I have been away from the studio. I was attending serious business. I visited museums. I had a dream in which I dialogued with Picasso. I contemplated. I retreated from Making-Art. I contemplated Making-Art. My many recent exhibitions left me confused. "What am I doing?" and "Why am I doing it?"
The art-making I seek requires skill and talent. Today's contemporary art scene often appears devoid of skill. That said, there is a talent there, one that causes public and private interest and engagement. We live in a world where celebratory personalities head countries and engage many followers. Upon inspection, some of these leaders are devoid of the required skill and knowledge to do their jobs well. However, there is talent there, a talent that causes public discourse and public interest. That is the definition of Artist. This illustrates my personal quandary. My confusion is comprehensible. I received a lot of positive feedback from artists, some gallery and museum directors expressed appreciation of my art. I did not get a lot of sales. I take lack of sales as lack of engagement. My viewers did not choose to put my art on their walls. Desire speaks of engagement. I want espousal; I want my viewers to want my art. If they do not want it they must not need it. I have failed if my viewers don't need my art, if they don't need to buy it, or own it. I feel I did not fully engage my viewers. This saddens me. I want more. I want my relationship with my viewers to be consummated!
My skill is extremely high. I can do anything on paper (or canvas) that I can imagine. Perhaps I have restricted my imagination to knowledge already acquired. I must engage my skill with greater abandon, with ambition to disclose more deeply than that which I intellectually comprehend. I am not who I think I am; I am more. The only way to know oneself is to uncover oneself. I must walk naked into the world. People love to look at naked people. They are unable to NOT look. Is this the gap I have been unable to fill between my viewers and I? I need to take off all of my clothes.
Referring to popular culture, this is what I see, We have a president of the United States who is more reality TV star than successful statesman or successful business person. This man obtained his lofty position by appearing to be upfront and personal (despite the many questions surrounding his truthfulness). He has engaged our entire population despite his lack of skill for his current office. That is his talent. It is talent that may serve me well as artist. I want to engage. I want people to pay attention to my art. There are NO limits to what I can do because I have the necessary skill to do it. My failure to fully engage my viewers is my lack of a certain kind of talent. One can see the talent I am missing in our current president, also it is present in reality TV stars, in pop music artists, and in show business celebrities. The artist Andy Warhol was more a successful celebrity than a skillful artist. This explains a talent I must nurture in order to fully engage my viewers. My extreme artistic skill is squandered if I do not have the talent to engage my viewers.
I dreamed I was with Picasso in his studio. Picasso threw me out. Picasso silently waved goodbye to me. I reluctantly gave in; I said goodbye. I walked away from one of my great educators. I do not need mentors any longer. I must rely solely on myself. It is no longer about what I know; it is about what I do not know, what I need to discover.
Yesterday's drawing is much different from the one in this blog's previous post. There is a two-week gap in time between these two drawings. I have begun to take steps without knowing where I am stepping. I step in confidence without knowing where the next step will lead. That is a good thing.
Phil Spector, and his "Wall of Sound", has been in recent news. Not because Spector's work, as music producer, is exemplary, but in contrast to the magic that came from the work of the "The Beatles" music producer, George Martin. Martin passed last week. Spector did produce the last Beatle's album, "Let it Be". Martin did the rest and the best. Phil Spector has no influence on me, but looking at the painting "2016 No. 3", perhaps analytical cubism, as exercised by Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque, does. While I was painting I did not think about this connection. When I stepped away, looked at my day's work, it felt obvious. Picasso and Braque faced the same problem as I. How do you make a flat 2D canvas play well with 3D forms? (See one of Braque's solution at the bottom of this post.) This dichotomy, of 2D versus 3D, is an endless problem. Annoyingly, my concern for solving it, makes me feel trapped within the bindings of 20th Century Art when I am here in the 21st Century. I have to deal with it! That is what I tried to do with yesterday's drawing. I am following something deeper than Art History. I am following my intuition, born out of all I know and all I have lived, from education to my worse emotional experiences with my parents. Such is the stuff, and the grandeur, of making art.
A day in the studio is not number 1, or number 2, or number 3. It is a gathering of information. It is research. Amazingly endless, it teaches while it exalts! Selfish, some would say, because it is paying homage to myself. Seeking myself is as mysterious as seeking a higher order in the universe. It is there and it is to be discovered and revealed. Such is my work.
It is all about concession and confession. I am able to simply make, secure that I am telling the truth. The questioning about validity has passed. Each work is what it is meant to be, not that which I think it should be. This is my education taking its proper position. Education was important. I am saturated with the wisdom and capability education imbues, so it has comfortably moved to the back seat. My personal reflections on life and living dominate my reason, and my every move.
In 1906 Picasso spent an enormous time on two paintings, Portrait of Gertrude Stein (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City) and Les Demoiselles d'Avignon (Museum of Modern Art, New York City). Yesterday I read again about this period in Picasso's life. Gertrude Stein said she sat 90 times for her portrait, then Picasso wiped out the face in the portrait and left for summer vacation in Gósol, Spain. In the autumn Picasso returned to Paris with the finished portrait. Also in 1906 Picasso began a series of nearly 1000 studies preparing his way to Les Demoiselles d'Avignon (completed in July 1907). Methinks I complain too much! It was the intensity and discipline that Picasso poured into these two paintings in the years 1906 & 1907 that transitioned Picasso from a good artist to a great artist. This, 2014, is my year of intensity and discipline. I have complained about the slowness of my transitioning, as witnessed in two recent paintings. I have been substantially altered by the work and time I have poured into Untitled Triptych-08·13·2014 and, earlier this year, into Untitled Diptych-04·15·2014. The focussed, disciplined, and dedicated work of this year, has made me a better painter, and a better artist. It isn't over. I will continue to learn, I will continue to work, but today I am recognizing the profundity of this period in my life and art. Picasso has helped me enormously, not only by his products, which are his paintings and his drawings, but by his example of discipline and belief that the effort of the here and now will bring a proper end.
Notice, please, yesterday's changes in Untitled Triptych-08·13·2014. The man in the left panel is much better.
Yesterday was a creepy day. I went into the studio intending to finish the painting Untitled Triptych-08·13·2014, but found myself wondering about its validity. The positive spin on this is... yesterday was a day of self-evaluation. The painting I am about to finish, and the one that preceded it (Untitled Diptych-04·15·2014), are disciplined spans of time, in which I am going from the artist of "take what I have" to the artist of "consolidate and move on." This appears to be self re-eveluation.
I am about to move on, yet I know I have to finish that which I have wrought. It (Untitled Triptych-08·13·2014) has merit, with or without re-evaluation. The problem I face is my own making. I required practice. I needed to discipline my manner of approach in painting, so I made large, major paintings, a diptych, then a triptych. In the heat of making these works I did not know that these paintings are mere moments in my education. I know now that they are springboards to more expressive work. Of course, the more expressive work has not yet been done, so what am I writing about? Isn't every work one does a bit of education? At this juncture it is nonsensical for me to predict the future of my work. Perhaps prediction is always nonsensical. Making is the only true informant. Thus I must continue painting Untitled Triptych-08·13·2014 until it is done. The new work will come in its own time and it will not be nonsensical if it springs from all I know.
Yesterday's drawing is a good one. It is illuminating. I did not labor it. I did not spend time contemplating it. It flashed itself onto paper with little criticism from me.
I do not have enough energy to get it ALL done in one day. By ALL, I mean that I see more which must be altered, corrected, solved, than I am able to do in one sitting. However, the problem of limited energy is not My Biggest Fear! My Biggest Fear is my problem of being mortal. I am on a path which is endless, but I am not endless. There is so much more to come from me. I am chiseling away, slowly and surely discovering the depth of my knowing. My knowing is so deeply hidden because of the confusions created by education. By this I mean that my interaction with the experiential acts of living has obscured authentic truths because living is confusing. Thus my plight. It will take more than my lifetime to find a visual form which represents my deepest knowledge. I believe my knowing is not indeterminate, but it is obscure. The journey is longer than I have time to give it. This fact is My Biggest Fear. It will not stop me from this expedition. Step by step I will continue because the rewards are obvious. After each step I know more. Today I show you step 20 in the painting Untitled Triptych-08·13·2014. It is better than its previous state. That, in a nutshell, is why I will return to it today.
Don't forget to look at yesterday's drawing. There is a lot happening in my search for authenticity through drawing too!
I have been trying to talk myself into the belief that Untitled Diptych-04·15·2014 is complete. But every time I touch the painting, it gets better. Yesterday I learned something important. I worked on the hands of the man in the right panel. I was startled by the importance of these hands, not just because of the emotional expression they add to the figure, but also compositionally. The fingers on his right hand (on viewer's left) act as a small plane which helps the viewer fall into the composition using its third-dimensional aspect. I am bolstered by this success. That right man's hands are not complete, but I will wait a day or two for the oil to dry before completing them. Today I will work on the woman's feet in the left panel. Tomorrow I will report to you my perception of this seemingly minor change. I thought the man's hands I changed yesterday to be a minor alteration. Perhaps defining the the woman's feet will be just as important as the man's hands. I really would like to move onto the next painting, but the knowledge I am absorbing as I continue to work on Untitled Diptych-04·15·2014 is just too important. What I learn now will stay with me forever.
I wrote in yesterday's post that I am accepting my total fascination with the surfaces of three-dimensional forms. You can see this in yesterday's drawing. Yesterday I reproduced a Lucian Freud etching in order to exhibit a common thread between him and I. Today I show you an early Matisse, where he, in his imitable way, plays with the color and light on the three-dimensional surface of the face and upper torso of a woman.
Alberto Giacometti wrote this about Amedeo Modigliani: "He was the last great Promethean hero. He certainly had a wonderful intelligence and openness of spirit. Besides painting portraits, he made pages of drawings; and that is what I always try to do. Draw, draw all the time; that is the secret."
I could not agree more. What could be more wonderful than to feel camaraderie with these two guys? These are artists I most deeply respect. This truth, this idea, this passion about drawing, is exhibited by every artist I emulate, including Picasso, Matisse, Van Gogh, Rembrandt, Michelangelo, and da Vinci. Drawing is the birth-form of all important, and profound, visual art.
I have been working and re-woring the man's head in the left panel. You would have thought I had gotten it right already. It isn't just the head! It's the body as well. His right leg (on viewer's left) has to be extended. His right shoulder has to enlarge in reaction to the size of his head. And yes, his jaw line has to be tweaked, giving it less of a simple curve. And, with the latter alteration, his ear may have to be lifted! And so it goes. My biggest hope is the lessons I have learned in making this painting, extended as they have been over 35 re-visits to this painting, will be intuitively internalized and my way through paintings to come will be quicker and easier. BTW: when I extend the man's right knee and leg, and enlarge his right shoulder, the composition will substantially improve.
(Note about reproduction: the image of Untitled Diptych-04·15·2014 in relatively high resolution. This allows you to zoom-in for a better view of this nearly completed painting. It looks better in a larger format than the one which initially appears on your screen).
Yesterday was an abundant and interesting day of drawing. It began with me examining closely a man's head looking right (this, of course relates to the man's head I wrote so much about in today's first paragraph). Then on to a study of a woman's head and neck, à la Modigliani. And finally a robust drawing with both the man and the woman.
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