Today I am spending deliberate time with my thoughts. I close with this.
We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make the world.
Because I have neglected my sketchbook lately, I took a few minutes to draw this morning.
This sketch illustrates my struggle toward simplicity.
Today I am spending deliberate time with my thoughts. I close with this.
"I'm always trying to turn things upside down and see if they look any better."--
Sometimes I turn my canvases upside down while I am working. I first came across this technique years ago when I was reading Drawing on the Right Side of The Brain by Betty Edwards. It is a great way to check lines, shadows, etc., especially when painting a portrait.
This practice can cause the brain dominance to shift from left to right and helps the artist to see lines in relationship to each other rather than as perceived shapes.
When I turned my Monroe portrait upside down to make some slight adjustments to one of the faces, I noticed that the swirls of the gold skirts resembled some of O'Keeffe's yellow flowers! (See slideshow below.)
Any excuse to take a break and look at O'Keeffe flowers...
I am also continuing my daily perusal of cubism. These two female portraits appeal to me because each geometric shape is treated separately.
I am trying to get an early start today, so I can finish the Marilyn portrait and move on to a couple of other new ideas. I will close today with this:
"Love is the only gold."--Alfred Lord Tennyson
I was recently talking to an artist friend of mine who reads this blog. She noted that sometimes my writing focuses on the process of creating art, and sometimes it is about what is going on in my mind that day. Today, I suppose it is a mixture of the two.
I slept well last night, which is highly irregular for me, but even though I was in a sleep state, I was very busy dreaming. I have found that when I work on art several hours a day, it is not unusual for me to dream about making art. Since I spent quite a bit of time working on my frenetic cubist portrait of Marilyn Monroe, it is not surprising that my dream thoughts were about that project.
Below is a photo of my progress on this piece. I had envisioned painting the dress, or dresses, basically in white with touches of blue to accent shadows, thinking it would hang nicely alongside the Elvis painting I just finished. This seemed like it would also work well because it is true to the original photos with the white dress against the city at night. But somehow, I just couldn't get excited about that idea. My internal dialogue reminded myself that my artistic license surely allowed for me to deviate from this plan, and I decided in my sleep that I should paint the dress gold.
This seemed like a pleasingly ironic notion because Monroe always wanted to be considered a serious actor, someone who could win an academy award, a golden statue.
I also considered the further symbolic implications of gold, and was reminded of this poem by Robert Frost:
Nothing Gold Can Stay
Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.
This seemed to perfectly illustrate Monroe's life, with her rise to fame, her seeming innocence, and her death at a relatively young age.
Because I spent twenty years teaching high school literature, I can't help but be reminded of the line in S. E. Hinton's The Outsiders which poignantly refers to Frost's poem when Johnny, on his death bed, urges Ponyboy to "stay gold," meaning that even though it is difficult to do, he should continue being innocent and pure.
My dreams were also impacted by the events of the past few days which have stirred up a storm in our country. While I try not to get too caught up in social media and the hurtful things people say to each other, I would urge everyone to take a step back and consider the Tennyson quote with which I opened my blog today: "Love is the only gold." Life is short, and it appeals to me to make a subtle statement with my art, so the dress will be gold, and these are the thoughts I will immerse myself in as I paint.
On a more technical level, I thought about some of the cubist art of Fernand Léger, such as "Soldiers Playing at Cards," below:
Obviously my frenetic style was influenced by his work, but I was also intrigued by the gradients he employed to make what I have come to think of as the individual cells of the composition interesting and somewhat three dimensional. And I like the limited color palette of this piece.
So, now I am off to paint and enjoy the day! I can't think of any better words with which to close today than this bit of profound wisdom from Rumi:
Through Love all that is bitter will be sweet.
Through Love all that is copper will be gold.
Through Love all dregs will become wine.
Through Love all pain will turn to medicine.
"Freedom lies in being bold."--Robert Frost
I have come to think of my daily blog as a kind of sketch that outlines my work for the day. Like some drawings do, it often goes off in a direction which is entirely different from what I planned. That is why I do it everyday. What if I skip a day? That means I have skipped an opportunity, maybe missed a discovery.
I usually write in the mornings, right after breakfast. But today I started painting without even thinking about it. Then I found myself thinking too much! My thoughts were scattered, and I was having trouble making decisions about the canvas I was working on.
Even now, after a lunch break, I am having a hard time thinking clearly. So here I go, stumbling along, trying to sort my thoughts, trying to find something in the chaos that is worth grabbing onto. One thing I have been thinking about recently is that when I meet someone and tell them I am an artist, they almost always ask me what kind of art I make. And I find that a very difficult question to answer. I usually end up saying something like, "I make large mixed media pieces." Or I talk about one of my recent series. For example, I might get into a discussion about my current obsession with cubism and how that developed into a series of paintings that have overlapping images that depict a frenzy of movement. But this certainly doesn't encompass all of my painting styles.
One thing I have noticed lately is that my style has become bolder. I used to think that a painting should be beautiful. But my taste has changed. I find myself becoming bored more easily, valuing complexity, and very much caught up in the thinking behind the product.
One aspect of my artistic endeavors that has not changed, however, is the fact that I always have several projects going at once. I am presently working on a portrait of Elvis, two Marilyn paintings, and I have been priming a chair which will be covered with pop art for the "Word on the Street" show coming up at Gallery 211. I am also about to sketch my next frenetic cubism painting, utilizing the photos below!
I have a couple of text based commissions on the back burner, and in addition to these works in progress, I am still making blue doodles and collaging them onto my mannequin.
What I have found to be interesting lately, is how one project often impacts another. For example, seeing the way several hundred Zentangles overlap and connect on my mannequin has made me look differently at certain aspects of linear composition when I am sketching, especially with regard to the overlapping figures I have been working with.
With the Zentangle process, I am very much aware of filling up space. My study of Picasso's work, spending some time each day watching him paint, has shown me that art can sometimes be a simple as breaking the picture plane into segments and filling them with patterns, blocks of color, or gradients. I have become very sensitized to the processes involved in my work, and find myself to be calm and quietly pleased when a line or a brush stroke is almost inexplicably right beyond what I intended to do. I find that I am less timid in my work, less afraid of making mistakes. And I am more productive.
I used to periodically have the feeling that I had "forgotten how to paint." I almost never have that feeling these days. I think, as strange as it seems, that I have finally begun to find my stride as an artist. I work on art every day for several hours. I study and experience and talk to my artist friends about art every day for several hours. And I blog about it. I am very fortunate.
I close today with this observation:
"I believe that life is chaotic, a jumble of accidents, ambitions, misconceptions, bold intentions, lazy happenstances, and unintended consequences, yet I also believe that there are connections that illuminate our world, revealing its endless mystery and wonder."--David Moranis
"I know there is strength in the differences between us. I know there is comfort where we overlap."--Ani DiFranco
I have made quite a bit of progress on my Elvis piece. In order to further break up the picture plane, I started by adding the jailhouse reference in turquoise. I like the way it allowed me to retain not only the linear quality of the drawing, but also the transparency. I am undecided just how much black to add as I move toward the edges, because I don't want to completely obliterate the bars in the background. I guess I will just have to trust that I will know when to stop! I am also watching for an opportunity to add a splash of red and a touch of yellow.
I worked only a little on the Marilyn painting. As I discussed yesterday, the composition of this piece is somewhat in opposition to that of Elvis, so I decided to take this idea further and make the background black. This works well, because the original photos were shot at night, and it also makes the repeated female forms pop. I can't decide whether or not to extend the black to the bottom of the canvas. I sort of like it like this... It sort of represents the air shooting up from below. I am thinking I will compromise a bit and bring it down a little more evenly while keeping some of the looseness and painterly quality. I am going to use the same colors that I am using in the Elvis painting. The skirts will be white, but shaded with a hint of turquoise. I will add yellow to her blond hair, and red to lips.
From the time I sketched these two pieces, I envisioned them as a diptych. Each measures 36" x 36". They will not be hinged together, but will be connected visually, as previously detailed, by color choice, style, and composition. Of course, they will also have the ability to stand alone.
I am also working on a portrait (below) to which I am considering add a text element.
This addition is partly because I like to do that... and partly because the next show we have coming up at Gallery 211 is themed "The Word On The Street." I will most likely use a similar color palette as the two paintings at the top of the page, if for no other reason than I have the paint, and they will all look good hanging together on the wall at the gallery. So much for the mystical decisions that artists make!
I close today with this:
"People tend not to use this word beauty because it's not intellectual - but there has to be an overlap between beauty and intellect."--Tadao Ando
"An ounce of performance is worth pounds of promises."--Mae West
The two sketches I did this morning have a lot of movement implied by the changing positions of the subjects. They contain a lot of tension, which adds visual interest and energy.
In an article about how to make website pages more interesting, Stephen Bradley writes,"The pattern of building tension and then releasing that tension is one of the most ingrained patterns on all human beings. Tension and release is at the heart of music, story, art, and pretty much all creative endeavors. The tension and release pattern in music creates rhythm. In a mystery novel we call it suspense and resolution. In the visual arts, including design, it leads to things like hierarchy, focal points, and flow." (http://www.vanseodesign.com)
In the same way webmaster attempt to control those who visit their webpages, artists try to control the viewing experiences of their audiences.
Sometimes this control is at the subconscious level for the artist, especially if the artist is experienced and confident. Sometimes it is part of the plan for the piece, and sometimes the artist must decide what works and what doesn't as he or she proceeds. For example, when I examine my two sketches, I note that the Elvis sketch flows a little more smoothly than the other one. The lines in this one are not as congested toward the middle as lines in the Marilyn sketch. When I consider editing the Marilyn sketch however, I am hesitant to remove the tension because it seems to appropriately symbolize the emotional distress of her troubled life. It is almost like she is spinning out of control.
Then I note the pyramidal composition of Elvis' portrait. By this I mean that if the viewer were to draw an imaginary line connecting the heads from left to right, the line would roughly form the outline of a pyramid. This seems to work when one considers the rise and fall of Elvis' career. When you consider that the image on the far left is the same as the one on the far right, it is ironic that perhaps due the reading of the sketch from left to right, the figure on the left side implies energy and forward movement, while the one on the right seems to be collapsing and out of control as it moves into the future.
Both of the images on the sides are partially cut off. Moving an element off the picture plane creates an uneasiness, what Bradley calls in design, "an escape from order. This uneasiness creates tension and naturally draws the eye and adds visual interest." (http://www.vanseodesign.com)
The composition of the Marilyn sketch is in many ways in opposition to the Elvis sketch. The five Marilyn figures form an inverted pyramid, and with the exception of the wedge of skirt on the left side, is entirely contained on the picture plane.
One reason these sketches work as well as they do is that they contain what I think of as visual snippets. In other words, we have seen these photos so many times that when we see small, gestural fragments, we recognize them almost immediately. This could be the particular curve of an ankle, the slight snarl of a lip, or the overall posture of the body.
I have talked before about retaining the linear qualities of the sketch in the final product of the painting. In this case I think it is a necessity. As I work on this artistic problem today, I leave you with this:
"The highest levels of performance come to people who are centered, intuitive, creative, and reflective - people who know to see a problem as an opportunity."--Deepak Chopra
"I have lived in a flurry of images, but I will go out in a freeze frame."--Anthony Quinn
When I consider stop motion photography, I can't help but recall the many hours I spent watching Gumby!
While he is indeed an iconic figure, there is not much complexity here... So I have mentally moved on to other icons. I think I will have to created a couple of "frenetic" pieces based on these two!
Not much time to research or write today--I have to get to the gallery because I am meeting Adam Lemmon, the creator of Bad Ass Backpacks, where I will be making a memory. I will be signing 100 backpack flap pieces, as Adam has created an incredible backpack which is made of fabric printed with images from my very first painting. I am so honored to be even a small part of his adventure.
I will close with these words from artist James Rosenquist: "Popular culture isn't a freeze-frame; it is images zapping by in rapid-fire succession, which is why collage is such an effective way of representing contemporary life. The blur between images creates a kind of motion in the mind."
"Life is like an onion. You peel it off one layer at a time, and sometimes you weep."--
In my blog yesterday, I mentioned that I have decided to call my new style "Frenetic Cubism." When I was discussing this with an artist friend of mine, he mentioned that I should look up the "Futurist" painters. Of course, I did, and, of course, I am now obsessed with them!
I was familiar with some of this work, but not able to readily match specific names with the art. There are definitely elements of cubism evident here, but there is also lots of movement and layering going on.
This is one of the most famous examples, Marcel Duchamp's "Nude Descending a Staircase No. 2, 1912, in which the artist depicts motion with several superimposed images, similar in effect to selectively layering stop motion photos.
I am including below several more examples of Futurist works. Note: I am labeling them only by artist because I am not sure of some of the titles. I found them on Pinterest, and while I value this site as an exploratory tool, sometimes pinners do not take care to check their sources and info. I was able, however, to verify at least the names of the artists and the countries where they were from.
Let me also add this disclaimer: I am aware that the political affiliations of some of thee artists do no agree with mine, but I am posting their work, not to glorify them in any way, but only to use the paintings as illustrative of a style.
As I was looking for Futurist exemplars, I came across this mashup of all six Star Wars movies. It was created by layering them all on top of each other! It can be found at Open Culture by clicking on the logo below.
It really is worth a look. The Open Culture site notes:
Is there some cultural value to this layering of films? Maybe only insofar as it gives the keen observer the chance to find some meta trends running through the films. One YouTuber commented, “The really interesting part is that they’re similarly paced. If you skip around you’ll almost always find all talking scenes lined up and all action scenes lined up. Just shows how formulaic movies are (or at least how formulaic George Lucas is).”
So, I am watching this while I paint today. Then later I will be at the gallery harassing my fellow artists into letting me photograph them while they move through a series of simple acts such as smoking a cigarette, drinking a cup of coffee, etc. These photos will, of course, be used to fuel my frenetic paintings this weekend!
I will close with this interesting observation about time and layers:
"Time perception is very much about how you sequence your activities, how many activities you layer overtop of others, and the types of gaps, if any, you leave in between activities."--Douglas Coupland
"Life and death are one thread, the same line viewed from different sides."--Lao Tzu
This painting is not completely finished. I still have some clean-ip and shading, but I am posting it because that helps me go on to the next idea. I started this painting yesterday and intended it to be a self portrait. At first I though of calling it, "The Embrace." I intended both of the obvious subjects to be me, but the one on the left admittedly began to look more and more like Harrison Ford... I have been watching the movie Blade Runner repeatedly for the past few months.
And because of compositional issues, I changed the hair to brown. And perhaps this is really how I see myself?
A self portrait which contains multiple images of myself can't help but becoming a commentary on my relationship with myself.
I began with a quick sketch in my journal.
Sometimes I like the linear quality of a drawing so much that I don't want to paint over it. I think that is one reason I am so enamored with certain elements of cubism, because much of the linear quality remains intact.
After blocking in the sofa and painting the skin tones, I am undecided about the clothing colors, and the brief corner of background on the right. I am also considering making some kind of pattern on the sofa. I am enamored of the patterns in the cubist works of Picasso. I have watched him over and over as he makes decisions about how to fill negative space.
This is how it looks after more color...
As you can see from the almost finished product at top, I decided to go more the way of analytic cubism, breaking the entire picture plane into prism-like pieces.
During the course of working on this canvas, I also came up with a name for this style of painting--I am tentatively calling it "Frenetic Cubism." We will see if that sticks.
I am off to the next project. And I will close with this, "Nothing is a matter of life and death except life and death."--Angela Carter
"Since I cannot sing, I paint."--Frida Kahlo
During my self-allotted time of procrastination yesterday, I did an experiment. I created a black on white drawing of a man with cubist elements. Then I altered the colors to see how it changed the experience of the drawing.
Because I chose to post drastic changes in color, the changes in the emotional flavor of the drawing are also pretty drastic. Of course, the idea that color impacts the viewer emotionally is not a new idea. But I like to stop and consider it with regard to my creations.
I tend to often choose a relatively limited palette. For example, the painting below contains almost no blue and only touches of green and yellow.
Just for fun, I digitally inverted the colors, and the painting became quite ominous! This is due mostly to the introduction of black. Otherwise, the blue tones would be quite soothing.
I went to my files and looked at a bunch of my work, both old and recent. Here are a few more paintings with limited color.
And a few with a wide variety of colors.
There are some benefits to employing a limited palette.
I will close today with this thought from Mae West, "
Cheryl Hicks is a writer and an artist. She is happiest when she can combine the two pursuits.