Sunday, November 12, 2017

Above the Noise

Lately I have had passionate conversations at art events about feeding the hungry.  My work as a volunteer with a food bank has re-kindled my passion for the cause.

After working in a mission based ministry in North Carolina I understand the spiritual drive to feed the hungry and serve the poor.  By serving “the least of these” we are serving the Most High God.  By ignoring the poor and hungry we ignore Him.

Homelessness, hunger, and generational poverty are pervasive in the Pacific Northwest.  My artwork doesn't communicate anything about this.  What's up with that?

"Migrant Mother", 1936, Dorthea Lange; Collection of the Library of Congress

I’ve been working with geometry, algebra and trigonometry for several years.  It makes sense after 24 years in the cabinet making field.  

But there is a more excellent understanding.

The hexagons, hyperbolic paraboloids and octahedrons that have captivated my attention since 2013 are technical works with clean finishes.  Geometry is an idealized imagery that alludes to higher realities.  

These artworks refer to the peace of God.

Consider Elijah’s experience of the whirlwind, the earthquake and the fire.  Despite the tumult he found that the Lord was not in them.  It was the still small voice that was the Lords.  (1st Kings 19:11-12)  

The disruption, chaos, and turmoil didn't contain the Lord.

We are moved emotionally by what we see and become swept up in our circumstance, our society.  Then we express ourselves out of the abundance of our heart:  anxious, angry, afraid.... 

Our circumstances can blind us to the ever present, all knowing, all powerful God.  We are reminded that those things which are seen are temporary and that the unseen things are eternal. (2nd Corinthians 4:15-18)

"Single Red", 2017, ©  James Thatcher

Clean lines, concise edges, and sequenced colors are an expression of faith and not the world’s noise.

Pine study based on the work of Scandinavian architect, Soren Korsgaard; © 2017
I’m keeping on.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Cut, Paste, and Scale

Not being able to visualize an art project motivates me as an artist.

I was mulling over different ways to render the hyperbolic paraboloid after creating 30-8” models in bamboo last winter. 

An early version, bamboo, 12"

Hyperbolic Paraboloid in a Cube, bamboo & acrylic paint, 8"

4 Hyperbolic Paraboloids in combination 

I liked the idea of building the artwork rather than simply continuing to render it by drawing or painting the image.  I settled on using drywall tape to create a piece.  It costs about a penny a foot and it won’t wrinkle when painted.  How would it weave together to build that torqued grid of the hyperbolic paraboloid?  

"Hyperbolic Paraboloid with Equations", acrylic on canvas, 14" x 7"  ©  James Thatcher  2016

It didn’t!  
It became a surprise braid instead. 

Drywall tape sketch, 48" x 24"

Here’s a brief time lapse video of an early take on the project.  Notice the shaped canvas in the background.  Ideas to extend the original concept are already underway. 

The braid image has some issues as a focus project because it’s simply too big at 48” across.  What size makes sense?  How would you present it?  Mounted on a plywood panel?  Pinned to the wall?  As shaped canvas paintings? 

Exploring the range of sizes from ¾ scale to 1/8 scale offered many possibilities but presentation was still an issue.  The 1/3 scale seems best as it yields a finished piece of 16” x 8” which can be effective as an individual unit.  Combining pieces still maintains a manageable size.

Scale comparison, full size to 1/3 scale
I can mount these to sheets of paper or float them in simple metal frames.  I could laminate them and suspend them because both sides are different.  

Front side of braid, gesso on drywall tape, 16" x 8"

Back side

4 braids in combination, gesso on drywall tape, 16" x 16"
Lots of Possibilities!

You know how caterers make spiraling stacks of napkins? It seemed like a simple presentation but that project held a surprise.  Here's a 30 second time lapse video of the effort (I really like the soundtrack):

Thursday, March 3, 2016

DC 1980's

The Belmont Grocery in the Adams-Morgan Neighborhood, Washington, DC, Summer of 1984

Nihilism, drinking and dancing; and the brilliant new music…and hormones ruled the night.  Life was so heady in the '80's.  Didn't it seem like nuclear war was just around the corner?

We were lean and fabulous; pale, cold and tough:  the hair, the shoes, the style and fashion, the daring and wanton will to play all night long….

Julian Schabel, "The Patients and the Doctors", 1978

Of course, it ended in a train wreck relationship which was soul crushing but inevitably sobering.  A painful marriage that broke all chains of communication and the 80’s ended years early.  Our Neo-Expressionism died quickly, having grown too big for its britches and ironically usurped by the menial and anonymous “Neo Geo”…

Peter Hailey, "Two Cells with Conduit", 1986

I still mourn.  All of it:   Bad choices, the heat of the moment, the broad laughters and sweat on the club’s dance floor.  We were using and abusing with deep passion and regrets, walking home in the frozen night straight into the next onslaught.  

And then it was gone, and for what?  Shaved heads, goatees, and Metallica (which we all took as a joke), and junkies from Seattle?

It had to die.  It was a brilliant flash and we who survived re-emerged Born Again.  We looked away, not to some new thing but to the common; as if it were a new thing.  Our friends had marriages and children, careers…then we too….

We were radiant children of a time and place: 
altogether unique and lovely.  

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Incidental Discoveries are Crucial

An artist does an awful lot of artwork in a lifetime.  Ideas overtake our imaginations and we rush on generating ideas, sketches, artwork and proposals. 

Ideation Drawing:  Hexagon Variations  ©  James Thatcher  2012

Use a “focus project” to concentrate on a single successful image from those labors.  Produce 30 identical versions with no variation in size, process or subject matter. This will stabilize studio output and concentrate your art making processes and effort.  

And it will generate a market of strong reliable imagery. 

I’m in the midst of the second focus project in the past twelve months. The first focus project was 30 small paintings, 8” x 10” each.

Transformation Hexagon  © James Thatcher  2015
© James Thatcher  2015

This second effort is sculptural and the discoveries are compelling. 

In a 2-D focus project you only have finished work at the end of the process.  Suddenly you’ve got 30 finished pieces.  The joy and beauty of this 3-D focus project pops up in unexpected places as assembled sections need to be stored.  
 Proposal for Public Sculpture ©  James Thatcher  2015

These incidental discoveries are crucial.  They maintain creative interest during the long weeks and months of production. You don’t want to break the momentum of your epic focus project but these ideas can also be works in themselves.

18 Corner Pieces, Bamboo  ©  James Thatcher  2015
So be sure to photograph and make note of your ideas.  Also consider making drawings and paintings of these various stages after completing the main body of work.  They represent a strong direction for future artworks and possibly your career.

Creating 2-D artworks extends the depth of your 3-D portfolio.  It’s a separate/additional body of work that supports your sculpture installation.  They provide a wall mounted display to accompany your floor display in a pre-curated collection.    

Model for Sculpture/Painting Installation  ©  James Thatcher  2016
(What if this were a giant outdoor steel sculpture with a digital billboard behind it?)
The question of whether one is a sculptor or a painter is not relevant because the relationship between your 3-D and 2-D images is so clear.  You present the artwork of one artist who uses multiple mediums to explore their ideas.  


The dedication displayed by presenting your ideas in a volume of related artworks is impressive.  Your vision is clearly defined and explored at a depth displayed only by the most professional of artists.  

(Welcome to the big time) 

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Same Mind, Different Focus

I enjoy seeing one thing lead to another and have become involved with ocean imagery after our recent move to the beach:  The sand fleas, the flounder, the shells...

A wood carving relief begun several weeks ago made me curious about how to create multiples of a whelk shell quickly.

This relief was modeled with Sculpey clay.  In the next step of the process a flexible mold is made from a different formula of Sclupey and plaster versions are cast.

The plaster casts will be affixed to panels as reliefs and painted.  

Please check out some previous blog posts that illustrate similar effects.

Whether individually, multiple reliefs on a single surface, or multi paneled arrays--you may notice a continuity in approach regardless of subject matter. 

Same mind, different focus.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

On Moving...

Artwork in full swing is set aside to pack a full household. Creating with the knowledge that life is completely changing is vanity.

A report many years ago declared that the United States was so large that it effectively contained nine separate countries.  Consider regional accents and colloquialism, attitudes and even recipes…I fully believe this.
And this gives me pause as an artist.

All of those accents, attitudes and recipes are new and different influences.  The culture which was feeding the previous artwork is gone.  I am immersed elsewhere.

I do different things now and have different experiences. Different people surround me.  Continuing with the same body of artwork?  I’ve striven to do that before but it just doesn’t work that way.

Now this move is complete.  I pursue my great interest in fishing since we are twenty minutes from the ocean.  Fascinating stuff is there:  Flounder! 

And detritus!  I found a wonderful vertebrae of some sort of large fish that was so curious that I had to (had to!) render it.  My interest was in learning its lines.  It was profoundly abstract; a very lovely and hidden thing.  What if this became an eight foot tall sculpture?

And sand fleas!  I use them for bait and thousands of them are swarming in every wash of the surf.  They are creepy but complicated critters and worthy of examination.  I am faithfully drawing them to internalize their structure. 

So life goes on.  I create, but not continuing with work from another region, time and influence.  This isn’t what I thought I’d be doing.  It isn’t market savvy.  It isn’t clever or charming.  I find it compelling though; the stuff if not the art. And I’m about exploring it.

This is a strange new world.  Always.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

The Decision and the End of Artist's Block"

"Pi", 8" x 10", Acrylic & gesso, chalk & pencil on primed mat board;  ©  2015
Prints available--message me for details.

“Artist’s Block” is rooted in fear.  Fear of mistakes.  Fear of messing up.  Fear of failure.  All of these will impede beginning.  Beginning is the end of Artist’s Block.

Indecision is the result of this fear.  Making “The Decision” is the key.  The idea is to create something to respond to.  The Decision is probably going to be wrong anyway but it will prompt a reaction.  

"Hyperbolic Paraboloid Sketch", 8" x 10", Gesso, chalk & pencil on primed mat board;  ©  2015
Prints Available--Message me for details.  Collection Steve Nyland

Responding is the key to unlocking creativity.  It doesn't even matter if the idea and execution are awful.  But get the ball rolling and believe that you have what it takes to figure it out.  It’s easier to work with something than to work with nothing.

It’s like editing.  You can’t edit what isn’t there.  Your artwork is in motion as long as you can determine a problem and consider a solution.  Problem solving is creative.  Trust your instincts.  Don’t quit until it works.

"Tree of Life, 6 Points", 8" x 10", Acrylic & Gesso, chalk & pencil on primed mat board; ©  2015
Backed, shrink wrapped and shipped anywhere in the lower 48 for $65.

I run into this hesitation in my studio these days with each new piece.  When I was in the midst of a focus project. I knew what the next step was at the end of the day and what to do when I got back into the studio.

"Black Transformation Hexagon", 72" x 72", Gesso white wash on roofing felt; ©  2015
Unframed, rolled and shipped anywhere in the lower 48 for $400

Free range artwork is a whole different process in the wake of the focus project.  Each piece requires fresh inspiration, new insight and solutions.  OUCH! 

I am currently reworking last year’s abstract drawings with mathematics.  Each piece relates to different equations, parabolas or geometry--eventually. 

"Sweetgrass Drawing", Gesso & chalk on primed mat board;  ©  2014
Prints available--message me for details.

I continually say, “Make a decision.  It doesn’t matter if it works right now.  It will work.”  Each painting has required response after response to those initial decisions.  Each painting resolves itself into a fine and unusual artwork—WINNING!

"Parabola Oops", Acrylic & gesso, chalk & pencil on primed mat board;  ©  2015
Backed, shrink wrapped and shipped anywhere in the lower 48 for $65.

If you are avoiding your studio I want to encourage you. Make a decision on that painting that has you stuck.  If it’s the empty canvas (or page) that has you stuck then just slam it.  Make something to paint out and see what that looks like.  Then paint it out again.  And then paint that out.  What colors have evolved?  What textures? 

"Sweetgrass Parabola", 8" x 10", Acrylic & gesso, chalk & pencil on primed mat board; ©  2015
Backed, shrink wrapped and shipped anywhere in the lower 48 for $65.

Work with what emerges.  Let it tell you what’s happening, what it is and where it’s going.  All you need to do is push it and follow it.  Do it.  Make it.  It’s only art, right?

Have faith--it’s more fun than fear.  You will not fail if you do not quit. Let me know how it works out for you.

"Hypar Quad w/Circles", 8" x 10", Acrylic & gesso, chalk & pencil on primed mat board; ©  2015  
Backed, shrink wrapped and shipped anywhere in the lower 48 for $65.