Archive for October, 2005

Seeing the world around us

Wednesday, October 26th, 2005

Impact and the need to create

Spinach Harvest

Continuing with the theme of how art is created. I figured it wouldn’t hurt to show a work just created – "Spinach Harvest". Pieces on the blog won’t necessarily appear for purchase immediately on the website, but are being offered as something fresh and hopefully insightful. 

Surrounding my home are agriculture fields. Next door they are harvesting spinach. When I first looked, I noticed that the crew was on its knees in the wet fields bunching as they harvested. I thought about day in and day out harvesting spinach and what that must be like. The workers were energetic, goal oriented, quick and seemingly tireless 10 hours later.

The piece was time consuming to create, with all the workers, spinach, and details which I wanted to be right;  but only appropriate for such a subject. To be successful, I needed to create something beautiful, dignified, and a little difficult to watch. Our food supply requires real people working long hours generally unnoticed.

From an artistic perspective, I am not sure who this might come from, I choose to think it is original.  Although, there are undoubtedly many influences, I am including this piece by Claude Monet from the Museum of Modern Art as an example of use of multiple colors in mountains.

The truth is art comes from many places too numerous to choose from, but sometimes it tries to communicate something more than just seeing.

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Origins of a New Work of Art

Monday, October 24th, 2005

Art from Concept

Experimental Fields - Digital Painting 2005

Above is an image of a very recent work entitled "Experimental Fields".  It came about in a slightly different way.  I was  creating a piece which I was in the middle of  and felt the urge to put plastic over a section of the fields.

Plastic has been all around me these days. It is used to cover strawberry fields in the making and then methyl bromide is pumped into the soil as a fumigant. Methyl Bromide has been banned for its ozone depleting qualities but the timeline keeps getting extended.  Unfortunately, it also has health depleting qualities as well.

There is lots of documentation, but safe levels aren’t clear; and I personally suffered a great deal of dizziness (enough that I thought I needed a hospital) that I have become convinced was caused by exposure from having ruled everything else out.

It is never my intention to directly copy any other artist; that is just the way I work. However, I do see other artists in my own work. I find the same thing to be the case in music and certainly others might see influences which I was unaware.

In looking at the first piece, I was reminded oddly of Henri Rousseau, not because of style, but the way he would have animals hidden in the fields. 

From the aspect of creating from a concept, I am naturally drawn to Christo and his huge installations – particularly given the plastic theme.

There are countless others who create from a concept. In fact, I think one would be hard pressed to find art that doen’t draw on a concept to some degree. Representation by its nature is conceptual – but then again, I arrived at the piece above in a way that was different from the normal way I work.

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Paul Cézanne: Color and View

Tuesday, October 18th, 2005

Use of color & unique perspective sets work apart

Mont Sainte-Victoire and the Viaduct of the Arc River Valley, 1882–85

Still Life with Apples and Pears, 1885–87 

The anniversary of Paul Cézanne’s death is this coming Saturday. Why I know this shall remain a mystery. The above images are from The Metropolitan Museum of Art and were chosen 1)because their size was appropriate for this weblog and they are good pieces in terms of my personal view of Cézanne.

In the first piece, you will notice that despite the overall green and brown character of the piece, it has remained interesting both for its depth of field and for the subtle color changes throughout the entire piece. There is actually more color than what we would observe with our eye. He has imparted his own way of looking into the piece.

In the fruit still life, once again he has created a world with brush stroke and color which has something more than what we see. The painting takes on a life of its own. Seated Peasant, ca. 1892–96

In the "Seated Peasant" there are many aspects such as the hands which have a very literal lifelike quality. The expression of course is also believable, but it is clear that Cézanne is not trying to be literal – not just by the colorful background, but also by the appearance of the face and particularly the clothing.

Once again, he has taken observation and created something which is its own world.

There are many other things one could say about Cézanne’s style, but these are the particular things which have always spoken to me and which I have strived for. Part of my own artist’s statement has included these words:  " My goal is to communicate a feeling and create a piece which is a world of its own … beautiful in its own right, and one which excites my own ever shifting palette."

As much as it bothers me to put my own work up in the same article as Cézanne – I quickly picked two pieces which shows his influence. I hope it is also equally clear to know that I do not try to copy anyone; although I am the first to admit I have been greatly affected and rightfully so.

Hill Mountain Fog

 Hill Mountain Fog

         Field2Mount Field 2 Mount

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Learning from successes more than mistakes

Monday, October 10th, 2005

Building on positives, Creating from strengths

Years ago, when I taught tennis and played it competitively; I had the privilege of hearing one of the most well known instructors of the time and perhaps still, Dennis Van Der Meer. One of the stories he told has stuck with me to this day. He relayed the story of a tennis student who repeatedly pounded his serve into the fence on the other side of the court. When asked what he was doing, he replied that he was "learning from his mistakes".

It is not hard to figure out that what he was really doing was reinforcing his mistakes. Furthermore, all he could learn from a mistake was what not to do. A mistake can tell you that is a path not to try any more (at least if circumstances remain the same), but it will never tell you what path to take unless there is only one path left. And sometimes things which did not work in the past will work.

More importantly, it is the success we should build upon. As an instructor of anyone: self, children, pets – the positive experiences are what we try to repeat.  A more current quote of the Van Der Meer technique says:  "The idea is to create confidence by building on successes and thus minimize the frustration of learning a difficult sport."

Frankly, having just completed a basic training course for my dog – it seems to me, it all works the same way. Getting caught up in the negative only reinforces it, but praising what is good is miraculous. Furthermore, note the parallel in business about focusing on the right things. In the Hotel News Resource, in an article about the best general manager, it says:  "The 80/20 rule is amazing in its myriad of applications; 20 percent of everything you do will result in 80 percent of your successes. Finding the right 20 percent takes focus." And note this heading which follows:  "The Best Hotel General Manager I ever met looks for small successes."

So in terms of one’s creativity, finding what works is worth building upon – not to get stuck in a rut, but as I said to build upon. If all one looks at is what not to do, one will do nothing. Creating is about not being afraid to make mistakes.  Focusing on what went right versus what went wrong will not just make one grow faster, but make the path much more enjoyable as well.

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Why Is Creativity So Important?

Friday, October 7th, 2005

Problem Solving, Self Esteem & Awareness, Feeling Alive

With a blog about promoting the creative world, it is probably about time I address the most fundamental question of why creativity is so important. Creativity is the place we find ourselves, see ourselves, and solve problems on our own.

In an article, in yesterday’s Aberdeen News, the author reminded us of the importance of doing things oneself by relaying an experience as a camp counselor and one of the kid’s being grateful for the challenge of putting up the tent. She points out that so much of learning has become about copying and not about problem solving and creating oneself.

In a dual book review in FindLaw’s Reviews– Neil Buchanan points out that both authors "argue, quite convincingly and in different ways, that genuine understanding of social phenomena, large and small, requires creative thinking by well-trained people who are at least willing to question conventional wisdom — because conventional wisdom is far too often formed by prejudices and unexamined assumptions that are unsupported by the facts."

Creativity is the place which allows us to find our own way. It is connected to problem solving and questioning.  It is one of the most important qualities in making us each unique. We are each said to have the Creator inside us – and whatever one’s religious leanings – creating and problem solving make us feel alive and valuable.  Creativity is one of the few places that still holds magic; and I for one, think it is one of the biggest reasons why we are here.

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Finding Inspiration & Creative Ideas

Wednesday, October 5th, 2005

Sharing, Participating, Interacting Fuel Creativity

Though many times it seems that artists find ideas and create in their own world, it is truly not the case that any of us live in a vacuum. In an article in the Metronews(article now gone)one of the participants of a think tank for designers is quoted as saying,  "Creative media is about inspiration. We all work in a void and we’re out of touch with each other."

What we see and what we will continue to see, is that inspiration is found in some form of human interaction. In a fascinating article in FastCompany, it spotlights a company in Switzerland called The Brainstore which creates and sells ideas to anyone and everyone from what I can tell. Rather than wait for the kind of flash of inspiration we all love so much, they  "approach the manufacturing of ideas with as much rigor and as much discipline as you apply to the manufacturing of assembly-line products."

Creating ideas, creating new art, creating new music, etc. requires discipline, systems and time. There will be flashes of inspiration, but the practice of creating when they aren’t there helps increase their frequency.

Going back a step, the participation with other people – feeding off each others’ ideas is the biggest starting point. Note the quote in the Santa Monica Mirror –   "The role of the arts is not to motivate, but to inspire, bringing us a higher perspective."  Even without discussion, art, music, culture, architecture etc. can fuel the creative juices.

I don’t know who said it, but there is nothing completely original under the sun. We all share human bodies and human experience and our role is to add from our particular perspective and vantage point. Inspiration and creativity which seem like such independent activities are actually communal.

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Finding Beauty?

Tuesday, October 4th, 2005

Art, Ugly & Beautiful, Aesthetic Crossroads

One of the things I enjoy in viewing art, creating art, and interpreting the world – is the cusp between ugly and beauty. We take as common place the expression – " so ugly he’s cute" – but much of the world is the same way. So much so that people talk of beauty being in the eye of the beholder. I never cared for that expression much – because it tends to negate the realness of beauty.  Plus as I have stated elsewhere, I believe that taste and perception of beauty are developed and change and grow over time.

It is interesting to note that in art – a little ugliness can make a piece work – note this snip-it of a review in the arts.telegraph how " both works slightly caricature their subjects, making them ugly and so undermining 19th-century conventions for depicting little girls as pretty, carefree creatures."  The work of many artists who have been ahead of their time have been frequently viewed like this.

What is more interesting to me – is finding the beauty in something everyday which is considered ugly or that piece which seems to be both ugly and beautiful at the same time. These are not necessarily pieces I would want to live with, but nevertheless find the crossroads fascinating.

I think like much of life, if you are looking for one thing you might find it by looking for what it isn’t.  Beauty can be found where there is ugliness, because it stands out. That beauty and ugliness are opposites is clear, but that they actually point to each other is a bit less obvious. 

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Color and Meaning

Saturday, October 1st, 2005

Relative Color, Race, Complementary Color, Possibility

Color is probably my favorite thing in art and in seeing.  It has incredible wisdom in it. Color only has color because of what it is next to. It is completely relative and changing with the colors that are found next to it. It demands to be communal by its very being.

One of the exercises we did in college was to make two small pieces of the same color look completely different, and two completely different colors look the same. We used Color Aid paper and surrounded the small pieces with colors that would achieve what we set out to do.  The results were quite dramatic. 

I attended an inner-city high school which was 85% black.  What was fascinating was how accustomed I became to that  mix. I found myself at an away basketball game in a predominately white high school and noticed that I felt peculiarly uneasy. I believe that color in this sense is also relative. The scientific leaning is that there is only one race.  Many even say that we are all of color.

Another really great thing about color is the terminology.  Complementary colors are opposites – they make each other look vibrant, almost clashing – red/green, yellow/purple, blue/orange etc. and when they are mixed they produce brown or gray – which like skin color is the same thing depending on proportion.

Like all human perception and understanding, color is limited.  I find myself frequently searching for a color which doesn’t exist. Yet as I say that, I am equally aware that there seems to be infinite possibility within that limited spectrum.  It is changing and vast despite its limits; and color doesn’t just accent life, it reflects it.

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