Sunday, August 31, 2014

Studio Cleaning and Teaching Once Again

Last weekend was Picnic. The show went pretty well. Sales were pretty good and I got to see several art friends that I very seldom see. Mostly it is very interesting to here the various comments on your work. While I was never excited about this when I was younger, I do find some of the comments helpful now. People will respond very well to this or that. It often gives you an idea of what you are doing right. This time around it seemed very obvious to me that viewers have different opinions. Some people preferred totems while some liked drawings. Usually the folks who like buttons are not interested in anything else that I have to offer. 

Each time that I go to one of these shows or set up for a first Friday I find that I am left with my studio a mess and wanting more out of the sale. I always wish that I would have met more people or possibly sold more. I find these to be unproductive trains of thought though and so, it happens that I must clean my studio. I clean both make room for new projects in the studio in the physical and mental states. 

Today I cleaned my studio. I cleaned my studio today and I cleaned my head again too. 


Monday, August 18, 2014

Camus and the End

Last night I started to read Albert Camus' Exile and the Kingdom.  The first story is called The Adulterous Woman.  The main character of this book is a woman who is very unhappy with her marriage.  She longs for adventure and newness.  Her husband showers her with money, which it is implied is the main drive in his life.  The woman finds that she must escape her life, she runs to the highest parapet in the small town that she is staying in during the middle of the night, leaving her husband behind asleep in bed.  She experiences the cold and biting air of the desert ripping through her lungs from the top of the parapet but also witnesses as far out as one can see, where the desert met the sky.  She was free of her constrictive love.  She returns to bed but has found another energy which actually expresses her love more.  Her husband has been cheated on.

Sometimes when I go to studio at night I feel an energy not unlike this one.  It is by no means that I am cheating on my wife.  We do not share such conservative views on the world as this couple, but it is as if there is a life of freedom and a vitality of breath at the studio which is not present in the regular everyday family experiences.  There is a rush, a pit in the stomach, a resistance to thirst and hunger which do not exist in the home.  All sense and all knowledge sometimes leave without any conscious effort.  Movements become fluid and intent becomes only creative.

There were many times over the past several months that I experienced these feelings while working on this series of totems.  The totems have evolved in such a way that they are now individually spiritual.  Each totem is imbued with an emotion felt through the act of discovery.  At first I felt lost as to the characters and which characters would work in my cosmology and then I felt lost in how to make a pattern.  Last I found myself lost in color again.  I feel I can always become lost in color.  It is a dilemma that I search for and a mystery which I find comfort in.

I cannot do any more totems this week before Picnic.  I have run out of gas.  There are 67.  It is notably less than the 100 that I had planned on, but I did gift one to my mother and traded two for a haircut, which brings the total to 70.  I gave two to the midwives after they helped my wife and I birth our son, so that is 72.  It's been a lot of work and the discovery still allows more, but for now, I am done.

It is time to run down the stairs of my parapet and return home to the comfort of my wife's embrace.  Tomorrow I shall climb again.


Friday, August 15, 2014

Production and Making

I recently sent myself a text message to my email from class.  It read, "Art is found, not created."  The reference was to an image I had just sent myself of a gap in the ceiling with two lights to either side of the gap.  It looked as though there were a face coming out of the ceiling and while I was teaching class and waiting for students to respond to the ideas and prompts that I was feeding them I couldn't help but have this image stuck in my mind.

It kept telling me that "art is found, not created."  It's true, I think.  The ideas that pop into my head are the results of explorations.  During the exploration we find something new here or there and add it into our repertoire or respond to it accordingly. 

With this sort of logic working in me the last several days it seems as no surprise that while in studio working on what has become a production project in the totems.  I say it is now a production project because I am not trying to solve anything new with the totems at this point, or least if I am the realizations are coming much slower than they were.  Ideas seem like that.  As we first explore the ideas there is a change here and there and all over the place, but as we sit on the idea for a little while it mellows out a bit.  It becomes an idea which is in need of transformation or modification. While I am not done with the totems project, I have learned a lot of what I am open to learning before I intend to show the work next Saturday at Picnic.  To be fair you have to stop someplace. 

I started looking around studio.  Four years ago when I got to graduate school I started working on a couple mobiles.  They weren't balanced correctly and I failed miserably in producing them successfully but the panels which I used in the mobile are still around.  They were in the style that I have been using for the past several years; drawn with a flat paint background.  What the patterns have made me realize more than anything is that I miss pushing paint, mixing colors, layering and overlapping.  I needed a change in 2010.  There was a lot going on in and outside of art, but now I am feeling patient with myself again.  I am not in a rush to get everything done and more importantly I am feeling very excited about the contrast between well rendered painterly subject, flat patterns and flat backgrounds. 

This image popped into my head and as I am a student at all times, I followed it with all my might.

There is something that may be better about the raw drawing, but I am excited to face this dilemma and for now it is nice to work with the machinery again.  I stopped working with the machinery when I was in graduate school because none of my answers to questions there were good enough for faculty and peers.  The thing is that modern art doesn't like an image which states what it is.  This image is what it is and there is no room for the modern art world to negotiate its space.  I am not leaving myself open to learn in the showing process perhaps, but frankly I don't care.  Our world is full of machines tearing down and rebuilding our landscape.  We try to fix everything that we destroy by destroying it even more.  I am merely waiting for the day that we try to repair our atmosphere and water cycles with machines. 


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

My Brain is Different. Different, how?

I was turned onto a study today, which was recently published by the BBC News concerning the possible differences in artists and non-artists brains.  Research suggested that artists carried more developed grey matter in the area of the brain called the precuneus in the parietal lobe.  Additionally subjects more disposed to drawing were found to have increased grey and white matter in the cerebellum and also in the supplementary motor area.  This leads to a a greater refinement in motor skills.  The full article can be found here.  

The question that I can't shake is one of origin.  Are artists and creatives innately granted more of this particular type of brain matter, or is the function of these various areas of the brain similar to the function of a muscle used in sport?  If a subject were to use his or her creative muscle more would that then allow those parts of the brain to grow?

I've also been mulling over a bit of what I read in the August 2014 issue of Juxtapoz on Madlib.  DJ's have always seemed to be the rawest form of what I consider my creativity to be.  They are constantly collecting sounds and beats, while I find that I am constantly collecting surfaces and imagery.  The method is not that different.  Madlib expresses that he is "into" no particular style of music or sounds.  He is a student of the sounds.  He is a student of the world.  You can see a preview of some of the Madlib articles on Juxtapoz's website, here.  I think that this format of thinking about art work is more productive than relying on the idea that my brain may or may not be different from anyone else.  Essentially, hard work and study may in fact improve the function and growth of certain areas of the brain, but half of the production is in the study.

The reason that I find myself curious about the origin of this creativity is more or less to hone those skills.  We all wonder what it is that makes us unique.  I think that creatives can actually more actively be aware of what it is that makes them unique, but the source of the attributes sometimes interrupts the flow of the creativity.  Perhaps knowing that working the area like a muscle will help, both scientifically and dogmatically.  The idea of "working your creative muscle" was one pushed in art school, hence dogma, but seeing this study seems to give some much needed credence to this hokey sounding idea.

The patterns within my totem series seems to be a good example of both the study and the push.  I feel as though I am thoroughly exercising my brain, while thoroughly studying some classic material.  Here are the two newest totems that I finished.


Monday, August 11, 2014

Dime Store Novels, Ferry Boats, and Totems

My preparations for Picnic have been progressing well.  While the majority of my days involve juggling the schedule of an infant, I have still been able to spend a good portion of time in studio and an even better portion of time drawing.  The difficulty of having a small family is obvious.  There is so very much to do.  We are very much into the attachment parenting philosophy, so when the little man requests attention we are rapt. 

Over the weekend my wife and I made a trip out to Vinalhaven, the island that she is from, to visit her godparents.  I was concerned that I would get nothing done, but I can say on two counts that this is not the case.  I both managed to draw out seven new totems and create a new character based on a design decorating the door of an armoire in the side room where we slept and made it through a hefty portion of the Sirens of Titan, a Vonnegut book that I purchased in one of my favorite book stores which I always visit before getting on the ferry. 

The Sirens of Titan traverses a land without feeling, the need for breath, or the need for family.  Men and women are taken away to Mars and separated from their families.  Small antennas are placed in peoples' heads so that they can be shocked every time they begin to remember anything.  This brings an entirely new meaning to the Zen sort of principle that there is only the now.  It's a good read for the workaholic in me.  I feel as though this entity entirely controlled by remote and separated from the things in life that matter is not that far off from the human being that I become when I trap myself in my studio for too long.  Oddly I had been kicking and screaming about this trip, wanting to spend more time in studio and what I actually realized is that was one of the most important times to spend with my family, on an island, resting and enjoying the company of some very compelling and compassionate individuals.  The drawings that I completed on the island reflected a patience that I think I am sometimes missing.

I am attempting to reach 100 small totems for the Picnic festival.  I don't think there is much chance of me making it there as I make my drawings and mock ups more and more complicated, but I do think that the work that I show will be of a great quality and there is definitely over fifty of the totems now.  It is pleasant to find inspiration in my surroundings.  It is obvious that one might, however it is very easy to get lost within the studio mind, rehashing ideas and observing nothing of importance.  I thank my wife for allowing me an escape from my studio mind. 

Here are some photos of some of the more recent totems.

 These two birds are based on the character that I saw on the armoire on the island.  I don't feel like any of my characters have this much grace and yet these birds were by no means a copy of the birds on the armoire, merely influenced by the motion.  I feel like one of these birds would do well in a painting referencing Giacomo Balla's Dynamism of a Dog on a Leash pictured below.  Something to do with the plumage in the tail mimicking the dog's tale and the master's feet, but I am not sure how yet.  It is just lodged in my temporal lobe waiting for the time being.

This last bird is based off of some drawings of Petroglyphs from the Haida in the Pacific Northwest, however one of Courtney's friends pleasantly pointed out to me that it looked like an Angry Bird.  I hope that that is not the only thing that this bird reminds people of.  The pattern on the side is based on a fabric that my wife bought to make household goods with. 

I am really pleased with the work that I have been creating of late.  It is good to have my wife to make me step out of my own head every once in a while.


Ps Here's a cute photo of my boy.