Thursday, 23 February 2017

Working methods of artists and how to feed and sustain the practice of art (Notes)

Dedication & commitment: true of all, but not necessarily to the extent of the monastic Brancusi, the obsessive Giacometti, the monomanic van Gogh.
Reclusive and gregarious, monastic and hedonistic… all preferences can be found among artists, but what you will find is never by halves. Hone your own preference.  

Feeding: Learning
Never stop studying the works of others, great and not great. Copy and transform.
Keep building the skills of observation, drawing and the manual aspects of your art.
Keep building the technical and historical knowledge of your art form. Read widely, not just in your own field.
Music, art, poetry, theatre, dance, film…diet of the muse. Depth of tragedy and love, leavened with humour and the everyday.  Everything is potentially a gate to the sacred. Stay open. Stay vulnerable.

Feeding: and preparation
Draw anything, everything, frequently. Always carry the means to draw. Gathering materials and training the eye-mind to really see and understand without words.

Turner and others: Travel to dramatic, picturesque locations.  Using a pencil, small, simple line (contour) sketches done quickly (maybe with abbreviated notes re colours) on site. Could also do thumbnail tonal studies  (notan or 3 tones). Multiple views of each site—panoramas, vistas, close-ups, details. Possibly apply a watercolour wash later.

Constable and Chinese artists: Spend a lot of time getting to know a place. Long looking, observation and immersion in place and subject, without drawing. Looking for the essence of subject. Multiple studies of subjects and motifs. Developing a practiced hand able to produce image without involving the mind.

Transform sketches, don’t merely try to copy. Work from memory, not sketch or photograph. Follow the gesture, the feeling. Begin without the end in mind, trusting that your preparation, as above, will come through.
Monet, Degas, de Kooning Re-work and develop the motif.

to be added to...

Thursday, 2 February 2017

A New Style of Collage for Me

I started by doing a watercolour wash background and pasting on some brown paper bag. Then added some bits and pieces of papers I had lying around. For some reason unknown to me, I started tearing the black and white material into small pieces and laying them down without any real plan. This figure and face seem to be present and I brought it out by extending the eyes and moustache with a drawing pen.

What I liked about this, what really struck me was the sense of presence about the black and white "figure" against the more neutral background. I didn't much like the colour paper on the left or the dividing line of leftover watercolour scrap.

So, taking what i did like as a point of departure I made a second figure.

And then this, which reminded me of some sort of horrendous bust of one of the Caesars, so I titled it "Bust of a Powerful Man" (with more than a touch of irony).

Then followed three more, each with their own personality and mystery.

Somewhat fearful?

Enigmatic mother?

Stormtrooper? Helmetted warrior?

It's always exciting to discover a new path, but I'm not sure where to go from here. You see, these experiments are quite small (roughly 9 by 7 cms or 3 by 3½ inches).

 I wonder what to do with this sort of really small work. Would they die framed on a wall? Should I consider making an artist's book of them? Should I consider photographing them and making an ebook from them? Should I try scaling them up into a larger format for displaying on a wall?

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Doing Not-doing

One of the most important aspects of Taoism is "wei wu wei" or doing not-doing. Sometimes, understood as "going with the flow" or  "not pushing the river" or "focusing without concern for the goal" or "intelligent navigation with the flow" as Alan Watts described it.

For me, in finding time in the midst of life's flow to make art, doing not-doing is that state of relaxed alertness and moving effortlessly from that to making art as the moment allows. If it is intelligent navigation, it's an instinctual, rather than a reasoned, intelligence.

For me, in making art, it is the sense of flow, which comes when the mind suspends and follows the direction the art is taking.

Last night in this state, I made two ink drawings.

The first was made with a reed stick and ink (black and burnt sienna). That day, I had spent  a couple of hours in the forest, gathering fallen timber for firewood. Our forest is a rather scrubby, untidy bush with straight limbed trees, some of them scarred and burnt from bushfires, and all of them with patterned bark. When you are in the forest, there is little sense of space and depth, everything seems up close and tangled. When I made the drawing, none of this was in my mind. I simply started doodling, putting down the first form (the tree trunk on the left) and then adding more to it as it felt right. To me, it really sums up that feeling of being in the local bush.

The second drawing started when I was wiping some ink from my fingers with a tissue. I wondered what sort of mark I could make with a tissue and ink. A streak of ink across the page seemed to be an horizon, so I added clouds above, then some land coming in from the left and then more to the right. At that point I started to see the landscape evolving before me and simply added a few details to bring out more of the image. When I reviewed it later, I realised that this too related to an experience I had the previous day. I'd gone fishing for the first time in a year; an unsuccessful attempt to catch one of our sea running trout. For the last month, I've been either in the city, or close to home (except for the forest trip). What struck me forcibly while I was standing in freezing cold water and casting my fly, was the expansive spaciousness of sky and water and land.

So, there you have it, two very different drawings about the sense of space, both the product of doing not-doing.