"Art is what you can get away with."--Andy Warhol
Too busy painting a commission on a deadline, so no serious research today--just this playful progression starting with an altered photo of Marilyn Monroe, Warhol's silk screen, my black and white sketch, and the colorized version!
Tomorrow I am attending a live model drawing session and plan to work on my cubism skills, and I always like to see how everyone else draws. As Warhol says, "I always like to see if the art across the street is better than mine."
"We must pick out what is good for us where we can find it."--Picasso
A few weeks ago I stumbled across some of Picasso's sketchbook drawings. According to biographer John Richardson, in the summer of 1924, “The splendor of the meridonal sky . . . inspired Picasso to create his own constellations: ink dots connected by fine pen lines that turn the zodiac into guitars and mandolins and the crotchen-dotted staves of musical scores.” (http://arcchicago.blogspot.com/2013/03/pablos-wireframes-architecture-of.html)
While the simplicity of the black and white forms appealed to me, I thought it would be a fun exercise to connect the dots with color. The four images below are what resulted.
"In 1928, Picasso created four maquettes for a memorial to his late friend, the poet Guillaume Apollinaire. It's as if he's lifted his constellations off the page - lines into iron wire and dots into small bits of steel plate - and willed them into the third dimension. The fleshy materiality of traditional sculpture, of brass and marble, is dissolved. Picasso creates a pure 3-D geometry, form scrubbed clean of content." (http://arcchicago.blogspot.com/2013/03/pablos-wireframes-architecture-of.html)
I have no plans to make wire sculptures, but I am enthralled with these four pieces. It is easy to imagine how changing one's perspective changes the composition. They also reinforcesthe cubist notion of simultaneity for me, since all compositions exist at the same time.
"To acquire knowledge, one must study; but to acquire wisdom, one must observe."--
Marilyn vos Savant
Every day I spend a few minutes watching Picasso paint. I recently discovered a 1956 French documentary during which Picasso uses colored pens to make drawings on translucent screens.
(To go to the movie, click on the movie camera at left and it will open in a new window.)
While it is a little frustrating to read English subtitles while trying to watch the picture unfold, it is worth the effort. And after a few minutes, the sound consists of merely musical accompaniment, which is very pleasing. The black and white drawing below is from the first segment of the film.
The slide show below was taken from the movie. It shows the development of a fairly simple painting which took Picasso five hours to create. In the film, the event is compressed into ten minutes and it offers a fascinating look at the process of the artist.
When I am not making art, I spend most of my time thinking about making art, looking at art, and researching art. In a lot of ways this keeps me from becoming stale. Just because something has worked for me in the past doesn't mean it will continue to be fruitful. As Picasso says, "Success is dangerous. One begins to copy oneself, and to copy oneself is more dangerous than to copy others. It leads to sterility."
I have seen my art change with my study of art. Yesterday, as I sketched on canvas a scene from a San Francisco street, I noticed that my drawing had some distinctly cubist influences. When laying out the perspective of the scene, I found myself thinking more in terms of space and planes than lines.
I will close today with some advice from B.F. Skinner, who said, "When you run into something interesting, drop everything else and study it."
"When we discovered Cubism, we did not have the aim of discovering Cubism. We only wanted to express what was in us."--Picasso
Not everyone is a fan of cubism. Marc Chagall was quoted as saying of it, "Let them eat their fill of the square pears on their triangular tables!" I myself am a fairly recent cubism convert. I really didn't care for it much when I was younger, and now I am gobbling up misshapen fruit on a daily basis.
The main reason I keep this blog is not to inform my readers. (I only know of a couple of people who even read it...) It is simply a daily journal practice in which I store and sort through my ideas and discoveries. Today I am looking at the different types of cubism and how they developed.
I found it fascinating to learn that synthetic cubism is often considered to be the first Pop Art. This can be seen when one examines the cubist still life below by Roy Lichtenstein.
I was further intrigued to read that Wallace Stevens' "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird" is said to demonstrate how cubism's multiple perspectives can be translated into poetry. As I mentioned in an earlier post, this poem was the basis for a rather lengthy series of my own which involved placing blackbirds in various unexpected settings. To open the poem in a new window, click on this link:
I will close today with some words of wisdom by Stevens:
"Everything is complicated; if that were not so, life and poetry and everything else would be a bore."
"Some painters transform the sun into a yellow spot, others transform a yellow spot into the sun."--Picasso
I always have a couple of projects in the works--just like I am always reading several books at once. In addition to my Las Meninas project, I have been working on my mannequin collage project. The working title is "Broken China Doll." And when I get tired of making Zentangles (I am now on number 155 of these drawings which measure 3.5 x 3.5 inches...), I engage in a little visual wandering. Today I looked at cubism by a variety of artists. I checked out Miro, Dali, and Gris.
The thing that strikes me about these paintings is the similarity to the Zentangle form! The forms are relatively simple, the backgrounds are often filled in with repeated patterns, and with regard to composition, the plane is broken up into geometric shapes.
I have included a few examples of my designs from the past week, along with a photo of the sculptural work in progress. Click on the images below to see a larger version.
Of course, my tendency toward cubism is deliberate. But when I look at the Zentangle designs of many other artists, I see similarities with regard to the items mentioned above.
I must admit that I have somewhat bastardized the true Zentangle form. According to http://tanglepatterns.com/, this is a Zentangle:
So, yes, some of my drawings contain recognizable images. But this is due mostly to my ongoing study of cubism. When I made a Zentangle inspired work of art a couple of years ago, it contained 438 drawings, and only a handful included recognizable images (one of which was a drawing of Elvis). According to the creators of Zentangles, these pieces are what would technically be called Z.I.A. (Zentangle Inspired Art). This is my finished bicycle complete with Zentangle handlebar streamers. Every surface is covered with drawings--even the spokes and the gears. It is titled "Hot Wheels," and it is currently hanging from the ceiling of Gallery 211 in Athens.
Here is a slideshow with a few examples of these drawings. You will see that they are mostly abstract images, but they do contain the occasional eyeball or botanical reference.
Also, you will note that the bicycle project was created entirely in black ink on white paper, while the mannequin project is in blue ink. I switched to blue because I wanted it to look similar to Blue Willow China. I guess you could say this is my blue period...
I will close today with an observation from another favorite artist.
"The deeper the blue becomes, the more strongly it calls man towards the infinite, awakening in him a desire for the pure and, finally, for the supernatural... The brighter it becomes, the more it loses its sound, until it turns into silent stillness and becomes white."--Wassily Kandinsky
"Variation does not mean evolution. If an artist varies his mode of expression this only means that he has changed his manner of thinking, and in changing, it might be for the better or it might be for the worse."--Picasso
When I spend a lot of time looking at the body of an artist's work, I always come to a point where I identify closely with the artist. For example, I was at a Van Gogh exhibit years ago and found myself in tears in front of his Portrait of Dr. Gachet. It is difficult to explain why. It had something to do with the painterly quality of his work--the very existence of the brush strokes, that connected me to him, one human to another. It was as though I felt what he had been feeling when he was painting. It is an intense empathy. When I feel this way, it is humbling, and I am honored to be on the receiving end of such a communication directly from the artist.
When I recently spent time perusing Picasso's paintings, I was struck by the variety of his styles. I have chosen, somewhat randomly, a painting from each decade of Picasso's life for the slideshow below, beginning with a portrait of his mother painted in 1896 and ending with an untitled piece from the 70s.
I think one way many viewers of art enjoy the experience is to try to get inside the mind of the artist. With Picasso's work, I feel as though the emotions are very raw, and yet I feel quite a bit of distance is interjected, almost as though he is manipulating the viewer, controlling the situation, which is, I suppose, the way of most artists. Perhaps the distance I feel is derived from the fact that Picasso expected the viewer to come up with his or her own conclusions. He said, "It isn't up to the painter to define the symbols. Otherwise it would be better if he wrote them out in so many words! The public who look at the picture must interpret the symbols as they understand them."
It is evident, however, from the chronology, that Picasso did experiment quite a bit. He says,"If all the ways I have been along were marked on a map and joined up with a line, it might represent a minotaur." Even his language is very visual!
When it comes right down to it, the very reason I started this Las Meninas project was to experiment. I wanted to learn a bit about cubism and try something new.
Musician Conor Oberst says, "I think that, with anything creative, you should have the freedom to experiment, and that experimentation means not feeling totally responsible for how other people perceive it."
For an interesting and interactive timeline of Picasso's life, go to: https://www.timetoast.com/timelines/103503
"I paint objects as I think them, not as I see them."--Picasso
In a previous post, I discussed the triangle between artist, subject and viewer.
In The Order of Things, author and philosopher Michel Foucault analyzes Las Meninas by Valazquez by way of a different triangle metaphor. In her blog, "The Kulture Files," Neha Nair Rohera notes that with regard to Las Meninas, Foucault "construes a paradoxical relationship between reality and representation. He constructs a triangle between the painter, the mirror image, and the shadowy man in the background. He considers the three elements linked because they are all representations of a point of reality outside of the painting."(http://thekulturefiles.com)
I am definitely intrigued by this concept of referencing outside sources, and yet I am aware that the finished product must stand on its own
"I begin with an idea and then it becomes something else."--Picasso
I often find myself working in a series. It isn't usually something I plan to do, but I find myself with so many ideas that I can't choose just one. One would think that a series can impose artificial and unnecessary rules on the artist, but I have found that it is ultimately freeing. It allows me to naturally gravitate toward what I love, while exploring medium and style. It also forms a natural framework from which a narrative often emerges.
In other words, working in a series allows for immersion. This doesn't entail simply making a string of related projects, but it also includes making lists, and notes, and sketches, and thinking in series format! I particularly enjoy what Joe Fusaro, senior educational advisor for Art 21 refers to as "visually wandering," comparing ideas, approaches, and processes with those of other artists. (http://blog.art21)
Part of my visual wandering yesterday included looking intently at a chronology of Picasso's paintings. It was fascinating to see in some ways his decision making process as his style evolved. It was not a clear cut picture that the sequence offered up, however. It isn't like he started painting one way and made subtle changes toward a foreseeable goal. He was all over the place!
When Picasso painted his 58 responses to Las Meninas in 1957, he deviated from painting images of the inganta, he opened the window of his workshop and painted the caged pigeons outside. After spending about a week on the bird paintings and creating five canvases, Picasso returned to the Las Meninas themed paintings. Because the pigeon paintings were created during this time, however, Picasso insisted that they were part of the project and that they be included with the others.
A couple of years ago I painted a series which I titled "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird," which was inspired by a Wallace Stevens poem with the same title. With these canvases, I turned Stevens' idea back on itself and transformed the blackbird into the observer. This played with the premise that these mysterious birds are messengers, while acknowledging that they do not readily give up their meanings unless they are convinced that the viewer is prepared to be transformed.
Indeed, one of the first paintings in the series is titled, "Transformation." Measuring 12" x 42", it features a row of seven divine oracles on a wire, only partially visible to the viewer through the symbolic veil of a chain link fence. In this instance, the birds are representative of potential. Because the gesture of each bird is different, the overall feeling of the piece is one of subtle disharmony. Only one bird is not obscured at all, and its upwardly focused body language provides a clue that meaning must be found at higher levels of consciousness.
I will close today with a thought from Andy Warhol:
"Isn't life a series of images that change as they repeat themselves?"
"The past is not simply the past, but a prism through which the subject filters his own changing self-image." Doris Kearns Goodwin
Each day as I sketch, I note different things. Today I was struck by the fact that many cubist drawings look sad, somewhat apelike, and clownish. Perhaps this is what drew Picasso to the harlequin figure? Today I drew on my past, literally, starting with a photo of myself when I was five. I remind myself that the purpose of these exercise is not to create a likeness, but to simply interact with the process. I'm not sure what I think of the result. The countenance looks older and less willing to engage perhaps, but the tension around the eyes remains consistent.
Picasso first encountered Las Meninas by Velazquez when he was a 14 year old aspiring artist. The painting, which has been referred to as “Obra culminate de la pintura universal,” (which in English translates to “the culminating work of world art”) is one of the most influential and analyzed works of art in the world.
One blogger notes: "Over the three hundred and fifty years since its painting, many different schools of thought regarding art have come and gone, yet they all proclaim Las Meninas as a masterpiece. A realist proclaims the painting because of its stark depiction of reality. A critic stares at the painting and can uncover new details that were previously overlooked. A deconstructionist examines the unending levels of meaning encountered in Las Meninas, and is overcome by the painting’s complexity. The Marxist loves the painting because of its subtle contrasts between rich and poor. The feminist praises the painting because of its depiction of female power residing in the infanta." (https://pollocksthebollocks.wordpress.com)
I personally enjoy looking at art, literature, and for that matter, life, through a variety of lenses. As Socrates said, "The unexamined life is not worth living." And I find the making of art more powerful when I allow my life to directly influence my art. Perhaps what I should say is that I find the making of art more satisfying when I acknowledge the influences of my experience, because whether or not I note the involvement, it is undeniably there. The artist does not create in a vacuum. The sketches and plans I make today will contain elements of eggs benedict, humidity, hanging baskets, Arctic Monkeys, architectural arches, Velazquez, Picasso, and so many other things that I have accidentally encountered and purposefully considered today. Or, as Picasso says, "The artist is a receptacle for emotions that come from all over the place: from the sky, from the earth, from a scrap of paper, from a passing shape, from a spider's web."
Of course, Picasso's work was impacted by his life. For example, a few months after seeing Las Meninas, his seven-year old blond sister María de la Concepción died from diphtheria. "Picasso and his family (especially his father) never really recovered from their loss. This loss would follow Picasso for the rest of his life. In 1897, at the age of 16 – less than a year after the death of his sister, he produced his first sketch concerning Las Meninas characters – María Agustina (the head maid) and María Margarita (the infanta). It is no coincidence that both the infanta and his sister were blond." (https://pollocksthebollocks.wordpress.com)
It was 60 years later before Picasso produced 58 paintings based on Las Meninas.
I will close today with two more quotes:
"An honest man is always a child."--Socrates
"It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child."--Picasso
Cheryl Hicks is a writer and an artist. She is happiest when she can combine the two pursuits.