Posts Tagged ‘Drawing’

Large Landscape Works on Paper

April 11, 2017

I am always on the lookout for interesting art work … in person or out in the digital universe.  Recently, while trying to find examples of engaging artworks for my students to connect to, I came across the work of Michelle Lauriat.

Michele Lauriat, Phil's Hill (#3)

Mixed media, 90×55, from the Phil’s Hill series

 

Frankly, I was surprised and so very excited to find her large works combining drawing and painting on paper. I think my pleasure was so intense because she works much as I do in my sketching … but does so on such a larger scale. The work also reminds me just a bit of the image making path that I was on in my early 20’s.  So, I feel enthralled by the newness and freshness of her work while also sensing a degree of aesthetic kinship.

 

 

Mixed media, Echo Lake Series, 55×42

Ms. Lauriat’s pieces hover between drawing and full-bodied painting; making use of discrete but rich patches of color as well as subtle staining of the surfaces. Using copious amounts of negative space along with fields of color and value, she carefully articulates space/depth and a tentative feeling of solidity. While there is much visible evidence of early exploratory gestural mark making that she has left exposed and even foregrounded, there are also areas that she fills with marks and passages that hint at or describe perceived textures and also bolster the visceral activation of the surface design of her work.


I see Lauriat’s working method combining a decisively bold, and at times elegant, editing process with an eye for richly observed and rendered details from the natural world.  The results are exquisite combinations of mimetic accuracy and dramatic abstraction.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Her website is visually easy to explore and she blogs at … http://blog.michelelauriat.com

Enjoy!

 

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Urban Sketches; Color or Not

February 14, 2017

This past week or so, I have been working on sketches, lots of sketches … and yesterday I executed a very quiet one.

I had walked through town, past the shops and restaurants along the pedestrian mall, across and under the railroad tracks a few times, and even as far east as the old coal tower. I visually explored, looking for new ways to see the familiar sites. I tried to look deeply; I sketched and even took a few photos to perhaps use as reference for later in the studio. The one image that most intrigued me was far from the obvious. I even worked it up in a manner that I only rarely use.

Stopping in a small public park near my old studio, I began, and almost completed, the piece on site. The park is dedicated to the memory of a regional war hero and it has a traditional and quite handsome equestrian statue in the middle of the park. What interested me though was the sunlight bathing the delicately carved white stone base as well as the winter shrubs surrounding the statue.

winter-2017-foliage-in-lee-park

Winter Shrubs in Lee Park (pencil w/ink and ink wash, 5″x11″)

Using the thinnest of graphite lines, I began laying in the divisions of space. As I did so, I also began to create light but articulated lines to describe edges of bare branches. While I was doing most of the pencil work, I decided to create a pale grey ink wash. In a very old fashioned manner, I layered the wash many times … very slowly building up pretty subtle value shifts as each layer of wash dried. To add contrast to the nuanced values of pencil and wash, I added a lot of fairly small black ink marks using the fine point of a cartridge brush pen. Though I might touch up some part of the sketch later, for now I believe it is done. (If you have an opinion about it being done or not, do let me know.)

As I said, this little ink and pencil piece is quite a bit different from most of my current sketch work. A more typical piece is the one I did a building just four blocks away or the one of the coal tower.  Most often, I add watercolor over pencil and sometimes I will add a touch of ink … either with pen or brush. I tend to work fairly quickly once the drawing is “blocked-in” to my satisfaction. I usually strive to keep the end result loose and painterly as you can see below. This time, for the piece above, I was using aa much slower and more patient process.

west end of the cville mall, 2016West End of the Mall (watercolor and ink over pencil, 5″x7″)

 

 

 

I am always a bit surprised at the variety of the stylistic choices I see in my sketches, the wide array of strategies I employ as I begin working with an image. Loose vs highly controlled; rich color versus open space and limited hue or tone. As a much younger artist I worried that my work was “all over the place” or too “unfocused.” Eventually I learned to look to one of my heroes,  Richard Diebenkorn, as an example. You can see some of the variety within his sketches at the following address:
[ http://hyperallergic.com/231403/a-lifetime-of-sketchbooks-from-postwar-painter-richard-diebenkorn ] So, I don’t worry about that issue any more.

For me, it is time to get back out there and make some more images. Well over half of my studio pieces are begun with the research of urban sketching or plein-air studies!

coal-tower-blustery-day-web

Coal Tower, Blustery Day, watercolor over pencil, 5″ x 11″

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Two shows Delivered … resetting the studio for work!

February 3, 2014

Installion, of a large drawing

Installion of a large drawing

Excited and exhausted; to say the very least.

During January I installed two large exhibitions in two weeks. The installations went well. I was really quite happy with getting to see the works up on the walls together!

One exhibit had an opening reception that was very well attended, I got lots of questions and discussion, and folks seemed to have a splendid time. So I walked away with good feelings … relieved, happy and even a little euphoric.

IMG_2705

view of part of the exhibition at Mary Baldwin College

Answering some questions at the reception

Answering some questions at the reception

To be honest though, when that kind of scheduling happens, my studio and my life tend to get pretty … no … really messy.

As the two shows loomed on the horizon, I began to focus more and more on the logistics of finishing, prepping and packaging for transport. At the same time I was continuing to make the last few works for each show. This left me a bit crazed and frenzied at times. I was switching back and forth between production mode and thinking about logistics. I wasn’t putting supplies and equipment back in place at the end of each session.  The studio got way out of hand!

Normally, once a show is up, I start to wind down.

Even the prep table and storage areas became really messy

Even the prep table and storage areas became really messy

When some of the exultation and weariness begins to abate, it is usually time for that reflection to begin … to take stock of where my work is/is going, to decide if I need to shift directions, alter my course, or adjust my strategies. That is usually a very good thing for me but I have to admit that more than once I have let myself fall into some type of post-show stupor and have had a hard time getting back to a steady working routine.  This time, I really couldn’t stop … the other show had to get out the door in less than a week!

So I kept moving.

Now the second show in Pennsylvania is up … and I am noticing an interesting turn of events. Even while working on and installing the Pa. show, the heightened analysis process that I use after completing milestones/projects had begun. So, instead of collecting my thoughts while I was puttering through the studio doing some straightening up … I was already in full reflection mode when I walked back into the studio upon returning.

All the drawing ables, supply tables and chairs are full of stuff!

All the drawing tables, supply tables and chairs are full of stuff!

The practical tasks seemed, this time, to jump into sharp focus and to hand. First, the studio needed re-organizing and cleaning. Working in mixed media, if everything isn’t put away after a few sessions, it can leave the materials in a disheveled heap. It was a bit of real jumble as you can see here!

One messy wheeled table (sort of a mobile taboret)

One messy wheeled table (sort of a mobile taboret)

There were transportation and packing materials to properly store. And I have to make some sense, some order out of all the resource images, sketches and photos … as well as pieces of plants, dried seedpods, maps, and other studio materials to file away or re-evaluate for use soon. (I am not sure I have ever really gotten a good filing and storage system for doing these items!) I usually look about and see if there is something that I think that I need from old resources or need to go get/create at this point.

While I am getting things in order … it is good time to do a materials inventory too. Whether there is any income from these shows or not I’ll need replenish my stock, to order some fresh supplies and repair/replace any damaged or broken equipment.

So as tools, supplies, resource images/objects, are sorted out, the periodic cleaning MUST take on a high priority! I expect that it may need an even more intensive version this time ‘round. I would call it a “spring cleaning” but we are still in the depth of winter.

As I said before, I usually build to all these tasks as I reflect on my direction. This time, the practical/logistical tasks are happening at a quickened pace. It sort of reminds me of my German colleague and friend Brigitte Weyer, who moved into a new town, home, and studio … and was painting within two or three days. Even with some of the boxes still packed.

It seems as though I am resetting for new work already!

The studio is getting back to a workable state!

The studio is getting back to a workable state!

There are two medium size drawings that I need to switch out the glass for sheets of Plexiglass (aka: Acrylic glass, Acrylite, Lucite, Perspex) so they can be shipped. And I have already prepped two large Mylar sheets … because I’ve set some ideas into motion for several large drawings

I am also feeling the need to be working on my aqueous media painting … the works on panel and paper. I have a major multi panel painting in the works and three or four smaller single panel pieces roughed in. I need to start applying some color layers. That feels exciting just thinking about it!

Look closely, I have already started laying in the first color passages!

Look closely, I have already started laying in the first color passages!

There are some large watercolors on paper in the pipeline too. I am also really chomping at the bit, anxious to get outside (even in spite of this much colder than average winter) to begin working on new small sketches and studies.

Once I have really gotten all these moving … I will, as is my praxis, let the work lead the way; letting each of these strands of working weave themselves into an organic and fairly seamless whole.

There is a good lesson to take-away from this experience. I have known for many years that I need reflection time … but I do want to avoid the post show let-down and stupor induced paralysis it can bring with it. My scheduling of these two exhibits right on top of each got really messy. You could ask my wife. Perhaps though, it taught me again to NOT completely stop … to not let rethinking and re-ordering become a false reverie.

I have new works up and running. The studio is coming along. And we are planning a few trips (combining art and personal fun) and a vacation too.

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Going from study to “finished piece” … and back again!

January 9, 2014

Earlier this week I posted about a work (the working title was “Vixen”) that I finished a bit before the end of 2013.

Voxis Vulpis, mixed media on Mylar, 2013

Voxis Vulpis                                                            (the previous working title was “Vixen”)                                                         60×42, mixed media on Mylar, 2013

That piece is part of my on-going Natural-Family-History series; a group of large to installation sized mixed media draws that incorporate and align images from nature/natural history and from my family history as well.

Most of the time I work up the constituent parts of the drawing’s content pretty fully; If for no other reason, it becomes necessary to do so because of the size of these works. Most of the time though, I don’t plan the entire composition. It isn’t that I can’t. I certainly have worked that way in the past. I taught my students how and why it can be such a great practice.

Instead, I have been using a modified, jazz influenced praxis. Utilizing a hybrid hand-digital sketching process for the parts of the drawing, I can then create digital enlargements. Then I work up multiple sizes of the visual elements. With these and projections, I can experiment and improvise … sliding the pieces around as if in a collage.

Now, that has been the practice of late. But ever-so-often I do back track to a more traditional way of working and produce some  1/4 to 1/2 scale studies. In fact, the mylar drawing, Voxis Vulpis actually began as just such a study on paper. I thought it might be interesting to look at how I tried  to work up the image/idea. And how the study went so very badly … and made a come back … as a very different work!

view of studio wall with study, sketches and visual resources

View of studio wall with the 36×27 inch study on paper after I erased the fox image.                                          Notice the red pencil sketch of the seated fox looking leftward and also the visual resource photograph of a fox as well

early stages of a study for "Vixen" 36x27 mixed media on paper

early stages of a study for “Vixen”                                                             36×27. mixed media on paper

To the  left is a view of the studio with the study at an early stage of the process. Note the visual resource photo and the red sketch of a seated fox pinned to the wall. The messy, playful, nearly random staining underlayer is visible … as is basic drawing of the Hawthorn branches, leaves and thorns that had been begun for the top section.

detail of the study, using a raking light to reveal remnants of the erased head of the fox

detail of the study, using a raking light to reveal subtle remnants of the erased head of the fox

If you look carefully in the lower right hand area of the study, you can see remnants  of the drawing of the seated fox planned for this section of the of the composition. The B&W image to the right may help you see the erased head, snout, and nose of the fox just a bit better.

Upon reflection, I made a pretty massive change in the direction of the image. I thought the scale to be all wrong and I was also disenchanted with that pose. I even began to dislike the drooped head posture for this piece.

After erasing the head and body of the fox, I planned to add a different version of the fox. As I made that decision, I also began working up the additional design elements on the larger mylar piece this study was the preparation piece. As I worked on the larger work, I made the decision on the version of the fox I wanted to use; one that was in a standing position with the body oriented towards the viewer’s right … but the head still looking left.

I also altered the idea of the Hawthorn branches and thorns from being done in tonal dry media … into creating them with a rich black ink.

At this point I abandoned the study.

A bit later, as I was working on another large mylar piece, I looked across the studio and saw the unfinished study still up on a wall mounted drawing board. Whether by serendipity or some internal decision making process that I was not aware of, I decided to give that sheet of paper another go.

Since I was working on a 10 ft drawing that was going to need a bird known as a Tufted Titmouse, I figured I would try adding one of those to the composition. I had drawn some before … as studies for the larger work … but had not yet included one in a composition. So here was a chance to do so despite this piece being very different than the mylar one.

My First Encounter with the Wild 36x27, mixed media on paper, 2013

My First Encounter with the Wild 36×27, mixed media on paper, 2013 

Once I added the perched Tufted Titmouse work needed some more darks through the middle section. After working up the darks in the middle and some additional changes to the top register of the page, I backed off. I let a couple of days go by … looking from time to time while in the studio. After some small adjustments … I stopped  “tinkering” and decided it was done.

Now that it is complete, I realize that it isn’t really like either of the finished works it helped me prepare for anymore. That’s ok. The “study” went it’s own way and is now an independent work. I like it enough that I think that I’ll include it in my upcoming exhibit at Mary Baldwin College.

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Of Tattoos and Miracles

December 9, 2013

about “Tatoos & Miracles”

First, NO, I don’t have any tattoos of loons or anything else. No, I don’t want one either. But, in recent months I have sometimes posted about the art in my Natural-Family-History series. Those large drawings on mylar are created to give me a place to connect my ideas and reflections about family and place. The drawings are a sort of multi-voice dialogue between scientific and totemic, mimetic and poetic imagery. Sometimes I have been hard pressed to articulate what I am doing … or at least why.

This blog (published by Muddy River Muse), at first seemingly unrelated, is on target; so on target because … better than anything I have written thus far … it hones in on a major part of what I am doing.

I too am looking for, trying to create, “outward signs.”

(I have some new Natural-Family-History series drawings progressing through the studio right now; more on them in the next few days.)

Muddy River Muse

Like all good little cradle-Anglicans of my day, when I reached the age of 12 I signed up for Confirmation class. We met crammed into a too-small but oddly symbolic “upper room” off the church balcony. I remember exactly two things from my weeks of Confirmation prep. The first is the lesson where we read and discussed the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand. The minister who taught the class took it upon himself to challenge us with some liberal theology, and pressed the point that perhaps there was more than one way to make a miracle. Perhaps Jesus didn’t conjure extra loaves and fishes out of thin air after all. Perhaps when the members of the crowd observed one person sharing the provisions he had brought, they were inspired – or shamed— into digging into their packs and bringing out their own secret stash of snacks to…

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Stanley Spencer; Modernist & Realist

November 24, 2013

Self-portrait, Stanley Spencer, 1914

Self-portrait, Stanley Spencer, 1914

Some Realists make work that reminds me of wonderful and simple sugar candy; a rush of pure visual excitement, easy on the eyes, and nothing complicated. (Yes, I know it isn’t easy or uncomplicated to paint that way; just try to create a delicate and sensual confection like Fairfield Porter’s work!)

Then there are Realists so enigmatic that their work creates all kinds of quandaries which rattle about in my head for a long time. Those are the Realists that I love most.

In the States, I immediately think of the works of Andrew Wyeth or of Raphael Soyer. The former stretches credulity and design into a wonderfully complex matrix. Soyer, seemingly effortlessly, pushes you towards his subjects personal space … involving you, almost uncomfortably in their lives somehow.

In England, I am entranced by the life and art of Stanley Spencer. His work, to my eye at least, stands as a very modern type of realism. Maybe not the rough, even harsh newer realism of Lucien Freud but still modern and engaging. (I haven’t yet read anything to tell me that L. F. was influenced by Spencer, but I suspect that he was.)

Terry's Lane, Cookham circa 1932 by Sir Stanley Spencer 1891-1959

Terry’s Lane, Cookham, c. 1932

Spencer, as an artist who matured within sight of the first World War nearly a century ago, certainly had access to both the grand traditions of the past and the visual ideas of the new century at his disposal. He continually experimented with elements of both in his art.

We can see in his drawing and painting that he had the training we would associate with that tradition. We also see in his work that he had an eye for composition that was not traditional … he crowded the viewers perception, pushed his subject into our world, dragged us into his equivocally desolate and lush visions.

So to, in his life, he experimented and fumbled … ending up in a bit of a peculiar place when it came to relationships. That may have been why he lived so much of his life in and around the village of Cookham; midway between London and Oxford, a place where he could work out his own direction.

nude-1935

Nude, 1935

In the end his work did not seek refuge in some safe and comfortable romanticism for days gone by. Neither did he unquestioningly embrace and advocate everything that was new. Instead, he engaged in the tumultuous negotiations between past and present, internal and external … that we all carry within us.  You can see current events of his day in his work and timeless subjects. Not the same old take on those subjects … rather he looks upon them with a very personal perspective, and giving them a modern if sometimes quavering and enigmatic voice.

Spencer’s work and his life are not quickly or easily understood. He is not “pure and simple” unless by that you mean he is himself. That is possibly why I keep wanting to look at his work so much. To get a better insight into his work try taking a look at the site below: http://modernbritishartists.wordpress.com/2013/11/05/stanley-spencer-heaven-in-a-hell-of-war/ Rickett's Farm, Cookham Dene 1938 by Sir Stanley Spencer 1891-1959

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An Imperfect drawing! Leonardo?

November 3, 2013

Leonardo

Leonardo da Vinci,                        “Head of a Young Woman”, 1480s (Study for the Angel in the ‘Virgin of the Rocks’)

Imperfect? A Leonardo drawing? Yes. Thankfully and beautifully, yes!

(Notice the imprecise … the MULTIPLE misplaced imprecise lines in this drawing. This is Leonardo! What is up with this? Is it a forgery? Why are we forced to look at imperfection and call it great art? Why is it even in a museum if it isn’t perfect?)

You know, we humans often get it wrong. We work so hard at doing something perfectly. We assign so much prestige and even power to creating art that is “perfect!” Have you ever looked at a work (perhaps your own) and praised its mechanical, photographic precision? Or perhaps you remember bemoaning or besmirching a work that wasn’t precise enough to your eye?

We praise the precision and ignore the perfectly wonderful. I have a surprise for you and all the folks who read this … Perfect is not spelled P-r-e-c-i-s-e.

(I can now hear some of my former students chuckling in the distance, colleagues snickering around the corner, my own illustrator daughter rolling in a fit of raucous laughter.)

Don’t get me wrong, I love precision … I have taught that it is a virtue to be sought after. In the right time and place, it can be gloriously beautiful. It can also be boringly mundane.

Somehow the human hand, the human heart, the human mind creates beauty without being precise. Maybe a hint or a heaping helping of precision is there … sometimes none at all. But compelling images and beauty can find ways through with or without precision!

I could go on and on, droning through this idea. To understand/solve this quandary, we are going to have to really see what is going on here. Perhaps a better course would be to steer you to a better source. If you are of a mind, try this blog …

http://hyperallergic.com/91475/single-point-perspective-the-most-beautiful-drawing-in-the-world

Realism … in Drawing; Life and Politics too

October 28, 2013

Daumier was, for me at least, an acquired taste.

But having acquired the taste, I am now addicted. I would liken it to the taste of dark chocolate or smell of grinding freshly roasted coffee.

His line is so very descriptive; endlessly darting about the subject suggesting form and movement. Gesture drawing dominates the look of the drawn line; here and there alighting just for an instant to describe the physical reality Lunch in the Country (c. 1868) by Honore Daumier, part of the Visions of Paris exhibitionwe sense more than see. His drawing is so unlike some of the other masters of line from France around his time … excellent draughtsmen such as Ingres, Gerome, Prud’hon, and Degas.

Daumier was part of the French wing of the Realist movement in the early 19th century. He worked pretty prolifically in painting and drawing. His work in wax sculpture is not as well known but is quite exciting if a bit enigmatic. What he is perhaps best known for is his drawings on lithographic stone for newspaper illustrations and political cartoons.

I said that his drawing was different from his more well known contemporaries and near-contemporaries. So are his subjects. He depicts working class folks with generosity and compassion. He pokes a little fun at middle class folk when they key-55-24700seem pretentious. He really skewers the aristocrats and the arrogant wielders of cultural, political, and economic power mercilessly … especially so in his lithographic cartoons. More than once, he got himself into a bit of political trouble; especially so his famous print The Rue Transnonain from 1834 helped fuel political demonstrations and riots.

Daumier was well respected then by his realist contemporaries like Courbet, many of his works were smaller, more intimately scaled … and often more intimate in their conception as well. Because of that, his work may have overlooked when displayed in the lavish Salons Exhibitions of the day.

As an artist, I certainly like Daumier on many levels. I love his active use of line to describe form in movement. His pictorial design, while looking grounded in very 19th century concepts about picture making (at least to my eyes) has an immediacy and a rawness that presages much of the “in-your-face” strategies of contemporary work. There can be no denying that Daumier’s content isn’t compelling and forceful or intimate and nuanced by turns. But there is one subject in his work that I have to admit really gets my attention. It isn’t the thing he is most widely admired for either. To some, it may seem just a little to arcane, a little to precious a subject.

I really love the prints and paintings of folks perusing the folios in print shops. Daumier, who made a lot key-15-new-24696of his professional career
selling prints, must have seen these folks regularly. He needed them. They where one of his major clientele. At times he makes fun of some for their snooty or dandified attitudes. A few look like terribly disengaged shoppers, as though they just don’t see anything they like at all. Others, he really captures their rapt attention or curiosity. Whatever he thinks of the individuals depicted amongst the displays and racks of prints, they almost always seem very human. I suspect Daumier was too.

Well there is a new show of Daumier’s work that has just opened at Royal Academy in London. Apparently there are some art works that have not been seen outside of private collections in almost 200 years. If you would like a little more info about that show, I suggest taking a look at the blog listed below.

http://jollygoodnews.wordpress.com/2013/10/23/royal-academy-gives-daumier-first-british-show-in-50-years

If, on the other hand, you can’t make it to London and you want to see the most notorious print by Daumier you don’t have to go that far. A wonderful example of Daumier’s Rue Transnonain (1934) is on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC.

Drawing, more than process. Honestly.

October 20, 2013

For-Scythian Suite, detail #1

For-Scythian/Forsythian Suite, detail

Last time I wrote about the process of drawing.

I wrote especially about my process; what I assume echoes many others studio practice. But I didn’t even mention content.

When I teach, students always want to talk about content. When I am showing my work, I always get questions about content: “Why did you choose that subject?” or “What moved you to work with that image?” Even my fellow artists almost always ask a “What’s up with that?” kind of question.

For years, I didn’t answer that question well. If at all.

I could have been to young and naive, to unsure of myself to have anything to say. Maybe I really didn’t think that I should even talk about subject matter back then. Perhaps I was playing out the mid-20th C. art world game of being above the idea of image and subject. It certainly never came up much when I was studying in college during the mid to late 70s. I have heard a lot of artists, then and since, say that art should speak for itself … that they shouldn’t have to explain anything. When I returned for further study during the late 80’s, folks wouldn’t quit talking about content. But they were abuzz with deconstructing meaning, not talking directly about content or subject matter.

Formalist and Post-Modernist strategies are quite exciting; I enjoy discussing and using both. I also value direct, straightforward discourse, heartfelt honesty. Years and years ago, a director at a community art center/arts council called not being willing to explain my work in ordinary terms a form of snobbery. Intellectual snobbery and arrogance to be precise. (Guilty as charged Sally!)

Well, about ten years ago, I started this series of large drawings. The subject matter is, frankly, probably the most important part of the whole series. The subject is not just the process. It is not just the design. The subject incorporates all that … as well as the images in the pieces … AND the alignment of the images that I am bringing together.

I have come to title this series “natural FAMILY history.” It is comprised of images from nature, signs and symbols taken from weather, history, science, and culture, as well as totemic and/or visually recognizable representations of my extended family members. The drawings, combining/aligning such diverse … maybe even disparate … images into complex but approachable compositions … are about the convergence of personal history and natural history.

Vixen (a working title), unfinished, detail 1 mixed media on Mylar

“Vixen” (a working title), detail 
unfinished, mixed media on Mylar

I can not any longer avoid talking about the images. How could I; these are the people, the events, and the ideas that have brought me here. They are the family and the places that have sustained, supported, and challenged me. This is about love and pain, disappointment and total joy … a reflection of my journey and of my being.  These are the images I will carry with me to wherever else I may go.  So the drawings are hopefully … essential and intrinsically humane; an attempt to be honest about not just art … but about life itself.

So, yes , the design, process, and materials are fair game … so is the imagery and what I am trying to say or to trying to explore with the imagery.

And I will talk about them with anyone.

Ask away!

Drawing Close and Being Transparent.

October 10, 2013

Studio View, with early stages of Vixen (left) and For/Scythian Suite 1 (rt.)

Studio View, with early stages of Vixen (left) and For/Scythian Suite #1 (right)

Years ago, an artist friend, colleague, teacher, and mentor of mine, Clarence Morgan, noted that I really get excited about drawing.

Today there is still real truth to that. The rush of emotions … joy, surprise, and elation at the sight of marks dancing across the page … just feels SO right, so rewarding. As I work through the stages of a drawing, when it is really going well, it almost seems that the image is forming itself. It is almost like “we” are intimate friends, even lovers, leaning in close, whispering … suggesting, teasing and coaxing each other where to go next.

At other times, it is really much more like a wrestling match, as if the drawing and I are locked in a struggle. In that analogy, we are very close again … but this time pushing, pulling … working against each other in an attempt to get the “other” out of the way, out of some unseen box, across some unknown finish line.  Frustration at the lack of understanding, cooperation, or completion. A contest of wills. You see, I tend to be the stubborn aesthetic arbiter; sometimes insisting on being in conscious control. Now that can be a problem … a big problem!

detail, For/Sythian Suite #1 Mixed Media on Mylar

detail, For/Sythian Suite #1 (unfinished)
Mixed Media on Mylar, approx. 84×40

This image is part of one of my large mylar drawings. It is one of several pieces from my Natural-Family-History series that are in the studio right now.  It has had moments of struggle as well as those quiet moments of intimate partnership. I hope it finds it’s way to a good, maybe even an ecstatic conclusion.

Every once in a while it makes me think (feel … might actually be a better word here) as though my job as the artist is to become transparent (just like the Mylar I am drawing on!) and let the drawing come to life all on its own.

Seeing may be a form of thinking (Arnheim). Even so, I know the physical act and the materiality of drawing isn’t thinking; but that doesn’t preclude that I want to understand something of the ideas, the wisdom, imbedded in the materials and the images themselves … wether they are my projections on them or something inherent within them. (Watch out there  … I seem to be channeling the shades of Santayana and Aquinas both with that statement!) Nor does it mean that I will be immediately satisfied by the wisdom presented to me, pushed into my grasp by the drawing process. I will trying to bend it, somehow, closer to my will, to my thought … to an outcome that I had expected, that I want/wanted to accept. I may or may not get it all the way there. I could lose the contest. Just as often though … having to give in, letting the work have it’s own way … I am enlightened by the image, by the process, and/or the materials. I am transformed by the work/working as much as I have created the art work.

Whether like lovers or wrestlers, in either case really exciting things can happen.

As I said, Clarence noticed that I really get excited about drawing … at times even above and beyond my deep attachment to/involvement with painting. So, YES, Clarence was right. It is the balance of intimacy and power in the acts of drawing, whether in the small scale sketches or the larger works, that I love.

Thanks for the insight old friend.

For-Scythian..., detail E2

PS: if you want to find some of Clarence’s newer work, you might start with …  http://www.clarence-morgan.com

Un-timely changes, delicious delays

August 6, 2012

There times when I am in the studio almost a day, almost all evening. And of course, there are times when I can barely break away from other concerns and get into the studio. We all know how hard it can be to balance all of life’s “stuff” in a way we feel comfortable. But every once in a while it all feels quite natural … that it flows so smoothly. That is a most glorious feeling.

Right now isn’t one of those times. Hold on … and please don’t get me wrong … I absolutely am not kvetching. Actually, I am in the studio pretty continuously. The work is going … and going well, just not smoothly in the normal sense.

Instead, it feels a bit like what I imagine a decathlon athlete experiences. They have to think about strategies and performance for SO many events, so many competitions. It seems to me though that their hardest work must be to focus on each completely while  never loosing sight of the overall picture. Me too. I am trying to focus on so many strands of activity right now … as the next exhibition is getting closer and closer. There are so many lovely details: making sure all the matting, framing, plexiglass and all the other display supplies are lined up in the studio … not to mention prepping tags, insurance info, and P.R. stuff too. That is a major job and each detail deserves my attention to quality AND timeliness.

But I am also continuing to make art, and that is keeping my head jumping from task to task. True, I have done all this before. And I made a good list this time around too. So all the practical parts are running according to good schedule.

The image creation process is not running along on anything like a smooth, predictable timetable. I have already completed the sketching, planning, and even much of the painting on many works for the upcoming show. Other pieces though are lagging behind. You see, the work keeps shifting, changing, coming to completion in quite unexpected ways.

If I was running a restaurant and the food was inconsistent, that would be bad. (The chef’s creativity would be happy, the chef’s customers and the bottom line might be put off though.) And many artists I know would recoil from that situation too. But Oh how I do love the tentative, shifting qualities I am seeing. It tells me something is really going on up there in my head! That isn’t a bad thing … but it might be better if it would just wait until I have a few more pieces completed and ready to exhibit.

            

Above are some snippets from the first three phases of an image that I am working on right now. It is based on a budding flower, known as Queen Anne’s Lace. As I work with the lines and the layers of color, I am seeing a need for a few touches of opaque watercolor or gouache to help me finish the piece … to make the opening bud seem to have just a bit more solidity … for it’s stems to have some more substance.

I am also sensing that this image, or one very similar to it, might be destined for a really large format … one of my mylar drawings. Perhaps one about “me mum.” See what I mean, I am already thinking about and planning work for next year! Frankly, if I weren’t an old hand at this I might be really scared, even frantic.

Instead, I am intrigued … deliciously so. And that is why I do this … to be intrigued and challenged; even when it is inconvenient.

Returning to Normal? Ready for NEW Challenges!

October 31, 2010

We are back from a really delightful time in Ohio. The opening at the Greer was quite nice … and I am truly pleased with how the show looked installed. I am now extremely excited about the next large pieces!  Two are firmly in my head and several more are floating about … a bit less resolved.

And I have already decided on the direction of the new watermedia on panels series, so I will be doing lots of visual research (sketches & photographs, designing & revising) on that front.  For that series, I also have some fresh ideas (as well as twists on some previous work) that I think will be fantastic to explore.

So it is now time to clean the studio a bit … the autumnal equivalent of spring cleaning I guess. Quickly too, so the dreaded post show lethargy doesn’t set in.

Watch for new pieces, finished or in progress, in the next few days and weeks!

Phew! … and Wow!

October 26, 2010

This tree!  While this shot is on a blustery, dark day … on a sunny morning it is glorious. Frankly, as I eat breakfast, I could sit enthralled for an hour or so.  It is so much visual fun to see the progressive bathing of the leaves in ever brighter light. Maybe that means I am really easily entertained or I am just a natural contemplative.

On the exhibition preparation front, I am so glad today is here. A few more hours of trying to get the last piece for the Greer Museum show done (always wanting JUST ONE work to be nearly perfect).  Silly me … will I ever learn?  NOT likely. After one more class this evening, and despite the oncoming windstorm, it is off to West Virginia for the night and into Ohio on Wednesday.

The 20 foot (see the sheetl rolled up top?) piece below was in its last stages yesterday … but the images, textures, and maps are not fully integrated.  Now the last few lines are, maybe, in place. I think it still needs something. I guess I will just have to see it installed to figure that out. But for now, Phew!  I am done. The reception is Thursday evening.

New work on Ohio walls!

October 7, 2010

Entente Cordiale

They are UP on the wall.

Both shows … the mylar drawings and the small panel          paintings too.

Many, many thanks to both Dennis and Margaret!

Well, I have to get back  to the studio and the classroom … so …  ‘Nuff said for now.

Landscape Revelations show

Delayed, As If In A Thicket

IT IS DONE! Well, mostly.

June 5, 2010

I spent six years making art in a wonderfully well lit studio in a very accessible location. The high ceilings and tall windows looked out over the townscape and the surrounding hills and mountains too.

And while I was done in that space by the end of december, the vagaries of winter weather were slowing down the renovations and construction projects in the new space quite a bit. Nothing like close to 50 inches of snow that won’t melt to keep excavations from taking place. Everything was stuffed in all the nooks and crannies or piled in the middle of the floor!

Well, construction is done … and the spaces have been outfitted and arranged pretty well. I am even making large scale works again.

To be sure, the studio will need some electrical and lighting upgrades as time goes along. But for now, I am really excited. Next time I will post some new photos and some art works too.


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