A couple of weeks ago we returned from a trip to South America with the Aspen Art Museum. Sixteen people and Heidi Zuckerman Jacobson, the director of the AAM, went to private collections, artist studios, museums and galleries. Here are some of the things that surprised me. (more…)
Our relationship to the world we live in has changed exponentially and rapidly. Nature, once bigger than humanity, is now a tool, a resource, an infected organism and a fragmented system. Buy it, sell it, use it. We alter genetic codes, shape the climate, patent genes, change the course of evolution and create artificial life. We wipe out entire species and ecosystems and turn the ramifications into political arguments. Basically, we shit where we eat. The idea of “nature” as a broad, controlling and creative force in the universe seems quaint and secondary. To contemplate nature in this era is to examine its qualities and possibilities: its patterns and symmetry, its randomness, fragility, and interconnectedness, its unavoidability, its potential. (more…)
I can’t tell you how many times people tell me, “I LOVE your old work!” Sometimes I wish I still loved doing what I used to do, but I don’t, and here is why.
Whatever your endeavor, it is important to expose yourself to critique, and equally important to learn how to handle it. Learning to be critiqued and not feel stung is a very powerful tool that can be honed with practice. Practice can slowly trickle in over the course of a career (I could wallpaper a whole house with the rejection letters I have received) or you can actively seek it out to speed up your learning process. (more…)
What is the death of a good piece of art in the making? Loving it too much. Once you start to become attached to the outcome of the work you are in the process of creating you run the risk of becoming too careful to work with freshness and spontaneity. If you are thinking, “This thing is great! I don’t want to make the wrong move and mess it up now!” then you are doomed. Mess it up and get on with it already. Edith Wharton, the American writer, said, “Art is freedom of the spirit.” There is no freedom in worrying about how well you are performing.
Lots of my favorite pieces were at one point colossal failures. The fall from the excitement of possibility down to the realization of mediocrity and wasted hours and wasted materials is a long one but doesn’t really hurt once you get used to the feeling. Put that piece aside, and when it has been sitting around long enough that you have no feeling towards it, put it back on the easel and see what you can do. If you don’t need time to “heal” then start reworking it right away. Discipline doesn’t just mean getting into the studio – it means staying there. Be patient and keep working until your piece starts to have a direction. There doesn’t have to be an “end.” There is no place where you have “failed” and have to stop there. You are just not done yet! Keep going! The marks of your struggle are part of the piece. Stay with it until you can look at it critically but not judgmentally, which might take a lot of banging your head against the wall first, but that is the place from which you can be engaged and detached at the same time and therefore truly creative.
If you have a regular art practice then you are probably accustomed to this cycle. By now I can recognize the pattern so easily. When I do fall into it I try not to pay it any more mind than I would a fart. Just move on. Besides, I love the feeling of freedom you get when you don’t care about your piece anymore. And remember, you are learning the most from the struggles, not from the cakewalks …. Just like life!
To see my own example of a painting that was taken to the brink and back, click on the pics below. This piece is my current favorite. It is a 72″ x 48″ oil called “Life.” Just like the real thing- full of colors and messes and scrape marks and contrast and layers and history.
Newspapers are dead but there is still a need for news. Likewise in art the era of the traditional artist gallery relationship seems to be evolving.
Don’t rush. Be with a certain style of something and don’t look at it and say, “Boring, I have done that brushstroke so often that I want to change it.” Instead, stop trying to say anything at all with the art…… Just do it and just be with that brushstroke or technique and wait for it to evolve if it does. Some desire in the back of the mind is enough impetus for the art to move forward. Thinking is just an added force that supports artistic schizophrenia. I guess this boils down to having faith in the process and one’s ability. Once in awhile you can really feel the truth of the fact that it is just art and there is no right and no wrong and that is inspiring!
When you speak in front of an audience and you are concerned about how you come off, you often end up hearing yourself speak instead of thinking wholly about what you are saying. The same thing can happen in painting. Painting well means not hearing yourself speak. Painting extemporaneously.
How do you do this? (more…)
I am excited and renewed in my attitude towards painting right now. I know from experience that these phases come and go although they feel interminable in the instant. I have to be sure to take full advantage of it while it is here – I do have a boss and a schedule, and it is Inspiration. (more…)