Potential Patterns

The image featured here was built from a collection of inspirations. While chance is a part of almost every decision, when an artist starts to add more than one subject within a drawing or painting chance becomes a unifying force. In other words, I can say where one part of the image comes from. However, as a whole it is much hard to estimate a complete meaning. While words can not complete the picture, we can have a sense or have a visual understanding about the sum of the parts. This is facilitated by the pattern of decisions that the artist infuses into his or her work.

Nascent Nocturne

The pattern of artmaking is often discussed among other artists as a strategy. Because there are many potential choices involved in creating art, limiting certain options creates a focus. Even the most chaotic art has a strategy. Lacking other structure or stated meaning, there is always a place where the artist started and then stopped working. This picture employs a color strategy. While not totally blue, there is an attempt at a dominate blue image with a focus on cool colors. The effect gives the picture a sense of the evening. For me the graphic drawing and the color choices feel like two different animals or like trying to work with both left and right hands. One hand is always a bit more adept then the other, and at times we have to struggle with the hand we are less use to using.

While using hands as a metaphor for balancing abilities, they are also a central element in the picture. It is not apparent that the central figure can see all the elements around him. However, he is reaching and trying to feel his way in a world with many moving elements. In a broad sense, this is also what art allows us. That is, to feel with all our limitations, and reach for a higher order.

Notes: While the subject of color is vast. I was introduced to it in a formal way by Richard Cramer. Later I came across a wonderful book Color in Contemporary Painting (Watson-Guptill Publications, 1991) by Charles LeClair.

Ukraine – Kyiv Pechersk Lavra

Over the past few years, I have received calendars that hold images of artwork found in Polish church collections. One painting that I found depicts Kyiv Pechersk Lavra, a church monastery in Ukraine, as well as its founders Saints Anthony and Theodosius. I responded to the picture because of the way the figures mirror each other. Perhaps this is symbolic of the way saints closely match each other in their words and deeds. I was also curious about the background buildings and was surprised to find that the depiction was of Ukraine and not Poland. With the current war initiated by Russia, it is hard to know if sacred places such as Kyiv Pechersk Lavra will remain safe. However, the image and the idea of place provided a point of focus to pray for Ukraine.

Saints Antoni and Teodozy Pechersky
Unknown origin, 17th century
Tempera, 75 x 86 cm,
Archdiocesan Museum in Przemyśl, Poland

While the image above comes from a 2020 calendar, nearly two years later the war reminds us that in a heartbeat lives are changed. Hopefully, the madness will end sooner than later and there can be renewed work toward peace and prosperity.

New Horizons

The idea of a new horizon as a metaphor for change is puzzling. In a literal way, a shifting glance can produce a new horizon. However, how special can that be? The more meaningful sense of this phrase involves recognition that something ended, changed, and another more hopeful reality may exist in front of us.

For me, this post brings a new horizon. I have learned a lesson. Prior to this posting, I tried “free” web hosting and found that slow speeds and limited traffic was the price I paid. After a small investment and moving files to a new host, I feel hopeful. However, this only one part of the puzzle. Without a follow up or momentum to get to a new and positive place the new horizon is a fantasy.

In an attempt to move closer to an illusive vista, I have provided an image of a horizon. While there is no literal horizon line in the image, it has provided me with a spring board to approach drawing in a different way. It followed a process of drawing on graph paper when I had time. Later it was scanned and adjusted in a way that allowed for an evolving process.

digital landscape drawing

As one may have noted, my new horizon has become several related glances or horizons that cause other new horizons. Perhaps my initial concept is getting diluted. However, this is likely meant to be. After all, there is no indication that we arrive at and stay at one point on the horizon.

Seeing God, In Picture, Word, and Person

When calamity strikes, people often ask themselves where is God? We also witness immense cruelty, and we wonder how could God allow such behavior? If God does allow such behavior, what does it mean? The short answer is that I do not fully know but have a few thoughts about seeing or finding God. For Christians God is personified in Jesus. It is easy to feel a distance from the historical person and challenging to understand a spiritual communion with him. Through a combination of chance and effort (perhaps divine intervention) I found a song and later a Sunday reading that gave me a vision, if not a greater connection to God. Instinctively when I heard the song I made an image with a bit of the lyric in the image.

Somewhat dissatisfied with the outcome of the image. A few weeks later I was struck by a bible reading that gave me a different sort of vision. I saved the text on my phone and copied it below.

John 4:11-16
11 My dear friends, if God loved us so much, we too should love one another.
12 No one has ever seen God, but as long as we love one another God remains in us and his love comes to its perfection in us.
13 This is the proof that we remain in him and he in us, that he has given us a share in his Spirit.
14 We ourselves have seen and testify that the Father sent his Son as Savior of the world.
15 Anyone who acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God remains in him and he in God.
16 We have recognized for ourselves, and put our faith in, the love God has for us. God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him.

The Bible passage complemented but also greatly transcended my drawing. Through the text, I could see God as manifest in our friendship. If God is within us and we make God’s love available to others, then others will see God’s work. The challenge it seems is allowing ourselves to be open enough and fearless enough to trust one another. Another challenge is to be mindful of our friendships. It easier to forget then it is to remember the truths that buoy us through the tempests.

The Simplicity Test

A switch occurs and a light goes on. It takes a fraction of a second. The fact that it works is immediate and clear. However, what does the light reveal, what is in the darkness, and where does the light’s energy come from? The fact that illumination occurred is a simple observation, while the meaning and science of light is an expansive subject.

I made a drawing akin to the act of switching on a light. Likewise, the drawing was to be simple (i.e. providing directness and a demonstrative outcome without being overly labored). While some of these goals were attained, I found that simplicity was an abstract idea about where we stop looking or investigating and where we let complexity rest. If one compared two examples (e.g. a drawing of a light on and off) one could make an assumption or judgement about which is simpler.

Simplicity requires a reference. It is the comparison that allows for an accurate judgement. However, a judgement is not always easy. Because constraint is a key indicator of simplicity, I remain unconvinced that simplicity is synonymous with minimalism. Where simplicity requires us to stop, the minimalist impulse encourages us to look in an expansive way with less. Minimalism shows us that the criterion to make a judgement about simplicity can be too simple. In other words, what is simple is not always so simple.

It may appear like simplicity is being disparaged or an impossibility. However, simplicity can bring enhancement and order where there are challenges. When engineers and computer scientists create a structure, it may require complexity. However, the goal is not complexity. Rather, the goal is to make the complex organized, manageable, and thus simpler. On a personal level simplicity is important because we need to know the limits. When an activity adversely effect another activity, eventually we need to stop one of the pursuits for the sake of simplicity. This judgement is not often easy and requires case by case reflections to reach the best balance.

With regard to a balance, looking at my drawing, I wonder if I passed the simplicity test? The answer is that the light works, but the process and results are not so simple. It is a mix, and this is what provides a small measure of character.