From the Willie Nelson song...
"And I can't wait to get on the road again.
On the road again
Goin' places that I've never been.
Seein' things that I may never see again"
Yesterday I made a drawing meant to be waving "goodbye," as I travel away from daily art-making in my studio. Rather than a wave this drawing has a hand ready to scratch. So much for ambivalence. I like the dependability of the studio. I travel reluctantly. In this case I do travel with anticipation and joy, as I will see many friends and family. I will be "Seein' things that I may never see again."
It will be two weeks before I return to the studio. If I make art during my travels I will photograph with a hand held camera. However, past art-performance of me during a busy travel schedule is not good, so you may not see another post until Thursday, July 14 (Bastille Day!).
Yesterday's drawings continue my burst toward more freedom and expression. The first drawing is just OK, but #2 and #3 move into risk territory. These drawings are setting the tone for new paintings. In today's title I quote the last line of the Beatle's song, "Getting Better," whose first stanza is this:
It's getting better all the time
I used to get mad at my school (No, I can't complain)
The teachers who taught me weren't cool (No, I can't complain)
You're holding me down
Turning me round
Filling me up with your rules
These words could well be speaking for me. I can not say, without qualification, that "The teachers who taught me weren't cool," because most of them were excellent in challenging me, especially Philip Guston and Seymour Leichman. However, looking at my recent work, I am rejecting their style for my own. I am, in saying this, stating the final three lines of "Getting Better": "You're holding me down, Turning me round, Filling me up with your rules." Unfortunately, building a style is building a set of rules, and any artist, who wishes to become himself, must reject the rules of his mentors and replace them with his own. "No, I can't complain." Seymour Leichman predicted that one day I would reject his work as incomplete. He encouraged me to do so. Here I am.
Do not look for paintings until I return from my trip, which begins Wednesday June 29. In my work life I am sad. I leave when my studio activities point to new ground, and higher achievement, but personally I am excited about my upcoming trip. I will visit many friends and family, traveling from visits in New York City, to Pittstown, New Jersey, to Durham and Wilmington, North Carolina. Before the trip there will be at least one more post on this blog.
Last night the AVA Gallery Summer Show opened. I attended. I picked up my rejected painting, "Window." First impression of the exhibition was the enormous amount of abstract work. In fact, the figurative work was relegated to the rear gallery. Second impression, this juror likes busy compositions. Third impression, "Window" did not fit in this exhibition, as it is larger than other paintings in the show and it has an expansive, figurative composition. I still feel failure, because "Window" lacks surface complexity; I admire Van Gogh's solution to surface animation. "Window" is deficient in this higher level of intricacy, as it demands an overall comprehension of large areas without challenging the viewer to acknowledge the contrapuntal surface rhythms. This leaves me with the need to do more to solve this problem. I want my paintings to speak to all people on all levels, from the abstract to the concrete. My recent drawings are moving in this direction. I am finding a way to animate more than just the figures. I have returned to drawing clothed figure because cloth allows me to find an additional level of graphic music.
Yesterday continued to have distractions, as I spent the entire morning looking for a fix to a problem with my email provider. I get wrapped up in making these technical problems right, when I should simply adjust to the problem and move on. Technical problems have alternative solutions, with one solution being as good as the other. This is not true in life and art. There is always an array solutions in life and art, and always there is an array in quality as well. The drawings I made yesterday reveal a new path. There is a jump in my play with line, form, space, and composition. Drawing the garments was fun! It allowed me to invent the line as it delineated folds in the cloth. The form, consequently, rolls and sways with rhythms that are not as inventively accessible when drawing the nude human form. It turned out to be a good day in the studio.
Drawing always helps me center myself. Drawing is meditative. It pulls me in. It takes me away from my physical existence. The subject matter is unimportant. The act of drawing consumes me. While drawing I am entirely mind and spirit. I mention this because the last few days have been physically and structurally confusing. Several things have been distracting me, all of them inconsequential. Together these distractions added to divert me from my preferred concerns. First there is the rejection of the painting "Window" from the AVA Gallery Summer Show, then there are the preparations for next week's trip to friends and family (making reservations, phone calls, gathering supplies, etc....), and yesterday my cell phone, and one of my email accounts, stopped working. Yuck! I did get into the studio to make three drawings.
The painting "Two Men" took a grand step toward completion, I made a very good drawing, and AVA Gallery of Lebanon, New Hampshire accepted a drawing for their Summer Show and rejected the painting, "Window." Even though much good and positive happened yesterday, I got stung when "Window" was rejected. Last year I submitted "Man with Plants" and "Nude in the Green World" (both currently on the Home Page of MEHRBACH.com). "Nude in the Green World" was rejected, and it is much milder in subject matter than "Window." Could the slightly aggressive sexual nature of "Window" be the reason it was rejected? I don't know. But I do know rejection of good work like this points me to my next stops in the marketing my work, i.e. New York City, Boston, and Chicago. A reproduction of the drawing in the AVA Gallery Summer Show can be viewed in my 06/09/2011 blog post; the drawing is dated 6∙8∙2011.
The painting and the drawing I did yesterday was significant. "Two Men" is taking on a subtlety and fullness of form, and an emotional profundity, I have not obtained in previous paintings. I also very much like the drawing I did yesterday; again the forms are well drawn, the spatial composition interestingly animated with crossed hands and arms, and it is complex in the depth of its expressed emotions. All in all, with the rejection in mind as well, yesterday took another step to confirming the direction and substance of my art.
I spent about 30 minutes in the studio yesterday. I rushed through one drawing. Today is another busy day outside the studio. I woke up early (4 AM). I need to paint. In the painting "Two Men" I will scrape out the head of the man on the right and try again. He is getting closer to being correct, but he is not there yet. With my limited time today I will try again.
The correct vision is more apparent. Getting it right should be easier. The game just got more intense.
Looking at yesterday's work on the painting "Two Men" gives me hope, but with a feeling of "oops, the head of the guy on right is too big." Today I have to deal with this problem and solve it. However, as I noted in yesterday's post, I have limited time in the studio today and tomorrow. Check in tomorrow and see what happened.
I was going to title this "Confusing Days of Summer," but summer is two days away, beginning mid-day June 21. Yesterday started out OK; drawing #1 made me optimistic about my upcoming time in the studio. While in the middle of drawing #2 a neighbor knocked on my studio door with a petition to have one-lane of traffic move up and down River Road. River Road was closed when the recent heavy spring water flow eroded the banks enough to destabilize it, tilting the road toward the stream. The conversation led from one thing to another, and several hours later I re-entered the studio to finish drawing #2 with no great success. I did get to contemplate the painting "Two Men," and I know its next step. The next few days look confusing as well, with several things demanding my time, including a trip to plan for late June - early July. In any case, here are the drawings from yesterday:
No dilemma. Just a lot to do. Remember the painting "Two Men"? I will return to it today. There are several other paintings out there in the same state, i.e. mostly solved, but incomplete. All of them need their details enhanced and finished off. You saw me do this push to completion with "Window." Thinking about "Window" upsets me. I will never stop complaining about reproduction. I hurt every time I look at the reproduction of "Window" posted on 06/16/2011. Its details, and color, are harsher in reproduction than in reality. This makes me doubt that I completed it satisfactorily. I do not have the actual painting to compare to the reproduction. I am looking forward to seeing the actual painting again, with hopes its reproduction is incorrect, and that "Window" is better in its details, and color, than the reproduction posted here. I want to be pleasantly surprised by reality. After I see the genuine "Window" I will let you know the outcome of my worries.
I believe drawing #1 from yesterday is important. I very much enjoy the man's left shoulder in its fullness of form. Also the distortion of its details, the invention in its forms, cause me to feel good and right. There is a "knowing" in these details. The enormous amount of drawing I have done over the last year is clarifying my basic need to create human figures which expressively emote through distortion of their body and physiognomy. This "knowing" is calling me to begin a new painting. The reason I have chosen to return to "Two Men" is due to its proximity to this knowledge. Although the forms in "Two Men" are not greatly distorted, the forms do express and emote through body language and physiognomy. It is the man's head on the right which bothers me most, as it is not in sync with the rest of the painting and the depth of expression I now know I can handle. Today I will paint out this man's head and look for truth which jives with the rest of the painting's expressive reality. Yesterday's drawing #1 has given me the faith required to wipe out and find anew.
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