Sunday, December 09, 2007

The sketch

I have always been interested in the sketches of the masters- da Vinci, Michelangelo, it didn't matter; I found the raw idea very interesting, perhaps even more interesting than their finished paintings. A sketch carries a sense of freshness, an urgency or a moment in time unencumbered by refinement and rethinking. In many ways there is a purity in a sketch that is difficult to express in a finished painting. I beleive that same freshness is much the same feeling the German expressionists like those in the Blaue Reiter and Die Brücke tried to present in their work. Naturally context for painting has changed from Europe between the wars as has the subject matter but the essence- human emotion, response, and discourse has not.

In my work I try to reverse the painting process, so to speak. You see, it is my understanding that paintings usually begin on a piece of scratch paper, on a napkin, or in a sketchbook somewhere. Then it is refined, edited, paired down to simplest terms, and put onto canvas in paint or collage or whatever. I do this too, but in my work the painting usually begins with the idea written into my sketchbook and several sketches added of how the idea may be represented visually or metaphorically. Following this I collect additional material like newspaper articles or research on the subject to flesh the idea out a bit more. Then I set up some problems to be solved on the canvas like the devision of space, relationship of the elements, ect. by painting a few of them on the canvas then adding or reducing as need be. Lastly I try to add once again the sketch right out of my sketchbook onto the top "layer" of my painting. An example of this may be "Repetitive Pump in Purple". In a way I want to invert a painting so others can see the process the idea goes through in the work. I hope this last sketch carries the freshness or urgency of the original idea in some way.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

The Raven

In Norse mythology Odin has two pet ravens: Hugin and Munin- thought and memory accordingly. Each day they leave Odin and return from "Midgard," (literal meaning: middle enclosure) the mortal realm. The only historic pictures I've found of this show Hugin (thought) on Odin's right shoulder facing him and Munin (memory) on his right.

The Quran tells of a raven teaching Cain how to bury Abel and Native American traditions from the pacific northwest see the raven as both a creator and a "trickster" god.

The cross cultural significance of the raven is quite amazing but I find the Norse representation as the most interesting mostly for the news or information being that of thought and memory- very different from our understanding of it in contemporary culture. In the Norse mythology the "news" is understood to be subjective- interpreted through thought and memory.
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Sunday, September 09, 2007

Another Skull

OK, I'm still looking for that "new approach." No, I haven't found it yet. I tried to create a "negative of a negative" by drawing an x-ray of the skull with charcoal on orange paper for a different approach thinking that the intricate lines of the x-ray might somehow alleviate the tremendous baggage of the subject. The abstraction of the skull did lift the burden a bit but I haven't found a use for it in a painting yet. I guess I'll submit that to the subconscious for a while and wait for it to resurface later.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

A Skull

I generally try to shy away from imagery that is so dramatically played out that it actually repels serious consideration in favour of that which catches a person off guard and possibly engages a subject from an unfamiliar approach. Of course, with a skull, how can this possibly be? What "new approach" can possibly come from such an image that is so frequently recycled for sucha variety of ideas and products? I don't know. I thought the drawing turned out rather nice though as it recalls some of Bacon's painting for me. I think it is the blue and the orange colors that bring up these thoughts though it may be the similarity of Bacon's handling of paint and the way soft pastels brush accross paper.
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Monday, May 28, 2007

Powder Blue

OK, so it isn't really powder blue. It does display a little of the reflected light from paint that I was trying. Unfortunately my sources were limited for a model.


Working again with the idea of artist as recorder. Documenting buildings on the farmstead where the studio is.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Ups and Downs

Practicing again with light and the way it changes through different materials.
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Government Grainery

I'm working on some ideas for a small series this summer at my studio in ND. I know the composition is simple and amateurish but it bears the idea of artist as recorder; Recording an item in its simplest terms for documentation rather than purely aesthetic purposes.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Cigarette Boxes

Found objects. Working with the light and shadow as well as geometric form.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Bottle on Tablecloth

I know, always use the most typical item for a still life. If, however, the one you happen to have, like this mishapen bottle, what choice is left?

Friday, May 04, 2007

3 1/2 items

A quick sketch playing around with some old ideas. It is fun to watch drawings develop and to happen upon them out of context. That is the case for this one of a few small items in the studio.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

The Fog of War

I've spent a lot of time working on paintings from a number of different sources and all related to the war in Iraq. This is a quick sketch from some imagery I found on the web. The original photograph was of three soldiers posed by a destroyed Iraqi tank as a sort of trophy or defeated enemy or something of the kind. The image struck me in a number of ways that I find difficult to put into words; on the one hand here are the victors and our heroes, young Americans bravely serving their tour of duty in a hostile environment. On the other hand one must consider the fact that they are posed in front of what must be the tomb of other soldiers who were, in many ways, doing the same thing only, maybe they weren't as prepared or lucky.

"The Fog of War" is a loose title I've given to the series of works which focus on this subject. Many of those pieces include text found in the newspapers related to the bribery of Randy Cunningham, a decorated Vietnam veteran who sold his favors in congress to a defense contracting firm. In many ways I find it difficult to define the total tragedy of war, or for that matter, even the boundaries of that war. Was the Cunningham incident collateral damage from the war in Vietnam or in Iraq? I think effective arguments can be made for both answers to that question. If this is true, how can we possibly expect to find any real cost to such an action? And if cost is difficult to assess then how can we determine the value of the undertaking regardless of the outcome? One can find more than a little irony in that one thing seems clear: The "fog of war" obscures more than the battle lines.
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