More than just creating another cover song, the process of actually deconstructing, synthesizing, and reconstructing another’s work is not simply a venture into regurgitating the past. Rather, it gives the artist the opportunity to internalize the canon, and to reflect over of the masters of his or her own media, discovering the imperfections and contradictions, and the enduring spirit of the artist’s work.Read More
Artist & Influences
I have been so distracted by the last days and hours of finishing my four-panel drawing (not to mention the end of the semester) that I nearly forgot to announce a couple of upcoming shows and events. I have three drawings in an exhibition featuring four regional artists who work in pencil and pen at the Mikhail Zakin Gallery at the Art School at Old Church in Demarest, New Jersey. The show is currently on display and runs through May 31st, with an artist reception scheduled for Thursday, May 12th from 6 to 8 PM. I am really looking forward to seeing the other artists’ drawings in person – there is a splendid little flash player of the work on display on the gallery’s website.
The South Orange Maplewood Studio Tour is on Sunday, June 5th from 11 AM – 5 PM. I will be showing new drawings in my studio, and will happily answer questions about materials and techniques. South Orange and Maplewood have a remarkable number of accomplished artists and the studio tour is one of the few times when their studios are open for the general public to visit. Examples of the individual artists’ artwork are showcased on the Studio Tour website.
(And, I have to say that it is rather fortunate that I am too preoccupied with work-in-progress to panic about the fact that the Studio Tour is only a month away.)
That is about it for news and events.
On a complete tangent, last month I was saddened to learn of the death of George Tooker, THE magic realist extraordinaire. I vividly remember picking up the Thomas H. Garver monograph of Tooker at my local mall bookstore when I was in high school. I simply love that book: it is one of the few artist monographs that I still enjoy 25 years later. I think I am so moved by his artwork because it demonstrates such a remarkable sense of humanity – sometimes a dark view of the world, but not one that is tainted with cynicism and irony.
The New York Times obituary is wonderful, and I will end with Tooker’s words about reflecting on his own work:
“I don’t examine it myself, and I don’t want to.”
The newest little Moleskine sketch, 4.5 x 3 inches:
After a few months of hardly opening the sketchbook, these latest little Strange Tales have been practically gushing out. Originally, these little drawings started as sketched-out ideas for larger drawings, but lately I just open to a new sketchbook page and start drawing and then the faces emerge and then the details and then the background and then the little drawing is finished and I am on to the next little Strange Tale (whew!). I do not stop and think about or even look at the finished sketches critically, and I am not particularly concerned with how they fit into my larger "body of work". My aim - as far as any of my art goes - is to go with the flow of my drawings: whenever I get involved with pondering on my ambitions or planning a series or even considering any outside response to the images I create, I try to remember that there is a risk of becoming sidetracked or swayed into extrinsic expectations (even imagined ones) rather than following one's intrinsic and unhindered artistic journey. As far as the Strange Tales, I try not to worry about whether or not anyone would find these little drawings to be too illustration-like, and I enjoy them for what they are and where they take me, without too much deliberation.
Interestingly, I have been drawing them in a very stream-of-consciousness manner, and this is a complete contrast to the large-scale drawing that I am currently working on in the studio. [Steadily, tirelessly, patiently, and persistently working on, that is, and at times it seems to go only at a snail’s pace (actually it is more of a snake-scale-by-snake-scale pace, but I won’t elaborate on that just yet)].
I first pilfered the Lady Providence’s eye-flower 15 years ago from an image of St. Catherine to use in one of my large scale drawings (I believe it was a St. Catherine painting, but I only have a vague mental impression of something like a Cimabue or later, gold leaf, Italianate, but the actual painting in mind is a bit fuzzy now). According to my little handbook on Christian symbolism in art (a holdover from one of my past art history obsessions), the flower is a symbol for cause and effect, beginning and end, because it is both the bearer and product of the seed, and the eye symbolizes both physical and spiritual sight. And, with a little thought, I would bet that most people could figure out the meaning of those symbols without the aid of a book on symbolism. At any rate, although the thorns are a bit wicked, The Lady Providence carries her little all-seeing flower with fortitude and grace.
Speaking of stealing imagery, I am totally besotted* with an image of Queen Elizabeth I entitled the “Rainbow Portrait”:
Check out that cloak of eyes and ears, a solid 300 years before the birth of Salvador Dali! Elizabeth, ever enthusiastic with promoting herself via portraiture, was certainly letting the world know that not only is she so all-supreme that she holds a rainbow in her hand, her eyes and ears are also wide open (again, the symbol book is not necessary). This painting is from the end of her reign when her power was well established, hence these more god-like portraits of her were painted; past the stoic imagery of the virgin queen and into the realm of delineating one’s history through divine propaganda. Go, Elizabeth, go!
As far as stealing - oh yes, that fabulous little cloak will someday appear in one of my drawings…
*I should mention that I am also a bit smitten with Elizabeth herself - I avidly read biographies and historical fiction of the time period - so I can’t believe that I had not seen this painting before last week during a bit of late-night cruising on Wikipedia. Alas, if I ever manage to get to the UK again, I will have to fit in a day trip/pilgrimage to ogle it in person.
A quick lookie-loo at the newest drawing. This is a detail showing the face section of the self-portrait (which is drawn slightly larger-than-life). This is approximately a 9 x 8 inch section; the entire drawing is 40 x 20 inches in size.
Thanks to summer break, I have had to adjust my studio time, which means that I am drawing late at night when the kiddies are asleep (it is a limited drawing time, but I do it every day, of course!). I have a feeling that this drawing will not be done until October (so far about 40 hours spent on the piece, and only about 1/6 of the paper has been touched).
"Art is long, and time is fleeting..." Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Speaking of artsy funeral marches to the grave, isn't Harold & Maude the most perfect blend of film and song? I need to track down a DVD copy (my old copy is a VHS, that is assuming I actually could find it...)
Currently listening to: Cat Steven's Greatest Hits
A new sketch from the Moleskine ~ pencil and india ink on paper, approximately 7 x 5 inches:
My husband's comment when he saw the above drawing was "you look like you are coming off of a 3-day meth binge in that sketch", so this little drawing has been unofficially retitled "the meth portrait". He has quite a few amusing alternate titles for my work, my favorite being "one day I am gonna kill that man..."
The studio clean out is starting to wear me down, but it has been a long time coming and I am happy for the space (and, by golly, I found one of my missing circle templates, as well as a treasure trove of oddities...but more details on all of that when I am totally finished cleaning/organizing and get around to doing the blog post documenting The Great Studio Clean Out).
I have a lot of in-progress drawings in spite of the clean out going on in the studio, but nothing is finalized. I am still working on the Conversations with Goya self-portrait series, but I had this irresistible impulse to do a new piece for the Exhibitor's Co-op's Cube and I show slated for March/April at the Gaelen Gallery East at the JCC in West Orange, NJ.
This new cube drawing started simply as a Moleskine sketch, but then I realized that I wanted to do a fully rendered drawing, so out came a fresh sheet of Arches paper. This is a smaller drawing - 14 x 25 inches - so it should be done in a couple of weeks. A little detail snapshot, grey and fuzzy, as usual:
As far as the first Goya self-portrait, the values have been totally reworked (thank you Barbara!!!), the drawing sprayed, and I am starting a subtle black-on-black lace mantilla background for the negative space. I was wavering on the background for a week or so - I was originally going to do the lace in yellow gold or white gold leaf, or possibly a red glaze, but was not fully at ease with any of these ideas, and as serendipity would have it, while at the National Portrait Gallery a few weeks ago, I saw a portrait of Queen Elizabeth I in which the anonymous artist had rendered a totally gorgeous pattern on her dress using black-on-black: this pattern was not at all visible from a distance or in the reproduction of the painting below. Only by the light in the room and directly in front or to the side of the painting is it really evident that the dress has a floral/print patterned black-on-black:
FYI: This Elizabeth painting is one of a few done around the same time that are referred to as the Clopton portriats, all with generally the same pose (details if you click that link - the Queen was apparently aware of the importance of getting her image "out there" by the way, totally on a side note, I recommend a dual biography about her and Mary Queen of Scots called "Elizabeth and Mary" - a bit of an English slant on the relationship between the two, but enjoyable and, as usual, I digress, but I don't pass up the opportunity to mention a good book here or there).
So, black-on-black it is, and I have a few ways to pull this off, but some Goya contemplation comes first - contemplation on lace, the presence and visual weight of darkness, the magnificent Maja, and then the technical ways and means.
Truth be told, in the end this series of drawings will have everything and then absolutely nothing to do with Goya...
The second Goya self-portrait is started, too - and, thanks to The Great Studio Clean Out, I have all of the above drawings spread out in my newly spacious studio, I can get to all of my art books, and I can easily access that precious circle template...
Currently Reading: Ken Follet: Pillars of the Earth