Letting it all hang out feels weird, but as I look back at yesterday's work (which is the main reason I post this blog with every image I generate), I feel the legitimacy of these images. Weird. In my production, in my expressionism, they have a right to exist. Weird. I repeatedly am writing "weird" because these images have an alien quality to them; I have never witnessed them before. I am not going to stop. Here it comes. This is just the beginning.
Just another day in the studio. Much work, many changes, to come on this painting.
When I studied the process of engineering I worked with the Dartmouth College Department of Engineering. As a result, I designed a diagram representing the iterative process of engineering (see it below yesterday's drawing). If you search the web with my name and the words "problem solving cycle" it appears in many search results. Apparently it is used "by permission" in several engineering textbooks. In any case, this is the process I am immersed in, except I am making art. If you follow this blog you will see me "ask questions", "generate constraints and specifications", "brainstorm", "test best alternative", and then "reject" or "accept" my direction. It is an iterative and endless process.
If surprising oneself is indicative of being alive, then I am alive. I think, therefore I am. I create, therefore I am. I surprise, therefore I am. This is good.
I labelled yesterday's painting "state 1", but it is done (there will be no "state 2"). It did what it had to do. It surprised me, it opened me. I will make another painting today.
In his autobiography Leo Tolstoy tells the story of a walk in a forest. Tolstoy came upon a clearing and saw a lizard sitting upon a rock sunning itself. He began speaking to the lizard, “Your heart is beating.” he said. “The sun is shining; you are happy.” And after a pause, he added, “But I am not.”
At least today's reproduction of this painting is better, more faithful to reality, than yesterday's. I am not questioning my sanity. I am asking these questions: "Why do I do what I do?" and "Why am I so intense?" It's like, "Why not simply smell the roses?" Leo Tolstoy's dilemma has always been mine. What art does for me is bring me into the moment—no future and no past exist when I am painting or drawing. This is not always true, but it happens a lot. Aparently this is the goal of spiritual quests, such as meditation and yoga. On the web there is page that refers to this story of Leo Tolstoy and the lizard. It is a page about yoga, and here is one paragraph from that page:
"To be a lizard on a rock sunning is to be a meditator. Drop the past, drop the future. What does it mean? It means drop thinking because all thoughts either belong to the past or to the future. There is no thought here-now. Thinking has no present tense about it – either it is dead or unborn. It is always unreal – either part of memory or part of imagination. It is never real. The real is never a thought: the real is an experience. The real is an existential experience."
-Osho Online Library, Real – Tolstoy – Lizard?
Today, let me give you another quote from Leo Tolstoy, which helps clarify the reason I make art.
"Art is the uniting of the subjective with the objective, of nature with reason, of the unconscious with the conscious, and therefore art is the highest means of knowledge.
I am on a quest for knowing and knowledge.
This is confusing. Mostly I wish to complain about reproduction. In the case of both of today's images there is a large gap between reality and the reproduction of these works you see before you. But this complaint is just an excuse, because I need to stay imbedded in this transition you and I see before us. Reproduction problems pale compared to the problems I need to solve that are intrinsic to the questions I am now asking.
Just when I felt confused and alone I woke up the question and answer part of me, and it all began again. Yesterday's painting did this for me, not the drawing. I like the drawing better than the painting, but it is the questions I need to answer in the painting which excite me. Questioning and answering is the stuff that will get me into the studio with eagerness and impatience today.
There are days when I don't know who I am or where I am. Yesterday was one of those days. So, I just did. Now this is about art, and not about my personal life, or my ability to reason. Things are OK in those categories. But art as metaphor for life implies I continue in my quest to know. Sometimes I wish I had continued to be a scientist, as that was an activity where I observed elements exterior to myself, rather than interior to myself. Seems easier somehow. The ocean is in front of me, not within me; it's easier to observe that way. This life as artist is very confusing. I am trying to take my time; not to hurry. Sometimes I think it was fortunate that Vincent van Gogh was unable to sell his art. It forced him to be his most important critic and his own audience. Yes, difficult and stressful, but it did lead to profound self-reflection. Consequently van Gogh's art speaks clearly, loudly, and personally, which, in terms of art, is the stuff of greatness!
I wish emotional, intellectual, and physical energy were constant, but they are not. Yesterday's fantastical drawing is me relaxing. I doubt its substantiality, but maybe it is better than I believe it is. Being tired is not always painful. In fact, it may be informative. Making this drawing was kind of fun. Perhaps there is more to me than I know. I believe, as I come out of my local (in time) funk, new sprouts (in terms of possible directions) will be an outcome.
Yesterday was Father's Day. My son, who is an educated musician who enjoys music composed for motion pictures, spoke to me about Hans Zimmer. Zimmer says he looks to the painter Gerhard Richter for inspiration (go to on-line Q&A with Zimmer). Perhaps I should look to Gerhard Richter as well. His playfulness, in terms of vastly different styles, from figurative to abstract, illustrate the possibilities of one artist exhibiting multiple interests. Here are two of his works.
Yesterday was a sunny, windless, perfection of a day. I walked into the studio, turned on the lights and got ready to go. I prepared my paper, picked up a pencil, the lights went out. A neighbor's tree, for an unknown reason, fell and snapped the power line. In three hours I was back in the studio, but this is all I got. It is a good drawing. As usual this drawing is better in person than reproduction. I am always surprised on the large degree of dependency I have on the comforts of civilization. Without electricity I cannot paint.
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