Sunday, December 31, 2017

Fish Tails Part 2: Fishing Poles and the Illusive Striper

I remember Manasquan Inlet where I can still see my dad fishing on the jetties. He handed the pole to my older brother and up came a sea robin, a strange fish with wings for fins. My grandma got goosed by a stingray and I discovered mole crabs.

I had all the golden books about the seashore and it's inhabitants and fishing was superseded by nature, shells and just being by the ocean. When I was thirteen my stepdad bought us saltwater fishing rods and what followed was an odyssey to catch the holy grail of east coast fishing....the giant striper.

We would live-line bait from the rocks, caught many birds, a few black fish but not one striper. I always dreamed of disappearing from the group and coming back with a giant striper but it never happened.

We also fished for flounder, again not that much luck and after a while I began to take fishing for granted. I would give anything to go fishing in Belmar today.

After a long day on the jetties, the first gulp of Stewart's root beer cut through a day's thirst with an amazing rapturous sting. There were long nights spent fishing on the beach with surf tubes only to be awoken by my stepfather jumping up to set the rod I was supposed to be watching.

The mornings we'd  chase the flocks of birds chasing schools of baitfish as bluefish boiled the water. We'd throw metal lures into the schools and with every cast a powerful fighting bluefish.

We would fish on the pier in Point Pleasant where we saw a plane crash into the ocean, a swimmer who seemed intent on killing himself and I discovered the illusive weakfish. You let the lure sink to the bottom and if the bluefish don't hit it on the way down you get weakfish.

The wonderful thing about weakfish is they run and it was a wonderful exciting feeling to realize you just hit a monster that was running full speed out to sea. I even was lucky enough to catch several with my Uncle Bill-I remember him asking as the line screamed, "What you got there?"

We still have those rods and all I can say is we definitely got a lot of use and wonderful memories out of them. I would say they were one of the best gifts we had received that literally carved out a piece of my childhood.

I never did catch the Striper, although I did seem him under the waves when we dove for lobster in Shark River Inlet. We caught lots of other fish and spent many a night building memories. How I miss the ocean and yet since then we have adopted a special place in our hearts for Florida.

On the next post, I'll explain how we actually started catching fish and they got bigger. We caught tarpon in the keys in the next post.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Capturing Evening's Mysteries:Celebrating the Darkness

Silence of Stars: oil on canvas ©Artbygordon 2017

My first love is nature. My two defining subjects for my art are the depths and intricacies of water and the mysteries of the night sky.

I love how darkness has so many hues, much like white light is the spectrum of all colors, so is darkness multiple shades of one side of the spectrum. I enjoy the way light vibrates and dances in darkness.

The Bus Stop: oil on canvas ©Artbygordon 2017

My intention has always been to capture nature with as much realism as possible and than after I've achieved the skills I would tweak reality. I want the viewer to feel the darkness and at times not feel quite safe or even comfortable.

I wish for my paintings to allow the viewer to get lost in the darkness with peace and a bit of mystery.

Moon Flower: oil on canvas ©Artbygordon 2017

There is a certain awe of the evening sky, the way colors glisten in darkness. I love flowers that bloom only at night haunting the air with that intangible fragrance of some unknown nectar. 

I used to walk in the snow at night and enjoy that feeling of being separate from everything. 
Even sound is amplified in that moment of quiet. 

I experimented with complementary colors and weaving colors that make light jump out of the canvas. The first image where I tried this technique is a painting of the red light towers in Cedar Hill, Texas. I imagined if you surrounded the reds in the darkest greens they would light up and worked perfectly.

I later discovered how impressionists would weave complementary colors in the shadows that would evoke that vibration of color in their works. I was hooked.

Community Park at Night: Pastel on paper  ©Artbygordon 2017

There is nothing static in nature, everything vibrates with an energy. Nothing is constant, even while the beautiful leaves of spring are rich and vibrant green they are slowly changing to another color and will vibrate with that color by autumn. This is how I approach painting, everything changes and is in the state of change, colors vibrate and darkness and light are constantly fighting against each other. 
This is what I struggle to capture in every work.

Halloween: Pastel on paper, ©Artbygordon 2017

Halloween is a particular season I like to paint. I have painted several images of Halloween. It's that intangible feeling of a painting that is on its surface harmless but beneath the paint there is something not quite comfortable.

I love when a viewer says they feel cold or uncomfortable but they're not sure why. That is when paint and color transcend their boundaries of a canvas and touch a feeling that the viewer can only understand. Even if they can't understand or explain the feeling the painting evokes-that's the magic of successfully capturing a feeling and not just a scene.

Evening Fence:Pastel on paper, ©Artbygordon 2017

As a viewer, what does the night sky do for you? What do you celebrate about darkness and what wonderful memory does darkness bring to you? If you paint, what you seek to capture?

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Fish Tails Part I: This was no fish story, ramblings of a young child

In the black-green water of a late summer day, a bobber tests a child’s patience. With each new cast his father and brother look on with disgust. 
"Leave it out there," "It was the wind, "Stop bringing it in", "Okay, now it's tangled" I can still hear their voices making my memories of fishing as aggravating as theirs. 

Never too still to wait, the red bobber resting surrounded by ripples, the unseen ghosts of fish, the phantom waves and the subtle tug on a tense line, the boredom and excitement. 
And finally the stick that the hook was hung on rises to the surface. You crank it until it stops and there is nothing more coming in. "You're snagged!", insert colorful language and no one is catching anything.

I know I must have driven my brother and father crazy, I'll admit it. I still remember the wonderful smells of summer by the lake and spring by a rushing stream. I never caught one trout, I would cast, it would drift, reel it in and cast out again and than there were the birds and insects and anything else to divert my attention. 
I remember the doe balls and tubs of earthworms before they twirled on the hook. The plastic tackle boxes, the poorly crafted rigs and the impatience of a child, I have such fond memories of them all.

We fished into the evening not worrying about the dreaded mosquito, we trudged through muddy stagnant water without concern for the killer amoeba. 
We didn't have all the information from the ever helpful news or the web banner warnings, in fact we were rarely inside long enough to listen much to anything and that ignorance was freedom and it was beautiful.
Next Tommy's Pond: The Sights, the Sounds and Smell of Fishing

The Multiple Palettes of a Creative Mind

A palette is a range of hues for an artist to paint with, also a board in which those colors are mixed on. Even when we are painting within a limited palette or see our palette of subject matter as a range of interests, there are other palettes we use everyday.

I believe creation is formed from multiple feelings and emotions; there are raw nerves that the creative uses to create something on a blank canvas, a poised shutter or the story that highlights an opera or ballet. 

There are hidden secrets embedded in artwork that the viewer usually can't see but can magically feel. This is how I believe art moves people.

Memories Like the Corners of Our Canvas: Memories stir emotions. The most subtle feeling awoken by memory can haunt a piece of work and give to the viewer something they've never experienced before. The secondary response is when a piece of work evokes the viewer's own memories and suddenly the artist gives up his creation to be owned by the viewers' perception of it.

Inside the memory palette there are multiple sensual aspects. Smells bring back emotions and feeling that can be relived in the viewer. The transferal of those sensual feelings from an image and the evoking of memories is the magic that is creation.

Silence of Stars: A Father and Son Camping Trip    © Artbygordon 2015

Sensual Beasts We Are: We are constantly using the senses we have and unfortunately we often experience them on autopilot. For my intentions, I want the viewer of my art to stop and perhaps reignite how a child feels things. I want the excitement of the first snow of the season or the amazing colors of a sunset, I want the viewer to experience them again and touch nerves in their own pasts they might have forgotten.

One painting that captured this and has recently defined a direction in my artwork is a painting called the Silence of Stars. If you really stop long enough to experience a sky full of stars, there is a silence, an awe you feel as if you are realizing how quietly awesome the universe is.

My son, only 10 at the time asked me to watch the stars, we must have looked crazy laying down on the rocks and watching the stars-it is a memory I will never forget and his favorite painting.

The Crabtrap: Destin Florida   © Artbygordon 2015

More Than the Sum of Its' Parts: Have you ever listened to a song in another language and yet you feel the sadness and couldn't explain why. There is obviously sad music and yet there is also music that is not so sad as it is beautiful. There are certain songs that I can barely listen to because they evoke a hidden emotion that I can feel. Often beauty is poignant or it's something that brain interprets that is not necessarily obvious.

I have done paintings to me were not sad or frightening and yet somehow the viewer experienced feelings from something they took from the painting, whether that is a memory or just the colors. Again the viewer takes the creation and makes it theirs-it no longer matters what the artist intended and that is beautifully intangible much like the sadness in a song.

Florida Intercoastal   © Artbygordon 2015

Next: From the Palette to the Canvas: How We Use Our Words, Colors, Light and Sound

Sunday, December 10, 2017

The Art of Isolation: Colors from Shadows

How to work when the light is flat, so flat it casts a gray across the whole landscape. Your intention of a sweeping landscape is put on hold. Now is usually the time to look for places to shoot when the angle of the sun will make the colors richer and paint objects with saturated light.

I've been collecting shapes and colors intentionally separating them from their landscape. I'm excited about the abstractions that jump out of nature if you are careful enough to notice them.

Even at the end of the autumn peak there are still beautiful shapes and colors, embers of the season but they are much more quiet than the whole landscape. It is listening to the peripheral voices in the woods that often whisper despite the current lighting conditions.

I also like the colors that jump out of a blurred background turning the mundane into the extraordinary. In seeing these images I have had to stop and listen, take in the insignificant parts of the whole and this is a series of images I've found.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Back to Painting Again

It's been a long time coming but I've finally gotten past some obstacles standing in the way of finishing some recent paintings.
When there is no inspiration or time there is little I can do to get the process started again.

When the inspiration becomes clear it is a matter of showing up. The brushes and the colors seem to find their place, I am more like a vessel for the energy to come through into the painting.

I just finished probably my last commission, only because it is really hard to paint on command. I've said that many times and the great thing about a commission is that it causes an artist to use discipline to stay on course.

Teaching painting was another way for me to practice discipline when I was forced to continue when the impetus was weak. You have to work through some of the moments when the image is a bit less clear.

This is another reason why I paint multiple paintings at the same time, I'm not always in the mood or place to do a particular painting.

I've also started doing quick sketches in pastel which is allowing me to be creative without the commitment of a full painting. I have been sketching after every drive in the country and it is starting to become a habit and a way of studying from nature. I love the immediacy of the medium.

I am always at my best when I am painting. It is not something I ever want to say I used to do. It is a part of my life and big part of my future. This is just a preview to the full series that is well on its way.

Child of Ten: Introduction to a series of poems old and new.

The deep depression
Beneath the oaks
Death as a metaphor
In the grip of steel boxes
A life time of words
Bursting forth like seeds
In a garden
Alone in the morning
Listening to the clouds
What will this day become
With the same sense of urgency
The same sense of hush
The Awe of Septembers’ closing ground
The gaping wound that never heals
It just grows deeper
And the soil sinks down
Thirty years now
That space of life
That sculpted mine
Every broad stroke
Every thin line
A reflection in words
He spoke
With a whispered voice
A child of ten
Speaks even now
Thousands of words
A tapestry of lines
And shapes
And I have a child
That carries my name
And he will share his words
And  a voice
An echoe in still pond
And he will be my words
My eyes

Long after I’m gone…..

copyright 2017 Artbygordon

Friday, January 6, 2017

Commission, Discipline, Perfection and Chopin: An Artist Rejuvenation

I am working on a large commission and have had thought of never accepting a commission again.   A bit harsh but it's not that I haven't enjoyed working on it, it's just that I have a hard time painting on demand. I either have the inspiration or vision or don't, if I force it, it rarely works.

I've since changed my thoughts on commissions for several reasons. There is a wonderful aspect to the commission that I have only begun to realize: it's called concentration and discipline.

The only other time I have had to work through distractions was teaching painting. If you are teaching a student, it doesn't matter if you are having a problem with concentration, you have to maintain and teach the class. Discipline of mind is necessary to continue to paint in a scheduled time.

I have a short attention span when it comes to painting, I usually can have an hour with extreme concentration. I can paint longer if I work on multiple paintings because each time you switch to a new painting, it's a bit of a refresh.

An Older Commission

It's a matter of details. When you truly see a subject as it is without short cuts or assumptions, you can really get lost in the small details. I remember a recent student who learned to hate rocks, I feel her pain now in the details of water foaming.

If you look at a large area of foaming water it is a large nondescript white area, but as an artist you need to define the depth and the differences between tone and texture, it is the only way you can capture depth and make the image appear to the viewer in a way that makes sense. Also the colors change and the movements are different, the artist needs to pull these insignificant changes to the eye and make the viewer realize what they are seeing.

When it works, it is quite a magical experience. In this exercise of painting this most recent commission, I have forced myself to push beyond what is acceptable and trying to capture what I actually see. It forces me to see the painting and the subject so much deeper and intensely than I have in the past.

To add another aspect of the creative experience, I have started to listen to Chopin during the process. What I've learned is my lines are sharper and clearer and I stay in the mode longer. I will experiment more with other classical music but I think I'm on to something new.

It's been a difficult year for my art, lots of photography and writing but not as much art. I am excited to see the next series of paintings having more disciplined approaches to my subject, a deeper understanding of what I am actually trying to say and a bit of classical music as the cherry on top. I'm excited to see where the new direction will take my art.