Thursday, June 28, 2007

Mushroom

Mushroom, 2007, oil on canvas, 6 x 6 inches
It has been a successful night of painting, and all thanks to Mikey. He slaved away in the kitchen making dinner so that I would have time to paint and put all my energy into my work. Mikey has turned out to be a great inspiration for me in the last couple of days, first talking to me about my work and tonight as well as last night, while he cooked, he gave me good ideas for subject matter. Like never before I made a series of sketches in my new moleskine for future paintings, all ideas I got as he made burgers last night. And tonight as he cooked pasta he got out a pack of mushrooms and started chopping them for the sauce. I looked over and there it was, the painting for today. I stole one of his mushroom so that I could paint this picture.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

A Very Close Look

untitled, 2004, oil on canvas, 48 x 38 inches
Sometimes out of nowhere someone comes into your life for a reason. As cliche as that may sound it is the truth. That seems to have been our motto between me and a few new friends in the past couple of months. New friendships that feel right as we live the little moments in life. I believe this motto, but have never experienced it in all its power, but that's until last night. As I lay in bed facing the painting above, alongside a new special person, I was overwhelmed by the things he saw of me in this painting. I will not go into detail about what was said and what is in this painting or in any other of my works, but for the first time in my life someone saw through me without even looking at me. All he had to do was look at an object I had created. Never had I felt so exposed and yet full of joy as he kept talking about what he saw, a "critique" if you want to call it, that went on through the night. A discourse that left me in tears for quite some time. After a few months of not working, full of fear and insecurity about my work, this special someone comes in and takes the veil off me and with deep powerful, yet simple words he made me see that my work does have a voice. All I have to say to him is: THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Back To Work!

It finally happened! I sat down to work for the first time in more than a month. I was very apprehensive at first, thinking that after being away from the easel for so long I would have forgotten how to apply paint. But everything went smoothly, just like the good old days. Did some work on three pieces, the image above is a new painting I'm starting. Stay tuned for more work since I'm now ready to plow away with my painting. Happy painting everybody! Or happy viewing if you're not a painter!

Friday, June 08, 2007

Joan Mitchell: Works on Paper 1956-1992

Joan Mitchell: Works on Paper 1956-1992 is a recent survey exhibition mounted by Cheim & Read in cooperation with the Joan Mitchell Foundation. This show examines the different stages of the artist's approach to abstraction and how she was able to move from various mediums throughout her long career. Born in 1925 in Chicago Illinois, Mitchell became one of a few successful American female painters of her generation. Along with artist like Lee Krasner, Grace Hartigan, and Helen Frankenthaler they broke ground by showing that women could be just as good as the "boys." As a "Second Generation" Abstract Expressionists, Joan Mitchell became famous for large scale gestural abstractions that combined the energy and intensity of influential painters like Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, and Franz Kline. Her abstractions have always been lyrical depictions of her surrounding spaces, mostly landscapes, taking colors and shapes found in her daily routine. Mitchell's focus was not to depict but to capture energy by pushing and slashing paint around in enigmatic ways, a style that is dense yet open.
Joan Mitchell, untitled, 1956-58, oil on paper, 29 5/8 x 41 1/2 inches
The current exhibition of the artist's work is a more intimate look at her thought process and compositional abilities. The scale of these works on paper, in comparison to her canvas paintings, are smaller and easier to take in. The lines of color are more compact but yet display Mitchell's never decimating energy which flows from piece to piece. Thick and thin dashes of slippery paint move about as she searches for her visions to come to fruition.
Joan Mitchell, untitled, 1958, oil on paper, 29 3/4 x 25 5/8 inches
Joan Mitchell, untitled, 1956, oil on paper, 26 7/8 x 22 3/4 inches
Pieces like the two above represent Mitchell's sense of rhythm and spontaneity. Brushstrokes move in every direction of the surface as a if the artists were in search of something she only knows exists. Dabs, lines and other multicolor marks lay above the open space of the paper. Light and air are accentuated by the untouched negative spaces between the shapes. Leaving the painting surface open was a common practice of Mitchell, this is what brought that much needed sense of air to her work. Unlike Pollock's dense layering of drip applications, Mitchell knew when the surface had enough paint for it to be able to breath.
Joan Mitchell, untitled, 1967-68, pencil, watercolor on paper, 12 x 40 1/2 inches

Joan Mitchell, Pastel, 1991, pastel on paper, 48 x 31 1/2 inches
Joan Mitchell delivered a different effect in her pastel pieces. These compositions become more solid and more violent. The relationship between the lines become more intertwined, they seem to be a strive for a strong statement as opposed to a poem set in motion. Mitchell's pastel outbursts touch upon the naive childlike part of the subconscious, an approach to abstraction practiced by many painters of her time. These energetic compositions are no longer the search for truth Mitchell was after in her early years, but are the solid self assured representations of a mature artist who's hands, with a piece of pastel, would lay down strokes without any regrets.
Joan Mitchell, Pastel, 1991, pastel on paper, 48 x 31 1/2 inches

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Am I Bored?

Artists don't get down to work
until the pain of working is exceeded
by the pain of not working.
-Stephen De Staebler
In the past couple of weeks I have hit some sort of creative wall, an artist's block if you will. I haven't picked up a brush for a long period of time and the thought that I can't seem to get any work done, or that maybe I never will is scaring the hell out of me. So what is the matter? Where am I going wrong?
I have come to a point where I'm starting to look at the body of work I've accomplished in the past three years and can't help feeling that it's looking empty and that it will never matter much to any one except me, or that it will never hang outside the studio walls. Have I become bored with what I do (aesthetically and/or as a craft), or is it fear that's stopping me from heading towards a new direction? Creating new work on a regular basis is a demanding task. Artists do not create out of a moment of inspiration when the angels come down from the heavens and whisper to the artist's ear sweet lullabies. Work gets done when dedication and discipline are established from the beginning. As the work evolves it pulls the artist into a place where clarity and numerous possibilities abound, and the arduous action of art making becomes an ecstatic event. Revealing moments come to fruition as the hand works away in a frantic manner trying to pull an image together from raw materials that are only compatible with the individual artist's sensitivities.
So why is it that I'm depriving myself from this creative high I thought was the only thing I was born to do? It all comes down to lack of discipline and will power. For various reasons distractions have appeared in front of me, like an apple from the Garden of Eden, and being the weak fool I am, I took a huge bite. I've spent some good memorable times in these early days of summer, but I'm starting to pay the high price for it by neglecting my work, in turn setting self loathing levels to a record high. This is not the first time that this happens. In the fall of 2001 I hit my first wall and became angry with my working style. My early still lifes became battered children as I took scissors and palette knifes to tear them from all of their stretcher bars. I was then left with a clean slate to start building on new ideas and approaches. And I must admit it felt good. This time around I will not be attacking my work since my most current paintings required from me a higher degree of craftsmanship, and I don't want to see it trashed. But having these paintings around cloud my head with doubts, they weigh me down and paralyze me as I try to think of new modes of expression. It has all become too comfortable, like a codependent relationship that slowly eats up your spirit. I'm not sure what's next and how to help myself get through this period and perhaps expedite it. All I have to do is get myself in gear an start painting no matter what the mood may be, but that's easier said than done when you feel you're being chocked by your own work.