Art class project. Part of a probable triptych.
Art class project. Part of a probable triptych.
One of the problems with keeping this blog up to date is that when I’m doing interesting things that I’d like to write about, I don’t have time to post. I took my smartphone on the Tuesday-Wednesday hiking trip, but after the hike Tuesday I was too tired to do anything but crash after dinner. I didn’t even stay up for fireplace and goodies with our friends.
Wednesday morning I woke up pretty early — it’s hard to sleep in with the sun shining in your tent — and when I came out of the bathroom, I found this lovely lady waiting for her turn:
I am quite pleased with this one.
Last night’s art class produced this watercolor:
I don’t know what’s going on with it. I think it has elements of Chinese art and possibly Buddha going on in it. Neil says it resembles some Indian art he read about, as well.
Another Color Field artist is Sam Gilliam, who does absolutely marvelous unsupported canvas paintings as well as more conventional supported canvas and wood panel works.
video of Gilliam at work on an installation. The sidebar includes links to other interesting interviews with Gilliam.
I don’t have any desire to try to imitate Gilliam’s work; it comes too directly from his own perception, soul, and experience. But that by itself is a valuable lesson: if I dig deep and express what’s most truly me, then that truth will stand out clearly to others and will connect in a way that’s far deeper than if I was trying to please those others. And that’s as true for writing as for painting.
The first artist whose work I could recognize and enjoy was apparently Salvatore Dali. I have to rely on my father’s word for this, however, because I was only about three and don’t remember the incident. Apparently we owned a book that included a section on Dali, with reproductions of several of his pictures. I loved Swans Reflecting Elephants. I wasn’t bothered by the grotesque violence of The Burning Giraffe or the bizarre and creepy The Face of War.
But I couldn’t bear to look at the melting clocks in The Persistence of Memory”. I’d sit on Dad’s lap while he turned the pages and we talked about the pictures, but when we got to that page, I’d hold it down and wouldn’t let him turn it until he promised to turn two pages so I wouldn’t have to look at. Once when he tricked me (my version) or accidentally only turned one page (his version :) ), I burst into tears, ran screaming out of the room, and had nightmares for weeks.
It doesn’t give me nightmares any more, but I still find it kind of creepy to look at.
One of the first artists my instructor referred me to was American watercolorist Charles Burchfield. This website shows some of his representative work: from “HEAT WAVES IN A SWAMP: THE PAINTINGS OF CHARLES BURCHFIELD,” an exhibition held in fall 2009.
Burchfield studied art in college and was acquainted with most of the major American painters of the time, including Edward Hopper, but he chose to remain in upstate New York, focusing on the world around him and his own reactions to it. He made thousands of sketches and would work on the same painting for years, going back to it to adjust, correct, edit, and repaint. Often he would enlarge the painting by adding new paper to the edge of the old one (“Dawn of Spring,” for instance, which was incomplete at his death in 1967).
“Glory of Spring,” from 1950, illustrates many of Burchfield’s characteristics and techniques. Notice the rhythmic black and yellow lines around some of the objects: Burchfield is trying to indicate the sound of insects and birds, the feel and taste and smell of the forest, even the vibrant spirit of nature. “The Song of the Katydids on an August Morning” is another example.
I love the way he layers emotions into paintings that are, for all their stylized and abstracted features, nevertheless closely observed. I love the energy, the colors, the intensity. There’s some similarity of style between us, though not, I think, as close as my instructor would like to think :D
I also love that he shares many of my writing characteristics, including the tendency to work and rework things that take a long time to finish. He gives me a model for both my watercolors and my writing.
“Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.” Edgar Degas
I’ve always drawn and painted, but I had never taken a formal class until five or so years ago. I was lucky enough to stumble into the classes taught by Bill Commerford at the MFA. Bill is not your usual measure-the-proportions and here-are-the-rules art teacher. He’s into experimenting, figuring things out for yourself, learning what works and doesn’t work for you. (If you look in the “art” category on this blog, you’ll see some of the work I’ve done for this class.)
One of the things he has been encouraging me to explore is the bigger context of art — the what and the why as much as the how. What does it mean to me? What am I trying to accomplish with a particular painting, or my painting in general? He has introduced me to many artists I never heard of — Burchfield, de Kooning, Arthur Dove, Georgia O’Keefe before she was famous, new horizons opening on every side. I see old favorites in a new light as well. It’s not just examples of technique and composition, it’s a whole new way of seeing.
For this series of posts, I’m going to explore some of those questions and share some of what I’ve learned. I’ll also try to relate some of those new ideas to my writing. Up until now, they’ve been different tracks in my mind, even though they’re both creative endeavors. So I suppose I’ll be speculating about the nature of creativity as well.
I don’t have everything planned out. We’ll see where it takes us. I’m glad you’re here, and I hope you enjoy the ride.