Sunday, June 07, 2015

Earlier black and white pieces

I've posted some of the black and white pieces that I've been doing with graphite powder. I was actually doing some B&W before that, just in a different format and medium. So here are a couple of them.

24 x 28 Untitled
This is black acrylic and white ink on plywood. I'm not sure why I started doing these pieces but I did a number of them.

24 x 24 Untitled

This one is similar though not as successful I think.

11 x 15

And here's one more on paper. All acrylic I think.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

More the black and white (mostly) things I've been working on...

These generally all begin with watercolor paper. I rub wax (just on old candle) on the paper where I don't want the graphite powder to adhere. Then I rub the powder on the paper, lots sometimes, less other times. The powder really sticks to the wax (you'll see very black there), but how much powder sticks to the raw paper varies. Next step: spray fixative on the piece -- usually a couple of times. Then I start using various tools to scrape away wax leaving the white paper showing. That's pretty much it in a nut shell.

Sometimes they work, sometimes they don't. Maybe they're just boring, other times hopeless. I've been working with some of the those that are bit boring and cutting them in ways. I think I'll start trying to also cut and rearrange, collage, whatevah -- basically mixed media.

Here are a few examples:
15 x 22. Cut and backed with black paper

14 x 17. Cut and backed with white paper

14 x 17. Cut and backed with black paper

This one of the left has one variation. I have cherry stain powder used in woodworking (I used to make furniture). I'll spread a bit of the stain powder and add a bit of water. It creates various shades of color as you see on the left.

I've also put it on a white background. I'm not sure which works better.

Lastly, the one below just follows the basic formula I described above.

14 x 17

Saturday, May 23, 2015

On Really Seeing Art

I awoke this morning with a hangover from the morose, depressing experience from last night that I described on Facebook. So I decided to do something about it. First, I listened to some Bob Marley. Pulled out some of my old art from when I first started painting. Sat on my little second floor downtown apartment deck with coffee and the latest issue of Art in America. Thought about what I might do art wise. (Definitely not that!) So I decided on a visit to the excellent and free NC Museum of Art a short drive from my place.

Most of us have a tendency, I think, to visit museums like they are all you can eat buffets. You know, there is all this food and you've got to have some of everything or you'll feel cheated. At a museum we don't want to miss something really good -- especially if you think you won't be able to return. So you're worried that you'll come home from your trip to London where you visited the Tate and somebody will ask if you saw Monet's Water Lilies and you'll have to say "No" and then they'll spend 10 minutes telling you all about it.

But when you do that everything becomes a blur or maybe, like when Karen and I visited the new Whitney last week, you walk away overwhelmed and drained. (The new Whitney is amazing.) So this time I figured I'd spend more time with fewer pieces. I immediately went to the far northwest corner of the museum. I glanced around and saw Andrew Wyeth's Winter. It is amazing and has the added advantage of being placed near a bench where I could sit, contemplate and write in my little Moleskine.

It was painted in 1946, tempera on board, right after his father's death. What makes this piece so special? It could be the boy appearing to flee down Wyeth's famous hill, his weight and the tragedy dragging him. Or the beautiful and imposing hill itself. The brushwork with the subtle changes in color and texture that creates both a sense of space and claustrophobia. The shadow too, that follows the boy down the hill adding to the force of his sadness. It is an immensely sad and perfect painting, a simple image
that tells a story that could fill a book.

Nearby is a Jacob Lawrence called Forward from 1967. It is a great companion to the Wyeth. Here it is Harriet Tubman pushing the escaping slaves forward to freedom, playing the role of the hill in Winter.

She is shoving the man forward, a revolver in hand. He's enormous, strong, and terrified, hiding his facing with his immense hand. The colors are bold and the shapes blocky without the detail of the Wyeth. To me the man is the compelling figure, the lines of his ribs, the splayed hands themselves viscerally showing both his physical strength and his terror.

This vision of humanity, of fear, of tragedy, of strength, of heroism, of courage, of determination, of fearlessness both breaks my heart and gives me hope.

I felt maybe there was a piece to create a triptych with the Wyeth and the Lawrence so I walked around, glancing here and there. And then I saw it, a John Singer Sergeant of the Flight from Egypt,
circa 1877-1879. It is a sparse piece, dark, and impressionistic.

Here the forward motion is provided by lonely Joseph, staff in hand, his arm around Mary. We see Mary, her face shrouded, a shawl around her head. She holds Jesus, the child's head merely a shape but lighter and with a halo.

The donkey, his head nearly dragging the ground, appears gaunt and deadly tired, stumbling down the path, his massive ears just more weight to carry.

Joseph is held up by his staff, Mary by Joseph, Jesus by Mary, and the donkey by force of will and necessity. Joseph's face looks obscured but on closer examination quite detailed, his nose, his beard, and the holes of his eyes amazingly evocative. Again, like the Wyeth and the Lawrence, a sad, beautiful, and contemplative composition.

I spent an hour plus with the three pieces. By doing so they became more than canvas and paint and more than beautiful works of art. They told me three stories that reflect the best and worst of humanity. Stories that made me think. Images that made me sad and feel intensely alive.