I do not want to appear dramatic, but the work of bouncing back and forth, between truth and deception, is dramatic. It's tedious too. Sometimes it feels very old, like "been there, done that." The journey must be accepted as never-ending, or one must simply give up. Giving up is not an option for the authentic artist, which may be art-making's only mandate. Doing this business, of being an artist, is accepting the impossibility of finality. And so it goes...
Yesterday the head and body of the woman on the left, in the painting "Intimidation," was changed (see image at top of today's post). It is now a better painting, and with this change it has entered its final phase. I intend to show this painting in the juried Summer Exhibition at AVA Gallery.
"You can't get at the thing itself, the real nature of the sitter, by stripping away the surface. The surface is all you've got. You can only get beyond the surface by working with the surfce. All you can do is to manipulate the surface—gesture, costume, expression—radically and correctly. And I think Schiele understood this in a unique, profound, and original way. Rather than attempting to abandon the tradition of the performing portrait (which is probably impossible anyway), it seems to me Schiele pushed it to extremes. He shattered the form by turning the volume up to a scream. And so what we see in Schiele is a kind of recurring push and pull: first toward pure 'performance,' gesture and stylized behavior pursued for its own sake; then these extreme stylizations are preserved in form, but disoriented, taken out of their familiar place, and used to change the nature of what a portrait is."
I was disappointed with myself yesterday. Yesterday's one drawing is mediocre. I look forward to a good day in the studio today. I did have an important insight, which is described well in the quote from Richard Avedon. Often I have wondered about my affinity for the work of the artist Egon Schiele. The Avedon quote clearly expresses the reason Schiele's approach has similarity to mine. Below my drawing I show a drawing by Egon Schiele, a photograph by Richard Avedon, and a Self-Portrait by the painter Francis Bacon. Avedon appears in his photograph with Francis Bacon. Bacon is another artist whose works strongly informs my work. As with Schiele and Avedon, Francis Bacon's work is all about surface. Richard Avedon must have enjoyed making this photo with Francis Bacon because they share a way of perception.
I have been charged to create an image which speaks to the simultaneousness of sights and sounds in the visual arts. On July 27th the Lyme, New Hampshire, gallery, Long River Studios, will open an exhibition entitled "Sights & Sounds." My image will will grace this exhibition's announcement post card. Thus the first drawing I show today. This is not the worry in today's blog title. I can do this. I worry about the unremarkable problems of creating and living. I am finding the idea of "showing up" as very important. I question the value of everything. The only way to get these worries out of the way is to show up and make art.
I wish it were easier to live with the emotions of living. There is so much complexity in each moment. Living is confusing, and worrisome, if one dwells upon all one understands about life, living, and one's relationships. For me, the way to simplify it all, to toss off the coat of complexity, is to open the door, walk in the studio, and begin to draw. That is what I did yesterday. I had a good day! I get myself in trouble with worry and doubt if I allow myself to be preoccupied with "what it all means." It is far better to simply show up and do.
Each of the four drawings I made yesterday are very good. The formula for me is to have no formula. I have to show up and let it happen. Yesterday I also placed re-touch varnish on the painting "Intimidation." I placed it back on the painting wall and quickly realized the head of the woman on the left is too large. I want to finish this painting within the next couple of weeks and deliver it to the AVA Gallery Summer Show on June 19th.
I have always had fear of going away. Traveling disrupts my normal life, and my activities in the studio. The last few days have shown my fears are well founded. I returned exhausted from my trip. I visited San Francisco, Oakland, and Berkeley, California. I saw my niece get married—wonderful! Then I returned. My focus here had been replaced with my focus there. My tiredness is symptomatic of my dedication to living fully. During a trip, living fully is magnified, as the new and different absorbs and distracts. Upon return I have had to find again my focus here, which is just one of the problems I have faced. The other is an injury to my back. This is not the classic back problem, as the physical therapist assured me, but it did prevent me from functioning in the studio. I am feeling better. I will recover fully, and better than before, because the physical therapist found a mechanical problem, easily correctable. Correcting it will prevent further injury, and make me more capable. So all will be good, but I have suffered through the loss of several days. I am back!
Below I show yesterday's one crude, but acceptable, drawing. More drawings will come today; they will be better than yesterday's. I have two local exhibitions coming up, so I need to work well. Please, stick in here with me!
Returning to the studio is like returning to home; it is not quite the way I remember it, but is still gives security. It reminds me where I am in my living my life. Yesterday's drawings were a bit confusing. I had not made a drawing for several days. I felt "out of practice." I believe my art-making will come back strong today.
I wish I took to change easier, but I like what I do, and the idea of my being away from the studio for a few days has distracted me: Surprising and weird. I am going to hate dying. It will get in the way of my regular work. I do not feel particularly good about yesterday's drawings. My ability to concentrate was diluted by expectation. I will be back here on May 23.
The activity of drawing is becoming extremely similar to the activity of painting. This is a good thing. It is the creation of pentimento which identifies the acts as similar. In yesterday's first drawing (below) you can clearly see the telltale marks on the paper. The repeated pencil searches are impossible to completely remove, despite intense efforts to erase unacceptable attempts. Yesterday's drawing #2 is excellent. It displays my acquisition of a great deal of knowledge. The work is becoming more substantial as I accept my innate artistic and personal directions. It feels right and good. So, it is with mixed emotions I leave the studio for several days. Yesterday I told you about my attending my niece's wedding, which I am anticipating with great joy. However, the removal of the day by day routine of the studio, especially when my efforts are going so well, perturbs me. Realistically this perturbation is unimportant when compared to the pleasure and satisfaction of my seeing my niece marry. I will be in the studio today, and then will miss just five days of work, returning to the studio on Tuesday May 22.
In a couple a days I will be traveling to my niece's wedding. I have been anticipating this for a long time. It is now upon me, and knowing this I have begun to be more careful about my commitment in the studio. I will be out of the studio from May 17 through May 21, so you won't see a post here from May 18 until I have a day's work to show you on May 23.
My recent drawings have been consistently of high quality. In formal terms they are among the best of my career.
Yesterday's drawings feel very right to me. They did not come any easier, but they came truer. I felt myself through them, like a blind man wending himself through a room full of furniture and objects. The furniture and objects are my accumulated knowledge, built upon the events of my living: good, bad, and ugly. My actions were simple: I dropped into feeling deeply. I did not question the environment of my drawing. I scraped and honed, seeking authenticity with each action, like stabbing in the darkness to see what lurks, then assembling the reality of the resulting perception on the paper. Each mark, and erasure, was an event seeking accuracy. All of this spoke to me like butter on bread; it tasted as if the invention of the parts were primordial and meant to be joined by my actions.
I do not feel as intimate with my painting as I do with my drawings. Where am with painting? I imagine I am in a place similar to Manet and Picasso when they initially tested new ground by making original and personal art. Art Historians call these paintings "Early Manet" and Early Picasso." Below I show an "Early Manet" and an "Early Picasso." Each of these artists were well past their "student days," but not yet making fully mature paintings, when they made the paintings I show you today. The simplicity, and directness, of these images illustrate the search for personal authenticity.
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