All I did yesterday was draw, one after the other. It felt very satisfying. Days like this are few. I relaxed into what I know. It was joyful. It was a place of the known rather than the discomfort of the unknown. Pure joy is fleeting. I will return to the painting "Window" today. I am beginning to feel anxious about my next painting. I will not begin a new painting until I feel comfortable with those in progress. I know I must return to "Pond" and "Four People." Those paintings must be completed in order for me to market my work.
Long ago I heard a lecture by Leonard Bernstein in which he spoke of the inevitability of Beethoven's music. Bernstein said after Beethoven wrote the first note of a composition the entire composition became inevitable. It is not that easy. This image of Bernstein's, where the first note is followed inevitably by the second and the third et cetera, is similar to the idea that the first mark on a blank canvas defines the final result. The inevability of a compostion becomes true at a certain point, and I have reached that point with the painting "Window." The painting "Window" is in its refinement stage. I have accepted the theme and its imagery. Now I must make it fulfill its destiny. This is where the work and labor follow an inevitable path based upon who I am right now. My knowledge and psyche define the final result, if I do the work to get there.
Here is the one drawing I made yesterday.
The second surprise of the day occurred while working on the painting "Window." I knew I needed to repaint the central reclining nude, but I not expect her to appear as she does now. The painting took a big leap toward my fulfillment. It is not there yet. As mentioned in my previous post the composition of "Window" requires refinement. Yesterday I thought I was going to begin with the layout of the window. I did not, but will today. The two clothed figures also require a lot of work, particularly their heads.
The first surprise was this drawing. I usually don't approach drawings the way I did this one. In this drawing entire figures were drawn. My pencil took care, even with minute details. I paid careful attention to the roundness of the forms. I was anticipating the work I was about to begin in the painting "Window." In other words, this drawing was an intuitive exercises in preparation of a larger event to come. Thinking back to previous days in the studio I realize this process in not uncommon. In this case I practiced drawing the details which the painting of the nude in "Window" was about to demand from me.
I hope all of you enjoyed a wonderful Thanksgiving Day. As usual, after a day away from the studio, I entered with renewed energy. The painting "Window" received a makeover. Today I show "Window" version #8. Major changes occurred in the male and female figures on each side of the window. Next I will paint on the reclining nude. The composition also requires refinement. Posting photos here helps me see the overall composition and its needs. When I upload the photo it shows on my screen in miniature (2.25 inches wide). This allow me to see the entire composition in a glance. Problems are more obvious. I'll begin by widening the left vertical of the window, which represents the window frame. This will increase the light on the standing woman.
I made two drawings. I enjoyed making the first one. With left-over zeal I began the second. In most cases the second drawing is better than the first, but not on this day.
The process of finding meaning in images is slow but sure. Always I wish to know more. There are two constants: making and searching. Thankfully they are so intertwined that while making my anxiety over the search disappears. This is the meditative part of being an artist. It is this contemplative portion of construction which causes this endeavor to be endured with enthusiasm.
It is happening. Making Art is becoming like life. Driving a car in the middle of the night, using headlights to navigate a curving road though a mountain range, is a lot like life. I did not invent this image; it is a view of life from the philosopher and theologian John S. Dunne. One can only light the near future; the stuff around the bend is always a complete surprise. A car's headlights reach only a short distance. We make an effort to see as far ahead as possible, but we always fail. I have tried to know why I make art and where I want to go with it. I continually fail in this effort. The drawings I made yesterday remind me that I have little control over my internal instincts. I cannot alter my past, my genetics, my humanity. I work to change what I can change. I walk into each day with a body of knowledge. Every day I try to expand it, but I can only expand my knowledge by being open to the surprises of what I do not yet know. This is like the headlights of the car hitting new views, each lit from out of the darkness. Yesterday's second drawing took me by surprise. Its qualities are much more than its imagery. The emotions I feel when viewing it are deep and true. It makes sense to me. It speaks more than the sum of its parts. It is simple and yet complex. There is something about this drawing which tells much of what is most important to me. To be continued...
Today I show two drawings and the new state of the painting "Young Man." In each I made a concerted effort to collect and execute with the ideas I have recently found important to my work. I have tried to make these ideas clear in writing this blog. Making art is the true assessment of what I know.
As usual, the works I show today are yesterday's. I will try to describe my modus operandi in making them. Everything I touched in the studio I did with full commitment and surrender to intuition. I felt myself through each touch and followed this non-verbal road to solutions. Without question I accepted my predilection toward the human figure and physiognomy. I did not consciously interrogate my actions as I made art. I assessed my work by continually being aware of my internal intuitive reaction to each mark I made. Working this way is difficult for me. It is not easy for me to accept that the knowledge required to make art is so completely non-verbal. Picasso once described art making to be similar to closing a window if one feels a cold draft. In other words, one reacts to marks which are unsatisfactory by eliminating them and replacing them until one feels satisfied. Simple. Ha!
Living is full of cycles. Unfortunately one sequence which is constant is one's financial support, a component of living which allows one to function without concerns over food, shelter, and art supplies. Yesterday was dominated by my financial life; I found only one hour in the studio. I made one drawing. This drawing, and my recent viewing of the movie "Modigliani," made me think about the aesthetic importance of individual forms and shapes. This was Modigliani's forte. It is the relationship of shapes which animates a canvas. Modigliani's shapes always relate to one another with pleasant dynamic poetry. Picasso's use of shape in "Guernica" is dynamic, but disconcerting (I will post a photo of Guernica after the photo of my drawing from yesterday). The drawing I made yesterday began with my finding a shape in the man's head which I found structurally fascinating, as elements within the structure immediately played well with one another (chin to forehead to overall shape, et cetera), but I lost much dynamic interplay along its road to completion. This losing of good impulses is one of the major problems I am trying to solve. The more major the work of art the larger the problem and the more difficult it is to solve. Picasso's Guernica in an incredibly able solution in a mural-size painting. My large painting "Pond" took months to complete. I renew my appreciation of "Pond" because it testifies to my ability to hang in there and solve the subtle relationships I write about today (go back to 10/26/2010 to see "Pond").
I have nothing enthralling to report. Yesterday was one of those days where I rested upon the discoveries of previous days. I made two drawings. I like the second more than the first. I will restrict today's post to these comments and photos of the drawings.
Last night I watched the film "Modigliani." Andy Garcia plays the lead role. It is a historically disturbing film, with actors playing notables of the early 20th century art scene in Paris: Renoir, Gertrude Stein, Picasso, Chaim Soutine, etc. Actors play them all and I did not believe any of them. This fabrication includes Picasso in his studio in 1919 with many paintings behind him which were painted in 1923. Modigliani died in 1920. Recently I have wondered much about artist predecessors and which of them can help me find myself. Modigliani came up a few times, mostly because of his dedication to portraiture and the human figure. These dominate my work as well. There are similarities in Modigliani's approach and technique. Modigliani does touch the surface of every form with care, and tends to sculpt even the flat surfaces (such as the wall behind his figures) with brush strokes. I do this too. It is apparent in the two drawings I made yesterday.
This desire to touch form, as if sculpting with brush strokes, is found in two other important influences on my work: Egon Schiele and Lucien Freud. Schiele died in the influenza pandemic of 1917, while Freud is alive today (grandson of Sigmund Freud). At this point I do not want to spend a lot of time discussing Schiele's and Freud's work. I will post their self-portraits for your reference.
Yesterday was a good day in the studio. I took a step forward. I went into the painting "Young Man" and let my intuition tell me where I should focus my energy. It was definitely not on the apple, and very much on the person. The apple is gone. The design of the painting, outside of the human figure, is now simple support to the figure. In other words, my interest in this "Young Man" is dominated by his emotional output. The rest of the composition subsidizes his human presence. Go back to my post of 11/14/2010 and take a look at the painting by Modigliani. Open a book on the work of Modigliani. Modigliani never painted an apple. Why tell you this? It is reassuring to me to realize an entire oeuvre of excellent painting can stand on one theme. I am not definitively stating my direction. I am saying it is apparent that substantive art need not have a wide range of thematic interests. I affirm the banal, since Cezanne made great paintings with just apples and a table top, and de Kooning make great paintings where the theme is light, color, and paint without recognizable forms. So why do I worry? My need to consider every aspect of my art requires me to ponder every element I paint or do not paint. I am in an effort to strip away my enormous knowledge of historical paintings and find the ingredients which are important to me.
Now to the two drawings made yesterday: It is obvious from the previous paragraph that I am desperately seeking content which drives me to paint. Obvious, as well, I will not become an abstract painter. The human form and physiognomy interests me enormously. Most of my recent drawings are in pursuit of subject matter and the way to describe it with artistic and emotional impact.
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