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)