Rules have been made because history has been made. I grew up with intense interest in visual arts, especially painting and drawing, I studied art history. I looked for models. I looked for information. I gathered it, assiduously and thoroughly. Here I am, playing differently than any model I have ever seen in art history, or in contemporary art. I am myself. Yet, I have not rid myself of the laws I learned from art history and from art school studies. Yesterday's drawing is amazing in its play with form, composition, mark-making, value-contrast, atmospheric and local effects; but it has a deep foundation in the stuff that came before. Is this good or bad? That is a question I continue to answer. This is the process! I have established myself as myself. Now I question the validity of my answers. I am wondering, "Is this drawing remarkable because it plays with rules I invented myself?" OR "Is this drawing just another variation on the rules I have been given by those who made art before me?" Question #2: "Does it matter?" I need to know. Thus I proceed.
One more worry: Is my work too complicated, too subtle? Is it beyond the grasp of most viewers? I see visual connections across wide expanses of canvas and paper. I do not think I am deluding myself. Yesterday's drawing does work well. There is a solid core, there are rhythms and rhymes, there is movement and motion, there is value contrast, there are a large variety of forms, there is light, there is structural integrity. So, why is it not a hit? I believe it does hit well. Then why are viewers not begging that it be put in public venues? What are they not begging to see it up close and personal? Art that speaks truth should be seen. Perhaps Vincent Van Gogh wondered the same.
In yesterday's blog I quoted a New York Times article from March 22, 1992. The following paragraph, from the same article, is relevant to my worries of today:
"Cezanne's career might have been as grim as Van Gogh's -- and as short -- had he not been the son of a banker and, ultimately, his heir. As it is, his progress from clumsy Expressionism to a sublime fusion of the monumental and the ethereal has attracted scholars from Roger Fry to Meyer Schapiro and John Rewald." (from the New York Times article, ART; How Cezanne Evokes a Bach Fugue, published March 22, 1992)
There is a lot of art being made today that is plain vanilla. It is what is expected. Perhaps it has always been this way. The vast majority of artists have always repeated that which is given them. They follow the present day cultural norm. In many cases it is good art. It exudes the dictums of well known principles. Not every person can do this. It takes talent. Thus is the separation of the talented academic from the common artist. I am hoping I am not simply an academically talented artist. I am hoping I am the artist who sees the making of pictures as an experiment in wonder. Thus appears the risks I took yesterday. I am aiming at substance discovered, not substance known. I believe the painting 2017 No.9 is made as discovery. I have never seen anything like it before. It speaks truth to me. That is its importance.
Yesterday's drawing also surprises me. Even though it feels mostly made from formula. There are five standing objects. All on solid ground: normal space, punctuated by forms. In spite of this normalcy, these forms have interesting qualities. Each is well drawn. The viewer perceives all sides of them, even the surfaces that are in deep shadow, This is an academic success! It proves there is validity in art made mundanely. I may have written disparagingly of this kind of art in the first paragraph of today's post, but here is a drawing saying OK.
Yesterday's drawing is me better realizing my roots. The drawings from the previous two days of studio activity look and feel wrong. Wrong in the sense that those previous drawings appear too figuratively attached. I believe they are good drawings. Good in terms of all things formal, i.e., composition, value and size contrast, use of scale, the use of light and the third-dimension. Confusion is easy. Clarity is hard. The clarifying factor was the beginning of the painting 2017 No.9. It feels right. The struggle today is to keep it right. This is the discipline that is necessary in order to be successful in this game of making art
Drawings from 6/7/2015, both are pencil on paper, 16X20 inches
It is like I said yesterday, and the day before. I am involved in a search for relevant material to paint. I am, as a contemporary artist, caught between two demands. There is my need to find and illustrate personal myths. Also, there is my desire to accept, and participate, in the freedom of formal solutions open to today's visual artists. I wish to make work that is historically relevant by moving the formal qualities of painting forward through cross-examination and interrogation. My drawings are helping me creep and strip and fall to a reality that is mine.
Yesterday started with two small drawings. Then came painting. The painting started with the priority of changing the man's left arm. It took off from there. I moved between altering his arm, his head, his neck, and the block-like abstract form in the upper left quadrant. The man's new, improved, stronger arm, works better. As does his head, neck, and shoulders. In summation, my universal acceptance of three-dimensional forms as abstract forms can be seen right here, right now. In this painting, Leap, it is occurring everywhere, in every form. That which is known as arm, or fish, or head, or block, or stream of water, are all manifested as robust, three-dimensional, formal animators, of the composition.
Drawings from 04/30/2015, each are 14X11 inches, pencil on paper
Untitled Drawings-01·30·2015 Nos. 1, 2, 3, pencil on paper, 11X14 inches
Yesterday was a day of intense work in the studio. Looking back, it is difficult to believe I got all of this work done in one session. As usual, the drawings came first, then the painting.
The painting is relatively small (for me), but its symmetry, attention to surface, and minor versus major form, fascinates me. It is a head-on painting, with simplicity of color, and simplicity of composition. This, like the size of painting, is rather unusual for me.
No more comments from me today, except me noting that the formal qualities explored in yesterday's studio session are remarkable.
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