In today's post, the contrast in style between the painting, and the drawing, is dramatic. As good as the drawing is, it looks and feels more like an exercise in an alternate reality than it feels authentically mine. I will place that drawing in my X-Files. So much so for the influence of Egon Schiele. I am moving on.
"2016 No. 1" is very close to done. Yes, I am ready to move on. Paintings, as well are drawings, are becoming more about research than about completely finished forms and compositions. This is instructive. I have often wondered why Picasso left so many partially finished works. Many of these unpolished works are highly regarded despite their looking incomplete. I enjoy them, as do others, because they are full of startling invention. With Picasso, the preponderance of unfinished work occurred most often when he was in transition, from one visually commanding idea to another. The painting "2016 No. 1" may share this transitionary questioning.
I show two examples of unfinished works by Pablo Picasso ("Hairdressing", 1906, and his most famous unfinished work, "Les Demoiselles d'Avignon", 1907). The time proximity of these two wonderful paintings visually exhibits one of the greatest years of transition in Picasso's oeuvre.
I know, my art looks nothing like Egon Schiele's. I have no ambition to make art that looks like Egon Schiele's. However, every once in a while, there are elements within my drawings that remind me of Schiele's work. It is in the touch and feel of the surface. Schiele can leave the paper, outside of his form, blank, without touching it. His forms (as in the drawing shown below) are touched everywhere. He relentlessly, caressingly, feels the form. This gives delight to viewer. Such surface enhancement makes a viewers feel as if he were in the room when the drawing was made. The viewer feels like he sees the same thing Schiele saw. My work is not so real. My work does not reflect an actual person in a room. This is my separation from Schiele.
I am honing in on the motivation of me. Personal refinement does not come quick and easy. I continue to be surprised that it requires such vast commitments of time, energy, and rumination. After all these years of effort my work continues to relentlessly brighten and clarify. My surprise may be a statement of naïveté. Is it just me, or are these images, which appeared yesterday, truly exceptional?
Drawings from 1/23 and 1/24/2016, pencil on paper, 20X16 inches
Here are four drawings from two days of activity. All different. All important. They ain't Hollywood!
Drawings from 1/20/2016, pencil on paper, 16X20 inches
There is nothing like an encounter with an alien world to cause me to pause and ask questions. Mostly these questions are about the world I live in. The alien world remains alien, but the contrast of circumstances, alien versus my world, clarifies where I live. I wonder if you feel the same? I think this clarification by contrast is one of the reasons Science Fiction films and literature are so popular. The topic does not have to be one of Science Fiction. Last week I wrote about the film "The Apostle". This week I watched the film "Monster's Ball". The worlds depicted in both of these films are, in many aspects, alien to that which I have experienced. However, humans, rational-emotional beings, react similarly in all situations, alien or not. This is made apparent in films such as these. Can an alien visual image do the same? I think so.
Amazing it is that getting better is simple. It is a matter of going, doing, making, feeling. I am not saying this isn't hard work. I am saying that the more I show up and put in an honest day's work, the better my work. What is "better"? Better, to me, is analogous to singing more truly. The images I show today feel authentically mine. They speak for me in ways I cannot verbally speak. This is visual art acting as it should. It is communicating to me. Hopefully, it is communicating to you!
Drawings from 1/17/2016, pencil on paper, 16X20 inches
Thomas Edison said it: "Vision without execution is hallucination!" A recently published book about stock traders analyzed 30,874 trades by 45 professional investors ("The Art of Execution" by Lee Freeman-Shor, subtitled "What I Learned from 30,874 Trades"). It is no surprise that Freeman-Shore found the way to succeed in trading stocks is similar to finding success in every other human skill: execution, execution, execution. The more you do it, the more successful you are. Everyone of my drawings varies in success, but (on the average) my recent drawings succeed far more often than ever before. The lesson: do it often, do it with heart and soul, do it over and over again, live a long life.
"Freedom doesn't exist unless you use it." I heard this sentence, and the title of today's blog post, on a T.E.D. Radio Hour broadcast. It seems 85% of people, no matter their nationality or locale, prefer to follow blindly. That is, the majority of humans prefer NOT to challenge the status quo. Why is this relevant to me and my art? Because I must be part of the uncomfortable 15%. I am stuck in a rut: I can do nothing else but challenge my current views. This is annoying. I am never happy. I constantly wonder about the quality of my art, its relevancy to myself and others. Are my observations apposite to the conversation about life and living? I take the easy way out. I don't know! I do know one result of doing this. The process of art is me introspectively examining all that I know. Consequently, I am constantly moving closer to knowing if this work is worth doing. Worth doing? I am on a path that satisfies by following my curiosity. This feels useful and good! But, is my work helpful to others in their quest to be connected, purposeful, and determinant? That too would be useful and good!
Drawings from 1/16/2016, pencil on paper, 16X20 inches
Has it become a cliché? Did the film series, Star Wars, do this to our culture? Joseph Campbell started it, George Lucas took it up, yesterday I saw a film that did the same, The Apostle, by Robert Duvall (he wrote, directed, starred). Here it is: The protagonist has a dramatic confrontation and fails, then he goes out and mulls over the failure, he exits his time away, renewed, energized, with great clarity. Of course, the end of this story is bringing this wisdom back, into world. The Hero believes he knows the correct path. If he is a religious figure he will begin to preach. This result is NOT always for the better. Coincidently, yesterday I also listened to the broadcast of Fresh Air on the NPR (National Public Radio). Peter Ross Range was interviewed. Mr. Range has written a soon-to-be-published book, "1924: The Year That Made Hitler" (available January 26, 2016). Apparently 1924 was Hitler's contemplative year away. Peter Ross Range compared Hitler's 1924 to Christ's year in the desert. You see, in the Hero's Journey a person exits his year away with ideas either good or bad. In college I took a course entitled "The Philosophy of Religion". The instructor, John S. Dunne, spoke of the commonness of life's journey. He said we all may take this Hero's Journey, given the proper sensibilities. We all can become a sage. Most apt to this conversation, John S. Dunne explained that the founder of every major religion followed similar paths: Christ went out to the desert, Buddha sat under the Ginkgo tree, Moses went up to the mountain. Of course, this going away and coming back is not restricted to religious figures. It happens in real life and in mythology. There is Odysseus, Steve Jobs, Luke Skywalker, and Darth Vader. They each returned from a time of contemplation. For each, this time away had been preceded by failure and disappointment. Luke Skywalker returned to do good, but Darth Vader embraced the Dark Side upon his return. Why am I telling this story? Because I believe the same conditions are available to everyman, and to me. Last year I looked at my past failures: I once again experimented with three-dimensional abstraction, then with figuration mixed with abstraction. I feel I have begun this year with great insight and great acceptance. Only time and effort will tell. I worry about self-delusion, but, as I say that, I believe this time is different. I believe that a man can change. Like others in the Hero's Journey, I am accepting my failures. I have reflected on my failures. I believe I see more clearly. I want to believe that now is the time for me to proclaim that which is true for me.
Confusion and chaos is not my thing, but that does not mean I can escape it. My daily travels through time and memory, now and before, does not give solace. The ultimate ultimate questions remain. Is it right? Is it true? Does it speak correctly? The only way I can determine the different between right and not-so-right is through practice. This is not about morality. This is about the nuances of reality. It happens to me in the same way my heart beats. It just happens. Is one beat more right than another?
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