Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Pressure of Ink Brush Painting

Ink brush painting is unforgiving. One mistake, one false stroke and it's over. For this very reason I love to work in this demanding, traditional medium. I am forced to be fully and intensely present and have to focus on the now to the exclusion of all distractions.

I become acutely aware of the flow and amount of water I am using on the brush, at the same time watching the receptivity of the rice paper and dark or lightness of the sumi ink. I must pay attention to how the image unfolds. I allow it to develop, I coax it into being. It is a dance between what I think I want and how it is actually going.

There is no do over, going back or covering up of a mistake. It is in the present now moment that this work is created in. I must get it right the first time and that is the only time I have to create it. This pressure heightens my sensitivity and creates tension that I do not allow to be transferred or shown in the final piece.

It is suppose to look effortless, like an accident. But it is much more than that. I am purposeful in cultivating creativity arising from a meditative, un-manifested state to be born into the space of physical form. A visual, spiritual practice, oh yeah!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The purpose of painting

Since I was invited to jury a show, I've been thinking about what makes a good painting, or what makes one painting better than another one. To answer this question, I believe you have to know the goal of the work or the purpose of the painting, before you can make a judgment.

In comparing apples and oranges, which fruit is better? Neither of course, because they are not better, just different. The reason for eating one over the other is not necessarily about the fruit, although that is a factor in choice, it also depends on your desires.

So, what IS really the purpose of painting? Why DO we paint? Obviously, painting is not dead despite what post modern critics say. So, why do artist's paint? What are their reasons? This is an important question. When I look at all kinds of painted images, I am struck by the vast styles and goals artists portray when creating their paintings.

Should a painting try to capture as realistically as possible the physical world, a la a camera? There are those that judge paintings on those criteria.

Is it to focus the viewers attention on an artists direct observation, by revealing pieces of visual information cleverly sussed out and highlighted by the artist in a work? To make us see anew?

Is a painting suppose to explore the possibilities of two dimensional space? Or maybe it's purpose is to create new space for the eye and mind to wander around in?

Is the representation of three dimensional space on a two dimensional surface the main purpose of a painting? What about paintings that emphasis the aesthetic and emotional use of color? Are paintings to create movement, to capture light? What then?

Oh, it is fun to push color and paint around a frame, self-expression within boundaries if you will. But, that is not enough to keep me painting for as long as I have been. Besides there are easier forms of expression, like dancing your a** off...there has to be more to painting. What then? A form of communication? A search for the beautiful, the true, the uplifting, the shocking, the surprising? What is it that might be worth the time, effort, expense and mess of creating a painting?

What is your purpose or reason to paint? I'd like to know.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Grid Again

My ink brush paintings measure 27"x 27" and laying six or more of them out on the floor forms a glorious grid. I exchange positions of individual paintings and create new relationships within the grid. The paintings change in relationship to one another and so does the visual meaning of the whole.

The grid is imbued as an explicit metaphor of spirituality. The structure is felt not seen. Does the grid satisfy a human need for order out of chaos, to give us the ability to locate things in space and time in a logical and rational manner?

Yesterday, I woke up with the words, "Field of Tension" in my mind. Field of Tension is a non-grid way of organizing a composition, based on intuition as observing the relationship to elements while one creates a composition. This is basically what happens when I paint.

"The grid has been defined as : an index of the rational, artificial, rigid-but flexible, a measure of scale but scaleless, flat with imitations of depth, stamped with rigidity, and a container that contains itself, that is both form and content. Patrick Ireland, 1998. The grid, a theme innumerable artists have incorporated into their work, has been explained by critics and artists as visual technological metaphors but also is receptive to spiritual metaphors. The most recognizable artist of “The Grid” Mondrian used the grid to express the idea of spiritual harmony and order. He reduced his compositions to the basic essentials of form and color, using horizontal and vertical lines, painted in flawless primary colors and black and white."

There are different kinds of grids, generally for the purpose of providing a felt structure for the ease of information assimilation, but I suspect there is more to the function of a grid than this. There are manuscript grids, modular grids, column grids, deconstructed grids, hierarchal grids, even a margin is a grid; the golden mean, the rule of thirds... isn't the internet or "web" a type of grid? Couldn't language be considered a kind of grid with which to hang our thoughts?

Do we have a need for order? Does it give us comfort even as we have different tolerances for order versus chaos on an order versus chaos continuum.

Transcendental Philosophy, puts forth the idea that an important function of mind is to structure incoming data and to process it in ways that make it more than a simple mapping of outside data. Do we overlay our need for structure, or intuit an underlying pattern in seemingly chaotic life or is there a grid we don't see, rather just sense?

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Ink Brush Painting on Exhibit at Eastern Connecticut State University

"Clusters", Sumi ink on Shuen


Lately, I've been working on a group of large ink brush paintings. I have figured out how to get the small 3"x3" ink brush paintings to work at the size of 27"x 27".

This is a big jump in scale and has not been easy to do. Part of the problem, is I can not see the whole composition as I paint. Additionally, my brushes tend to be too small for the larger paper. Adding gouache is proving to add to the challenge as I bring this work from black and white, into color.

I am pushing through these obstacles as the larger work is incredibly satisfying to make. Here is a sumi ink brush painting that is currently being exhibited in a group show at the Akus Gallery at Eastern Connecticut State University. It is one of my first attempts to go larger with this work.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

New Work

'Cisco Beach I-IV' Group of four panorama,
Oil and canvas, each 10"x 10"
Nantucket, MA

It is winter break, now and after the holiday guests have left, I have my studio back. With a freshly organized studio, I was reviewing my plein air painting on Nantucket this past summer and decided to post some of the painting I did there. It was a productive time, more new work to follow.

Enjoy and please forgive my absence from this blog. Teaching five classes at three different universities and looking for a full time professorship, is well... all consuming.

A word about the photograph at the top of this blog. It is a huge, 6" plus wing span, silk moth that was lying outside the door to my apartment. I could not resist taking a photograph of it.

'Lighthouse' Oil and canvas on board 15.5"x 26"
Nantucket, MA