Tuesday, November 15, 2016

The Fables of Faubus (on repeat)

It has been one full week since the United States elected Donald Trump to President.  This week has felt like years.  Social Media has become a task even more difficult to champion than it was during the height of Bernie Sanders Memedom.  I am tired of the internet.  I also depend on the internet.  Without it there is absolutely no audience for my artwork or my creative thoughts.  Without it, my creative community is limited to my neighbors and knows nothing of NYC or the West Coast.  Without it, I do not sell much work.  Without it, I do not get more shows.  And yet, with it, this is as depressing as it goes.

I read, and wonder, where is the love?  Why is everybody bickering?  Why am I bickering?  I did not come here to bicker.  I do not disagree with the majority of the people out there.  But I am tired.  I have been attempting to read the paper, to keep up, to know what is happening.  Sadly, the plot line has been similar to Hans Keilson's "Life Goes On," thus far.  But then today, I read the front page of the New York Times and there was news of series of beatings conducted by corrections officers in Marcy, New York.  I just felt so overwhelmingly sad.  More sad than I have felt thus far.  It seems that prisons and jails should be relatively safe, at least safe from violence by officers. I spent so much time with people in uniform when I was a child riding around with my dad.  There were so many very good people working in that policing community.  Marcy is not far from where I grew up.  This news hit me hard.  It felt like the root of all that is getting in between us.  Multiple inmates claimed to be called derogatory names for race and orientation.  Multiple inmates filed claims of broken noses, contusions on the head, being used as battering rams through dry wall.  This is not the world I want. A few officers should not be able to sully the name of all officers, and no inmate should ever be victim of such crimes.

The article listed what the inmates were in prison for.  One fellow was listed at serving 17 years for drug possession.  I don't know anything about sentencing, but 17 years is an awful long time.  I started to think about what one does when they get home.  Do they even have a home when they get out?  Seventeen years!!  That is just a little less than half of the time I've been on this planet.  I drew this blind contour from the portrait of one of the inmates that was printed in the New York Times.  

All last week I was consumed by two parallel lines of thought.  One was that white citizens do have power which is at a higher level than other races in this country.  It is undeniable.  We don't think about it.  We don't have to, because we are white.  But other races do.  People with different sexual orientations do.  Men seem to over women.  I've been reading W.E.B. DuBois's The Souls of Black Folk, trying to get a grasp on what it is to not have this power.  It is some sad reading.  Hopefully there are others who will read it as well.  It seems important, vital, to our improvement to understand the challenges that many people face.

I am interested in the structure of all things natural, and of things which are manmade that take root in the natural.  I think that perhaps if we understand the structure of everything better, we can come to more open conclusions, more inclusive decision making, decision making that will benefit everyone.

Inside the human body, barring any surgeries or birth defects we all have a knee that looks like the one above.  We all walk in buildings which have a structure like the one above.  We all witness insects which can be broken down into the parts above.  There is something wrong with the structure of our nation right now, but the people possess goodness at their hearts.  Let us find a way to help everyone in the best way that we can.  

I am not scared of the economy.  I am scared of creating more division.  Please don't brainwash us.  Please don't teach us to hate.  Please, stop being so ridiculous.

"Oh, Lord, don't let 'em shoot us!
Oh, Lord, don't let 'em stab us!
Oh, Lord, don't let 'em tar and feather us!
Oh, Lord, no more swastikas!
Oh, Lord, no more Ku Klux Klan!

Name me someone who's ridiculous, Dannie.
Governor Faubus!
Why is he so sick and ridiculous?
He won't permit integrated schools.

Then he's a fool! Boo! Nazi Fascist supremists!
Boo! Ku Klux Klan (with your Jim Crow plan)

Name me a handful that's ridiculous, Dannie Richmond.
Faubus, Rockefeller, Eisenhower
Why are they so sick and ridiculous?

Two, four, six, eight:
They brainwash and teach you hate.
H-E-L-L-O, Hello."


Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Drawing From Life, Abstraction & Simplification

Drawing from life never held any allure for me.  As a young man I was obsessed with the Pop Surrealist movements of art depicted in Juxtapoz and Hi-Fructose magazines.  I poured over the galleries in the ads and in the gallery directory on the Juxtapoz website.  I de-valued the ability to draw from a figure or to do a portrait.  I felt like the only work that mattered was work that elicited a higher purpose.  I never thought that anything in my daily life might hold enough interest for a viewing populace.  

Currently, I find this to be contrary to my whole practice.  I have found that I am tremendously interested in observation and communicating a figure as simply as possibly.  This has created its own issues.  When I was in school there seemed to be this heavy push to learn to draw the figure as well as possible using values and proportion perfectly.  That was freshman year, when a basis in this information is vital to your artistic development.  I didn't take many figure drawing or drawing classes after my freshman year.  Really I only took one, but it was that same figure drawing I course. I feel that I didn't fully learn the basics that I was aiming to learn.

That said, I do feel that I have learned a communication of a figure, albeit in my language.  I have been struggling with justifying this figure to the figure that I felt I should be capable of producing due to that undergraduate education.  So when I was reading about Gauguin's break with the impressionists this morning, when he was abandoning the comma shaped brush stroke and leaning towards more of a caricature style, it was heartening.  Gauguin referred to his new style as "the synthesis of a form and a color, taking into consideration [only] the dominant."

Gauguin developed this style while looking through the print works of Hokusai and Hiroshige, styles and theories which I also am very much fond of.  As I've been working in watercolor, I've started thinking about how to communicate shapes using a single line much like Asian artists working with Sumi ink.  

As I read this morning I realized a connection.  I am simplifying my brush stroke which I use while working in acrylic paint, aiming for a more gestural and abstract expression of my subject.  Lost is the noodling pixellated looking brushstroke.  I never suspected that I would discover so much more emotion by painting subjects from the everyday.  I thought that the allegories that I had created were more powerful than my work from natural subjects, but I am beginning to think that this is false.  I guess only time will tell.  

While I do not suspect that I will entirely abandon my all of my silly character work, it is rather fun after all, I do think that I am excited to continue this level of discovery within the natural subjects.  I don't feel that it is nearly the sell out that I thought it was every time my mother asked me for a painting of "something pretty."


Thursday, November 3, 2016

Typee: Why so Serious?

Herman Melville writes some great adventures.  A couple years ago I read the book "Omoo" and now I am reading "Typee."  It seemed an excellent counterpart to the book on Gauguin's symbolism that I am reading as the entirety of the book is set in the Polynesia.  Melville's characters are always interesting, as the narrator is ultimately him.  He allegedly experienced something akin to what happened in his books on Polynesia, but what interests me, is that when his characters find themselves in the dramatic situation that catapults the plot of the novel, they always find a buddy.

Similarly, as I've been working through the ups and downs of my personal life I've been looking for company as well and as a result I have reached out to the members of Freehand Armada and I've started a couple new projects.  When life gives you lemons, make something new.

I've started two new projects with Freehand.  The first is a zine of varmints performing skateboarding tricks.  I will share some of those as the sequential pieces materialize more.  I have the first, a badger doing a nollie kick flip, almost done.  He just needs to land.  The second project that I started is a newsletter project.  I want to do some reviews of all sorts of things in my Portland community; a couple artist studio visits, reviews of gallery shows, reviews of new pinball machines at Arcadia, and a segment that my buddy and I just came up with, The beverage review.  We will review whatever beverage we are consuming while working on our other projects.  Mostly this will become a rolling review of our cheap beer of choice.  The first was of Narragansett and you can read it here.  Each beverage review will be accompanied by a drawing of the can.

I've also begun a #nanodrawmo project for the month.  I am going to do a small watercolor of 50 different shorebirds.

I've been really into the way that watercolor feels and how mobile it is.  I have gotten to the point where I pretty much carry my watercolor kit around with me everywhere.  These drawings have been pretty quick.  The interest in shorebirds really sprung from a book that I was reading earlier this year on the migration of the Red Knot, a type of Sandpiper, who travels all the way from Tierra Del Fuego to Nova Scotia every year.  That is a long trip and seems fitting to the way that I've been feeling about my life of late.  What a long strange trip try to account for all of my needs.

So I'm finding that in order to really be creative and loose, it has been really helpful to push silly projects with my friends.  I was beginning to take myself too seriously.  I need some friends to accompany me on my journey.  Hopefully we don't take our art directly into the maws of cannibals.