Hazy Shade of Winter
Lyrics by Paul Simon
Time, time, time, see what's become of me
While I looked around
For my possibilities
I was so hard to please
But look around, leaves are brown
And the sky is a hazy shade of winter
It is turning toward summer now. Buds are forming, green shoots are coming up. It is about time. It is time to break up the routine. So what if the drawings are exhibiting skill and virtuosity? It is time to expand my ability to express myself. I need to go to where I am not so comfortable, to a place where my skills will lead to greater, more powerful, and more compelling expression. It is time to paint.
The biggest difference I see in my artistic activity is my ability to do good work despite the depletion of energy from the rest life. Yesterday's three drawings surprised me. The last is different than the first (they are shown in order of production). I almost wrote, "the last is better than the first," but I realized their differences is what surprises me, and elates me. I can do this. I can do it on days when I am tired, or confused, or distracted by other issues in life. I have less control over what spills out. My creative produce astonishes me. This is good, because my verbal intellect is losing control and being replaced by something far deeper. I am trusting spontaneity and intuition, more and more, with each drawing. This may answer the reason drawing is so much more important than painting, right now. It is me trusting my deepest intellectual decision-making process which I practice. I am doing this without self-critique. This is moving me toward more substantial work, which will flow from me in the same manner when I face a canvas with a brush loaded with paint.
It has come down to this: I am acting as I know I must act in order to make the art I have been born and bred to make. Someone said, "To become the person you want to be, act as the person you want to be." That's what I'm doing! Over and over. This is similar to training a baseball player to have "muscle memory." When one gets to The Big Game, the process is ingrained in memory. The Big Game, for me, is painting.
Yesterday started simple enough. The first drawing is a small one, 12 X 9 inches, of high quality, but nothing that break downs a wall. Merely practice. This past week my in-studio time has been sporadic. I don't feel completely in control of my ideas. I continue to avoid paint, but it will return soon, possibly today. Drawing #2 is very good too, and larger at 14 X 11 inches. The second drawing is similar to the first drawing in its simple gathering of previously discovered knowledge. It is in drawing #3 (20 X 16 inches) that I find new conditions. The qualities of the surface and light are different. I do not, however, find this drawing appealing. It looks like a first stab to me; the kind, I imagine, one puts out at the beginning of a knife fight to test one's opponent. These rehearsal stabs are me training myself for a return to painting. I am beginning to be convinced I do not require substantial subject matter to produce significantly expressive paintings. This is a major transformation in theory, previously expressed by everyone from Mark Rothko to Willem de Kooning. I am a late bloomer, unlike our astronomical spring, which has turned exuberant already! My recent drawings have been me braking down all I know so I may break-up my knowledge, toss out the useless ideas, and move forward to better express myself.
Yesterday was a long day in the studio. Today, no, I won't be there. Let me not dwell on me not being there, but go right to yesterday's work. I show yesterday's three drawings in reverse from their creation, #3, #2, #1, which is, coincidently, from largest to smallest (16X20, 14X11, and 12X9 inches). Of the three, I like #2 the best. More important, than likes and dislikes, is their position in my expressive life. I am being pushed up against the wall of avoidance by these drawings. Their quality is high, and I need to paint. I can only assume that this past month, without painting, is me gathering the information I need to paint. I can feel it in my guts. It is going to spill out very soon. Last night I saw the play "Red," about the painter Mark Rothko. The program notes said much of the language and ideas came from the writings of Rothko, and interviews with his assistants. I was not thrilled by it, but I did walk away with verification. The creation of art is mostly contemplation, and less action. In the play, Rothko says studio time is 90% contemplation and 10% placing paint on canvas. My drawings are my contemplation. My painting has been my 10%. I do not think this is correct. My art is discovery while creating the image. All this contemplation through drawing has given me the means to do with paint as I have done with pencil. It is time to make my painting as much a part of my contemplation as my drawing.
Being out of the studio today feels uncomfortable, but not enjoying the splendors of life would be disagreeable. Time in the studio will not happen today. The art will not loom large, but my enjoyment of life will. Today it shall be 81°F and sunny in Ogunquit, Maine. I will be there, on the beach, to enjoy it. Yesterday produced two exceptional drawings. The quality of my work has shifted remarkably higher.
If you visit my PICTORIAL HISTORY web page, and look at the ascendancy of my art from 1982 to 1993, you will understand the complexity of my endeavors now. It is good to be a painter with history because it strenthens one to deal with the difficulties of success. Right now, as I write, my work is singing true, and it worries me. Each drawing, one followed the next, is speaking with clear and true expression. Taking the next step, and moving this into my painting, frightens me. I referred to my years, 1982-1993, because I have done this before. When I finished that earlier period, my art had ascended to a high quality, one followed by the next. This included paintings. Then I gave it all up. I moved to figurative work. Almost 20 years later I am decisively arriving with similar force and quality. This extended time to develop my talent conveys the difficulty of figurative painting in the 21st century. It also demonstrates the complexity of my life during the last 19 years. It took me about 9 years to find a way to make substantial work during my Three-Dimensional Abstract Period; it is now more than double that time, and I am just beginning to make satisfactory figurative work.
Today I exhibit four drawings, all made yesterday, one after the other, but not in the order shown (look to the signature/date designations for that). The astounding thing is their high quality, one after the other. Their excellence startles me, and gives me courage. I realize that going to painting is not so much about reproducing the quality of my drawings, as it is reproducing the quality of my process.
Yep, I got tired. Exuberance produces energetic work, but you pay for it with exhaustion. Yesterday included a birthday celebration for a friend, so combined with my need of rest, I did not do much in the studio. I like the two drawings I did accomplish. The one above is 14 X 11 inches, and is quite adequate. The one below is 20 X 16 inches, and is just a beginning.
I awoke very, very early this morning—disquieting it was. There was vague stomach queasiness as well. This is all about exuberance over my recent gains in risk and quality. Yes, I have only been drawing, so the risk taking has been restricted to a limited category of art-making. But the work has been brilliant, one after the other. This challenges me to take the next important step. I ask, am I able to bring the approach I am now exercising in my drawings to painting? I am enjoying open and direct channeling of my intuition to the physical results in my art. Thus, my ebullience! Fear and ebullience are mates. Knowing ebullience is transitory brings fear. My ebullience is based upon insights, which are permanent, but must be developed in order to remain viable. And, painting's complexity has always scarred me.
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