Am I too complicated? Will it be impossible for me to melt my perception down into a simple image? Do I challenge the viewer, and myself, with complications? Am I creating obstacles that prevent easy comprehension? OR, do I have so much to say that there is no way to say it simply?
This dilemma definitely does not have an easy answer. Yesterday's drawing took hours to find and to complete. It was good exercise. I am better for it. I am stronger. As I look at it now I wonder on its message. Does it say profound ideas that are me? I want to be seen for who I am. I want to reveal my concerns, my joys, my sense of humor, my reality. I fear death and I fear life. Am I making myself clear?
Growth comes with confusions. Most confusions, most problems, are rectified through work. I have this worry, "Am I able to keep all my lessons learned, those things I have rectified through work, available to my present consciousness?" Yesterday's drawing has element of silliness. It was pleasant for me to go that way. Today, looking at that drawing, I muse amusingly, "Silly me!" Lesson learned: This one is silliness too far. The hand-like object was made in jest, but it removes the viewer from this drawing's formalistic wonder. This drawing is glorious in compositional play. Its merits get lost because it took the extreme risk of referencing an obvious human trait. This distracts too much; it is not as successful as it might have been. Lesson learned!
Yesterday's work on the painting, Seriously?, is proof of lesson learned. Seriously? is now enlightened by acceptance of atmospheric color. There are many way of holding a painting together; this atmospheric color thing is one great technical method toward coherence.
This is like pulling nails out of woodwork. Position is not always apparent. How can one function well within the quest for profundity if one does not have a sense of humor when pursuing mundane activities? And so it goes! Is that a chess piece on the right of "Seriously?"? Seriously? Does it take two question marks to end a sentence with a title that has a question mark? Seriously?
The advance continues! This morning I visited my studio — very early in the morning (I always visit a couple hours before work in order to turn on the heat). I looked at my new painting, now in state 1 with its ice-blue paint-stick scrawls. It is humorous! It is a twisted reference to reality! It is a departure from my recent works, which have been relatively serious. It is me saying, "What the hell! Just animate the thing!" Perhaps this is a new beginning, or perhaps it is an interlude. I don't care. It looks good to me; it looks right! It began with vigor and celebration; I hope this painting will continue in this mood of joy, celebration, and humor. Appropriately, I have named this painting after a quote from Hermann Hesse, the Nobel Prize winning author of Siddhartha, "All higher humor begins with ceasing to take oneself seriously." Thus, the painting 2018 No.10 has this title: Seriously?
I have, throughout my life, been a voracious reader of Mark Twain. Why? I think we share much in our views of life and the characters within our living, i.e. our relationships with men, women, and animals. To mitigate the difficulties, we both find relief in humor. Today I show my newest painting, Adjective, named after a line from Mark Twain's Pudd'nhead Wilson.
The drawing shown today is a massive effort of pencil on paper. Regrettably the extreme nuances of pencil, as seen in actual front of the viewer, cannot be reproduced well. Value variations, from black through all the grays to the white of paper, sing songs only fully appreciated in person. To satisfy fully, this need of personal, actual in-front-of experience, is true in all sophisticated arts, from music to the visual; A lament Mark Twain might relate to when thinking of his personal performances (before audiences) near the end of his life.
The battle within me comes to this: I have a desire to push limits with bluster and bellow, AND I know following an idea is important when it sits correctly on the page. In other words, if something makes sense, go at it, unravel it, make it seen and known, stick with it till the idea becomes so apparently true that it must be followed, OR so apparently wrong-headed that it must be let go. Continuity is paramount, and should override my emotional need to be tempestuous and self-challenging. With this in mind, please look at today's reproductions of my work. I am hanging in there with the painting 2017 No.14, which continues to be enhanced and developed (this is state 18). Also, yesterday's drawing shows me hanging in there, continuing to investigate the idea that a symmetrical composition is an important requirement to keep the viewer's attention in a challengingly emotive work.
I must point out my new poke at humor in 2017 No.14. The white blobs against the blue ground give air to this abstract world. They obviously resemble clouds on a sunny day. Nice, warming, a real world reference that makes me smile.
Nothing is perfect, but things do get better with effort. The old idiom, "two steps forward, one backward," is apt. And so it goes. Here comes 2017 No.8, but it is surprisingly difficult for me. Difficult because it comes without the joy of fluidity, but with great effort, great thoughtfully slow effort. This is the reason the act of drawing is so important to me. Drawing comes as the wind blows. Drawing, for me, is a force of nature. I working hard to make painting a simple, fluid force in my nature as well. This is what I want. BTW: A Filbert is a type of painting brush, the kind I use exclusively.
Are shame and humor closely aligned? You often hear that women find men attractive who humorously self-deprecate. Daily readers of this blog know I have been physically and emotionally stressed by my recent social activities. Strange as it may seem, this brings shame. In the studio I have felt out-of-touch. This usually means there is a disconnect in my personality. Where is reality? Most likely I distrust as a result of mental and physical exhaustion. Yesterday I looked for humor in art-making. Did I find it? Not sure. I did find an idea worth pursuing. On my studio wall I have a reproduction of a still life by Pablo Picasso. I admire it because it hits hard through use of humor. I need more of this is my own work. I have said before, Picasso's masterpiece of war and destruction, "Guernica", is made tolerable through Picasso's humorous invention of form. Below I reproduce for you two of Picasso's still life paintings, the first from 1938 (during World War II and one year after "Guernica"), the second from 1962. I believe art can me made more available to the viewer, no matter what emotions it carries, if it has a sense of humor.
Walt Whitman wrote it better than I (see Whitman's poem at end of today's Blog Post).
I am the flinging spider, looking for things to hold onto. Moving from one hold to another, always... "Ceaselessly musing, venturing, throwing,—seeking the spheres, to connect them; Till the bridge [I form be a] ductile anchor hold; Till the gossamer thread [I] fling, catch somewhere, O my Soul."
Spider Fling, by Walt Whitman
I am recovering from the intensity and indulgence of Thanksgiving Dinner, family and friends. Nice! Yesterday I spent some time in the studio, not a lot, but enough to try using a piece of old printmaking paper to support my drawing. It is rougher in texture than my usual paper, also a bit yellow (today's reproduction accurately depicts the paper's subtle yellow surface). The pencil went on differently too, scrapping across the paper's robust texture. It also erased differently, leaving more traces of strokes gone wrong. I returned to an old image. This became an activity filled with déjà vu. (At moments like this I always think of Yogi Berra, who said, "It's déjà vu all over again.") Yes, yesterday was a relaxing day, a gentle return from a big meal and social activity.
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