Return to France

Before heading to my home in Paris, I was down in the south of France doing research for an essay of French gastronomy of a bygone era.

It was not conducive for my painting but I did sketch non stop. I utilized my ever present midori passport pocket pad.

I enjoyed the challange of such small size, 3×5 to create fully realized pieces.

Some of my reading inspired me to shake things up as I had long been familiar with the size. I started using both sides of the page, holding the pad vertically (so that what were the books edges became the too and bottom).

It was interesting ng in that more space does not necessarily equate to easier .

One has to think of compositional balance differently.

Back in paris. First morning in studio started a painting 5×8. The weather going from overcast to rain has not facilitated progress so I am back to sketching.

I find myself now also combining my own texts to pieces.

Even with the rain, it is great fun adding to myself in a way which shall remain with me.

 

 

 

 

 

Simmer D 2

Fairly soon after the selfie became part of North Americas’ cultural heritage (along w/Netflix) word spread from those “in the know” of the ideal position of the camera for a selfie (slightly diagonally above the head angled down from the left).

Social media and personal pages are now a glut of girls & women falling between specific ages regularly posting photos, bodies semi twisted to the side, camera in the now familiar angle, mouth forming the assumed to be sexy duckbill.

There is now the male equivalent of “the pose”

I was watching television. An I-Phone commercial came on. It showed a young collegiate in shorts on break at a beach. He went to take a selfie w/the surf at his back. He tilted his head to the left and partially opened his mouth in the manner of the beginning of a smile. (he might have also given a thumbs up, if he didn’t literally you got the feeling he meant to)

The show merely worthy of folding laundry to came back on.

The next commercial was a fit middle aged man w/silver hair . The advertisement was for a travel service where you can compare hotel rates and do specific search comparisons (i.e with a pool et al).

He then went on to say that it was how he found his great room w/an ocean view. A blue screened view was behind him as he raised his phone tilted his head sideways and half opened his mouth, start of smile, thumbs up and click.

What had been “ideal” poses are now hackneyed and overdone. While technically it may still help hide the start of a second chin or other imperfections that can’t be wished away, there is a sameness to all these images which renders them devoid of any flavor and personality.

We can now laugh or roll our eyes at the overly familiar poses. It will never go away though. It has become the standard.

Figurative art has its own version of these phenomenons.

Whether it is painting or drawing, i like to use amateurs as much as possible. The main reason for this is their manner of posing. I want natural body language. Emotion is the most important aspect of my work and the first step in achieving this is  honesty.

When faced with the task of posing for an artistic picture, what can rob it of its power is the subject striking a glamor or traditional pose. The traditional figure poses are still utilized in schools and classes. No matter how good the painter, it will always give the work an academic air which robs it of really compelling the viewer.

Glamor poses by their very nature have an artificiality that is to emotions what porn is to romance.

The pose of the subject also effects the composition of a work.

I reject the academic but also (sometimes) the “correct” compositional lay out of what the viewer sees where.

I like to think that most of my work conveys the feeling that the viewer is seeing a part of a story or a small self contained story. Some of the odd angles and unorthodox compositional balance bolsters tension & emotion facilitating this.

In real life when looking at someone, whether it is one table over in a cafe or laying on a couch, we do not necessarily see all of them or all of them in proportion.

To some who have formally studied or taken classes, unless doing a specific exercise it may seem awkward or counter intuitive  but it is well worth finding new ways to visually tell the story of a subject’s body besides the tried & true.

 

“Simmer D 2” watercolor & Paper 5.5×8.5

 

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On The Road

I travel a lot. One thing I have noticed is that for the last twenty years or so, go to any great city in Europe and inevitably you will see tourists walking down the main streets filming.

Excitedly, they want to capture what they are seeing and where they are as to show friends & family back home.

This is faulty logic on several levels:

Technology is constantly changing. One year i saw people walking down the Champ-Elysees using the camcorders that you just insert an actual VCR tape into. The next year cameras were far smaller. People are inherently lazy, no one is going to do transfers of all the footage shot over the years and even if you had the gumption to do so, it will look terrible.

When showing footage to friends  back home, although somewhat of a sitcom cliche, it quickly becomes  boring. A shakey cam view of streets, unless something amazing is caught on film, quickly becomes dull. And although most friends most likely will not say so, the mind starts to wander as they watch the footage.

 

Photos are a little better. A photo potentially offers a more obvious immediacy of what is “important” that the viewer should be noticing.

However photos offer their own drawbacks. People in search of the perfect instagram photos are so busy concentrating on that, that they are not in the moment. Go to any museum and watch as people run up to an immortal work snap a photo with it behind them, then run off. Yes, one may have “seen” a Van Gough et al but aside from location and year of trip little else is remembered despite getting massive numbers of likes & retweets on their sites.

I am by no means anti technology. I enjoy the instant gratification of emails, skype & texting when on the road. I also do take some photos. These things though are given very little of my times.  I have found that I absorb more and it becomes more memorable doing quick sketches and some notes of what i am doing and seeing.

To whomever I show these records of my journey to, they are seeing what was important to me and it is more engaging. (Even the best photo one takes or Paris, Rome etc etc thousands of other people have gotten the same exact shot!)

Not everyone can draw but anyone can jot down the interesting or odd little things they come across. Anyone who would claim to not come across anything to write is probably missing it because they are texting or posting to social media.

For any journey the thing is not to be ourselves as we are at home, making everything around us adapt. Rather, it is  to explore and be open to a life lived differently  as to draw new things into ourselves fostering evolution (intellectually, spiritually etc)

 

Charcoal Text & Image improvisation 9×12

 

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Charcoal

I have just started experimenting with charcoal. I am sure as I use it more, I will become even better but right away I feel it a successful medium for me.

There is a looseness to charcoal which lends itself to an emotional expressionism. When I do a charcoal piece, i do not use pencil first. To utilize the safety net of being able to erase is to miss the point of what charcoal has to offer.

Here are my very first tries. With the portraits i have done, there is a sort of gauze like effect. For myself, i generally work fast. Charcoal seems to want the speed of hand as to offer up more organic depth.

“Miles” 9×12 “Left Bank,Paris” 9×12

 

 

The Stripes Are Black

Watercolor & Cotton Paper 7×10

When I initially started doing portraits I would paint whatever was going on in the background of the subject, the room. While I still do that sometimes, at others I reduce it down. The mattress/bed etc will just become the color of the sheet or the wallpaper.

My choice of color in these situations is whatever the actual color is as I feel it part of the story I am portraying. Green wall w/bookcases or whatnot becomes green square in which the subject is enmeshed, all other objects dropped away.

 

The stripes in this piece matching up w/the shirt was not a contrivance but lucky happanstance. I did change their color from black to blue as I felt the black gave it an air of :

I have compositional weakness and so inserted stripes to help fill up space.

 

Others might not have thought/felt this, who knows.

 

With my drawings I still mostly portray what else is going on besides the subject. Paintings it is a piece by piece basis.

 

 

 

Cecil Taylor

Cecil Taylor 1929-2018
His was such a singular voice. Despite how new and unique his work, he was also incorporating aspects of Western modern classical tradition and forward thinking jazz composer/musicians (who also worked at times off a classical template) such as Duke Ellington.

He also drew into himself for inspiration sources outside of music such as poetry and architecture.

I had just done a portrait of Cecil 3-17. In keeping with his outside the box approach, i decided to honor him w/sculpture.

I have been doing sculptures for years but look on them as a largely private matter.

Mostly it is done to keep the juices flowing, not really with any intent to show or sell them.
Stylistically, they are akin to some of what Cy Twombly & Robert Rauschenberg did. (one part totemic object, one part sort of a chronicle of a moment). There is also a strong improvisational element to my sculptures. I use what is around and what speaks to me with no pre plan.
Viva Cecil April 6,2018

 

Ceciltaylorsculpture

 

 

Cuba

Watercolor & paper 5.5×8.5

 

The best artwork in any medium we can return to over and over again. We find new aspects revealed in it.

The work seems to, with the passage of time change. It is not the work which is ever in flux but ourselves. Better works have multiple layers of enjoyment  and so seemingly keep up with us on the evolutionary journey of intellect/taste/spirit.

With my work, this is why my main goal and raison d’e tre is conveying emotion. No matter what the social mores or trends are, we all will continue to feel sorrow & ecstasy.

 

Cuba

 

Piece # 3

9×12 Watercolor & Paper

This piece was done on Canson mix media paper 98LB

It was the third in a series with this model.

With all my portraiture, I always want an organic feel which starts first with the subject.

In lieu of the academic or glam poses, I want the subject’s natural body language to come through. This honesty makes for a conveying of emotion which is the most important aspect of all my works.

I never choreograph a pose, my only input having to do with if I feel the light is not hitting the subject evenly.

This paper, although intended for among other mediums, watercolors, requires a different touch than any of the other types of paper I use for my painting. It is harder to use, which is why I like it. If I can achieve the desired effects with this paper, then when using my ideal (paper), it is far easier.

These little self challenges are one of the ways I foster evolution in my art and avoid lapsing into mannerisms.piece3

 

 

Gougiere & Consomme

Watercolor & paper 5.5 x 8.5

Progenitors of cubism Picasso & Braque used what was around them for subject matter. Anyone who spends time not as a tourist but living in  Paris (as I do) knows that in a studio, wine & alcohol bottles are ever present along with other signs of entertaining such as packs of cards, cigarettes and the odd article of clothing left behind. These things plus the mandolin which Braque played with proficiency were all grist for the mill of early cubist compositions.

They used what was before them as it was theirs, their lives.

Every artist should strive for a constant evolution. A part of this is creating a personal lexicon. Symbols & totems of one’s daily life. There should be no thought in regards to what makes for a veneer of hipness/coolness nor drama. It has to be things of you as you are, organically occurring.

An element of what made both Picasso and Braque abandon the genre they created was that it became too formalized. Towards the end of their involvement, for a piece to be cubist it had to contain specific objects within the pictorial landscape.  What had come about to create an artistic freedom started to become as rigid as any other preexisting genre.

Although it is not a steadfast method for myself with every piece, i draw & paint what is before me. I do not give any forethought to if it fits into any preconceived notion of how i want it to be perceived. It is something i do, i like, i see. My own visual language of my life.

This is an honesty and reality which is the best way to convey emotion regardless of subject matter.

I like good conversation and aside from drawing, that is my other constant no matter where I am in the world.

This is from the last short trip I took. I like to take a small detail of a larger scene of what I am doing and make that the focal point. The latch of a window, lipstick on a cup.This piece captures that although not in an obvious way.

A glass as we converse in lieu of portraying the sketchpad I was using, the language of me.

gougiereandconsomme