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A Reason for Art

March 13th, 2014

Why do we value art?

Art: it’s this visual record of who we are, how we imagine ourselves, where we’re going, where we’ve come from at some particular time.  It’s the visual record of out psycho-spiritual states – as a human organism. If you were to take all the varied pieces of art from all the different art movements in some brief span of time, you’d find a wide spectrum of emotions, perspectives, and inspirations. Yet, it all came from the same place – this Earth, these humans – and happened at the same time and, ultimately, lies within a particular, though broad, spectrum.

The things we consider valuable on this planet – the things which have attained a greater sense of value than, say, food or water – are valued simply because they of their own perceived valuable. For instance, a gold bar is perceived to have a certain value. One gold bar can be melted down and turned into another. Cast it as a sculpture by Dali and it now has a greater perceived value. It has been turned into Art. It is that expression which creates new value.

Paintings, of course, are far more plentiful than gold sculptures by Dali and paint and canvas themselves far less valuable. These days, painting materials are easy to come by: paints, brushes, canvas. Give them to anyone and each person will make something different. And if we melt all those finished paintings, we can never create another that is the same.

And so, over time, art becomes valuable to more than just its creator. It captures a moment that passes and we are left with images, intimations, reflections and echoes of an experience. A great artist can tap a chord in another human that resonates in a way that feels, more than anything, entirely and viscerally human and capturing some sliver along the broad spectrum that is basic humanity. That is the key to great art. It feels, at its core, distinctly real because it is a reflection of ourselves.

When we look back through time, we see this song played out through the arts, a visual expression of this thing called ‘being human.’ We see the echoes of ourselves creating religious structures and retelling myths as we seek to understand the archetypal characters of our beings. We see ourselves discovering perspective and learning our place in the cosmos. We see ourselves exploring that… and becoming disenchanted when our belief systems don’t match up with our perceptions. We see ourselves seeking new ways of seeing, being, exploring. We see new explorations of minds, of archetypes, of the mystical experience…

Throughout the history of art, we can witness ourselves touching upon an inner light that is reflected in our portrayal of the world as we perceive it. It is a very beautiful dance, a very beautiful thing.

Relativity

February 9th, 2014

sunrise sunset

Near. Far. High. Low. Sunrise. Sunset. All’s relative. The sense of perspective and point of reference. Most of all: the limits that define us: the breadth of our breath and the width of our brow. All our stories and all our beliefs. Our laws, our traditions, our ideas of love, of economics, of mine, of yours. We create systems and structures that define us and tell us how to live in community with others. All of those systems: imagined ideas, dependent on each other and, most of all, on the belief in the solidity and actuality of this ‘I’. I am this. I am not that. I have this. I do not have that. Where am I in this picture? Where do I fit? And am I getting what I deserve? Am I giving what I should be? And does it translate to YOU?

Every image has a perspective and offers a glimpse of what-i-see-from-here. There can be so much to a little sky scape on a little canvas. And, then again, nothing at all. Paint, arranged in a specific array, that evokes a sensation. And a flurry of ideas.

If even it is a moment of sweetness, of non-linear, non-denominational, non-theoretical thought in the course of your day… A dash of color, a reminder… We are all here on earth, under the same sun, the same sky… There is no real reason to not love each other.

Image:
Sunrise Sunset
Acrylic/Canvas
5″ x 7″

What Is the Point of All of This, Anyhow?

September 17th, 2013

rootwire-talking

Under a big tent, sitting on the edge of a stage on the Sunday afternoon of Rootwire, I participated in a panel discussion of artists. Panel is a loose term. About a dozen of us – some of whom spoke, some who didn’t – sat on the edge of a stage fielding various questions in our various manners.

Michael Garfield moderated. He had on his nifty Google Glasses. At one point I was starting to get a bit bored and there’s all these people watching us and I couldn’t just get up and leave so he offered them to me to wear. What a trip! There’s a screen! You can see it! Interact with it! This must be the future! It did take a moment to get it but goddamn! It’s for real and super cool and utterly distracting. I tilted my head back and forth in weird directions, watched the little screen and tried to focus on other things, screwed up the recording stuff, got back on track, and eventually gave them back because I think I was completely not paying attention anymore.

At one point tho, before or after the glasses I’m not sure but I know I wasn’t wearing them, someone asked (to the group):

“It’s nice that you make this art but what are you really doing? People talk about changing the world, about making a difference… how does this help the mother on welfare, or this or that… What difference do you think you are really making?”

Truth be told: I ponder this question all the time. I think about it while I’m driving around running errands and then going home and back to painting. What the hell am I doing anyways?

And here’s what I’ve come up with…

First and foremost – I paint because I love to paint. Period. It is what I love to do – it brings me great joy, this mode of expression that I’ve found, and I’m stoked to do it. So, regardless of how it might or might not be changing the world or whatever, I do it because I love it. When I wake up in the morning, I know that is my path. And if I’m at least one person in the world who is doing what they love, then that alone, I think, is a good thing just by it’s very nature.

So there’s that.

But then I go share it – afterall, I can make all the art I want but it’s really nice to share that dialogue with others – engaging them in their minds, hearts, sprits… having the reflection… To take that vision that I pulled from some deep place within myself and watch it converse with that deep place – that wordless formless space – in others is magical. And for others: to see that form has been given to this mystical experience – color and movement as well – it seems to bring people joy. It seems to make them happy and open something up in them.

There’s not a lot of imagery in our world that does that. Advertising and TVs and all this stuff: it’s just vying for our dollars more than anything else. But it seems sometimes that this thing people call Visionary Art is unique in it’s expression of the mystical experience. But that is another discussion…

So I make art and it touches something in people – it tickles a sense… See, the artwork I create comes from living life a certain way: freely, openly, lovingly, with compassion, with gusto, with joy, with health, with happiness – and learning to do so more fully, on all accounts. So I hope to stir in people a bit of that and inspire others towards a happier and healthier life.

But it’s a mostly insular world that this art is shown in – galleries, festivals, events – things that seem to stay within cloistered social circles. We welcome any and all… but there’s only a few who make it.

Rootwire Festival photo by aLIVE Media

Those few who do tho – they have jobs they go back to, worlds they exist in that touch upon all the other icebergs of our society. They plug into all sorts of spots in society. They are social workers, cashiers, teachers, laborers, business owners, all sorts of things… And if they can take a bit of that experience back with them – that sense of openness, health, happiness, joy – if it plants a little seed, if it’s a new synaptic pathway and leads towards being a bit more loving – whatever it is that they might have felt in my work – and they take that and share it with others however subconsciously – the people they interact with, customers, clients, co-workers, students, mothers, fathers – then I think that the art I make does have an effect, however subtle.

It’s one more pass of the proverbial bird over the proverbial mountain with that proverbial silk scarf… and the scarf wears down the mountain ever so slowly… ever so slowly…

Most importantly – my work comes from a place where there is a deep sense of freedom, of openness, of love – and it comes from a place of doing what I love – and I hope that that sense echoes through the brushstrokes. I hope that it reaches others. I hope so much that it inspires others to consider: how can I be more free, more open, more loving… and how can I do more of what I love?

Because, as always, in the end – that’s what it’s about. The love. it’s just love… just love. That’s what I hope to inspire. Take it home with you. Take it into the world with you. Share it. Love – it’s endless. You will always have enough. The more you give, the more you will have to give.

And I hope that answers that question.

Fractal Planet and it’s Kick-Ass Community of DOERS (You know who you are)

September 11th, 2013

Fractal Stage, photo by James Oroc

Way back in who knows when now – November? – Patrick asked me if I wanted to be involved with Fractal Planet – the final iteration of Fractal Nation – a Burning Man village bringing together artists, designers, musicians, from around the world – and throughout our multi-headed, multi-skirted tribe.

Maybe… I replied, hesitantly.

A few months later, and a bit more talk, and I was agreeing to design the main stage for the village which was ending up on the corner of the 2 and the Esplanade. How’d that happen? I have no idea. But I like big stuff so there’s that.

So on a park bench in Santa Cruz drinking coffee one sunny afternoon, we discussed the reason for the whole thing – the mission, the vision. What’s the theme? Cargo Cult. How does it relate? We – this community – pick through the detritus of religions, societies, science, etc, reappropriating, celebrating, often misunderstanding, the bits and pieces that have washed up on the shores of our lives, creating a culture, a movement, even what seems like a religion, out of all of the myriad things of the past coupled with our own beliefs, dreams, and desires. It seemed so fitting. So I agreed.

Time… It flies by. Drawings sent now and again. To the ‘Team’. Responses. Bigger! Bigger is better! Anyways, I was also finishing a book, dealing with Moontribe and the much smaller deco shade thing we were doing there and then, towards the end of June, Violet and I went to Thailand. Throughout that trip there’s intermittent discussion – from hotels and beaches. I stick to the boundaries of my involvement. See, I’m really wary of getting involved in villages. They are so much work. They always have too few volunteers and budgets that spiral upwards and then suddenly crash, etc etc… This isn’t my first rodeo! There’s a reason Violet and I have been a small camp for the past many years we’ve gone… It’s so intimate and building a small art project with a dedicated team is greatly rewarding and not nearly as exhausting. Bigger is not always better.

So we returned from Thailand on Aug 1 and I was immediately sucked into it all… into Fractal HQ, so to speak, up in Sherman Oaks, CA and there’s a bunch of us – Patrick, Jimmy, Liana, Francios, Angelo, all in and out and working furiously on a thousand details. Some who are involved have never been to Burning Man and it’s so hard to explain that it’s NOT another festival. That they need to rethink how they think about events, festivals, the whole nine yards. That it’s fucking Burning Man and it isn’t going to go like they want and the more they control, the more they stress, the less they are going to be able to inspire others, and themselves. And, really, I think, that is the point. Inspiration through experimentation. And when people say “I don’t care if ‘it’s fucking Burning Man’, I’m tired of that!” Well… they just don’t get it… But they will…

In any case, I designed these big pillars, a general look of the space, the backdrop of the stage with these wheels that were supposed to turn but it turned out the person in charge of making that happen… couldn’t…. Along the way, it gets called ‘Michael’s stage’ and I really do my best to kill THAT idea. It’s OUR stage. I’m not building it all. I’m not raising money for it all… It’s a group effort and I’m just another cog in that wheel.

And then, mid-August I was pulled away again for Rootwire, an awesome festival put on by awesome people out in Ohio. That was a great weekend and, in the midst of it, people went to San Francisco to do all the CNC cutting and pre-building with Rob Bell who also makes amazing art pieces out on the playa – these beautiful onion dome structures…

So Violet and I had driven from LA to Reno, left our Burning Man stuff there to fly to Ohio and then we took a flight back to Reno, with a plan to drop in at the Grand Sierra for a couple of nights. I could go shopping while Violet finished a paper for school. It turns out that our early early arrival tickets aren’t happening so we have to wait an extra day. Then our car window got smashed. Thieves made off with a couple bags of grocery items, a camelpack with random shit and Violet’s long time poetry journal, an entire bag of climbing gear – our harnesses, rope, quickdraws, EVERYTHING, and our car registration and insurance card. The motherfuckers.

So that set us back another day. We finally arrive on Thursday. Spend the next day setting up camp – it’s possibly one of the most important things one can do at Burning Man – setting up camp that first day. Having a home space is of super importance. Our situation isn’t elaborate: a 10×20 carport and the starpod – our little shade space where we circle our tents around for our little camp – for Amanda, Jimmy, Imagika, Patrick, Brian, Elena, and others who joined us – Jill, Jess, Francios, Valentina, Trey, Aalex, and more… It makes for a sweet sweet space. And a sweet bubble in the midst of all the craziness. This is our community within the community. Trust, love, support, all of the things…

After that, on Saturday, the truck with the stage materials finally arrives. By then, the truss is up, the bamboo for the total shade is up, etc. So it’s build build build. Unload and build build build. Delegate and build build build. Duststorms? Who cares! Windy? Better hold on! Hot? Fuck the shade! Who took our materials? The drill? There was this rash of ‘burglary’ of materials. People would just come by and take stuff. Even stuff that was pre-cut. Without asking. Ever. And if they did ask and I said ‘no’ then they’d look at me like I was a cheapskate. Some kind of miser. Cripes. The sense of entitlement in this community is so very strong.

It’s interesting being in charge of building stuff like this – everyone else can come and go but the leader needs to be there, on point, the whole time, even if I was totally light headed and hungry and maybe going to fall off the ladder if I wasn’t careful. Because even at 1am, people would come up and volunteer their help. So I would keep going. Because they kept going. In any case, a huge thanks to Angelo, Falcor, Emma, Ed, Dustin, George, Marley, Hoodie, and the others who all showed up  – really showed up – and helped make this facet of the grand vision of Fractal happen. THANK YOU. o so much.

It’s crazy how long this stuff takes… From the DJ booth to the backdrop to the pillars to the stage facade… It’s all so simple looking, and light. But it is an effort to construct. The other thing I’ve learned from this kind of thing is to not have expectations of others – that if you tell them they are free to go, that they should take care of themselves first and foremost, that you speak with people from a place of love and respect – tho sometimes straight direction – and get rid of all the anxiety and stress – people will join in and work their hardest because they see the vision and the vision – it is simply to create more love (and something awesome that reflects that).

Fractal Stage

Because it really is all about the Love. There’s no money here. I’m not getting paid. I just want to do something cool. And that inspires people in a real way. That, for me, for this Burning Man, was the most inspirational thing – the community that joined together to build all this stuff. Not the people who feel they paid their camp dues, did their four hours of work, and left. I’ll share some thoughts on THAT aspect another time. No, the thing that inspired me was the community of DOERS. The hard working women and men in every aspect – the water, the compost, showers, kitchen, art domes, music, lights, fabric, EVERYTHING built in a week and a half, used for a week, torn down in another week. And so much deep deep love that goes into it.

It all came together… magically, organically, and beautifully. (And, I think, mostly stress-free.)

Patrick said to me at one point – Did you think it’d be this much work when you signed on?

Yep, I said. Because I did know. And that was my hesitancy early on. I am all or nothing. And when I commit – and I’m there to build – I am THERE.

All the while Violet was running around with a walkie talkie putting out fires, helping AJ, doing WHATEVER – and all the while we both looked at each other every so often and said ‘Fuck Villages’. Because, man o man what a lot of work and drama… For a huge community with a huge sense of entitlement…

In any case… It all Happened. Then the heat, the stresses on my body – the playa is an intense environment – left me passing out on Thursday morning. My body, spleenless that it is, went into overdrive… and I spent several hours almost forgetting to breath while a strange warm wave tried to pass over me and a friend fanned me and I scraped bottom. With the fine edge of a sword I cut through all the voices, ideas, angers, frustrations, of the past week. Sometimes I forgot to breath. Then the warm wave would pass. And my friend would remind me – Breathe… Just Breathe…

And then, eventually, we went for a walk. Eventually, I was coming back to myself. We talked and laughed with strangers along the dusty windy streets, shaded by a parasol, wandering nowhere. We ended up at the Dr. Bronner’s Tent… had soapy foamy baths… And were revived. And alive.

Burning Man – it’s all the edges, all the facets. It hits so many different parts of us and every place along the spectrum of the human experience. It’s not about how grand or bright or crazy your thing is or how sexy your outfit or how many drugs – but how much you can inspire – play, laughter, joy, sadness… all of it. It’s about the kind of space you can create…. the connections you make… with yourself and others. It’s about the dust and the pinnacles and all the space in between. Like everything else, it’s about how much you can love.

Fractal Stage, Pillars, Art Domes

We slept through the night of the burn. We missed the Temple burn. Life goes on!

Then, on Monday, when it came time to tear it all down, that same dedicated team showed up – ready to work. We’d connected all week. There was love and respect between us. Others come and go but you know – when you see the same faces – the same people doing – that these are your people. And, with the same dance… it all came down, beautifully, cleanly, magically.

And vanished.

And, you know, I’d probably do it all over again. Just to play with those lovely souls.

Thanks for the opportunity to share, to participate, to build something great with you all.

Live in love.

Fractal Family

New Poster for Conscious Alliance and STS9

March 20th, 2013

CA-STS9-poster

I made the artwork for this poster which is available from Conscious Alliance and Sound Tribe Sector Nine this weekend (March 21/22) in Atlanta, GA. The 18″ x 24″ poster is silkscreened and the colors look great! I’m so happy to work with Conscious Alliance again. I think they do really really great work and I’m always happy to support them when I can.

Who/What are Conscious Alliance?
Conscious Allaince is a “non-profit organization committed to hunger relief and youth empowerment.” They bring in money and food donations through posters that they sell through their “Art that Feeds” program at music events. It’s a great model for a really powerful non-profit that helps to provide food to those who are in need.

It makes me really happy to be able to give of myself and give my work to causes like this that do such good work in helping others. It doesn’t stop there, though. The printer as well donates HIS time and energy and materials. The band lets them use their name for free (making it a commemorative event kind of thing) and allows them to sell the poster inside the venue – ALL FOR FREE! All donated through the various individuals involved because we all love what CA does!

Here’s a bit of what they did last year:
• Increase the value of services delivered directly in the field by 25% to a total of $603,800.
• Hosted 84 food drives nationwide
• Provided over 130,000 meals to those in need through food drives and partnerships with natural food companies
• Developed a series of artist workshops for at-risk youth designed to inspire creativity and teamwork
More here: http://www.consciousalliance.org/2013/03/a-letter-from-the-executive-director/

If you aren’t aware of the hunger problem that plagues this nation, this website is a good place to become more informed: http://feedingamerica.org/

More about Conscious Alliance can be found here:
http://consciousalliance.org/

Notes on an Exhibition: Kubrick and Caravaggio at LACMA

February 8th, 2013

103 Caravaggio, Saint John the Baptist in the Wilderness

Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) had two shows going on this past weekend, including the Caravaggio show would be ending in a few days. My friend Radhika had called me several days before – did we want to go? Since we’d be in LA for this GATE event where I had artwork (along with Amanda Sage and Mikal Aubry) we figured we’d spend the night on Saturday and go to the museum the next day. Besides, with Amanda Sage and Chris in town we could get Bloody Marys downtown at Cole’s in the morning  – the best Bloody Marys in LA save for the ones we make ourselves.

Sunday started out with us waking at the downtown HIlton, sharing a room with Amanda and Chris and probably not getting enough sleep. I went out and brought back Americanos for all and when we were all showered and dressed, we headed out the door to Cole’s. Downtown has been enlivened in the past few years – nicer eateries, boutiques, etc moving in; old theaters being cleaned up. It’s looking right respectable! I remember coming here years and years ago on my first visit to LA. There as no heart that I could find, so to speak. Anyways, downtown LA has been slowly revealing itself to be a marvel of Romantic Art Deco architecture mixed with Mexicano style, hipster cafes, and great bars…. And a slew of other flavors and sirens and car horns and homeless and business people and everything. It’s a city, you know and a delicious one at that. While the best part of downtown may be a small hub, it’s a rich and beautiful little hub.

Cole’s, as always, was fabulous. I know that this is entitled ‘Notes on an Exhibition’ but I really must wax eloquently about Cole’s for a moment. Cole’s is known as the oldest bar in LA – operating since 1908. It’s not terribly old by some standards but still. The bar, below street level, dark wood, stained glass, etc. feels old, authentic, lovely and the sometimes rather complicated drinks are made from scratch by bartenders in little black 1920’s style vests. The Bloody Marys are only served on Sundays and I’d tried countless times to bring Violet there only to be stymied by the wrong time of the day.

So there we were eating French Dips (Cole’s claims to be the originator – tho the jury is still out on that) and drinking these fabulous spicy Bloody Marys in the corner table by the bar – a great way to start a Sunday and a great way to soften… well… something about the woo-woo fest the night before. Anyways… Later we moved outside to finish off our Irish coffees (because what to follow Bloody Marys, french dips, spicy pickles, sweet potato fries than Irish whiskey and coffee and cream?). Chris and I went back inside to pay the bill, had a Knob Creek on the rocks (big ass ice cubes as they should be), sat for a moment appreciating the scene.

His friend Castro drove us all to LACMA in his little Cube car. It was a beautiful day and, with the breeze up, the sun playing off the white lines and walls of the museum, the green leaves and grass we felt splendid. We sat in the Stark Bar in curving red cushioned chairs from 1975 waiting for other friends to show up while we drank espressos from tiny cups. Eventually, Radhika Heresy, Christopher Ulrich, and a couple others arrived. (for the record, I really think Christopher is one of the finest classica styled artists alive today) We talked laughed exclaimed – Art and life and creation and everything! It’s so beautiful! It’s so open and wide and available! O muse!

But the day was passing and it was art we were after (or I was in any case). We went to the Kubrick exhibit first. If you don’t know or have lived in a cave, Stanley Kubrick is known as one of the greatest film makers of the modern era. His films are masterpieces of cinema – Clockwork Orange, The Shining, Full Metal Jacket, and 2001 – and the exhibit spanned his entire career from a photographer to director to producer. In some respects it felt more like a film buff movie retrospective. There were props and posters and story boards and pages of screenplays. Clips of movies played on loops. There were the funky chairs from 2001, a space helmet with the final scene, a spaceship model used in the filming. The strange and erotic white milk women from Clockwork Orange on white pedestals looked bold and sexy. There were outfits worn in period pieces.

I think that if I were more of a film type person (not just someone who likes to watch them) I would have been more impressed. I love the movies I have seen of his. 2001 is a psychedelic masterpiece. However, I felt like we were seeing all the bits and pieces that went into creating the work of art without being able to see the work of art itself. It’d be like if there was a Dali show and it was made up of pieces from his studio, a few sketches, photos, his paintbrushes, etc. It shows a life but not the art piece itself.

After a little while of that, we went to the Caravaggio exhibit – Caravaggio and His Legacy. That was something else entirely. Caravaggio, an Italian master, is known for his darkly Baroque paintings from the late 1500s into the early 1600s as he arrived on the coattails of the Renaissance. I will readily admit that I know little of him and I didn’t take notes so you are going to get the general impression – distinct pieces, histories, etc – these I could not tell you. But what I can tell you is that his work is remarkable. His compositions are never crowded but nor are they overly spacious – they are balanced just right. The great black spaces coupled with the extreme paleness of the lead white that he used creates a glowingly stark beauty. The looks on the faces, the curve of a brow or the shape of a torso all balanced just so – just enough to give the feeling that needed to be evoked.

Incidentally, Caravaggio died of lead poisoning and lead white is no longer on the market…

I love looking at the works of old masters. Their colors and moods, their lines and shadows and their people. You know, at that time there were only a small handful of subjects from which people chose the themes of their paintings. There were biblical studies, still lifes, and depictions of the present day – a fisherman’s wife, a street scene, a girl with a basket. He chose his subjects well and conveyed emotions with soft buttery brushstrokes and deep richness.

After the first two (I think) rooms of Caravaggio there followed several rooms of his ‘followers’ – his legacy as it were. You could tell where some of them strayed. Where Caravaggio had pitch perfect layout, the works of others were sometimes crowded and, tho still painted skillfully, poorly composed or lacking the greater subtlety of Caravaggio. Where Caravaggio never failed at the emotions he meant to embody, others sometimes languished. That’s not to say that the work of some of the others in the exhibit was bad. In fact, some of it was quite remarkable – the subtlety in the colors on the hand of a soldier, the hairs of a beard, the use of light, or the glowing flame of a candle, etc. I think what is notable of most derivative works is that, while there is skill for sure, the ideas and theory behind the creation can get muddled. The artist who follows, who paints in the wake of  the master, who merely seeks to use the ideas and motifs, sometimes ends up floundering, looking for his/her own voice. The master, the originator, had a personal experience of the thing and created his layout, chose his palette, understood his subject – and, in this, it was an authentic experience of the thing as it was an expression of the artist himself. So the artwork that he created stands the test of time because of it’s authentic and unique voice.

We all – Amanda, Violet, and I – left the exhibit inspired and enlivened. To us, Kubrick exhibit seemed like a cluttered disarray of film detritus (incomparable to the visions that made it to the screen) but the Caravaggio exhibit was alive, glowing, and engaging.

I felt like I always do after an inspiring jaunt through art: back to painting!

Titles of Paintings Are Like Poems

November 20th, 2012

E Pluribus Unum (detail)

The title of a painting should be like a very short poem.

Most often, the title is the only chance the artist has to share any words with the viewer in regards to the painting. The title is like a signpost, suggesting a direction for the viewer to head in. It is a collection of words or a singular word there to evoke a feeling. I like it when a title sings. To me, a good title has rhythm and cadence, even if it is just one word, and captures the mood and embodies the painting. A ten word title is ok and sometimes, that’s what is necessary. A twenty word title starts to beleaguer itself with it’s own verbosity. We are, afterall, in the business of looking at art and not reading books. Our titles should be like short poems, not sonnets or epics. The painting is the sonnet. It is the epic. The title is the final dahs and is there to offer the viewer guidance.

BUT!

But the title should not be the obvious. It should not point out what is in the picture. That’s just redundant.  And, unless that really is all that there is to be said (as in “Boy in Blue” or “Hunters after the hunt”) then it should point to what is NOT in the picture. It should point to the intention, the vision, the emotion of the experience.

I choose titles that offer not just a clue to the vision but are almost enigmas unto themselves, unveiling yet another facet of the artwork. A painting – this collection of lines and colors and visual cues – is something of an enigma. A good painting draws the viewer in – showing, not telling. We are especially talking here of the paintings of the more internal world – not still lives and landscapes. Paintings that have recognizable elements that diverge into flights of fancy and dreams of divinity.

In those dreams of divinity words echo through like afterthoughts. Sometimes I have a wisp of a word that wanders into my mind while making a painting and I seize upon it. That’s the one! Or two… or three… I try to remember to write it down so that later I’m not wracking my brain trying to remember.

Later, while sitting writing, I draw upon that thought and others… and distill out the thread a statement that eventually solidifies into what seems like an impenetrable idea and that becomes Title. Sometimes Violet (my wife) listens to my title, says no, no good. And gives me a better one. Or we bounce it back and forth until something more prefect arises. Sometimes, I say no, that’s the title.

Sometimes I have no title at all and can’t think of a thing and so I leave it to her and she gives me something that is a piece of poetry that ties it all together.

Titles: they are poetic accents to a masterpiece.

The Process (Which is as Important as the Goal)

November 8th, 2012

Progress

I used to just dive into a painting. I’m talking about bigger paintings. I’d have a few sketches and ideas but I’d just start laying on the paint and hope for the best. I’d always reconsider things too late in the game and think that I should have had a more solid plan. As time passed, I started making more and more complex drawings before hand and preceding the painting with loads of conceptual work. Then I gave more and more thought to how the colors would interact and what the best way to approach it would be – do I put a background on first or start with pure white canvas and just lay the colors down or do I do a monotone painting on the white canvas and then proceed to glazing?

There’s so many different techniques and approaches to creating a painting but, ultimately, what is important is the final outcome and the feeling you want to evoke. The texture and grain of the canvas are as important as the colors. The background is going to set the whole mood. And if you decide to go with gradual glazings then you have a whole other set of variables to consider.

But before any of that – there is simply the creative process itself. All the technique in the world isn’t going to make a GREAT painting. It will make a very good and technically proficient painting but GREAT paintings are born out of something more. There are museums full of very good paintings. But GREAT paintings… they are born from inspiration and dedication and openness to the process. The trick to making a great painting is using the tools of awareness to follow the subtler aspects of our perception and our movements and momentum as artists towards their sublimely inspiring peaks.

So head to your sketchbook and be furious about it. Be passionate. And be patient.

When you have reached that place – when you have that drawing – whether sketched with intentional intensity or simply as an offhand remark that turns out to carry the weight of the ages – when you have it and are happy with it – then turn to the canvas and consider… what is the best process to turn this drawing into a painting? What does it need? What does it want?

Look at other paintings by other artists. Don’t be cloistered about your approach. Look at ALL artists. Consider ALL approaches. EVERYTHING is valid but don’t get lost in possibilities. Eventually – you need to get started.

So do it. Make it. Make beautiful art.

Matt Elson’s Infinity Box

October 25th, 2012

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…

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