This is something I was thinking about while painting tonight. Often I leave things in my paintings rather ambiguous or suggestive. There are shapes are suggestive of things – animals or plants or clouds or structures… And they are all inspired by countless things I see through the course of my days. O, nature and it’s multitudes of fractal qualities – the curve of the leaf of the succulent in my garden or the window of a cathedral I might happen upon (for the cathedral, like the anthill, is an echo of nature). All of these things become part of the visual language and an artist can draw upon these shapes – even just the step of an edge or the clip of a curve – and use them to inform the work.
Now, the more you know – the more shapes and curves and lines and movements that you store in that visual memory – the more you can take your sense of ‘I don’t know what this is going to be’ and simply shape it and allow it to take form and be informed by your visual memory and the feelings evoked by the different shapes you run across. Granted, it takes some practice to allow for the space to allow that through but with effort and practice (a sketchbook helps) you might find that this comes more easily than you realized.
I think we get so caught up in things ‘being things’ that we forget to allow them to simply be what they are. Early on we get taught that if we’re going to draw a cow, it should look like a cow and so on for everything else. But it doesn’t have to be that way. All of life – it’s a huge sea of energy, moving and coalescing and taking form and we perceive it and name things and assign them a thousand responsibilities – to make us happy or sad or turned on or repulsed. Likewise, we look at our paintings and say ‘It must be SOMETHING!’ But there is a grace in following a train of thought to it’s natural finish without forcing upon it a responsibility to be a certain thing. In that, there is generosity, acceptance, and, ultimately, I think, joy.
Granted, if the thing is supposed to be a horse and the horse is simply not coming out right but it really should (because of the vision) be a horse, then perhaps you should spend some time sketching and drawing horses. However, the ambiguity which I speak of is really more along the lines of the places where there isn’t a horse and there isn’t a landscape and there’s simply paint we’re simply working with it…
At that point – it’s even more effort sometimes to cut out what isn’t working and to work what is. We get so attached to our lines sometimes! That’s fine. But still… ALLOW…. Breathe space into your work… don’t force anything… be patient…
BUT more importantly – if you’re not sure what it is, don’t just let the mud take over – don’t just be content with a muddy composition – MAKE THE CHOICE. In choosing it, sculpting it, shaping it, in all of it’s ambiguous beauty, you will quite possibly find sublime beauty and echoes of your life in ways you hadn’t imagined possible.
My friend Matt Elson made this super cool installation piece not too long ago. He has since made several other iterations. Matt is a splendid photographer, master framer (he does all the frames for my artwork and works in Long Beach, CA), and is an all around splendid gentleman. His Infinity Box will be displayed at the Create:Fixate show which I will be a part of in Los Angeles on Nov 17. More info on that show HERE. Really, you need to see it for yourself to really understand what it going on. Yes, there are mirrors but it’s more than that… It works on out perceptions and I really dig art that challenges perceptions as well as creating interaction between the participants. Here are a couple of videos to pique your interest…
Had a whole lot of fun this past weekend at Art Outside in Texas. Art Outside is a heavily arts-focused festival (in lieu of a festival which is MUSIC + art) put on by a wonderful crew of people, mainly, I think, from the Austin area. Violet and I really enjoyed it – met a lot of wonderful people and made a lot of great connections. Thank you so much for having us out to join y’all!
Here’s a picture of the painting I made over the course of the weekend…
I assembled the stretcher bars to the desired size (18 x 14) and cut an appropriately sized rectangle of canvas. With pliers and staple gun I stretched it around the bars and then proceeded to gesso it. Once it appeared to be dry, I brushed on a background wash of yellow orange azo, burnt sienna, and a dash of dioxanine purple. But there was a several square inch spot in the middle of the bottom right corner that wasn’t completely dry and so the wash picked up the gesso. This wasn’t terrible in and of itself but it left a slight ridge between the original primed canvas and the freshly gessoed areas. I let it all dry and then went back and added more gesso to that area – creating a rather white sort of starburst on the yellow sienna background. After the gesso was dry I went back and washed over it with the original wash colors. Unfortunately this left sort of a lighter area under the final wash.
So turned the canvas upside down and suddenly it had the appearance of the sun setting behind a cloud bank. Magic. Perfect. And in just the right place….
Sometimes though, it’s best to just fix it. If I put my hand in my paint and then proceed to stamp it across the canvas then I wipe that off. That never works.
There aren’t really ‘mistakes’ when painting. Sometimes you might find you did something wrong or the materials start behaving in a way you didn’t plan on but it’s best to just go with it… Afterall, as the hand of nature – as life expressing itself – it’s best to just roll with things – like a river, like the wind, like life – moving towards the final result which, as we always hope, will the the vast summation – the grand explanation – the ever effulgent one – light.
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