The Long Run

Ark Down

As I understand, the concept of synchronicity provides a meaningful explanation for how unconnected events can be joined to form a more significant union of meaning. This idea brings seemingly chance actions into a concert of relatable events. If small decisions have power to shape our path in remarkable ways, then it can feel as if spirits are at work. Similarly the creation of art can feel miraculous. When arranging visual elements that may not seem connected, often a transformation occurs revealing a greater story. The sum becomes bigger than the parts. When making the picture above, people, creatures of the sea and sky came together one by one. However, a vision of the whole is realized only as the page is filled.

Since I was a child, I have been fascinated with how a picture comes together. Though my knowledge was limited. I recognized that if commitment was given to an image something special could happen. The question always remained how and what to do next. In 2003, as an adult, I visited Belgium and the Netherlands and saw work by Rogier van der Weyden and Jan van Eyck and realized I would never meet the measure of their discipline. However, I also understood that I live in a different time an seek a different measure of success. While precision to paint with a single hair brush is not necessary, I continue to feel that spending time to develop a picture is important. It means that time is given to observe and be discerning enough to make decisions that transforms a whim into something more solid and imbedded with intent.

Rogier van der Weyden, The Descent from the Cross (c. 1435), oil on oak panel, 220 × 262 cm. Museo del Prado, Madrid

Big Pictures In the Modern World

As an art student I noticed that students, professors, and guest lecturers had a way of summing up art from a decade in a condensed way. For example art of the 1950’s might be described as formal abstraction, 1960’s pop art, 1970’s minimalism, 1980’s neo-expressionism. Although these are simplifications, one can feel the shift that occurs in a particular time. In the 1990’s I noticed the emergence of large scale photographs.

I was particularly awe struck by seeing photographs by Andreas Gursky. I remember a large photograph of a football field from above and noticed how one had a sense of the whole field but also could feel the presence of the grass on the field. Likewise, a landscape containing a river would reveal a fisherman on the bank of the river. Compared to the landscape, the the fisherman was small. However, because of the scale of the image, I could more closely identify with the figure and even imagine the fisherman being hungry. This was new and more powerful than anything I could see in a painting at that time. While it is impossible to reproduce the scale and detail on a small screen, an installation view allows for a relational sense of the photograph in a space.

From Here to There

In science, often with great work and time, one advancement leads to another. The idea of progression is engrained in much of what we do. However, its insertion into art can be problematic. Art runs parallel to technology barrowing from innovations (e.g. the development of new materials, colors, or mediums such as video and digital production). In this sense art may come to look new. However, if art is characterized by the act of making something, then the act is more repetitive than innovative. Despite the fact that a base process may remain the same, art becomes charged with meaning because it is bound to a context that includes history, environment, and cultural studies. Interest may wax and wane. Some art is lost or overshadowed and later resurfaces with renewed interest. An example would be the work of Janet Sobel whose paintings predate Jackson Pollock’s drip paintings but are strikingly similar. In this sense re-evaluation can make the past seem very much alive in the present. Art is a vehicle, vessel, or prompt to re-evaluate time and place.

Color Samples

Finish Line

I once trained for a 5k race. I did so because I never ran more than a mile. It was a worthwhile experience. I challenged myself to run greater distances and felt the accomplishment of reaching a goal. However, I stopped. I can not say when or why. Some endings can be abrupt, long, or gradual. However, as we stretch for something to achieve, ultimately the end arrives on its own terms. Circling back to the first image above, someone asked me if the central figure in the image was Jesus. I don’t think so, but he is stretching, there is a connection, and an ending.

Again and Again

Version #1

I previously wrote about creating the the image above. However, I felt that the picture could change in compelling ways. The blue and green colors set an evening atmosphere and I imagined the light and color changing. I also could see a time when the child is no longer the center of the landscape. First other colors were sampled. I was searching for an intuitive balance. The result is a composition with more elements contrasting and thus a busier looking image.

Version #2

I created another version in with a similar blue and green palette. This time the center is more open. At first I wanted to leave the center ’empty’ (i.e. lacking figures, trees or other elements). However, the maximalist in me could not let this happen. Rather, I settled for a scene where not much is happening.

Version #3
Version #3 Detail

A fourth version was created in an attempt to focus colors on a day time color scheme.

Version #4

By re-making the image several times surprises were found, comparisons were made, and reappraisals became possible. The transformations of this image were limited. Thus, re-exploring the image felt akin to going for walks in the same forest but at different times of the day, at different temperatures, or in different seasons. There are times when repetition is drudgery. However, usually there is an opening to see something new and it could come from a small change in procedure or perspective. The walk might be the same but the opportunity to reflect holds possibility. Paradigm shifting ideas are rare, whereas incremental adjustments are available and the results can reach further than expected.

Wins and Losses

Score Board, 2022

A while ago someone told me that “winners never quit”. This stuck with me because the same person also had an inability to quit arguments. The need to supply the last word can be powerful. While determination is a good quality, there are times when a single minded determination causes a breakdown that is either personal or related to others. More often than not, never giving up in the context of an argument or debate brings a measure of failure.

There are many kinds of wins and losses. Some losses are inevitable. For example, we all lose aspects of ourselves with the passage of time and ultimately we lose our life. Both wins and losses almost always come with the help of influences outside of our control. Furthermore, it is impossible to truly have one without the context of the other. Winning and losing are bound together and require a perspective. Without perspective there is little judgement and little learning. A person who believes he or she never loses is a person in denial.

As challenging as some losses are, and there are many we do not want, greater reflection and learning usually comes from these circumstances. Sometimes the loss is so great that we need the strength of others. This is not weakness but rather growth. We become bigger people, in a spiritual sense, by reaching out to others. While experiences differ, there is always someone else in the same boat and many others with special abilities (e.g. a nurturer, a listener, an organizer etc.). Finally, while the phrase “winners never quit” can be attributed to a self help author and later associated with a football coach, it may be clever to keep reading for more balanced wisdom.

Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after.
Henry David Thoreau

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.

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.