Posts Tagged ‘natural history’

Change it? Okay, YES, Change it!

August 26, 2019

“But will it be any better than it was before? Will I ruin it trying to make it into something I couldn’t quite achieve the first time around?”

Those are the questions I was asking myself this week in the studio.

Nascent WEB

Nascent, a mostly graphite, white conte, and ink drawing on a 50 x 36 sheet of Mylar, (as of February 2014).

It is not all that frequent, but sometimes when I finish working on a piece I have a nagging feeling that there is another solution available; a different way to wrap up a piece, not always better but a resolution that I haven’t yet discovered.

IMG_5916 WEB

That is exactly how I felt about Nascent, a drawing from my Natural Family History series. I had originally worked on Nascent in late 2013 and early 2014. I knew almost the moment I had “finished” it that there was at least one more way to solve the content vs structure issues of this drawing. Back then, I had to move on at that very moment so I put it in its designated storage tube and tried to mentally leave it there.

Now, I have to tell you that I didn’t feel as if I was being called to come back to the piece. It wasn’t bad a bad piece; there were things that were quite well done. But, every time I saw the digital reproduction of this drawing, I just knew that I wouldn’t be happy if I didn’t explore some of the possible changes. Of course to do so meant a risk, taking a chance. I could destroy the very things that I did find satisfying about this piece. There was some quite delicate drawing and a use of negative space that created a nice tension between the human figure and the lone stem and opening bud of Queen Anne’s Lace.

IMG_5925 WEB

Facing that fear isn’t always easy to do.

Truthfully, most of the time I decide to just ignore the fear. That has come easier and easier as I’ve gotten older. I have ruined countless paintings, drawings, sketches and studies in my life. If it comes to it, what’s one more? I haven’t died or even broken any limbs botching a piece of art. The studio or the sketch board is the one place that, no matter what poor or brilliant path I take, the repercussions are all in my head. The piece can be screwed up and no one will chastise me for it. I might lament the loss of materials when I use up a large  expensive batch but I can’t say that the time was misspent though; I’m bound to have learned something even if the work is a horrible failure.

So, as you can see below, in the early stages of the reworking of the drawing the biggest and most noticeable changes are the inclusion of a lot more imagery based on the Queen Anne’s Lace plant. I have added several more partial renderings as well as hints of an entire field of them. These were derived from photographs and sketches I have made the past few years of this wild native in the fields and roadside all around me.

In the studio, I have continued to use graphites, conte, and lacquer and non-lacquer based India inks. In the section seen below, I have also been using some “new to me” acrylic inks, particularly a transparent burnt umber that I find to be particularly appealing.

IMG_5926 WEB

Near the center of the sheet of Mylar there are now quite a bit of subtlety rendered plant forms added into this new version of Nascent.

Eventually, I also added more bits of plants imagery behind and below the drawing of my Mom (as a late pre-teen) on the left. You can also see that I have added a map of the coastline and harbor of Kinsale, Ireland. She was born there  and, during the years of WWII, her mother brought her younger children (my Mom and my Uncle John) from London to escape the Blitz.  After doing so much work on the plants and adding the map, I increased the level of detail in the image of my Mom just a bit too.

So, here is the piece as I took it off the drawing board. Is it done? I don’t know yet. I am again putting in it’s tube though. And I will be taking it along with twelve or more studio studies and about 15 or 16 other of my large drawings on mylar, all fellow members of my “Natural-Family-History” series, to exhibit at Troy University in Troy, Alabama.

Nascent, (2014-2019) WEB

Nascent, in it’s current state, (2013-2019).

It is a bit of a trek to get there, but certainly not any longer than this piece has taken to get where it is today. The journey I and Nascent have been on are well matched. I have known for a while now that neither I nor my work seem to change smoothly or effortlessly … but both do show up and eventually benefit from challenge!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_5943

It is good to have my studio back up and running and to be working on larger mylar and paper pieces again!  Don’t worry though, I’ll keep working on my mixed media panel pieces too.



POSTSCRIPT

Below are a few pics of the exhibition at Huo Bao Zhu Gallery on the Troy University campus. I have not been back to see the exhibition yet but they did decide to use the newest version of Nascent in at least some of the PR for the show. I will be on campus late next month to talk with art students as well as other members of the university and the community. I will also go back for the formal reception and a gallery lecture in late November.

 



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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!

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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