I have heard people comment on the "graphical" nature of my work. This, I believe, refers to the use of flat spaces of color, a kind of layering effect that happens, and a sort of montage-like layout. I tend to look at nature, art, and architecture, with a sense of looking at it’s base structure and interaction of lines – it’s iconographic quality. An icon is a visual representation of an idea in a simplified form so that it’s most relevant points are amplified and it evokes a feeling or sensation that is more broadly felt than the feeling or sensation that is evoked by a detailed drawing of a thing. The danger of a detailed drawing is that we all begin to have different relations to the idea of that thing, the more detailed it gets. There is a great book about by artist Scott Mccloud in which he talks about this phenomenon of breaking down ideas into an abstract simplified format in order to speak of a deeper, broader sense of it. That book is Understanding Comics – The Invisible Art and I will leave it to him to dive into that realm.
In any case, when I am looking, say, the art of the Ancient Egyptians or Mayans or Romans, I am looking at the visual language used to explain their ideas and their relationship to the world around themselves, through their iconography. This language took shape in their structures, sculpture, and artwork and, when I am digesting it, I’m not necessarily looking at the thing itself- the stone look, the shading of the sun, the moss in the cracks (although these things are certainly taken into account). Instead, I’m breaking down at the visual language the artist was using – the squarish spiral of the Maya or angle of conjunction of a pyramid. This is, to me, the most interesting part of looking at artwork – ancient or modern. Not how the paint fell on the canvas but the shape and form the artist was using to convey their ideas.
Similarly, I look at the natural world in the same way. The clouds, trees, leaves, and birds all speak the same visual language in their inter-relatedness and share in a sort of dialogue of shapes. When I experience them, I experience a whole sort of iconic language – a living dialogue of ideas. In the same way, my memories and thoughts all communicate through the same use of interrelated ideas of things and not the things themselves. For example – the memory of this event or that event becomes an abstract idea in our minds represented by something – a color, a shape, a series of lines – and that idea becomes a signpost for our identity to trace itself around. Our entire sense of self is made up of these icons – like symbols in a book – but instead of letters and numbers it is sort of a pictoral multi-sensory language that is used to speak around and contribute to our sense of identity. Out of that we say – I am this person or that person.
Returning to my artwork, I tend towards exploring these ideas of things rather than the things themselves with a liberal sense of shading and realism/fabulism. Through the use of a sort of realist iconography I speak through a language, a visual representation, of abstract ideas, concepts and actions. I can create, in that blending of concepts, an alchemical transmutation of one set of abstract ideas – broken down to their barest symbols – a line, a spiral – a new idea or concept of something. And I hope, my intention in that creation, is that the new vision is healthier, more sustaining and more solid than anything that has come before it.
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Something I’ve picked up from studying all kinds of art work – from Greene and Greene’s architecture to Dali’s paintings to roman architecture to well, most of the great artists is the "interrupted line". I don’t know if this is an actual term in the art world or in the academies of art but it is something quite real and valid.
It is a situation in which the eye follows the line to a point where, th line is interrupted and "raised" in some way by a degree, However, it can go much further than that even – by "line" I intend as much the basic line that never continues to be simply linear but ti break and drop or raise, to collections of lines, figures, etc – a whole vision that progresses by degrees to unfold before us. I don’t think I can find any literature on this or anything of the sort and perhaps I wil get to writing more on the subject at a later time. it is a curious thing tho- something that makes a visual reprentation more interesting. In nature, nothing is purely linear – the arcs and spirals of the world intermingle with no straight shots.
There is one image in paricular that comes to mind when I think about Dali in relation to this concept. It is a corner of the mural that is painted on the ceiling of the Dali Theater-Museum in Figueres. There is an angel or some figure with sort of flowing but tattering robes that is reaching up towards the heavens with a long trumpet and it’s back to the viewer. But as the eye follow up the figure, there seems to be this breaking apart and there is another angel reaching through this one with another trumpet whose trumpet is exactly where the first angel’s trumpet ought to be. Now, it dosn’t necessarily translate well here, but there is something beautifully unexpected about that composition. In this way, the expected linear quality of the angel with the trumpet is interrupted by another angel that passes through it and, yet, when one looks at it and considers the entire composition, not one element seems out of place or incongruous with the whole.
A straight line, as the eye follows it, begins to leave less and less to be expected as it’s consistency is prolonged by it’s length. The interruption should both be at a place that is proportionately sound with the rest of the composition as well as being a place that is unexpected yet, strangely perfect. Consider sound – the general sounds of the day. even that becomes a sort of linear pattern until the bird song interupts it all of a sudden with a trill and a dip or something. Our own minds what to do this as well. Our minds don’t want linear worlds. They want orchestras that have both a definite direction as well as unexpected overtures.
It is not the numbers in the measurement that are important – thirty three or one hundred and fifty two or whatever – it is the relationship of those measurements to each other that either create harmony or disharmony. This is where the value of proportions comes in. Any one measurement on it’s own does not really mean much.
After a while of measuring, studying relations, comparing values and distances, you begin to get a good eye for it and will find that simple educated guesswork usually is a lot more efficient than all that pandering about with a ruler
A very interesting article about some archaeological explorations in Turkey where some explorers have found the 11,000 year old remains of temples atop a hillside. What will they find of us 11,000 years from now? Gobekli Tepe: The World’s First Temple? | History & Archaeology | Smithsonian Magazine.
or… “What works and what doesn’t”
In art as in life, there is no right and wrong, good and bad, etc. There is only what works and what doesn’t. Just as in life, there is that which is incongruous to our spirits and that which is beneficial to a compositionally balanced life. Daily yoga works quite well. Daily drunkenness doesn’t work very well at all. Spirit works within the rhythm of life to the degree that it creates something balanced and harmonically correct. When we choose to engage Spirit in that act of co-creation we are asking it to allow us to to participate in that compositional choice.
Nature is a perpetual ebb and flow of balance. Even the it’s most seemingly incongruous actions are still within it’s own compositional boundaries, standing out more as contrast or flourish than incongruity. Consider the platypus or the Galapagos Islands or the insanely structured flowers of the rainforest or the proportions of the horse or giraffe. All of these are balanced in relation to their landscape and, at that, to the general laws of our natural world. As such, they are put together and placed quite nicely. Some of natures creations may seem to be on the extreme end of things but nature is a dance of extremes; it pushes the envelope. A sunset can go from intensely sublime to intensely powerful, and the ocean can be a placid pool or a raging torrent. The only boundaries are the general laws of this physical world. However, we can only perceive that which is encountered by our five senses. Who knows what other levels of color, sensation and form there are beyond the boundaries of those sensations – even beyond the machinery and measuring devices we make which are simply extensions, to however fine a degree, of these senses. Who knows what dimensions, perceptions, spectrums we are missing out on. But who cares what we’re missing – let’s be where we ARE.
So, with nature, if we engage it as co-creator, we can create a more balanced flowing life and, in doing so, can create balanced, more beautiful artwork. Art is both a mirror and extension of that balance. The greatest works of art, no matter how compositionally insane – the madness of Jackson Pollock or the surrealist dreams of Salvador Dali, still possess a sense of balance and, whether beknownst to the artist or not, are an act of being in the process of co-creation with nature. The artist gives his or her mind over to that process and, in doing so, opens up to being a channel for spirit. By being a channel, I do not mean that something else is creating and simply passing through us. We are creating and, in so doing, are opening ourselves to the energy of creation. We are not separate from Spirit or anything else. When we become a channel, in it’ clearest sense, it is much like a prism taking the very white light of the sun and refracting multi-colored rainbows. When we approach our lives with this sense of clarity, the clear light of wisdom passes through us creating a visible harmony. The perspectives are correct. The colors work together. The shading and placement of objects are complimentary, even in their contrasts. We follow the creative process intuitively – the lines, the breaks, the color palate. We are the guides for the light that comes through us and we are asking it to trust us – we know what we are doing, even if, intellectually, we have no words for it.
When there is an ease and flow to our work, our arms and back are relaxed and our bodies move, ever so subtly with the brushstrokes. We shift our weight to allow for the relaxed movement of the brush the way that a plant ever so slowly turns towards the sun, not all at once or just with one leaf but with it’s entire body. Even our breathing must be even and steady for, whether we are painting the nipple of the divine mother or the muddied footprint in the corner of the canvas, it is all the same divine manifestation of Spirit and deserves the same focused attention, the same care of creation.
It is through a lack of awareness of this sort of co-creative process that we have gotten into the mess that we are in today. Art created in harmony with Spirit can, perhaps, have some deeper effect on those who see it as it brings up both a sense of harmony within the viewer and an understanding of where they don’t exist in harmony with the world around them. This isn’t to say that the clear cutting logger is going to suddenly drop his chain saw but that the rippling effect of living by example, of manifesting harmony into the world can, slowly but surely, help to bring it into balance.
These days I get up early, around 6AM and start painting and work til 10 or 11. I am working on a children’s book I began when I was 20. It’s been through several iterations since then. At that time, I painted about 24 pages of large watercolor paintings. I did not paint much with acrylics then. I was still in college and hadn’t fully devoted myself to my work. Also, at that point it had minimal words. I was proud of what I’d made, submitted it to some publishers and had it returned. In retrospect, it is a rough rough draft. Four or five years later, in Hawaii, the words came to me. The story rewrote itself in one night – verse and song. Of course, although the basic structure of the story the same, some things became more complex and new elements were introduced. The original drawings, at that point, were useful only as original reference points. Then, again, it was put aside. Dozens of project and many miles have passed between then and now. Now I am an accomplished painter and can step back into the story with a focused vision as well as a more refined hand. Now the story is being painted out in acrylics on canvas mounted to boards with rich bright colors telling… a tale… It is entitled "The Gift"
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