What have I done? I get frightened when I look at the two things I worked on yesterday. In the painting, 2017 No.6, and in yesterday's drawing, there are solutions that are pat, simple, somewhat glib, and unconvincing. Instead of fully enlightened answers I see prejudiced, pat answers. That said, I do think 2017 No.6 took a step in the right direction with its more boldly patterned area. However, it did not obtain an acceptable conclusion.
The upper right corner of 2017 No.6 is now a constant blue shape. Vibrato is important in order to sing well. It is important in painting too! That corner needs to have a play of something more than flat blue. I am busy with other things today. A solution will need to wait till tomorrow. I will show it to you in my blog post of Sunday April 2.
The drawing is so well organized as to be boring. It is filled with investigation, but no surprise. Despite throwing the viewer efficiently through three-dimensional space, it does little to keep the viewer's attention. Henri Matisse said his goal was to make art that felt like a comfortable arm chair found at the end of a wearying day. This is not my goal. I want to engage the viewer who is filled with energy and insight. I want my viewer to keep coming back for more because there is always more to see.
These are consistent self-queries: "How do I miss the obvious?" and "Why is a great amount of work-time required before I see the obvious?" The painting 2017 No.6 has been in process for almost a month. After all that time looking at it, finally I see the need for the patterned shape to move forcefully across the canvas and out of the right edge. Yesterday that patterned shape did not quite make the right edge, but it will today.
Yesterday's drawings are influenced by the Anselm Kiefer painting I reproduced in yesterday's blog post. You can see Kiefer's influence enlightening me. I realize there is yet another means to animate the third-dimension on a flat piece of paper.
A friend of mine commented on the painting 2017 No.6, saying there were lots of hard edges, that he would like to see a soft, pillow-like shape in it. This made me aware that my work lacks another possible type of contrast: soft versus hard. My work is filled with contrast, but it lacks soft forms. Without using soft forms I am restricting myself from an additional expressive possibility. Soft forms should be one more arm in my arsenal. Yesterday's drawings began with an intention to test this additional contrasting agent. I think I failed. That major form on the left in drawing No.1 was intended to be a soft form. Soft success or no, I do think these drawings are good ones.
Before you leave me today, please take a look at the painting I reproduce below, Anselm Kiefer's The Fertile Crescent. This painting, which is stark in color, filed with the artifice of three-dimensional depth and natural white light, stirs me. It reassures me that my conviction is correct: Alluding to the third-dimension, on a flat two-dimensional surface, is emotionally powerful and expressive.
I hate it when things do not work the way they normally work. I fear I will be unable to find a worthwhile solution to a painting or drawing. Then there is my fear that it will continue to snow and Spring will never come. All of these conundrums of living have some merit, except the last. In the last ten days we have had two major snowstorms. They were difficult, and taxing, because of the required cleaning up for us to get in and to get out. But today it is sunny and warm. The snow is melting. It is the sixth day of Spring and it is doing what it is supposed to do. This brings me to the painting 2017 No.6. I thought it was very close to being done. It is, but it is going to require more time to complete than I had anticipated. This bothers me because I want to move on. Yesterday I worked on the patterned "flooring." It is asking me to refine its pattern and its outline. The right border of the patterned area is not right.
Now a complaint: To clean up the recent snowfalls I used a snow blower, one that is small and has a series of blades that throw the snow slightly to the side. It must be pushed into the snow since it has no self-propelled wheels. To remove the snow from the walkway I pushed and pushed it, over and over again, repetitively, using my right leg as the motivator. Now I have an injured right leg. Not injured in terms of normal, day to day, activity, but in terms of my favorite exercise, running. This makes me know I am mortal, fragile, physically aging. Yuck! My body is not reliably coming back to normal. Spring is being reliable. Spring will come no matter what, but my leg may need Physical Therapy to fix.
The wonder of today came when I walked into the studio. Yesterday's drawings are excellent. My leg hurts, but the drawings are good. There is light showing through the cracks in the darkness! Me thinks I have complained too much!
2017 No.6 is NOT quite there. There being the place that makes it completely satisfactory. Mostly I need to work on the pattern in the carpet-like form that sits on the painting's ground. The composition is firm. The work remaining is important, not mechanical but definitely laborious, and a bit boring, This thought, that it will be labor, is pronounced because of my need to move on to a new painting. Beginning a painting is so much more exciting than finishing a painting.
Yesterday's drawings surprise me. They look unusual. They tell me that exciting innovations are coming!
When Neil Armstrong stepped on the moon he said (as quoted by Wikiquote), "That's one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind." Notice the [a] before "man." That correction is required in my title too. This blog is about "The Ascent of [a] Man." This quote is the title of Jacob Bronowski's 1973 TV series. My mind is quickening. It is me in realization. I am waking up. Every day I understand more deeply than the day before. This is not comforting. I feel like an infant in front of an abyss, an abyss of knowledge. There is just too much. I am mortal, I have just a certain amount of time and energy.
The painting "2017 No.6" is nearing its end. As I act upon this painting I am, disappointingly, looking forward. Perhaps you can see my forward thinking in the drawings I post today.
These are the moments when the powerful mind or the forceful character feels the ferment of the times, when his thoughts quicken, and when he can inject into the uncertainties of others the creative ideas which will strengthen them with purpose. At such a moment the man who can direct others, in thought or in action, can remake the world. -Jacob Bronowski
Out they come, one after the other, ra ta ta tat! I am looking for clarity. I am looking for simple communication between the viewer and I. This struggle is making-art. It is my effort to convey meaning to the viewer, and to myself.
I have been questioning simplicity versus complexity. Obviously, engaging the viewer is most important. This begins with engagement at a distance. Relevancy, immediacy at first confrontation, must pull the viewer into commitment. I think this happens through simple means. A picture's ability to sustain the viewer's interest begins with initial contact. Sustenance is maintained via complexity. The closer the viewer comes the more satisfying an image must be. This nourishment of body, mind, and soul is my aim. My aim is true.
Yesterday's drawings began with an attempt at obtaining simple images. In the first drawing I began with the major form in its right half, a distorted, folding rectangle. The drawing then took on a life of it own. In reaction to my feeling that I had lost, I began drawing No.2. I mislaid simplicity in my second effort as well. Game on!
Sometimes, like the drawing shown today, I feel my solutions are too complex. Is this confusion, or clarity? Accurate and clear communication is difficultly conceived. Making art is about emotional and intellectual communication. Producing a drawing, or a painting, that communicates well is not simple, but the highest form of communication must be simply conveyed. That is, it must be plainly, straightforwardly, unambiguously understood by the viewer. Am I doing that? This is my constant question. I am in the midst of solving a great problem. There are artists who have done this simple and direct thing so well. Amedeo Modigliani comes to mind (see below).
Every once in a while the winter a-cometh-in and I am required to shovel-me-out. This week there was a big one, the major snow storm of this winter season. Coincidentally, once in a while, I am required to be introspective about my finances. That occurred this week as well. These are my excuses for low activity in the studio. However, honestly, I did need to step back, look and think. This simultaneity of dispatch included more than snow and dough. Introspection is obligatory. Recently I had not done enough of the step-back and think stuff. These past few days, out of the studio, allowed self query without the restriction of being engaged by recent and daunting imagery. One of my greater faults is me plugging on without rest. I did that as an athlete. Consequently I never reached the level of success I sought. I got injured, forever regretting my impatience. Just as sure that I should have rested before the big race, rather than tire myself out by working hard, I must step back now and then, letting the water flow. The water does flow for me. I can dip in, drink slowly. It is more refreshing that way. Reflection is enjoyable. It also acknowledges the past is important to create things future.
The result: Yesterday's drawings are good and informative.
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