There is more to me than meets the eye. My current work falls short. I am exploding with ambition and possibilities. Ideas are flowing, percolating. Unconfined they are. They are murky, not clearly on paper or canvas. That is the problem. Translating them into visual reality is the problem. I do not want to be trite. I do not wish to endlessly regurgitate. The past is a friend only if used to understand the present. The past must not be a dead weight, holding me back. Knowledge is dangerous if it impedes creativity. The problem is education. Education instructs on past successes, past failures, that which was. This is now. Education, knowledge, past history are well known and understood. I believe I have been using my education improperly. It has become simple usury. The interest rate is too high to allow me to create new knowledge. My educational interest demands too much. It has distracted me, consumed me. I have been working too hard to pay it off. My past decisions have become a drag. Now is now, then is then, but now is most important. It is time to utilize the past to be a better citizen of the here and now.
Sometimes I see my work as nothing new, nothing different, and stuck within the framework of historical standards in place 50 years ago. This is me at my most fearful. Yesterday's drawing brought this up. Competent, but unlike the work currently getting high notice by reviewers of Art in America and The New Yorker. Could be I need to change. Could be I am not open enough to my own instincts. Could be I am early on a road to personal definition. Could be I am right and the rest of the world needs to catch on.
Outside of my fears, let me tell you the way I see yesterday's drawing. I played with forms that are well known to all. I bent them till they filled the page with animation, big to little, normal to abnormal, light to dark, round to sharp, repetition of the similar versus contrast of the dissimilar. I enjoyed the labored process of seeking and finding. It was iterative: mark, erase, mark, erase, mark, et cetera. The problem was eventually solved. However, the final product does not grab the viewer with enough surprise as to engage on the deepest levels of emotion and intellect. Obviously, I need to think about my process and its outcomes. I want to engage my contemporaries. I want them to jump in, to partake in a conversation. First comes the engagement. Communication will follow. I need to work on this.
This drawing took me the entirety of my studio time to complete! It obviously captivated me. I need to look at it and ask, "What engaged me so entirely?" Primarily, I believe the creation of novel forms pulls me it, absorbs me. I found an emotional connection as I created the head of this man, grating in its incongruity, its egg-like ovalness contrasting strongly against the spiking ground on which the character sits. Value contrast also interested; as example, his light-value legs move across the dark-value ground. Additionally, the stark white background, in its negativity and value contrast, actually dominates the composition! But, it is the artifice of touching forms that most engaged me: the scratching of the surfaces consumed most of my time: Look at the number of pencil lines it took to create every form, including the enormous energy associated with the marks that created the ground and those spikes. Those marks are me experiencing tactile sensuality. Each mark was made with a different touch. In some places the marks leave open, white paper, to instill a feeling of surface the viewer can visually comprehend, moving as it does, in and out, of the subtle light. This brings me back to form. I love to imagine its touch, like a masseuse. I am moving my way into it, around it, feeling its give and take, sensually getting high on it responsiveness to my touch. Yet, I have created a rather gross character. So the emotional Interconnectivity I feel is far afield from that which I would feel if I were inventing a nude woman. This character has meaning to me because of his shameless coarseness.
Yesterday's art-making was all about taking off, flying, not knowing if I am going to actually get across the big divide, but happy that I am in the air and flying. The painting "2016 No. 2" took an unexpected turn. It was preceded by a drawing, which explores an idea carried into the painting. The foreground figure is in shadow, creating a forefront that allows the viewer to spatially plunge into the rest of the picture. This allows me to push further the artifice of three-dimensional space.
The conundrum is in the multi-faceted activity of making art. Right, wrong, good, bad — who knows, not me! I very much enjoy yesterday's drawing. Therefore, I question its profundity. That question, and its answer, are useless. Useless because trying to answer is fraught with bias. The pathway to the authentically profound is not determined by the formation of verbal questions and verbal answers. It is solvable through intuitive effort, not through quantifiable, intellectual thought. I choose to enjoy this drawing for what it is. I hope you will too.
Also, yesterday I did complete the expansion of my work-wall for painting. I am now able to tack up a canvas, then immediately begin work on it. The wall's expansion allows me to move a wet painting aside to a place on the wall which will allow it to dry, face up. This means there are two large spaces on the wall, one for the drying of paintings, one to work on a painting. It's like an organized factory!
Desire does not make it happen. It takes discipline, organization, preparation, and work. This includes the proper infrastructure. Yesterday I continued to improve my work wall, where I paint. Consistent readers of this blog know I want to move more quickly with my painting, as quickly as I do with my drawing. I have accepted the ups and downs my drawing exhibits, some good, some excellent, some not-so-good. This is exactly what I wish for my painting. This allowance of variation in quality can only happen if approaching white canvas is similar to approaching white paper. That is, putting marks on canvas should not feel any more consequential than putting marks on paper. I have long thought my paintings are more serious, more important, than drawings. Relative to drawings, paintings are larger in size, the material is more expensive, and my time of preparation is greater. My painting wall reduces preparation to simple cut and tack. Preparation time for a canvas is now no more than preparation time for a drawing. There is one caveat, paintings are oil based and take over a couple weeks to dry, thus I need a place to hang them while they dry. This is the reason I am now expanding the work-wall. After a painting dries I can role it up until it is to be exhibited or sold.
Yesterday's drawing confuses me. I think this is exactly its message. Yesterday I saw the film, "The Big Short". One of its messages is that process leading to proof of one's ideas is not necessarily uplifting. Success is confusing. Despite being a predecessor to my viewing the film, this drawing describes well my take-away from yesterday's activities, both from the film and from the studio. Being morally invested in doing the right thing does not lead to celebration or happiness. There is a reward of self-awareness, however, that makes me believe the process is worthwhile.
Yesterday's work is very good. This bring joy, but it also brings fear.
The heavy-duty work has just begun. Just so you know... Now is when everything I make has quality if I approach its making with focused energy. The problem is... focused energy is not always available. For example, You can see ups & downs in the work posted here over the last several days. Yes, you can actually SEE it, because this is VISUAL art! It hangs there, forever scrawled in pencil and paint, and with reproductions always available on the internet. I am turning a corner. I am going from art whose possibilities are limited by skill to art whose possibilities are limited by imagination and invention. I fear failure, because energy and time are limited. So I train, like an athlete. I balance my times of performance with good night's rest, good diet, and good physical exercise. Art-making is like a see-saw. It seems it would be nice to always be on the up-side of the plank, but one of the joys of getting to the up-side is that swoop in the arch. Limits must exist in order to fully enjoy. A bottom must exist to enjoy the top and the journey to the top. That's OK. I just wish an end did not exist.
It has happened again! After all my experience it seems I should recognize this cycle! The drawing in my previous post is decrepit and confused. It marked an end of a cycle of creativity. Like gravity waves, this cycle has a long wavelength and has peaks and troughs. Now I am ascending out of a trough. Yesterday surprised with a substantial drawing and first marks on a new canvas. It was a day that lifted my spirits. Out I came from befuddlement and disarray!
Very difficult for me is to admit to cyclical defeat by uncertainty. I go into the studio, knowingly in a muddle. I power on, making a mess of that before me. The question I ask as I trudge is, "Is it better to try with ineptitude, or is it better not to try a all?" Mostly my discipline overwhelms me, so I ineptly hang in there, making bad art. The question I ask continues to have no clear answer.
I wish I could tell you that I am always laser-focused, that I always know exactly what I am doing. It doesn't work that way; not for me. Yesterday's drawing surprised me. It is a strange notion. I do not like it. I must have felt it necessary. Something must have interested me! I will give you a nearly useless explanation: It is a study in quirky questions: ◆How far can you lean a figure without disturbing its equilibrium? ◆Can you play with form within a figure and make it feel right (small hands, large head, weird distorted breast)? ◆Can scraping the floor (on which the figure seemingly stands) with linear marks, in an abstracted manner, balance an otherwise off-kilter composition? I could go on with other questions, but this would continue a hopeless and ineffectual exercise when compared to real art-making activity.
Whoever thunk it? I am a continual skeptic, full of doubt. I doubted I would ever get here, near a conclusion to Painting-01·08·2016, even though I have been through this process hundreds of times. The basic rule: Hang in there and a conclusion will occur! I write this with caution, because there may be an additional touch or two coming, but nothing so serious as to alter the mood or composition of this painting. It is what it is.
Yesterday's drawings continued my query into both approach and subject matter. There is no finality in these drawings. If anything, drawings like these make me realize that I will never find finality.
I continue to fail at perfect reproduction — this too will forever be a problem! In today's reproductions you can see that both drawings were unevenly lit: A shadowing effect occurs in the upper left.
FYI: The drawing on the left was on slightly yellow paper, with a water mark visible in the lower left.
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