Sunday, December 21, 2014

The colors of the next few moments...It's all we have.

In the midst of winter-one last glimmer of spring-the seed of the nasturtium, out of the blue gray leaves, the dried up corpses of summer-out of the cold gray sky where no light escapes, not a bit of color nor trace of warmth-the nasturtium....Call it hope in the midst of darkness-one seed on the edge of days ending. Don't expect the rich orange blooms nor the seeds to germinate only enjoy this moment-the amazing hours where all the color exists and you taste it just like lemons in the spring. One short embrace of moments passing means everything.

Inspired by a friend who shows me color in the depths of winter...

Sunday, September 21, 2014

The first day of the creative spring

Cannas_from the Cape San Blas Series

I have been walking around in somewhat of a daize as of late. Ideas come in bits of clips, it’s almost like trying to build a house when all you have are screws and a couple of wooden boards-nothing materializes but the parts seem to overwhelm you. I should be patient by now having gone through this process for so many years but it seems the older I get the more profound and extreme the stages seem to be.

I have played with multiple ideas and images in my mind, stories and poems need to be written out in notes just to keep the initial inspiration but nothing gels. I have actually recently walked into my studio after insisting I was going to paint this  particular weekend and when I am faced with empty canvases or even canvases well on their way to something I stare vacantly with nothing there. I even try to rotate a canvas out for another and switch to pastel but then end is always the same-NOTHING.

I can even force myself through and get to that point of pushing paint around but it is like painting with no instructions. I have compared it to someone painting by numbers and suddenly all the lines and numbers disappear. Than there are days like yesterday-a painting that sat there staring back with discontent and suddenly we are on the same page again-or canvas. I almost equate the canvas like a teen that can’t explain what is bothering them and suddenly we have that cathartic talk and not only do I know what the problem is now I have a way to solve it.

Urban Sunset
I sat in front of four paintings for short bursts of time and than suddenly within hours I have several different clarified paths that actually seem to be heading in a great direction. The problem with the creative process is that tomorrow they can all seem like disasters-it’s almost like the creative eye opens and you can see the details that the logical eye seems unable or unwilling to connect. Suddenly the big blob of paint becomes the shadow that instinctively knew where it needed to fill and the form that seemed so cryptic previously lends itself to the correct perspective and the right hues and values. I am about to go in and paint again-not only has this weekend brought lots of painting but my words are actually falling off the page as well-in the creative realm it rains or it shines but oh when it shines it really seems more brilliant than  anything in comparison.

Carmens' Delicious Catering: Food as Art, Art as Food

Carmen’s Delicious Catering has this as a tag line for their product, it comes from the fact that during the process of the business becoming what it is today she had lots of interactions with artists such as the pilchuck glass school. In truth cooking in the hands of a passionate artist heightens simple food to the essence of a work of art.

Consider the cook as a painter only their palette has even more colors than the artist, their colors are the many flavors they weave together much like a painting-each flavor supporting or interacting with the other. The wonderful thing about food is beyond just the flavor there is texture, presentation and aromas-when done correctly the simple meal touches all parts of the senses even further than the two dimensional canvas.

The secondary dimension of food is much like the flavors in wine, the fact that you don’t only see, smell and taste-you experience. Food becomes the tradition; the amazing memory-it attaches itself to places and people.  Food reminds us of our relatives, it brings back conversation and a sense of tradition.

Food colors our vacations, our travels to far off places and instills itself in culture and tradition, Which brings us to another of carmens’ tag lines-Bringing people together through food-it is often the centerpiece for good times. It complements our celebrations and brings comfort to our difficult times, it is the warm soup after shoveling snow, and it is the cool ice tea and bowl of fruit in the heat of summer.  Speaking of the bowl of fruit, how many artists have painted the still life and showed us how food is art and art in response is food.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

The Still Life Painting-Memory versus Setup

I have never been much for the still life-I tend to paint landscapes, seascapes, anything nature oriented but recently because of Carmen’s’Delicious Caterings’ food as art and art as food tag line-the first of many still life became a necessary project.

It’s hard to paint on demand, for me anyway-I either feels it or not. The first painting was of a still life of an August picnic, complete with watermelon-kind of the centerpiece, grapes, tomatoes, peppers and the corn on the cob to finish off the picnic. I set up the still life on a wooden board and stared at it intently with nothing moving. It was one of the hardest paintings because it just didn’t do anything for me. I had the basic idea of the sky and the warm greens in the background and the foreground seemed to just lie there. All I can say is through discipline I found a place between capturing the still life as it is and weaving in my own feeling of the late August picnic seemed to fight against each other-logic and simple rendering fight as it always does with the creative and the figurative idea of the day. This is what I paint, even in the landscape-I rarely paint the place, it’s more the feeling of the place and usually when the logical rendering becomes stronger than the feeling of the place it seems colder to me.

The second in the series is an autumn gathering of pumpkins, squash and a cornucopia of good colors and flavors. Again the feeling of the sky was the first things that really jumped out at me and the under painting seemed to capture it so perfectly that it jump started the next step. This time I did not set up a still life-I gathered images and relied more on memory. The sudden and rich flow of paint seemed to surprise me. The painting pretty much did itself. The colors of autumn work so well against each other and the fact that I love the cool answer to summers’ heat seems evident in the way the painting took shape-also I must admit that the previous painting was done during a time of great creative block and this second in the series is at the beginning of the unraveling of my creative slump. Several other paintings began to take shape at the same time, but even still I weigh the difference between painting from passion and memory versus painting a set up still life and for me the memory works better than the real thing.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Art by Gordon: in between stage

Art by Gordon: in between stage: Rockwall Pond-2014 Rockwall Pond Study 2 I am in another one of those moments of block, both in writing, painting, everything. It&#...

in between stage

Rockwall Pond-2014

Rockwall Pond Study 2
I am in another one of those moments of block, both in writing, painting, everything. It's one of those frustrating creative times where you walk around in circles. literally, as if there is something on the tip of your brush or pen and yet nothing comes. I have been pushing pastels around, pushing paint here and there and yet nothing materializes.

I believe as horrible as this in-between time can be it is a foreshadowing of things to come. I think that both in the inspiration stage and the processing stage there is a period of fermentation when the skills and knowledge of the subject do not equal the intent. I have seen images literally materialize over the course of a year or even as much as twenty years. Every part of the process is equally important.

Instead of stressing and feeling the lack of productivity as a stumbling block I choose to look at it as a interim between creative highs. Getting back to pastels instead of oils gives me the immediacy of sketching without a specific outcome, I believe this allows the creative vision to grow out of the block naturally instead of succumbing to the awkwardness of pushing around paint. These images are all in-between stages of pastels that haven't completely gelled.

I have created these images mostly from memory which is why the details are a bit softer and less specific, another aspect is the medium, pastels tend to be a bit more free form and less detailed. I am in the process of doing a series of ten very small pastel studies that may or may not turn into actual finished paintings.

Wisconsin at the end of winter-sketch from 2006

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Art by Gordon: Artist's Changing Perception: The Illusive Portrai...

Art by Gordon: Artist's Changing Perception: The Illusive Portrai...: There is a great distortion between what you see creatively and what often is reality. I learned this most profoundly jus...

Artist's Changing Perception: The Illusive Portrait

There is a great distortion between what you see creatively and what often is reality. I learned this most profoundly just recently while doing a portrait of a friends’ daughter, the reason I chose the photo to create was first its delicate beauty but even more it begged to be painted because it seemed like a photograph of an Andrew Wyeth painting. I painted it differently than I have in the past, portraits have always been a struggle for me but this time I tried it smaller and with less detail and hoped it would be easier.

I didn’t sketch it like I have in the past; I blocked it out in paint and adjusted the image by eye. It is amazing how the face very slowly grows, as you get closer, farther away than closer again. The first images seemed almost cartoonish and pasty. I watched the ghostly face grow out of a dark backdrop and the closer I felt to succeeding the farther the actual success seemed to be. This feeling of creative blindness seems to run through all of my works but never more dramatic than this portrait.

First I am amazed to see how realistic the image looks and the appearance gets very clear that I have succeeded and so quickly, that is until I send it for feedback or show someone that has not looked at it for the last few hours. The comments were less than encouraging: “scary eyes”, “ghostly”, “If I were the customer I would be insulted”, as much as it hurts to hear, it was true-she looked nothing like the photograph. As much as the image seemed to appear during the painting process the reality of getting away from the painting was a bit intimidating. I went back to the drawing board, I would see her eyes staring from the painting for a moment than I would realize how bad the progress was getting and the time I seemed to be wasting. The good thing about this process is that the artist gets to refine the image and look at it again and again and realize how being too close to any painting brings about a loss of clarity in the creation.

There have been several times and several hours of working where I felt like I was getting somewhere great only to realize afterwards I had made it even worse. The great thing about this process is the honing of the skill of seeing, even if I fail over and over again I continue to refine my vision and break through the loss of clarity, I believe that working on this portrait will help with all of my paintings in the discipline of seeing what you see and not just what the brain thinks or decides it sees. There is a short hand of seeing things much like how the brain can decipher text that is jumbled, we see the image and capture what we think we see, we cut corners on the reality and fill in the blanks.
The brain is overwhelmed with details so we tend to skip the reality of details that would truly capture what we see.

During the teaching process I have helped the student focus by putting a mask over all but a small portion of a picture to copy, this allows the student to concentrate on detail and reality of what they see and the brain has less ability to fill in the blanks and the proportion and scale gives way to the true perception of a scene. I have also heard about people turning an image upside down to copy what they see instead of what the brain wants to capture instinctively.

In the end, I would not say I captured even a portion of the beauty of the original nor the drama of the Andrew Wyeth painting but in the end I believe I have honed my skills for seeing. I will do more portraits and plan on continuing to perfect them, I have already turned down several commissions because portraits are not my specialty although in the future it may not be the case, I believe in leaving everything up to growing and developing as an artist and as the eye perfects what it sees and argues with the brain for what is reality, in the end the artist will create reality out of the skewed perception he or she struggles with.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

All I can say is the intention has been there to write more on this blog but the soul has just been lacking as of late. I believe this series of paintings is a transitional series. I did my recent series and it was fast and furious and seemed to finish off the existing ideas that have been sitting around in states of incompleteness for many years. I was excited to start the next series and the momentum seemed to be continuing from previous and suddenly it happened-the dreaded block, not only the painting block but a recent writing block as well. The first painting, the balcony was from a restaurant in Cape San Blas Florida-it under painted very quickly and suddenly nothing-I feel like someone else started painting it and I'm just coming in after the fact afraid of ruining any progress the previous painter began.

During this series there has been what I would consider creative blindness, it is not being able to see what you are painting because you are too deep into the details, this allows for only short amounts of time to paint before you get too intense in the details and lose sight of the overall painting. I have had several afternoons struggling and I end up getting frustrated one moment only to have a breakthrough in the next sitting.

One exciting thing about this new series is that I'm not happy with just getting by with minimal details, I crave the accuracy and detail and at the same time allow the other less important elements to remain less detailed, I would call it a full circle between the lighter more relaxed progression of recent mixed with a more detailed and disciplined approach I think I have adapted from teaching a painting course.
This latest series is inspired by Florida, the next series quickly coming up afterwards will be night scenes, portraits and rich colors of spring. Here are the rest of the images that I am in the process of completing.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

When does the intangible become the masterpiece?

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder they say and one person’s masterpiece is another’s pointless mess. In the past, I had lost my eye for what was art or of interest by second-guessing my initial reaction to a scene and questioning how I can sell instead of simply capturing what naturally appeals to the artist’s eye. No, I have not permanently sold out, just have learned how subtle and transient the artist eye can be and how quickly we can lose sight of why we started the process of seeing like an artist in the first place.

I have narrowed down how I shoot to four basic reasons. First and most simple is the snapshot-to capture the scene for posterity, no need for perfection even though perfection always tends to be the artists intention. Capture what you see and save a moment, no filters, no adjusting, just for fun and nothing more. The next reason is to document for the sake of a future painting, this image is just to capture objects and fragments of an overall scene for the sake of future rendering-I shoot many water and sky scenes for this purpose. The third reason is just for the pure beauty. This option is somewhat more of a challenge than it would seem and it’s harder to shoot for me when the beauty is overwhelming. In this case you are photographing something that so many weekend enthusiasts, cell phone snapping, selfie indulging novices as well as professionals will shoot in varying degrees of quality and perfection. Photo manipulation, color correction and post processing can make a good photo a great photo but the work has already been done for you by mother nature and all you can do is show the depth and beauty of the colors on a flat plane as well as your range of skills can afford you.

The fourth reason for shooting a photograph is the reason for this post, it’s the intangible shapes and textures that the artist would see but the skilled photographer might just pass by for the sake of shooting at the highest skill level the beauty of nature or whatever their particular interest would have them shoot. From an artist standpoint you would think this would be easy because it comes natural but the artist eye is often fleeting which brings us back to one mans’ art is another’s pointless mess. There was a time when I would shoot images of trees, or minimalist shapes and patterns in an effort to capture that artistic image that would amaze my viewer. I failed on so many levels, it’s your passion that drives the image, if you have no passion for a bunch of rocks or trees that create an interesting pattern you will capture that image perfectly and has to explain to your viewer why what you shot was so interesting and should be admired.

Here is the difference and the dilemma of shooting for the sense of art and shooting with passion. I don’t believe the photographer or artist should have to explain to the layman why the image they captured is a work of art, it should be understood even if the viewer isn’t quite sure why the image captures their attention or begs for a second look there is an intangible curiosity that keeps the viewer engaged. The interest and engagement depends first by the varying degrees of interest and passion shared by the viewer and the artist so many photos that might be amazing to the artist may lack the interest for the viewer that has no interest in the subject matter, this is where art is so subjective.

There is a level of art that I believe transcends that subjective notion of art and creativity
And goes beyond the interest. The viewer regardless of their interests or intention cannot help to be moved by the work, many masters have achieved this level of success. To me, there is this haunted feeling or a moment where you feel like you have interrupted something and you are an audience to something that draws emotion from somewhere you didn’t even realize you possessed. This is the artist at work and this is where I seek to achieve, it is the artists job to explain and show the reason why something moved them without ever having to explain why, this is the greatness that I strive for and it is a great achievement when a viewer is engaged when they don’t even realize why. To speak to a viewer an emotion or an intangible aspect with only an image is an incredible accomplishment and that which makes the pointless mess, the masterpiece.