The painting, Burnt Norton, is complete! Is it OK for the creator of an artwork to call one of his works a masterpiece? Burnt Norton is full of mastery. In making Burnt Norton I was constantly surprised at my ability to solve its many problems. One after the other, as they presented themselves, I solved its problems. No matter public opinion, I declare Burnt Norton a Masterpiece!
Yesterday's drawing also surprised me. It too had many problems to solve, from go to finish. I was enormously prepared. One problem after another was solved. I have always wanted my work to be so completely skill-based that only I could pull off the activity required to problem-solve my artworks. This desire, to be masterful in my definitive skills, is a product to my athletic past. I also watched my son become a masterful baseball player. There is the routine of practice, a repetitive practicing of the necessary skills, an athlete must do to act correctly, with authority, in the moment a problem presents itself. In baseball the batter must make a split second decision on the pitched ball, i.e., is it hittable? What kind of pitch is it? Do I to need adjust for the ball's movement? Do I want to it hit left, right, or up the middle? Hard? Soft? Yeah, in making art I make similar immediate decisions; well honed skills are required for quickness in decision-making that come moment by moment during the artwork's creation. The big difference is time. A painting is made over weeks; a drawing is made over hours. Athletic skills are callable on a more immediate time frame. In art and athletics enormous practice must occur to achieve these kind of callable skills.
Yesterday I was surprised at how much I had to work to make this drawing work. It did not come easy. I wondered, "Why?" I realized I had not made a drawing for several days. I had been working exclusively on the painting Burnt Norton. Fresh eyes I had, or was it rust? Was there crustiness in my brain because I had not recently thought about approaching a new work of art from scratch to finish, all in one session? Whatever it was, this one came hard. Today I think me ready for a new painting. This drawing, I believe, is an idea bounced about as possible progenitor to a new painting. However, I am not fully happy with this drawing. Is it too complex?
I worry about the demands to perform. I tell myself, "Not to Worry." Practice makes substance. The more I do this activity, art-making, the more true it is. This trueness exists despite any conflicting and confusing emotions. In other words, it is not for me to judge. I must continue to believe that any activity, when humanly performed to the best of one's ability, becomes true through the effort of trying. It is apt for me to quote Oliver Wendell Holmes: "Every calling is great when greatly pursued."
Yesterday's studio activity brought two interesting drawings, and a turn toward more effective color and value contrasts, in the painting "2017 No.4".
This is difficult for me. I have to accept this: I live in a place, in a time, when I need an automobile. Today I seek to solve that problem. No studio time today. The drawing I show today is from two days ago. It is a good one. I am surprised at my own abilities. The weird is this: I want to be an island but I need to be a continent. I need myself, I need people. The automobile is a bridge from myself to the people I need. It must be solved, just as my art must be solved. The weirdness is the blurring of priorities. Of course, my making-art is most important. It feeds my soul. The automobile is required to feed me too, food and more. The automobile allows me to interact with people beyond my isolated life in my studio.
The process is becoming more simple as the drawings as becoming more complex! How can this be? It is about falling into a zone of behavior. There is a place, obtained through practice, that has allowed me to see without criticism and without obvious intellectual decision making. Of course the intellect is involved, but this is a visual art. The vision I am following is internalized like breathing. As with descending into the deepest meditation, this depth cannot be possessed without constant practice.
Untitled Drawings-01·31·2015 Nos. 1, 2, 3, pencil on paper, 11X14 inches
Could it be more obvious? I am an explorer in a dark room, flashing a beam of light here and there. Discovery is the norm. "Change is the one constant." And so it goes. Yesterday I began stretching a new canvas. I am ready to explore in painting as I have in drawing, one after another without wasting time on extreme self-criticism. My biggest worry is finding a way to do this efficiently. My studio is full of old paintings and room is running low. Drawings take up no more than a small amount of flat space. My paintings are much larger and have 2 inches of thickness. My ambition to make a lot of paintings depends upon finding space to store them. Perhaps I should solve this the same way as my mentor, Philip Guston, i.e. by tacking flat canvases on a wall. Alternately, I could follow Vincent van Gogh's method: Van Gogh famously removed his canvases from their stretchers and rolled them up. That takes time, and the oil paint must be dry before that happens. This is a practical problem that must be solved for me to proceed in the manner I wish to proceed.
The changes to the man in the left panel of Untitled Triptych-08·13·2014 proves that size and shape matter, also angle and structure. The impact of the recent seemingly minor alterations astound me. The overall composition has been set for several weeks, so the stuff happening now are enhancements and subtleties. As example, looking at the man in the left panel, I like very much the rotation of his feet toward the left playing against his head's rotation toward the right. Nice. Yesterday's drawing is different for me.
Curious it is to me. Where these images come from I am not fully aware. I can say yesterday's drawing was entertaining in process. There is a lot of fullness in this drawing, round and tangible forms, albeit a world unknown in its peculiar departure from the place I live. The man appears on a stage, with a curtain, with a strange fruit. That's all I have.
I thought of several choices to title today's post, which included, "Don't shoot the messenger", and "Real work has returned". All these titles are appropriate, and concise. Unlike the previous two posts, I want to say something about process!
Soon after reproducing the previous version of Untitled Triptych-08·13·2014, I began to dislike the right panel. (BTW: I now give you two ways to observe my blog's reproductions: in its given small format, and in a larger format when selected with a click.) Yesterday I did much to dismantle the right panel's problems, but did not solve it. I played with incongruent sizes. The overall result continues to be disturbing. However, the angle of her head, and "X" of her body, are more satisfactory. Today I'll shrink her head, and will try to angle it correctly, hopefully making it collaborate better, and conspire, with the man in the left panel. This will cause the man in the left panel to react. Let the games begin!
I do like the few changes I made to the central panel (the man's head, and the blue vase and its table).
Yesterday's drawing is interesting, albeit a basic rehash of known ideas. The drawing is more practice than inspired revelation.
Morton Sachs, one of my many drawing teachers, said an excellent drawing appears to radiate its own light. Immediately I understood this, but it took many, many practice drawings prior to my achieving it. So, when I reproduce my work I wish to achieve the same apparent glow of light that the real things radiate. You would think this would be easy on a computer screen, since the screen itself radiates light. Alas, no. On a real drawing, light appears to radiate because of the subtle play of values on the artifice that are drawn forms. Even though you can feel the light in the drawings reproduced here, I lament the loss which occurs. They do not twinkle in the way I work so hard to make them twinkle. For some reason, paintings work a bit differently; they better radiate their natural glow.
I did not visit the studio today. I needed a day off. In yesterday's post I was mistaken about my position in my energy cycle. However, yesterday I did take one more step toward completion of Untitled Diptych-04·15·2014. It is so very close. The changes you will see from here onward will be subtle at best. Tomorrow I will deal with the upper backgrounds, left and right. The left panel's upper background feels a bit stale to me, so revisiting it will reassure me I have found a valid solution.
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