“The greatness of art is not in the display of knowledge, or in material accuracy, but in the distinctness with which it conveys the impressions of a personal vital force, that acts spontaneously, without fear or hesitation.”
How does your drawing practice inform your thinking?
Creating art comes from thought – which is directed by the intention or desire to create. I try to be thoughtless when I execute a work of art. When I do think – I meditate on paradigms of value, mark making and direction (perspective) as well as composition through intense observation – to help inform the work. This filters into my day-to-day life, even when I am not painting or drawing. I feel the balance and organization of creating a drawing has become infused with my very existence. The search for beauty, excitement, or a certain recognition that all the elements relate in what we see – has become my life’s pursuit.
What do you see as the value of drawing in a larger sense?
Drawing and painting is an invaluable tool for navigating through the world. I feel I am privy to communication with everyone, at all levels of life, not just a few – through my art. My very being is rooted in the fundamental virtues of being an artist, which helps clarify my plight as a creative person. For me it is knowing that the unknown exists, debunking the myth of light and creation, which never ends!
What is the greatest struggle that you see your students work through in your drawing classes and how do you facilitate their learning to grapple with things that come up for them?
The greatest struggle is with being human. The inherent distrust that they have in being the age they are, being away from home, peers, drugs, diet, attitude, etc. I try to inform the students how important it is to purge yourself of these base desires before coming to the easel, to master your thoughts and come prepared –as a fighter or a chef would. I encourage everyone to keep a journal and write out all thoughts before creating, so as not to put your self in the way of being a clear channel.
More technically, tonality (value) and composition are the first two things that rear its ugly head. I tell the students to adopt a prolific master painter, and keep a scrapbook on them. My approach is to pull from what they are doing already, and enhance that through either cropping the image, approaching the marks/graphics differently and/or seeing value mass and relating it to another easier to read value mass. They also have to keep a sketchbook and to use it daily for sketching.
My students have no problem with expression, most can pull an exciting array of line and mark from their brains, once directed to do so. I demonstrate the gamut of creative approaches in demonstration, so as to reveal a multi prong attack on executing something unique and original. I also bring up the aspect of intention and love/passion in my teaching. To have the intention to create something out of inspired energy is tantamount to creative expression and masterful outcome.
It is important for students to be reminded of this, that creativity and life is rooted in love and inspiration.
How does the teaching aspect of your practice affect your professional practice and your own projects?
Teaching for me builds compassion. I am eternally grateful to my students for giving me this lesson. I find the creative means of describing situations or goals/outcomes are far easier when compassion is applied. Teaching is about building inspiration, trust and hope. These are all virtues I try to put back into my work, and in dealings with my business people and partners.
For me painting and drawing are intrinsically connected to my Self and center of being. Through this journey of seeing things by breaking down tone, mass, weight, line, composition, perspective, color, value and expression – I in turn live my life this way – with passion.
I see how detachment from outcome (of art) is most important. To see that the creation has its own life, that we just guide and make it better – is key. I enjoy acknowledging this and giving it meaning through teaching. It is rooted in the journey being the most important aspect to the trip, the outcome will reveal itself in time – we just have to be prepared on our way.
DRAW MORE. Drawing is the most important aspect in painting. As I draw more, I see reason to paint. To just PAINT is to ignore the foundation in which rests the weight of any color. The test is to draw anything, any effect. It does not have to be important, or a message, or a composed scene with trees. Drawing is the net that stops me from plummeting each time I paint. All the hours spent noodling added up to something – not just a label ‘ Painter’. Sometimes I tell people I am a painter, and I want to mean I paint houses, trim, siding. It seems more noble than self absorption. Philosophy is my mainstay, and I know I started to paint/draw based on theologies regarding finding truth without organized religion. I do believe it is a way.
I woke up this morning surrounded by snow. While I have painted several hundred snow scenes, I feel I never quite cracked the color dilemma snow plays on my psyche. Maybe my eyes are going from so many years squinting and observing color? I tend to dive into my knowledge base while painting, but I am not convinced. When I look out the window – I see grey with pockets of whiter than white, white. How to achieve this whiter than white? White is dull and bluish – so add some Cad Orange or high yellow to brighten it up!
I see a lot of violet. A high key of ruby red and cerulean blue mixed with a warm white. Lots of clean strokes and soft transitions. Edges.
How light effects the subject outdoors
Objects diminish as they recede,
Objects start to group together in mass, losing individual identifications.
Light becomes less intense, more grey
The effects of atmosphere on color
Color starts to cool as they go back in space
Yellows drop out first, leaving red as the warm activating value
Blue is the predominate value in spacial color relations as it recedes.
White gets Warmer as it recedes.
On reading about snow – I find it also gets yellower in the distance, and purple in the mid ground, downright bluish in the foreground. The opposite of the ground when it has no snow. Reflected light can take a century to master – especially if you might be color blind!
I paint or draw everyday, as I would drink coffee when I wake up. There are few days I miss, and when I do – I am contemplating color, form, shape, and my work ethic. I do this religiously, and find hope and ‘God’ (for lack of a better term) when I create. Good or bad, it doesn’t matter. There are times when I paint and hate it – hate the color I choose – feel I am not thinking, too heavy headed or achy – not centered. I still trod on, like the lion – toward the unknown food source. I need to eat even when I am sick. I need to paint or draw even when I don’t want to.
For me it is not an issue. This is my life and how I manage to balance it. If I do not drink my coffee – I am off. If I do not paint, I am off. I know the outcome, and see it clear – but fall short of the mark every time I try. Each day I get up and try again. I do not let my lack of sight deter me – and I continually love my muse, if not myself.
The balance of being a full time artist is determined by how much energy I put on spirit, earth and craft. I love what I do but do not always love to do it. I am lazy at times and find myself longing for smaller goals, tiny pursuits – video game mentality. This helps temper the lofty idealism that taints my productivity. When I look at Zorn or Levitan or Rembrandt, I feel I can do that too. Why? Because I am trying. I am failing and then I succeed.
I have been fortunate enough in my life to land on an amazing new home in the Catskills. My art studio is on some of the same lands my predecessors worked, lived and hunted for images. I have given myself over to the plight of the naturalist. I still have a studio in Brooklyn, but my heart is in the woods, with the clouds, the ever-changing riparian water shed zone, the birds and rock – the candy colored clouds in the morning and lighting a fire to stay warm. My love for nature compels me strongly, so strong I have no need to please people – no need to figure others out. I work out my thoughts through the sublimation of light.
DARK version of a drawing created on the last day of Dec. 2013. I am excited to begin this year with the encouragement of light! Dictate my outcome, life. I am in no need of concept, as the light and air around me are enough to keep me busy a lifetime.