Drawings from 9/5/2015, both pencil on paper, 20X16 inches
Are you ready for this? Am I ready for this? I am beginning to accept that I am more interested in light and form as didactic elements than that which they representationally mimic. I have always thought the work of Richard Diebenkorn is important to me. Diebenkorn, like other artists I admire (Willem de Kooning, Arshile Gorky, Philip Guston, J.M.W. Turner) went back and forth between representation and abstraction. Like the others whom I admire, Diebenkorn found a means to emotionally express without the necessity to mimic the visual world we live in. I think (!?) this is my direction as well. It makes more sense to me, at this moment in time, than me pursuing the emotive in human figuration.
Drawings from 8/11/2015, all are pencil on paper, 16X20 inches
Somehow, and someway, I am in the middle of the rejection of figuration. I am not sure this is forever, but it is for now. Yesterday's drawings are one more step on my quest to be real.
Today, appearing here is something unusual. I show yesterday's third drawing twice! The smaller format (above) can be enlarged by simply clicking on the image. The larger format (below) can also be clicked upon to isolate it on your computer screen. I show both ways because I want you to compare the overall compositional impact versus the play of individual forms (similar to grabbing the viewer from two viewing distances, far and near). I hope you enjoy!
This drawing took me nearly four hours to complete. It is filled with normalcy and abnormality. Nobody has a nose like the man's, but the breast of the woman looks familiar. And so it goes — I am testing the waters of abstraction versus traditional figuration. For me, this is becoming a forever problem. Besides my addressing this issue of abstract forms versus more naturally derivative forms, I would like to point out the complexity of this drawing's space. The drawing, after all, is on a two dimensional piece of paper. Wandering through its space is a deceit, driven by form, perspective, light and shadow, and line. In this drawing, and in the drawing reproduced in my previous blog post, I have used lines to create surface values which simultaneously drive and animate space. The easiest place to see this occur is on the top of the box on which the woman sits.
It is important to me that you look carefully at one minor element: the woman's left hand. I drew that over and over, till it felt right, at least five times.
If nothing else, the reproductions are denser, more informative, since I have gone to photographing in RAW Format. I write this because the divide between where and whence and now and here is narrowing, but, as usual, I am impatient. I will take satisfaction anywhere I can get it. That said, there is much satisfaction in yesterday's one drawing. This last sentence may appear confusing, since I have complained about the presence of a divide. Complaints have their degree of correctness. Mine here may be shallow, but it is annoyingly true. I'm thinking about the inherent confusion which I carry because I have a desire to meld my need to continue to think figuratively with my need to express abstractly. Stepping back, observing yesterday's drawing, is informative. The top half of the drawing is abstract in form and in its quality of execution. It felt right to stop with sparsity of line. This barely-rendered, igneous boulder, plays directly over a much more refined image of a reticent, guarded, reluctant man, who cowers in his confusion. Thus an abstract form plays with (and against) the concrete figure. Apt it is. It speaks of me tackling the great divide with wonderment and respect.
One of the changes that appears today is the manner of reproduction. I began by taking the photos of my work in RAW Format, rather than JPEG Format. This increases the amount of accessable data, but also increases the amount of work I needed to do to prepare the images for publication. But technical problems of reproduction is not the reason I write this blog, so let me get to the important stuff. Most remarkable to me about yesterday's work is the portrait drawing, Untitled Drawing #6 (see below, then CLICK on the drawing to ENLARGE for better viewing). Thus my title. This drawing is emotionally more subtle than any figurative work I have done in the last month or so. Looking at art-making through the lens of abstraction has increased my visual-emotional acuity. I believe it to be one of the best figurative drawings I have ever made. It is filled with emotional subtlety and also with subtlety of light, form, and composition. This is proof I have expanded my emotional range as well as my formal range. My work is simply better in every way.
All drawings are pencil on 14X11 inch paper.
Happy New Year! and... welcome to a year that will be one of transition. Transition is the one thing that is assured. There is an old saying, "Change is the one constant." Well here it is. Yesterday's drawing is an announcement of change, but not the first. If you have been a consistent reader of my blog, you will have seen this coming in the last blog post of 2014. Strange it feels that despite my dedication to figurative art I am very excited about this newly embraced abstract direction. Philip Guston once said to me that I was a painter who enjoyed making objects. Back then I felt I'd rather make human figures. In actuality, I believe I prefer inventing expressive forms more than making human figures. Yesterday's drawing is strangely about both, mixing the human element with abstracted forms. It is obvious that this new path is a long one, upon which I have taken an initial step. More than anything, I am trying to follow my intuition in making images. I am dedicating myself toward personal, expressive satisfaction. The human figure alone was not enough, or it was not correct. I felt it held me back. I so much dedicated myself to human references that I impeded my ability to express with color, form, light, and perspective. My desire to make three-dimensional forms in three-dimensional space is immense. It should not be restricted. Given this idea I am going to follow this path which is intuitively motivated. Hang on!
First, please notice I have reproduced the painting Untitled Diptych-04·15·2014 with a white bar separating the two panels (previously I used a gray bar). This white separation is better, as it better approximates the white wall on which the painting will be exhibited. More important to me, Untitled Diptych-04·15·2014 is better today than it was before yesterday's work. The minor alterations are making it better and better. Reluctant as I am to continue to move this paint toward ultimate finality, I must admit it is worthwhile. With every action I feel I am creating the penultimate chapter, but no, there is more than one more chapter to complete. Yesterday I started by altering the feet of the woman in the left panel. I ended by repainting her legs and dress. Her rear foot is not resolved. I will start there today. The woman's feet function similarly to the man's right hand (in the right panel), i.e. it aids in defining the plane that is the artifice of the 3D world in which the figures sit.
Yesterday two drawings took up about half of the studio session. I like this division of time. It allows me to explore my current concerns, then return to the ponderous endeavor of altering minor elements within the mostly resolved painting, Untitled Diptych-04·15·2014.
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.
At last I can say that the painting Untitled Diptych-04·15·2014 is in its latter stages of completion. I was not sure of this until yesterday's revisions. In addition, my viewing the painting here, in reproduction, helps me see the truth. The reproduction reduces the 10 foot wide painting to about 6 inches wide on my computer screen. The composition is much easier to comprehend in this miniature version. So, all the recent revisions of the man on the left were in response to his not being an authentic version of himself. I did not know "the right version" I was looking for, but I certainly recognized when he wasn't right. Of course he, and the entire painting, are not finished. But yesterday's changes were definitive moves toward correctness.
Yesterday's drawing is another seated man in the many recent drawings of seated me. This one is more traditional than most. It was done after I painted on Untitled Diptych-04·15·2014. My mind was in an uproar. I could not stop myself from working. This drawing came quickly, then I left the studio exhausted. The physical and mental demands in working to find an important solution to Untitled Diptych-04·15·2014 require me to step away from the studio for a couple of days. My head is literally buzzing, which is always a good indication I have reached deeply into my nervous system and that I need to step away and let it calm itself.
I will say little today. I am back and feeling well after a couple days of feeling low with a cold. I just want to get back in the studio. Yesterday I did a drawing. You see it above. The possible potency of negative space is a concern I am now actively researching. I am not sure if the negative space in yesterday's drawing works extremely well here, but I think the figures are good.
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