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.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Mathematics as Abstract Text

Grids, octagons, X-Y-Z axes, coordinates, parabolas…mathematics are increasing these days in the studio.  Equations, formulas, letters and numbers have become part of the expression.  They accompany geometric shapes and represent an aesthetic relief.

"Let f = F", Gesso on Roofing Felt, 72" x 36", © 2015

In 1982 the third year faculty at the Corcoran College of Art + Design (Washington, DC) became aware of my job experience as a sign maker.  Since then there has been a push to incorporate text into my artwork.  I became very self-conscious about it…what to say?  In those days I took the sign influence into the direction of graffiti.

Washington, DC, Dupont Circle 1984  Photo Richard K. Thomas

As part of a retrospective exhibit in the early 2000’s I painted individual words in a frieze section of the gallery. The selection of words was rife with meaning and hanging my large scale abstract paintings below them created interesting contexts.  

Installation View, "Excerpts", Lees-McRae College, Banner Elk, NC  2007

But text was not integrated into the imagery.

My struggle was with words themselves.  They’re so descriptive that they guide viewers thinking, perception and meaning.  I've had no problem with this as far as titles go. But actually using them in the artwork has continued to make me feel self-conscious.  I’ve tried to use text as texture by burying them under layers of paint but without success.

Now it seems that the use of geometric shapes demands these equations to emphasize the depth of the subject. The math is specific without being literal.  It’s an abstract language.  

"Untitled Hypar", Gesso and graphite on primed matboard, © 2015 Collection Steve Nyland

As such, I enjoy incorporating it freely into these recent artworks.  Many formulas are too long to use but sections are fun to place into these compositions.  The complexity makes for rich content. 
Underpainting, Gesso on Roofing Felt, 2015

Using algebraic formulas touches on some difficult areas for me.  Algebra was incomprehensible when I was a high school freshman.  The basic concept of letters equaling “any number” was beyond me.  My dad taught math and science and worked with me to get a handle on it.  In spite of his tutoring it didn’t connect and was very frustrating!

I revisit these memories often as I continue this series of artwork.  It’s uncomfortable.   Algebra was my great academic melt down.  (Let’s not talk about Speech class.)  

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Focus Project

I’m making thirty identical paintings.  They're each 8” x 10” and modeled after a study of a blue gradient Tree of Life hexagon.  

"Transformation Hexagon"  ©  2015
This image's step-by-step process make it a natural choice for this sort of project.  Focusing on the same shape, same colors, same process, technique and size will yield the same result X 30.

This is the most controversial assignment given by our faculty at the Corcoran College of Art + Design (Washington, DC, 1980’s). However, it was given after 2 months of free range creativity. Nobody mentioned it, but the piles of artwork generated during that first stage were about discovering our modus operandi and ONE image.  

A piece that summed up the range of our unfettered production; our free association, lateral thinking, uninhibited choices in art making that sidestepped our fault-finding, self-filtering, uptight, judgmental fearful selves.

Duplicating that one piece thirty times through the Focus Project was an exercise in discipline and an example of what to do when you found that idea worth pursuing.

Sometimes logistics becomes sculpture.
We do an awful lot of artwork in a lifetime.  We produce drawings and sketches, and ideas that take over our imaginations.  We rush on to generate more ideas, sketches, and proposals…. 

And then what--continue the search for “the next big thing”?  Ugh….

Let’s stay with that brilliant, reduced idea.  Why discard it in the search for another?  They're worth holding onto.  When you find it, focus.  

A focus project brings a meditation on an image, finding out all that it holds and in the process of re-iteration controlled progress reveals itself.  

Side work produced during the current Focus Project.
Thinking becomes ordered, step-by-step instead of random.  Your body of work becomes cohesive and its coherence is evident.  Clarity becomes a trait of your artwork and process.  The directions you take become manageable choices that your clients and fan base follow as well.

Dare to impose a little discipline into the mix.  Hammer out thirty!  You might like it.  If nothing else, you’ll find a few that really sing!  You’ll internalize the image, as well as the focus processes and the multiples aesthetic.  You’ll have that ability and insight as a permanent part of your creative options.  

Who can argue with increasing one’s creative options?  

It’s an investment in yourself; in your discovery.  Your work merits the investigation.  This sort of output declares the importance of your own thinking, research and imagery.

And here’s a surprise:  I’m not making 30 paintings, I’m making one. 


Saturday, January 17, 2015

The Tree of Life

I was working smaller to crank out ideas for large scale grid paintings.  As this study was nearly finished I noticed a shape lurking in the axes of all those squares:

An ideation sequence from 2012 ended in this shape (see “Finding the BrokenObelisk”) and I was excited to see it again.  To have it reappear naturally was surprising and a delight.

Suddenly I knew the direction.  It was as if the grid was the way to get to this hexagon shape.  Fine with me!  I dropped the grid and went full tilt, working the hexagon.

A hexagon is a six-sided figure with six angles and six vertices.  We all think of the honeycomb but a hexagon is not necessarily equilateral—the sides don’t all have to be the same length.  


I didn’t labor over this but it came to be more important as time went on.

I was rolling with this image, not worrying about anything except what the next idea was:  boom, boom, boom went the artwork!

The holidays were upon us and my wife and I went away for a week or so.  No art production, just vacation, visiting, watching football—a great break.  We come home and instead of jumping back into art production I took a day to organize my studio and clear out a storage area.

The next day I decided that I needed to do a little research about hexagons, look into their symbolism.  Without the Christmas break I would have forged on with my head down and furrowed brow, painting away. 

It was time to hit the search engine.  Things got interesting quickly.

First, some general connotations:  communication, interfacing, union (thinking about honeycombs and bee society), and balance.  I’m good with all of that, especially in light of The Stillness Project.

Then GOLD:  The elongated hexagon that I’ve been working with  is referred to as “The Tree of Life.”

As a Christian, this floored me!  I was steamrolling with this image; producing it over and over again in various forms, like the guy in “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”.  Then finding out its meaning…!  

This studio experience is good example of God’s “still small voice.”  (1st Kings 19:11-12)  You are motivated, you know it’s right, you aren’t struggling with it, you’re productive.  And you’re clueless!  That’s one of the best parts!  Then you find out what you’re doing, and THAT’S the best part!

Go boldly forward.  If the creative urge is that strong then do yourself the favor of following it.  In fact, push it!  Believe that it will become clear in due time, that what you are doing is meaningful; even if you don’t understand it now.

Greater forces are at work.