Tuesday, November 17, 2015

What does it mean when something isn't there, that should be there?

Lately the news from Paris is terrible enough that going into the studio and painting seems futile and childish. The world is so strange. It seems that the basic desire of people would be the same, to be happy, and to see others happy, rather than making everyone miserable. Can a person's heart disappear? Is there an empty place where their heart ought to be? It's too awful for words. All the time I painted these plates I kept thinking, "Something should be there. A plate shouldn't be empty." That's exactly how I feel about what is happening now. 

For some reason I have not painted fruit before

This is an example of a still life that was painted from a drawing, versus a pile of apples in front of me.

First I drew some apples, and painted a few of them.  Experimentally I drew the empty bowl with a spoon or two...then put apples in the silver bowl. The background was black and table was red with a bit of cloth...the notes on the drawing refer to that. Things change. Edward Hopper said something that struck a chord with me: "There's more of me in it when I improvise," or words to that effect. When  I read that I thought how true. That can't be true of everyone though. With some artists things are planned down to each detail ahead of time. 

The apples were then cut up and baked into a dessert. Next time I'm at the store I'm going to pay attention to the apples that are not red, because I want to use them next time I do apples. There must be a billion types of apple now. Some are so much better tasting than others. 

Monday, November 2, 2015

Sense and Sensibility

I always wonder if Jane Austen realized how wise and wonderful she was. By using her priceless title here I'm not trying to degrade her wit, but I think of that war between sense and sensibility all the time. Summing up a complex situation tersely seemed to be her trump card. 

My favorite show on television now is the Great British Bake-off. It has everything---suspense,  an appealing cast of characters, and a surprise ending. I don't bake,  so the baking isn't familiar territory to me. The people on the show are knowledgeable, yet humble about the things they don't know.   Refreshing!  It's hard to avoid drawing parallels between that baking world and visual arts. Creative work is such a mixture of intuitive, intellectual, and physical  effort. There's so much to learn and re-learn.

Sometimes my intuition says, "Not that, do something else" when I'm working. Not just techinical matters, but in the intangible sense---for instance, sometimes local art events came up in the town where I used to live, and even though part of me definitely thought I should take part in it, instinct would often say, "Back off." I never knew what that meant.  I've never known the importance, or lack of importance, of local art events, and if an artist should take part in them. If you listen to what most people say, the answer is Yes. They say, "Put it out there. You never know who is going to see it." But what if intuition runs counter? When I'm working I pay attention to that little voice. If intuition helps me in my work, perhaps it's helping me in other ways, and if I ignore it it's the wrong thing to do.

 Sometimes I did take part in local art events---sometimes against my instinct, sometimes not--- and sometimes it was fine, other times ending up with a sour taste in my mouth. I can't help but think different things work best for different people, and that's that. The work itself is so subjective. Since people approach creative work in different ways, it wouldn't make sense that all aspects of that creative world would be the same for all. Ultimately what made me instinctively take a step back was my observation that the contests, the exhibitions at the banks, the painting demos, the plein-air paint outs, encouraged sameness and discouraged diversity, despite all the the insistance to the contrary. I don't think that was by intent. I always thought the efforts and people were well meaning, and usually sincere, but the nature of those events creates a result that tends to be inevitable.   I think having those events is probably better than NOT having them, but the fact that they exist doesn't make them the most important thing around----although you might not think so by reading the press releases.