "900 Lives of Vision" book ended up costing a lot to produce, so this means it is expensive to buy. To even out the exchange value-wise, I have added a personalized drawing to each book ordered. These are Lifelines that revolve around a theme (or two or three) about the new book owner's life. This links the new owner to the stories within the book. Here are just a few of the designs I've created in the past two weeks. My new supply of books should arrive soon, and the drawing with book combo will be delivered to the new owners. This is a very fun project for me. I truly hope the receivers enjoy what arrives on their doorstep, because I'm having a blast. 

(To read drawings, start on the left with the birth of the individual, and read to the right as they grow through youth and onwards into an abstractly biographical perspective of their life.)

Paula, the Adventuress, what an imagination she has. 
And so much courage! 

 The high fly of the solo line of jazz guitarist Danny Caron. 
I can not do the emotional complexity of his line justice, 
but if you imagine these lines popping out on top of 
a lower register of great jazz & blues & a bit of the wild beat in life, 
you'll get what I'm cleanly trying to drive at.

 Imagine the bounty of stories this person has told throughout life. 
He's now in his 90's and relishes exploring 
all types of thoughts each day of his life.

After I drew this, but before she saw this, 
she said she liked things tall and thin. 
She showed me a new lamp she had just bought that was 
made of long metal lines and jewels attached to the ends.
It is very difficult to get these tiny portraits right, 
and I am so relieved when the drawing
ends up feeling right to the new owner.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Invisible Influences at Play

These four photos arrived on my table out of the blue, accompanied by a request that I scan them. These are not photos taken from my life, but I do know these people, had met each person during middle and high school years, and most have popped up in my life a few times after that. While searching these young faces I marveled at realizing that each person has had a meaningful impact upon my life. The point I'm getting at is that value can come from every person who passes our way, no matter how slightly we interact with them.

The kid with the tennis racket years later became my "ride home" from college during quarter breaks. I didn't know him personally, except that he had been a friendly acquaintance at my high school. On the drives home he'd stick me in the attached camper compartment walled off above his head, instead of next to him on the seat in the truck. Communication during the 3-hour drive was out of the question and yet I felt quite close to this boy turning into a man as we careened forward into our separate-yet-together futures. A sense of together/apart duality began to appear in my art around this time.

The smaller person in the boat photo, lower left, taught me that being small in physique had nothing to do with relationship to size of intellect. I remember thinking during high school, when I slightly knew this kid, that he was on a brainy technical plain (plane?) soaring in a hemisphere way out of my reach. I also remember thinking, am I on my own plain (plane) soaring in a hemisphere out of his reach? The question continues: when I create art that is so accurate to my experience am I creating art that might in definition then be unknowable by others? Is there value in communicating that which is incomprehensible to others? The deeper question is, can one get down to relevant truths that are universal, and still hold on to one's individuality of unique thought, and make sense?

That tiny person in the boat photo grew up to be a very big person in relationship to affecting the minds/lives of others, as everyone who knew him expected to happen. He's now soaring around on a plain (plane) at the top of his department at the top of the highest peaked university pile at the top of the mathematical world. What does this now mature man think when he encounters the minds of people who think dissimilarly to himself? Fog and thunderclouds look very different from one another, yet they are both moisture in the air. Can they exist in tandem? Yes. Can one make a relevant piece of art encompassing both realities? Did Turner think of such things? How much humanity goes into the art of an experienced landscape artist? Is it all form and light and color, or is there something more, hidden quietly underneath the clarity, something illusory but that beats with a quiet resonance of universal human awareness? How is it that one painting of a storm can feel superficial and another can stop us short with a tiny gasp of profound recognition?

Then there's the kid waving his hand. How has this boy influenced my life? I knew him slightly in high school but got to know him fairly well after college. See that smile? It's still there. He taught me that a jolly attitude can entice one's own saddest tear to wiggle out onto the dance floor of clownish humor. Water drop symbols have pervaded my art for decades, but what do they symbolize? Tears of sadness? Tears of joy? Sweat? Energy? Time movement? The beginnings of a humorous thought? The kid in the photo, now in the shape of the man, is still the kid in the photo, turning thought, questions, and sorrowful experiences upside down in a revel of Foolish wit that makes one grin. I am grinning back.

There are two taller boys in the top right photo. How have these two influenced me? The one on the right, in the white shirt, has no idea that he symbolizes for me the ecstasy of friendship. I was lucky enough to see this man embrace a boyhood friend in the most heartfelt squeeze of noisy bliss that I have ever seen publicly displayed. It is this type of abandoning oneself to inner bliss that I reach for when meditating down into "the zone" that produces the best of my work.

The kid in the sweater, sitting next to the squeezer's right, and grinning at the world, is still doing just that, grinning at the world. He does it with complete awareness, too. This boy turned man feels to me to be a bridge between the planes(!) that I sent soaring around this blog space a few paragraphs earlier. He is able to check in on one plain, move to another, observe and get information, and then move onto yet another plain. He does not abscond with all of the data, but instead takes what is relevant and then jets away to drop in... pollenate?... at another location. Ultimately he will fly to his own planet and build from his collections a civilization that is greater in scope than any of us can ever imagine. Watching the positive buzz of this energetic mind (and accompanied balancing companion mind, not in photos) encourages me towards thinking outside my own box. I am encouraged to speak up with my questions, to look for more data, to open my eyes to different ways of seeing, and to trust that I can create civilizations of my own that might have depth and consequence. I am also being taught by this boy turned man that we can be startled by life, and that we do have limitations on what we can safely take in. In order to soar to great plains, one must keep one's ship in fuel, check the spark plugs, and don't poor sugar into the gas tank!

The last boy in the photos, the small one in the upper left, reaching for food, is my greatest inspiration. He symbolizes that rare audience that appreciates the innermost light of the artist. One might say he embodies the art of living soulfully, with a good ear, a good mind, and a brave and willing heart. In my opinion the best art encompasses a blending of the feminine and the masculine. I have had many people view my art and it is clearly the people who are comfortable with both energies that benefit the most from seeing what I do. This man is one of those lucky people who gets charged up by the complete picture. The excitement of completely open conversation over the experience of what the art is about creates an energy that generates even more energy, leading to more creative thought and in the long run, a productive future.

When I go out into the world to see the work of other artists I try to get into this space of being open to seeing and taking in what the artist has to offer. It is remarkable what we can learn when we do this. I just gave you a synopsis of a group of boys who have influenced my life. Only one of them knows they have an integral part of my way of thinking. Compile these and other boy/men with so many girl/women that have traveled through my world and you will see the way that an alert mind picks up art data at almost every turn of life's experience. There is value everywhere. The landscape artist can make almost any landscape relevant, if they put their minds to it. Artists such as me can make any person relevant, if I put my mind to it. This is what my art is about: the art of being human, on all levels, no matter who you are, no matter where you are, no matter what your experience. There is something of value in every human hole we are conscious enough to stick our Foolish heads into.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Experimenting with Drawing Personalized Lifelines

Here is a quick drawing I did in support of Scott, who is looking for a job. The descriptors given to me for Scott are as follows. I have no idea whether the image that appeared on the paper is close to the spirit of Scott, but I did have a lot of fun imagining him taking on the world in this manner. As always, I did not preplan the drawing, so what came out is what came out. Go Scott!

Loving father of 2 daughters, scuba diver, boater, walks the dog,
drinks quality scotch, watches high action films, eats meat,
campaigns for progressive politics, dances, parties with friends,
listens to the Blues, is methodical, is a high energy type,
is kind and compassionate, is an in-charge type.
Looks stiff on the outside, is super silly and fun loving inside.
Can cry without embarrassment.
Loving husband.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Magic of Mockingbird

Here's why it pays to be a good sport. Years ago Sandy Mallory asked me to volunteer as the historian for the drama booster program where my daughter attended high school. She also asked me to make online-published books out of the photographs I'd take of the productions. Having been involved for years in many aspects of the illustration and design for traditionally created magazines, newspapers, and books, I knew this would be a ton of work if it was to be done right.

I had never done any true photographic documentation before. This intrigued me. Realizing this experience would give me an opportunity to grow my talents, I said yes and gave the effort my all. Two years later, and with the help of friend photographer Mark Kitaoka, I ended up with six photo documentary books under my belt.

Luck would be on my side: the drama department at San Mateo High School, under the direction of Brad Friedman, is exceptional on all levels (from set building to acting), so the images I took had the benefit of excellent aesthetics even before I snapped the shutters. The joy I experienced while telescoping so closely into the hard work of these amazing students was uniquely exquisite. It was almost as if I was capturing the moment to moment growth of true character building as these students learned how to power-tool their screws into boards or to better portray their characters on stage. The young man you see in the photo above had never previously acted in a play, yet you can see, even in this snapped photo, that his energy was the complete essence of the "Mockingbird" character he represented.

I have so many fabulous memories from this past dive into the student drama world, but last week this part of my history leapt into the present. An educationally oriented book maker in the UK has chosen some of my photos to illustrate their text book on "To Kill a Mockingbird." This means that the volunteer job I did three or four years ago is now going to help teach hundreds of thousands of kids on another continent for who knows how many years to come. Now that is volunteer work at its best!

(It's also pretty darn cool that my then student daughter, Alicia, was one of the two set designers for the play, and did not hold back at all with her feisty opinions about how to get those flats built and painted to look aesthetically right!)