Tuesday, December 24, 2013
Friday, November 22, 2013
is alleged to have said "bad artists borrow, good artists steal." If
that is true then I'm a good artist. Elizabeth and I once took a two week trip
Friday, November 15, 2013
When I go to museums I generally find myself spending less time with the well known masterpieces, preferring instead to seek out the small studies and historically less significant pieces. These are often the ones created with the most artistic freedom. Commissioned works are very important to the survival of the artist but are always to some degree a collaboration of the artist and his patron. I like to see what an artist does when he is unfettered. Studies for large works are usually not expected to be seen, or exhibited, or purchased so the artist abandons any attempt at a pretty finish and instead allows the work to be pure expression. When these pieces do survive and are exhibited they are as close as you can come to having a conversation with the artist about his philosophy of art. The other works I like to spend time with are pieces that the artist does for his own amusement. Artistic caprices. Like musical capriccios they are generally upbeat, lively pieces. No great meaning or message, no adherence to rules or dogma, perhaps not even very interesting subject matter, just pure joy in being alive and being an artist.....
Saturday, October 26, 2013
are liars. Botticelli was a liar. So was Renoir. Poussin, El Greco, Corregio,
Gainsborough and Eakins were liars. The little Dutchmen, the
early '90s, when we were still living in
Wednesday, September 11, 2013
Sometimes, like Appassionata in the previous post, my work is inspired by a specific piece of music. More often, however, I hear what a painting sounds like while I am working on it. Not as a finished piece of music but snippets of rhythm or cadence, harmony or dissonance. In the process of painting these peonies I became aware of what the tempo of the piece should be. Artists usually paint flowers in the early stages of development in a soft, flattering light with little or no shadow to express their innocent, gentle, delicate nature. Flowers in full bloom are often depicted in a more dramatic light or a more colorful setting, using livelier brushwork to set off their magnificent array of petals. I was ready to follow that familiar pattern but as I was cutting these peonies I began to feel that they wanted to be presented in a less dramatic fashion. As I set up the arrangement in my studio I could see that it was rich and full yet I heard it not as an allegro or presto tempo but as a lovely slow movement. The brushwork was lively but not showy, the color was intense but not loud, the mood was calm, tranquil, almost meditative. It had become an adagio for peonies.....
Tuesday, September 10, 2013
I heard a program on the radio recently discussing Beethoven's Piano Sonata #23 in F Minor, Op. 57, the one we now know as the "Appassionata" sonata. The host of the program talked about the historical background of the piece and the way different artists have played it using recordings to illustrate his points. It was fascinating to hear a variety of artists playing the same passage. As I listened to each unique version of the opening of the first movement I thought about how I might play that passage on my canvas. The piece opens with a quiet, somewhat menacing, theme played pianissimo, then explodes with a sudden outburst. Some pianists exploited this contrast to the hilt playing nearly silent passages followed by ones that were wildly frantic. Others tried hard to find a way to make the transition without having a heart attack. It is a fabulous piece of music that can make your heart leap and break at the same time. So now the question was could I create a painting with ominous silences and violent outbursts in the same piece? I had some peonies that were about to bloom so I decided to experiment with them. They were budding, pure white festiva maxima peonies, fabulously showy when they in full bloom but achingly beautiful as they begin to open. Piano, piano I thought. Then I set them against a deep red velvet drapery creating a dramatic contrast. Forte, forte. The white theme returns in the drapery, this time less gentle, not played quite so softly. A rich dark frame is the final passage in my sonata. Breathtaking beauty in a rich, dynamic setting. Passion, drama, serenity. Interesting. Now on to the second movement.....
Sunday, September 1, 2013
The canvas is an empty space. It is the task of the artist to fill that void with light and form and atmosphere, with wisdom and challenge, with thunderous noise and breathtaking silence, with the glory of heaven and the horrors of hell, and with all the infinite variety and nuance of the human condition. The goal is to create works of art that are able to reach out of the canvas and touch the viewer, to move them in a profound way.....
Friday, August 23, 2013
Saturday, March 16, 2013
Our artistic instincts are developed from a very young age. Not long after we are able to control our fingers a crayon is inserted in our little fists and a piece of paper is placed in front of us. We are encouraged to make whatever marks we like and thus commit our first creative act. A broad smile comes across our face as we see the color recorded on the paper and the joy of creativity becomes a part of us. Mommy's applause let's us know that this joyful act has society's approval. After many happy efforts we budding artist have a desire to advance our drawings. Those joyful scribbles soon become harsher and angrier as frustration sets in. Then mommy demonstrates how to make a circle for a head and dots for eyes and the ever fascinating stick figure. Joy returns as the creative juices are set free. With time we learn to draw everything that is around us, house and family, grass and trees, even sun and rain. Then our imagination kicks in and we create fantastic drawings of monsters and dragons, princesses and pirates. We are well on our way to becoming artists, free and uninhibited, joyful and enchanted. At some point in this process some well meaning person notices our pleasure at creativity and offers us a coloring book. We use our well practiced scribbling technique to fill the page with color, blue hair, green faces, purple hands and sleeves, red, yellow and orange for the dress, shoes and legs and background. The lines of the preprinted drawings are often treated as mere suggestions of boundaries. We are then taught to keep our color within the lines and our artistic freedom meets its first test. Some of us agree and learn to control our color while others reject this attempt to inhibit their creativity. Our artistic philosophy begins to take shape. For those of us who continue to explore this avenue of creativity the coloring book experience is repeated over and over again. We are told that if we adopt this or that technique, or manipulate our pencils or brushes this or that way it will produce this or that effect. We are told that if we do this our work will be considered tasteful and if we do that it will be distasteful. As we accept or reject each suggestion, each lesson, we form our artistic philosophy. No two artists will make the same decisions, and the more we learn, the more we accept or reject, the more unique we become. Every time an artists puts a pencil to paper, or a brush to canvas, he must decide if he will paint within the lines or ignore the boundaries.....