Personal notes on my work

Where you will find notes on my work, things I must do, comments, etc. Basically I’m keeping some of my notebook stuff here..

Throughout the history of painting, and general artistic expression, it is my postulation that art has yet to ever exist solely for the purpose of creation from within. It sounds excruciatingly simple for what it is. One would almost be amazed that the natural assumption that art is a basic creation of an artist is not an assumption that the history of art has shown to exist in that simplified unadulterated state.

As I have made mention of, art is now at a vantage point in history where although it is believed “everything has been done”, this is a glass half empty / half full statement. Perhaps, everything has been done. Or perhaps, everything having been done allows the artist to see an overview of everything so far done and established clearly, from an overlook never before possible.

That vantage point can allow a complete picture of possibilities. And within those possibilities, I believe a new language of artistic expression can be formed. Built on the foundation of art, for the first time in history, based in the idea of simply human creation for the sake of the self. Think of the general concept as the formation of a  taxonomy of the interplay of aesthetic, historical, symbolic, and expressive modes of visual art. Painting for painting’s sake, expression for expression’s sake, the pursuit of creativity to communicate between each-other or with ourselves. Simply put and seen more widely, art for any sake as long as that reason comes from within, and from a place of meaning. A key being that the purposeful mixing of any elements is possible, as long as everything is utilized according to it’s visual possibilities.

For argument’s sake, let us discuss the modern era of art and it’s forward movement along the time-line of human progress. I would consider this to have begun around the time oils were introduced and the printing press established, approximately the same time of the reformation, 15th century. Coinciding with the end of the middle ages, and the beginning of the early modern age. This is important for sociological reasons, this is the time when the progression of art and painting began to accelerate us to the point we are at now. And that place is within the void of postmodernist meaninglessness in which painting has intentionally or unintentionally lost any tangible reason to exist.

Well, that makes perfect sense sorry to say. Thinking logically, when you ascribe to a general theory of art that denies the notion of defined meaning, the work would then logically lose meaning both on a local level for the artwork and it’s progresses, and on a philosophical level regarding it’s own existence. Every question leads back to the self, every question questions empirical identity. And taking a path that denies the search for meaning will eventually and naturally render the pursuit you apply it to meaningless.

Previous to this crucial era, art served a handful of purposes that range from slightly different to largely different than the onrush of sociological change of the modern era (15th cent – now).

Cave paintings (as far back to the beginning as we can go in this discussion) are subject to dispute as to the purpose of their creation. Rest assured we can say they did not serve a purpose of rejection of former artistic movements, or served as a means of widespread trade to support the artist. Whether the theory that they were shamanistic visions, road maps to herd movement, decoration or otherwise, holds true, none of the possible purposes driving the cave artist is essentially comparable to the purposes driving the modern artist. And by modern artist in this sense, I am referring to any artist post printing press.

I can state with relative certainty that the purpose of the cave paintings is likely any or all of those things for their specific instances. Humanity is under a great illusion in thinking life was any different at the core then than it is now. (This is the great illusion of the modern age and the core of pomp of humanity about his or her own self importance.) In the current era, many people do many different things for many different reasons. You can’t directly study the time that is gone. It is my opinion (and I say opinion for the sake of the arguers out there, though as an opinion I know it for certain) that, no differently than now, the very first cave painting (which can never be truly identified) was created solely because the artist saw a possibility within the self and pursued it. All things are started this way. If you were to study solely the way revolutionary ideas begin, what you would find is a common thread of the pursuit of a possibility. Regardless of the era.

After that, all of the other possibilities of cave painting took direction – religion, ritual, herd mapping, etc. Ranging as wide as any other vocation of man, and the ways in which it can be manipulated. If you believe the core of the way life works and the way man functions is so much different in the modern age than it ever was, this conversation is not for your ears. This is food for a much more in depth post regarding the nature of man, and the possibilities held within the concept that whether it is 30,000 years ago or yesterday, humanity at it’s core is no different then than it is now.

This is another overview of the vantage point I am referring to in art. We are born, we live, we die. We eat, we cook, we clean. We dress, we undress, we weave. We do, we rest, we consider. We fight, we love, we stand and question. At it’s core, humanity pursues the same existence dressed in different clothes based on different times, different potentials, different pictures if you will. This is a sociological viewpoint holding the nature of man outside of the particulars of any moment in time, outside of the particulars of any setting, outside of any illusion of what the modern age (and postmodern – what makes postmodernism so different than modernism anyway. Complete skepticism, being the hallmark of postmodernism, is really just a modernist evolution into the rejection of the movement itself) has led to believe. Humanity is what humanity has always been and will always be.

Just be smart. There is no logical proof, scientific evidence, or perfect leader there to explain what can be only evident should you make the choice to see it within yourself, within the world around you, to be taken for what it evidently for what it is without a widely accepted proof and truth. There are things in this world that are clear, and no more than available to be clear with a dependency on a personal choice. There is no science, politics, no world order for each person and their own choices. But there are right ones, there are wrong ones, and there are clear ones. That is a proof of the necessity of the self, and the necessity of an objective truth. That is an argument that stands against postmodernism. Let me pull you back for a bit and say that I am arguing against some of the mantra postmodernism prescribes to, and yet I am not committing to a total rejection of it. Returning to the great flaw of man, this is it. Every movement, every perspective has merit. In some fashion, for some time, to answer some question. Rejection only rids a viewpoint of some of it’s view. There are things for which postmodernist ideals make sense. Not this one, at least not today.

We are the common thread of life through time. And if you can see something holds true for you as a being, today, well then you can choose to see that it held true back deep into human history and will continue to hold true for as long as we inhabit this earth. Because that truth is held within human nature alone, and as long as human existence is recycled through finite lifetimes which cycle anew with each life, the same search for self between birth and death will occur in one common way. It is the finite nature of our lives that helps shape a repetitive path of self discovery. We are the common way. In today, yesterday, and tomorrow, the scenery may change but the story does not.

That range of reasons for artistic expression start to stretch out as history moves along just as a tree takes root. The main early motivations for art (middle ages and ancient art) being decoration, iconography and religious dissemination, and ritual. Since this not a writing about the particulars and details of the reasons for human artistic expression, the use of generalities is needed to bring you along a path to understanding enough to see only where we have ended up and why. (Wow, objective truth, generalities, discussion of meaning – this is soooo not postmodern.. Ahh, but therein lies the great trick and the nature of the grand illusion humanity can fall under. The key to the rejection of postmodernism for a new and open path is keyed within the general deification of rejection that postmodernism holds so dear.)

Decoration, as in ancient roman and Greek vessels or jewelry for example. Iconography and religious dissemination as in medieval pre-1500 painting for example. And ritual as in Egyptian tomb frescoes or ancient African masks. These are just mere examples. It is the notion of rejection and the subsequent modern development of commercial trade that defines the modern era of art that has culminated in the absence of meaning of postmodernism.

Rejection is the more important concept for this discussion so we’ll touch on commercial trade first and get it out of the way. The idea of the artist as a whore, a promoter, and the general invasion of money into the art world is no big secret. It’s been faced, discussed, theorized upon, rejected wholeheartedly, and made into the focus of art itself. Once widespread commercial trade became possible, the artist was always able to find a place in which he could seek to develop a stronger career and place in the world of trade. That trade has helped further the development of the artist’s place in society, from propagandist for the church and rejection of the church (reformation), propagandist for the forward movement of science and the modern age, and rejection of modernity, portraitist to the wealthy and to vanity, and more. In the modern era of the 19th and 20th centuries, the artist has been a developer of the state and future, savior and purifier of the human race (the early 2oth century movements), deliverer of pointlessness, destroyer of tradition, courier of shock, and just about everything else you can think of within human development of the modern age. All of these things helped etch out a place for the artist in value and trade. The problem, taking into account where art stands today in the midst of the postmodern void and the closing walls of “everything has been done”, is that the entire search for the artists place and value within trade has been increasingly pursued along a path that embraces developmental rejection.

Be it the rejection of ideals of a previous church, rejection of the simplicity of a technically and technologically “lower” life, rejection of former artists as outmoded, or rejection of sociological accepted practice, it really isn’t crucial in this conversation to outline the nature of the rejections themselves as much as it is key to understand they are all rejections.  The devil is in the details and the answer is in the empirical. That drive toward rejection has led the artistic existence to a place with it’s foundations entrenched in rejection. I would regard postmodernism as a grand artistic movement on a wide scale based greatly on the rejection of things infinitely more than the embrace of things. I would not say it began in postmodernism, but that postmodernism and the industrial age have accelerated this mode of thinking in a desperate search for identity for the artist and art in a changing world which looks to be attempting to leave art and the artist behind.

Rejection as a mode of development has it’s limitations. Often what was entirely valid yet in need of reshaping is torn down entirely for the glory of what is new. But that glory exists only in the temporary satisfaction of it’s newness, and not necessarily in the content of what is actually new about it. For all of modern history we have seen great artists rise and fade out of view. Many fading to the point where their work has been obscured from the eyes of society for decades, even centuries. In societies based less on culture and tradition such as the United States, this fading process is even more vigorous and thorough. For instance in Italy, the great works of Renaissance painters and works in churches will fade from relevancy a lot slower than works, say, in a country lacking a cultural identity (the USA). Tradition holds things in place a lot longer than the societal wave will. Stability is something I would never use to describe the world society in the modern age covering the 20th and 21st centuries. So that rejection becomes not only the mode of “forward” movement, but also the mode of personal recognition.

The overall point being that in many cases for an artist to create something considered new (and in the American mode of thought, newness often equals greatness) he or she has had to or has sought to destroy whatever stands in the place that artist wants to be.

(cont.)

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In the previous post I covered an overview of some of my studio methods, and more importantly their meaning. Now I will relate it to what I actually do to make this happen.

As in the last post, I am constantly changing my palette in order to not only learn the colors but to learn how to recognize their potential use.

Here’s some other active methods.

I purposefully use paper palettes as opposed to a wooden palette. And I save them when I am finished, all of them. It’s paint isn’t it? It’s used, from the tube. It’s stroked onto a surface.. These are paintings. Paintings without specific purpose, not for sale, not for images, but work of the brush and hand nonetheless. I can use them later to compose an image, cut them up for collage, or simply use them for study. Take a look. See what I like and how to replicate it. Every color and medium I have used is on there, in every way I have used them over the years. It’s a possibility of another tool at my disposal in what is hours spent mixing color. Why waste those hours if they can illuminate the way?

I have even recently begun using canvas sheet as my palettes. I bet they could serve beautifully as underpaintings for specific works, or even works unto themselves. Ideally, I would like to mix my paints on these canvases for a painting on my easel and create images while mixing on the canvas palette itself. Paint 2 paintings at once. Why not? All that would take is more focus than you could imagine, but it is possible. Focus is the only concern. In the long term process of developing the aforementioned ability to see my colors and recognize them rather than focus on their specifics, as time passes the need to consider them becomes secondhand. So when you know what colors you want to use and how to use them, is it time to lay them on your mixing palette mindlessly, and learn nothing from this? Not for me. When their use is secondary, the palette can become a work unto itself. Potentially. Or in the very least, another step can be taken – whatever you imagine could be done can be done.

I attempt, at least attempt, to touch my hands to every step of the process. Stretching canvas, priming canvas, building frames, and everything else involved. And I mean everything. Understanding the canvas, weaves, weight, and beyond that. Understanding that the canvas is no different in essence than the cotton we wear on our bodies every day, or the linen of a bedsheet. And that bedsheet is a symbol for sleep, a symbol for entering a personal world, a philosophical reference to sleep in every way the word holds meaning in the world. No different than the fabric of any object in our lives, of perhaps the fabric of space itself, philosophically. The weave is a corollary to the grid of a city block, a set of line no different than calligraphic writing, or computer binary code. The weave can be a formation of soldiers, or anything repetitive in our world. There is a connection to be made in any way you can see the connections. The frame upon which the canvas is stretched can invoke any meaning of the word stretching, the act and action of it. Can connect to any meaning of the word skin, as the canvas is a skin over the bones of the frame.

Seeing outside of the simplicity of the task at hand, connections and corollaries can be made wherever you seek them. There is a world within a work of art that goes well beyond the colored mud and oil particles the eye sees through the reflection of light photons.

I seek out how to prime a canvas properly as much as I seek out how to do it improperly. Once you learn how to do it improperly, you can understand why and unlock the keys to your material’s limitations as well as it’s possibilities of discovery. I seek it’s construction, what is acrylic primer, what is it made from? What is oil primer, how is it made, how is it used, how can it be replaced and why can it not be replaced? What are their successes and failures? How can they be incorporated into the creative process, how could they stand as works of their own? Right off the top of my head, they are foundational. Like the base of a house. Any connection can be made to make sense, and the challenge remaining is how to express it faithfully. How to achieve personal artistry on a level enough to work with a full consciousness of the work and the self. As crazy as it sounds, you can prime a canvas creatively. You can construct a frame creatively.

Add those two ideas (touching the entire process, and making all connections possible) to the idea that as time passes, as an artist, the art is the only real product of an artist’s life outside of the self. You can’t capture a moment of being someone else, but to have that person express that moment is a way this can be accomplished. Visual art is an expression of  those moments in a way that can be believed as much as it can be seen. Put those together and you have the concept behind my series of flesh tone deconstructed paintings from mid 2009. The canvas and frame as skin and bone, the artwork as the real piece of the artist. These two paintings were the first I finished.

Art as artistEven the 5 staples on the corners of the frame of the second image hold some meaning. Like hands holding together the concept, the artist, and art.

As the idea progressed the works became more complicated, more visually specific. Work on those ended when other questions arose and put the concept aside. I will be revisiting the concept definitely, and have a work in progress that heavily incorporates this deconstructed method.

These works represent the deconstructed method (past history of art follows a deconstructed path of the work, but not the method within the artist). There is not only much to learn within every fiber of a piece of canvas, all the way from the weaving of the fabric to the finish varnish and everything in between, but endless possibilities of connection outward within all of it. Reaching back to the idea of exponential learning as opposed to linear, and the possibilities and connections between all things become more clear with every step. It felt odd to me while working on this series, how is it that while the whole course of art history has been a process of construction and deconstruction, that no significant lasting note has been made of the possibility of the deconstruction of the canvas and frame themselves? If it has been done, it has certainly not been done prominently. That alone, through intensive study, could make a prominent art career for someone or many artists.

Something so basic as the very flesh and bone of every painting in history, never fully deconstructed. Seeing that, I realized there is so much more left to be done in art, in all the cracks that have been passed over and all the connections within those cracks. And that led me to the so-called death of painting. With so much left that is possible, why run toward death? That is a good question, a philosophical and psychological question of a sociological choice that has been made by the collaborative history of humanity. Definitely food for another post.

Back to methods. I save all my scraps in a pile, including sweepings, canvas pieces, staples that have been stapled, etc. I run a fully recycling studio. Any manner of things can be used for texture and art through recovered or found objects is already widely established. So why throw these things out, if even to try them out and if they fail, something is learned. One of my current works is made through this method – the portrait of the inside-out king. Garbage on plywood : ). This is both a testimony to my working methods of using everything at an artist’s disposal to develop the artist, and a statement on the so called death of painting. Garbage come alive, as a phoenix. Painting has been thrown away for dead or used up, can it reemerge?

I found it best to save the scraps from my own studio to illustrate a few points and save myself from a few others. Illustrate the connection of all things, and the use of all things. The same idea as painting on the palette while you are painting on the painting. And the same idea as compounding learning and progression within the artist first and the work second. The cut pieces of canvas, the dirt of the floor, these are products of my work as valid as a finished painting taken in the context of only work, disregarding the end result. Taken as simply material which has touched the artist’s hand they are equal. In the trimming of a canvas, which piece of canvas is more the essence of canvas? The piece stretched to the frame or the scrap cut off? If you’re referring to a canvas philosophically, then the stretched piece holds greater meaning. It is canvas, as canvas is used in art. The scrap is negligible. Taken another way, as only material, not so. Are the flakes of skin we shed daily any less skin than the living ones on our body that are revealed by the shedding? Only across time. They were once the same, the dead cells are a negative of the living skin.

Same as the canvas, the trimmed pieces are a negative of the process, of the “usable” piece. Same as a negative of a photograph isn’t useless at all, neither should those pieces be. They hold meaning, and use. They speak to the alterabiliy of canvas through the tool use and artist’s hand. Why destroy the negatives of a process? Why take pieces that have seen influence from an artist’s hand and disregard them? Today’s art is a negative of the flaming crash painting has endured.

And beyond those considerations, creating images out of the negatives of an artist’s work is a reflective corollary to the process I delve into. All things are to be considered and brought into use. The reverse development of the work itself, laid underneath the importance of the development of the artist is a process of building through negatives. It is a process of learning how to create not by moving in a linear direction into teaching one’s self the specifics of learning how to create, then to create increasing specificity. Rather to teach one’s self to recognize the self and accept the process as it unfolds. This particular work is as it looks. Pieces, negatives of the process, mistakes and learning working itself randomly to create not only the work but the image of the artist him or herself.

Here’s an interesting tidbit that illuminates a deep truth within a process of trust in work and life. This plywood substrate and the oil paint base on which it is painted was not originally meant for what it ultimately became. I laid on the house paint base for creating something I can’t remember. While it was drying for months, someone who didn’t belong where they were in my studio stepped on it, leaving a large footprint. What it was once slated to be was no longer possible. Does that make it garbage? For what I originally slated it for, perhaps. It ultimately didn’t become that however. It made it yet another opportunity to accept a changed path, reveal new questions, and continue creation on that adjunct path. It made it far more accurately aligned with its new end result. And who knows, if it is never purchased and never appreciated it may ultimately become garbage. Such is the nature of open possibility, and such possibilities have a much wider range of sight than a strict adherence to a condemned path.

My next post will continue from this, highlighting the differences between the method of linear discovery art has so far known and the method I embark upon I can only call “uncovery”.

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Jackson Pollock 1948

From a working perspective on my current method (bear in mind this is current and is subject to change. In fact it is expected and encouraged to change organically with my development as an artist):

Part of my work is the use of expressive underpaintings, done in “action painting” style process. Early on I used this extensively to use the canvas as  a mirror in which to look and learn to see better, stronger. And to both define an unseen subject as well as disregard subject in order to focus more directly on other tasks within the artistic pursuit. To look at an unformed image and acknowledge and outline complicated form, tone and color. And time has gone on I have used this less and relied more on incorporating more advanced sketch technique to begin a work, or to define precisely what I wanted in a work from the beginning. The expressive underpainting is also a key to what I am trying to illustrate. I have been able to, and will continue to attempt to incorporate previously disparate styles and elements into a world where their cohesion is based on the proper placement of said styles, methods, and elements within a studied structure of meaning, symbolism, and purpose.

My works for the most part contain many revisions and layers, as studies over studies. If only I could separate out the layers, I would have 20x the amount of available works for sale. Often my studies are contained within the process of my finished works. This is important in my overall method. In recognizing and within the desire to utilize many styles and elements as part of a broad language of visual art, it creates quite a bit to learn and absorb. It is even more challenging to keep so many possibilities at the forefront of my mind and on my mental palette for purposeful use. One method I have developed to assist with this challenge is the idea of taking every moment and every opportunity as a study. Layering in my work is a natural way to achieve depth and to effectively revise and tweak a painting. But I tend to take it a step further, lay in extra layers and use the entire process as a study at every step.

I could create a finished work from a path extending outward from each layer. The layers are used as depth technique in the spirit of the Flemish masters, and yet they are used newly as sketch technique and for the purpose of learning as well. I would call the Flemish technique linear in it’s purpose. Layers laid in to achieve the greatest depth possible, working in conjunction toward the same composition and image. My process is not linear in that I am doing this, but sacrificing some of that smoothness of depth where possible in order to incorporate an endless series of “what if” questions and answers into each work. The layering serves both the depth of a linear finished work, and the open development of the artist. It serves an understanding of form, a taste for seeing what effect revision takes on, and a thorough exploration of color, transparency, techniques, and more. It is sketching while finishing, it is depth with understanding flatness, it is technique turned inside out, it is Davinci’s anantomical study applied to the anatomy of paint and image. The layering becomes a non linear path to both finishing and complete dissection, and all the possibilities within a work, the choices  within that work, and the flaws within that work are revealed along the way for understanding and overcoming them productively.

At this point in the learning process, the end result is less crucial than the process and everything learned within it. My foundation is my self and process, and the work must follow that. Not the other way around where the work is the only important element and the process is enslaved to it. The strict adherence to the 4 layer or 7 layer techniques is an art of an artist following a work. In a broader sense, it is an artist’s enslavement to the object. There is no freedom and truth for artists in following the art. The artist must be able to lead and have the art follow, this is newness.

The end result and placement of it at the peak of meaning of a training process for an artist defines a strict set of methods to achieve a particular result. For instance, not many artists can be effective within landscape work with a very wide range of oil colors squeezed onto a palette. This often confuses tone and other considerations. I have brought images of famous painters into Photoshop (Lucien Freud for example) and found that while sampling colors from all different points of the work the general base color of them was virtually identical across all tones dark and light. Very little variation. That says two things in my mind. Excellent artists wield great control over color and tone. And, it pays, even with the best of artists, to limit the palette which I am sure even Freud did. Perhaps.

I definitely agree with that. However… One aim of mine is to find ways to speed up the process of development by putting the focus entirely on the artist and letting the art only follow. I limit the palette, but am constantly altering it from layer to layer to achieve the same ends with differing paint colors in combination. This is a set of choices with a wide range of benefits, and that is the biggest point of doing it this way. I am able to focus on the effective use of a limited palette as most any artist would be doing, but learn more about effective color pairings, undertones, overtones, slight color differences, and the overall use of all the paints in the same range of time. Multi tasking within the learning process. Just a small example of a bigger idea I seek to execute in ever aspect in the studio. Shake everything up. Learn why it is done why it is done, then do what fits. Doing without understanding is a guaranteed failure before the beginning.

In my studio methods I attack this from many angles. I am just as likely to do something the wrong way on purpose to discover it’s limitations as I am to strictly apply myself in learning the proper method and eschewing all other methods. How does making mistakes on purpose serve me?? One key word – why. Rather than having the answer to the question – why do it this way? – disregarded or answered for me, I learn why. And in the process learn the entire of validity within an action. What can be stretched, what cannot be altered, what is the essence of any art? And I take that one skill fully learned and am able to apply it to any question freely. How it affects conservation, composition, tone, form, symbolism, etc. etc. In learning something as you are taught you gain a skill. In learning something as you discover it you gain a tool. A skill is a repetitive singularity. A tool is yours to decide how to use, an organic permanence.

As an overview to this post, I am focusing on learning in the studio through both failure and success, through both doing and undoing, from every angle and approach without missing a moment of working time on repetitive action.

I will invite you, as an exercise, to take the following Lucien Freud work and save the picture to your desktop.

Lucien Freud

Freud

If you have Photoshop, bring it into the program. Navigate to the color picker and the eyedropper tool, and check most any spot on the entire figure to see the color. The foundational color will generally and miraculously stay within a very small range. Yellow orange to red orange and in between. Everything else is dependent on shade and tint, and color intensity. There is an inordinate range of possibilities with, realistically, what could be in actual use, a 5 color palette at most. One black, one white, red, yellow, and perhaps a brown or blue. Or if you want to work traditionally, a white, a black, an ochre, a muted red and that’s it. Many renaissance painters functioned within the use of Flake White, Ivory Black, Yellow Ochre, and Red iron Oxide for the vast majority of their work. Add a blue and you can create just about any color. Of course juxtaposition of tone and color and the composition of such only adds to the possibilities.

Getting back to the point, working within a small palette is a time honored method of study. And realistically you could spend an entire career doing so and still have much to learn when you go six feet under. I alter that palette consistently to widen the range of study. One day it is traditional, the next day it may be Titanium White, Cadmium Yellow, Lamp Black, Indian Red, and Cobalt Blue. The next possibly Unbleached Titanium, Mars Black, Jaune Brilliant, Perylene Red, and Ultramarine. After a while, we’re developing not the particular use of a set of colors but the understanding of how to read their use. I am not particularly concerned with what Cadmium Yellow can do, it’s specific mixing use and it’s undertone and the other details of the color. That is information more for a reproductive painter, or a paint maker. As an artist, I am concerned with my own ability to recognize the use of the color, to see it where it is, and to be able to take one splash of it onto a palette and be able to read it’s use, it’s undertone, etc. If I develop the ability to see it in all it’s scope and what it is capable of, the mastery of it’s use is now as easy as with any other color on the pallette.

That ability to see also develops my abilities in the other parts of the studio process, and that is the key. After enough time, I have not only gained the use of my paints as a tool (whether or not I have even extensively worked with them), but also added an ability to recognize. The ability can be applied to anything within my work. I am chasing after my self at every step, so every step multiplies upon itself in my development in a non-linear exponential fashion. All things affect all other things, and this what I am attempting to shift the focus to and to refine within my process in the studio.

This is just a specific and singular example. Apply the compounding ability to learn and BE an artist, and that ability can be applied to anything an artist needs to consider.

Creating a painted image can be an exceedingly complex set of questions. There is nothing in art more potentially challenging than an empty canvas. This thought occurred to me while doing Calligraphy for the invitations for my upcoming wedding. I took on the responsibility of doing them, as an artist, for the purpose of simply learning something new. And while studying a bit, I discovered this. While the art of scribe can be a beautiful life’s work which requires great dedication, it pales in comparison to the work of the painter on canvas. Ink, pen, words. Different hands, layouts, there are great possibilities within it. However, painting on a canvas involves all of the considerations calligraphy can present and many many more once you take in the scope of what a painting can mean, express, and represent in every way it can do so. Art on the canvas is as wide open as any mode of expression can possibly be.

Compounding your ability to learn is crucial to be a truly expressive painter. This is what drives my daily studio methods. Working with a firm commitment to the questions art poses and a desire to create freely, and putting aside specific devotions, I am left with all the possibilities and only my self to discover them.

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Matthew Adam Long Road After Dissection

After reading back through the front page synopsis I realized it would be a good thing for me and any readers out there for me to better identify some of my working methods.

My work is currently based loosely on developing a functional thought/creation system for matching the transitory nature of color and light as it defines our life in form and it’s context in our world, but through seeing first rather than method and training as the primary foundation. I take method and training quite seriously as a professional artist in every conceivable way, but it is meant – for me – to be taken after purpose and self. That is a mainstay of my work and theory, and everything else outlined in this blog is a study.

As an overview, I walk a line between many worlds of art in my work. I do not work from life or support material in most cases – not directly. If the specific work calls for realism to be used purposefully as a symbolic or otherwise necessary element to say something I do not feel can otherwise be said effectively, then that is a case in which I would use appropriate support material to create that realist element. Any support material necessary is a possibility, be it models from life, photographic material, etc., but only for specific use to illustrate a specific image or portion of an image. It is used under the umbrella of it’s purpose and symbolism, and not as a majority dependency.

In using this material I am more likely to take the structure or study the system of light and form it reveals and learn to use that fluently, rather than copy directly. Everything I endeavor is meant to both express and to further my self as an artist, and the artist’s self is never placed in a secondary position. In creating an image I am taking all the time spent on it to study the relationship of light placement and type against form and composition. This is more important to me than to faithfully execute the best source of working support I can create from other outside material. If an ability to see a fully functioning and complete picture is fleshed out in the mind (truly realistic in it’s truth of depth measured against life, not necessarily for realism – made possible through intensive study) then not only could that potentially equal what could be accomplished with source material, but any minor or major changes can be made in the mind as well. It is the idea of Cezanne’s minor structural changes used to refine a picture for the artist, inside or outside of the limitations of realistic rendering. Taken further however. We are no longer creating minor changes or moving in steps. We are attempting to rebuild the ability to create an imaginative realism, and then make choices within that capacity in order to open all possibilities. Think of it as a 3d modeling program for the imagination, and then consider what would be possible with such a tool at an artist’s disposal.

Those changes can be to alter the images to the desire of the artist, stretch the boundaries of what is realistically possible into what is not possible but still convincing, and to be able to realistically create what cannot exist outside of the mind. Any perspective of rotation, placement of composition, source of light, color of light, pattern of tone, or any other fluid changes in form and image are possible. These are facets of an early period in the process. The ideal is to build this capacity through training and then when a foundation of facility is created, freedom to truly express begins to exist. It is a search for the ideal of an artist being able to create anything that artist can dream. If only I could accomplish that one thing in art, the possibilities it makes available are endless. Even in attempting to accomplish it, with the application of devotion, discipline, determination and great focus, the possibilities are quite wide open. Wide open enough to provide many lifetimes of work that is worth pursuing.

On rare occasion I render from source material, then embellish later if it is absolutely necessary to lend a realist notation to a work for that work to be successful. In the early stages it is more than necessary to study from life, work from material. How can one learn the true depth of the visual world without having an eye toward it at all times, and one eye toward the self.

I am also more likely to design a work around a unique model (who I cannot yet afford to pay, so the very few people available to me suffice right now) and what that model reveals in his or her humanity rather than try to fit a model to a concept. I can spend a lifetime looking for the perfect model, and waste that time because life cannot match the imagination, or I can find deeper creativity within the reality of what a unique being creates with their own existence and find inspiration within it. It is an organic approach to possibility. There are occasions where I desire the ease of a model available, but taking that restrained situation there is a lesson in what I cannot have. I am forced to find another way, and that other way has meaning. That other way almost forced upon me is not a burden or a mistake. It is a message to the possibilities of something greater, begging to be followed. And that is a large part of what I truly do as an artist – to accept the possibility of other ways and understand a greater advantage within them.

It may very well be better without models, and sufficient to simply to rely on preliminary searches and studies from source material. Then move forward from that foundation into free embellishment. It is a reverse process in many ways. I study something real, piecing together what I am after in my mind, then spend the time working on a piece chasing after that vision. Along the way taking in whatever fruitful “mistakes” that naturally emerge from my hand.

I can chop and kitbash any visual elements, features, and poses I want and find appropriate. The risk is a great need for trust in myself. The struggle is the immensity of the challenge and the incredibly slow pace to be expected when as an artist you desire to recreate life from the ground up. But the payoff, that is complete and total freedom and movement. Even the possibility of that is enough to sacrifice a lifetime for.

Rather than being caught in an attempt to be faithful to rigid source from life which may or may not limit the true nature of a vision that defies reality. If I tried to fit models to concepts I would probably badger them to tears expecting perfection of pose, depth of emotion, perfect light, and more to the point where it could scarcely even be accomplished by anyone but a world class actor willing to go nude for mad cheap, and surrounded by a world class photographic studio packed with assistants. The point isn’t that I’m a pain in the ass (which I guess I am), but that for a large number of reasons I desire to paint what cannot otherwise be accomplished, and need to be able to rely on my mind’s ability to create an image far more than I need to rely on the copying of an image already before me. I need to establish a strata of meaning for historical and established forms of visual expression far more than I need to find “my style”. I need to find a definition and meaning for all styles, and play Dr. Frankenstein with them all in my own way.

There are a handful of fundamental standards which I prescribe to. Tying into the preceding paragraph, I am not excited by painting that which can already be seen otherwise. With a confluence of perfect conditions that never seem to appear in the real world we live in that does not disregard chaos as a great work of art can, what excites me is the imagination and the hand of the artist bound to it.

Working from a model or direct source material can only yield as much as that model or material has within it, and in the grander scheme of things this correlates to the way of the artist. From a purpose point of view, it is not my purpose to do what can already be done. Often I look at works and rather than see the beauty of them I see a model, somewhat out of place within a dreamy context. Maxfield Parrish comes to mind when I think of this. All the credit in the world goes out to his work, and yet the model in this work (and others)Maxfield Parrish Garden of Allah screams out loud to me as a studio model around whom the setting was placed from artifice. It almost appears to be collage. And working in that method in my mind is only appropriate if you want to create works that either resemble collage or can be better executed as actual collage. This is not meant to decry collage or his method, but only (as is the case for many of my arguments) to illustrate the point that as a foundation it is better to eschew identification with a dependency of methods. Whether a style is best done in collage or resembles collage in my world is a specific choice. It is a choice within a realm of meaning, so if I choose that style or execution it is for the reason that the particular work demands. As a consistent method it doesn’t serve my needs. I am teaching myself to see and create seeing, and take every method available as a specific support to that seeing and not to be the central focus of it. This method is useful, and meant to be used. Where it is appropriate. And much better served as an accompanying tool in artist’s breadth of vision, rather than a devotion to a singular process.

It is clear from the model’s dress which is dated to the time period. Such is the danger of being faithful to a studio model, and the reason for nude models in general (dress is dated and the human form is not). If you;re purpose is to incorporate history and the time period into a work, it is served well with a clothed model to some degree. If you do not desire to be betrayed by the passing of time, a clothed model will betray you in the end. Expanding that, a niche of style consistent with the time period will do just the same. This I seek to avoid with vigor. I refuse to have my work betrayed by time simply because I was not adventurous enough to pursue my own vision of art.

Clothed models serve up to the artist another thing to strongly consider, possibly a useful tool as well but also a trapping for an artist who cannot operate with the foresight to understand the passage of the present.

Now that is part of his style and has a style all it’s own. Looks great too, he is quite an artist indeed. However, I am not looking to lay a model or figure into a work in this way, unless by choice. The greatest available asset to me as an artist would be the ability to fluently create within the spectrum of the most deconstructed abstraction to the finest detailed realism, from thought and learned trained skill. Pulling work from a palette of paint as wide as possible, a palette of brushes whose mastery I have for all of them, a palette of techniques whose understanding I control. Techniques which I can fit to purpose and meaning as easily as I can find the right tube of color. A palette of style used in the same fashion, with full breadth of vision and control. And so on, for context, statement, composition, form, line, and on and on. A true and full mastery gained from a bare and empty self perched on the bird’s nest full rotational view of history, art, and self. Out of vision alone.

This is virtually impossible in the grand scheme of things. Should one day come when I have been dubbed by god and life a master of all things and free to openly create anything and everything using a completely open mind and a perfect hand, within the ideal Utopian workspace, this is possible. Come on.. Anyone looking for that and the absolute perfection of it is looking for a loony bin.

What I am after more is what I like to call risk aversion bohemianism and the self exploration of the canvas. Now, that is a term I coined thinking one day of my life and why I live the way I do. In essence, I am in pursuit of pleasure and enjoyment of the single forward (forward in time) life given to me, but driven in that pursuit by avoiding what I cannot tolerate at every step. I am not going to go deeply into that as it applies to my life, but for this discussion I will lay out what that means to me within the artworks.

I follow the method of avoiding direct source material in order to avoid the other things that come along with it. You know, the catch. The largest catch to source material is the possibility of a dependency on it as an artist. As opposed to consistent study of source material, which I do obsessively. But not for specifics and not for dependency. It is for answers to questions as they come, with the intention of accomplishing the aforementioned fluency.

I want to make certain I remain creative, and that part of my work maintains the creation of the source material of my imagination. The more real material I use directly, the more likely my work is to be already in existence, or capable of already being in existence and therefore possibly saying less of what is within me and my untouched mind space. I also want to avoid direct devotion for too long a period of time to one method, theory, or subject. I am seeking a fluency I can utilize. The longer I spend in one structure, the more that structure overtakes my work.

My daily process – Rather than devote myself in one place, I stay in that one place long enough to overcome the obstacle presented to me when I sought that question’s answer. When the next question or obstacle presents itself I leave the last behind, finished or unfinished. Even if the previous question is unresolved the new question has signaled I am no longer mentally available to take any more from the previous question’s pursuit. This is how I maximize my progression. For example, there is no way I have become a master of color just because I have asked myself what it is to use color effectively in a certain way. So I seek to master the portion of the use of color that applied to the particular question. To stay too long attempting to resolve more than what I asked for stands in the way of the next question’s arrival. A particular question of color may not lead to a deep study of color, it may very well lead to a composition issue or a flaw of form in that specifiic, to continue with color at this point now becomes a non-productive mistake. Color cannot undo the flaw in the form or composition. The next step is to resolve those questions and put color down for now.

The questions that art poses, and the possibilities of what I may or may not be capable of quietly take the place of linear devotion to a style or method, a set of source material, or a particular statement. As an artist, this is what it means to exist as a natural element rather than a manmade element. Fliud vs. rigid, as a student of art and life. Three dimensional vs. linear, and the idea of existing within the work of being and not just doing.

If I did stay in that one place too long, when the time came to act upon a question art posed to me the question will pass by. These questions we ask one after another as we drift through life, they are fleeting. The answers are even more delicate and fleeting. Should I devote to a singularity another, and another, and another question passes until I have deeply formed my abilities within whatever particular method I have clung to. But they have stunted any future growth in other methods, in other statements, and in other abilities.

I become set free to follow the whispers of what is true creation, while at the same time exposed to a much greater degree of uncertainty and dissatisfaction with my growth and skill. I accept the trade off. The ugliest part of this pursuit of beauty is that I know deep down and to the very highest surface of my mind, and everywhere in between, that this process is a lifelong devotion in which there is no pinnacle. There is no day in the future when it all comes clear. There is no perfection, no epiphany. I do not see this as a condemnation at all. With that lifelong devotion, there is also no peak and thus, no fall. There is also no day where my light fades, no stale day, no life passing me by. There is no single day of clarity, but rather all of them contain more clarity than the last. No perfection in the artwork, but through that devotion perfection is fulfilled within me as an artist instead. This is the artist as the third dimension.

This is a brief (long winded I know, but brief in the grand scheme) overview of my philosophical method and the foundation of my choices as an artist, not necessarily in the art.

Concurrently, I work in a way that is akin to the multi-tasking of today’s world. The next post is a closer look to the daily processes of study and learning as it applies to progression in the work.

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Sand Mandala

The notion of works that test both the limits of conservation and skill of conservationists and works that cannot be conserved is a topic of much debate in the art world. I find myself working a natural impermanence into some of my works. Not as a work unto themselves such as sand mandalas or the work of Richard Wright for example, not as an adjunct piece or line of work to accompany my own works, and not for the sake of shock as historically preceding work may have been. Nor is it done for the sake of commenting on the preciousness of art and the fleeting nature of time on this earth.

My work is not for bold statements hammered into the ear of the art world endlessly until it takes hold (shock). This is not non-conservation for it’s own sake, or for the disregard of less than professional artists. This is as is all of my work with a facet of art’s possibility used as a tool, impermanence as a functioning tool of creation. Impermanence is the only tool of tangible physical movement a painting or visual static artwork can offer. Yet, it remains largely wasted or unseen as a tool to cross the span of time.

Physical death is a part of this life we live, a part art has largely tried to avoid (when speaking of the material itself, the loss of the material world to the ravages of time and age). Conservators and art collecting entities attempt to prolong and otherwise circumvent the death of the material works, for good reason (mostly tied into their monetary value). Conservation and working methods (valid as I believe they are) seek to extend the life of a material piece indefinitely, and need the help of the artist’s faithfulness to methods of proper construction to do so more effectively. I find myself both supporting this effort for the everlasting, and purposefully undermining it to produce both change in my works over time, and their ultimate unconservable death. The differences are in the choice and the reason for it. If the work is unrelated to a statement on death, then in my efforts conservationist methods apply. If the work has an important message regarding death (and this can span quite a few works, as death is a looming question within and throughout all of us) then purposefully applied non-conservationist methods can apply. If they can be manipulated in such a way as to both reveal the passage of time and life meaningfully and to execute a death within the work that reveals a message. This is not shock, this is not laziness, this is not a brushing aside of convention. This is standing before the immovable mass that is time, laid to the palette as another range of color would be.
Don’t blame me, I am but the messenger.

Death was here and waiting for you before I arrived, and will be here for all of us despite any transgressions or great deeds. Death waits beyond any judgment just as “the rain falls on the just and unjust alike”. Any art that seeks to blatantly deny this truth or even to unknowingly disregard it is only partially valid if at all. Truth in art is often spoke of, and yet mysteriously, this particular truth has largely gone unwanted. Big mystery. No more unwanted than anyone wants to die I suppose, but not wanting it does not undo the process. In the same reflective realm, not wanting the disappearance of a beautiful, expensive, or historically important work does not save it from the cauldron of time and the elements.

This relates intimately to one of the most pressing problems / issues to be confronted in my work. I find myself eager to directly face to and create works and visual stories of the darkest bittersweet parts of myself. Things noone really wants to see but nonetheless are true. This actually presses into my work and goes well beyond it into my life. I have always represented these things as I walk through this world. Often taking quite a beating as a result.

These are things perhaps all of us share, but only when we look in the mirror and connect our eyes to our own eyes, or as lie awake in the dark. Those things in which we exist as solitary beings, but yet that we all silently experience. Things we all share by being alone. To me, this is a big part of the story of life and meaning. The facets of this pervade my work – the beauty of creation (whether dark or light), the harsh truths of life and death, the unavoidable permanence of time’s impermanence – moving forward and away. However permanent time may be, any specific time in which we live is always replaced unflinchingly by the continuous ticking of the clock. I find it hard to escape the overwhelming urge to confront these intertwined things, and feel the desire to show them to you.

Surely the study of the visual arts, the history, aesthetics, the extensive list of related subjects involved in art and painting (flesh tone, color, value, tone, composition, style, media, construction, and so on) all play a significant role in being an artist striving for professionalism and dare I say, a measure of greatness. But beyond that, I cannot escape the dark truth I need to communicate. That essentially communicates itself by possessing my subject. Seemingly lost in today’s art is the core purpose of communicating something beyond what can be stated, considered, postulated, or otherwise expressed other than seeing as the pure vehicle for believing. That’s what I seek to bring to the work, and many if not perhaps all of those looking will want not to see it. I have long accepted this notion in my life, visual art or not. It pervades the world we live in, those who wish to not see.

Art that the viewer specifically wants not to see may be the most valid art of all. Or even that the artist wishes not to see, and in some cases that has been true for me. But courage demands that I look regardless, and the reality of what lies behind my moving hand cannot be wished away as it unfolds in what takes shape.

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