Thursday, October 30, 2008

meditative work

While referring to these in a fit of honestsy, a spasm of clarity, and a moment of who-cares-about-intellectualism, I wrote this:

"I want the viewer to look at these pieces as long as I have worked on them. The process is a contemplative meditation that relfects the same state of being I attain when looking into the water, both moving and calm, as well as the frascination that falls upon me while curiously observing many natural things."

That statement could easily apply to many things, and be spoken by many people. I cannot tell if the ubiquity of the statement makes it banal or interesting.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

more work to be done

after getting back from Colorado. This is what the paintings that were left on the table look like now that the transparent layers have dried.



Time to do more work on at least 10 of these. Some of them might be finished now, but I have to take a closer look and really consider if they are meeting my intentions.

While in Colorado, I did not do much in-depth work (too busy). But, I took many beautiful, sentimental photos of the mountains as well as preliminary drawings with the intention of making a few multi colored screen prints this winter.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Decoration vs. Exploration

Surviving in the space between the two is difficult, but worth some consideration. Artistic exploration runs the risk of being so exceptionally personal and specific that it becomes obscure. Decoration, for the sake of covering a bare wall or other empty space, is discounted by artists for the lack of exploration. In short, it is simple and boring.

Setting aside, temporarily, the over-driven egomaniacal motivations and insecure human tendencies that crave approval, I suspect that an often overlooked factor is involved in many judgements of art. Consider a single factor that contributes to one's thinking about a piece of art often. There are many, but I am thinking of complexity.

Art that is too complex might be inaccessible to many people. It takes too much work to enjoy or understand, therefore few people will spend any time with it, and it will not stay in many memories. By contrast, art that is too simple is taken for granted. It may be exceptionally accessible. It can be as seductively simple as a colorful pattern that brightens up a room. The simplicity can leave a viewer without any way to continue the visual dialogue that starts, and it will not be remembered.

The balance between expressing the seductive visual stimuli that I feel and fully exploring any path of discovery through a piece of art, creates a constant tension that allows me to continue working. I want to make the next piece more complex, or less complex. It can be more or less beautiful or seductive. The work can be more specific and personal, or more open to the experience of others. I don't know the single answer. The question keeps me going.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Left on the table

This is how I left the 15 paintings before leaving for my Colorado trip.
No matter how excited I am for a trip, it is always difficult to leave unfinished work in the studio.



I'll bring watercolors (and of course a pencil) on my trip. But, I'll be anxious to get back to these and see how they look when the paint dries (and all the white color clears to transparent colors).

Friday, October 03, 2008

Paint By Numbers

On a recent trip to Pearl Paint in Paramus, New Jersey, I had a few sad realizations about the apathetic relationship between those who would call themselves "art suppliers" and people who actually are driven to create some sort of art.

The "art supply store" is a deceiving moniker given to any sales outlet that sells products which have an air of artsyness to them. Often, the products are paint sets, some brushes, poorly primed crap canvas, some pencils and paper. I am not against kits, how-to books, or anything that can let someone enjoy a few relaxing hours making something pretty. But, the label of "art supply store" implies that the establishment at least partially cares about supplying the means to create art. The problem is that "art" includes creative endeavors that stretch far beyond the paint-by-numbers mentality of how-to books and rigid sets of colored mark-making tools. The sad reality is that most retail outlets (particularly the big ones) don't care if they are selling art supplies or trinkets for pets. They only want your money.

When is the last time you walked into a Home Depot or Lowes paint section and looked at the thousands of paint swatches, placed neatly inside organized displays, with a color-adjusted light system that allows some compensation for the horrible general lighting of all giant stores. I am alternately amused and angered that the big-box hardware stores put more effort into helping people see colors in a broader spectrum of light, allowing improved comparisons, than my closest big "art supply store" does? Pearl Paint has horrible lighting, even by box-store standards. If I really need to compare relative colors, then I make an effort to shop during daylight. You can find me walking back and forth between the oil paint aisle and the store front window for more accurate color comparisons. The system is not perfect, particularly considering the green/brown tint to the window, but it's better than relying on blue/green warehouse lights, which distort color more than cheap fluorescent garage lights.

This might seem like a frustrated rant. Yes. It is. It does, however, have merit; particularly when you consider the narrow definition of "art" that seems to exist, and how a box store like Pearl Paint wants to keep the definition inside a box so its price can be inflated more, discounted less, and sold to those who can be turned into mindless zombies. I was willing to let my surprise go during my undergraduate studies, but when I saw this in graduate school I was astonished. I was impressed with fellow art students who did not have concept about the incredible bounty contained in hardware stores (let along any idea how to use a tool beyond a standardized oil painting kit). Those pursuing graduate studies, in art, had an idea of art that fell right in line with the packaged products sold at big-box "art supply stores".

A couple of final notes:

I will continue to rush off to Pearl Paint in Paramus when I am in New Jersey and need to replace a simple tube of paint quickly. I have resolved, next time I need accurate color comparisons at night, to bring along a flashlight that is strong enough to counter the horrible lighting.

Throughout my two years of graduate studies I only met two people who entered into a course of study at American University who did not know their way around a hardware store. And, I know those two overcame any sort of inexperience with pure curiosity about the world around them. I am still occasionally surprised when I speak to graduate art students who do not know the world that exists outside the major art supply chains.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Rocks in the river

I was talking to a whitewater kayaking friend of mine who was expressing regret about his long hiatus from sculpture (he has a degree in sculpture and makes very cool large steel and wood structures). My friendly recommendation was that he should just start making something, anything, regardless of size. The important thing is to just get started by doing something creative, as a way to reconnect with the childhood joy of making something (simply for the sake of making it).



This summer, while skipping the flat rocks of the Kennebec river, I started to show some of the junior counselors how the slate and shale rocks would fracture into thinner stones for skipping. That demonstration lead to speculation about using harder rocks to do the job, which in turn lead to discussion about how well one rock would cut into another. It was a demonstration of the essential human tendency of simply play evolving into experimentation through creativity.



One of the junior counselors, noticing how well he could shape the stones, declared that he was going to make an arrow head. Recognizing the awesome possibility to turn a speculative text book history lesson from school into an actual connection with ancient humanity, I (as well as the other junior counselors) agreed to each make an arrow shaped rock, using only tools found on that small beach.



As youthful enthusiasm gave way to peer pressure for playing frisbee, the junior counselors finished their arrow heads and joined the rest of their group on the adjoining field. I could hear them explaining the playing/experimenting with rock that they were enjoying while they warmed up for a game of Ultimate. I picked up my stones to move within sight of the group, but continued to work. Since I had finished an arrow shape, I decided to draw with it. Then, I decided to draw ON it, with the first decoration that naturally occurred; a line in the middle. The next rock got a decoration that progressed from the first. It had the most common two-line decoration in human history, intersecting lines.

I wonder how many works of art are made with stone.
How many have intersecting lines?
How many started as play, and continued through experiment? (and is there a difference?)