Friday, November 27, 2009

The Visual Arts ARE NOT an Educational Luxury...

[caption id="attachment_142" align="aligncenter" width="445" caption="16x14x2in.; watercolor, prismacolor pencil, pencil, graphite on birchwood panel 2009"]Primordial Soup #0009 16x14x2in.; watercolor, prismacolor pencil, pencil, graphite on birchwood panel 2009[/caption]

From an article by educator and professor, Daniel Willingham in the Washington Post, quoting Jerry Kagan, on why children don't like school, Six practical reasons arts education is more than a luxury. I paste in the first two reasons:


First, he estimated that something like 95% of children are capable of doing the work necessary to obtain a high school diploma, yet the dropout rate hovers around 25%. Too many of these students quit because they decide (usually in about the fourth grade) that school is not the place for them. This decision is based largely on their perception of their performance in reading and mathematics. The arts, Kagan argues, offers such students another chance to feel successful, and to feel that they belong at school.

Second, Kagan argues that children today have very little sense of agency—that is, the sense that they undertake activities that have an impact on the world, however small. Kagan notes that as a child he had the autonomy to explore his town on his own, something that most parents today would not allow. When not exploring, his activities were necessarily of his own design, whereas children today would typically watch television or roam the internet, activities that are frequently passive and which encourage conformity. The arts, Kagan argues, offer that sense of agency, of creation.

Johns Hopkins University and the Dana Foundation hosted a conference titled “Neuroeducation: Learning, Arts and the Brain.” As the title implies, the goal was to bring together researchers considering, from an educational point of view, the impact of the arts on the brain. A book-length summary of the May conference just became available as a free pdf, available here.

As a shy, but extremely curious, very hard-of-hearing girl, art classes and self-guided tours in museums in Chicago gave me the confidence to meet the world. The image is my latest watercolor on birchwood panel, 16x14x1-3/4in., from the "Simkhes Toyre" series.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Who Does The Stuff Belong To-Part II...

[caption id="attachment_801" align="alignleft" width="208" caption="Nefertiti, not from around here"]Nefertiti[/caption]

Per a recent article in the New York Times re the ongoing fulminations of the Egyptian Minister of Antiquities, Dr. Zahi Hawass, demanding that Nefertiti be returned to him, by John Tierney of November 16, 2009, referring to the position of the director of our own Art Institute of ChicagoJames Cuno:


“As the director of the Art Institute of Chicago, Dr. Cuno has his own obvious motives for acquiring foreign antiquities, and he makes no apology for wanting to display Middle Eastern statues to Midwesterners.”

““It is in the nature of our species to connect and exchange,” Dr. Cuno writes. “And the result is a common culture in which we all have a stake. It is not, and can never be, the property of one modern nation or another.””

The Renaissance, wherein the west climbed out of the dark ages into the light, would not have happened without a serious examination of the Greek and Roman antiquities. It is time for the inheritors of past empires to stop feeling guilty for the wrongs committed in history. Sending Nefertiti to Egypt from the newly rebuilt Neues Museum in Berlin, (which is, by the way, in its own right, a remarkable story of rising out of historical ashes) is in no way a return to a rightful owner, nor does it in any way expiate old sins.

We must all enjoy and learn from our collective histories, not stake out specific territories of ethno-centric meaning. Down that path is cultural isolation, down that path is the destruction of the Buddhas at Bamiyan, for instance.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Who Does The Stuff Belong To?

 

[caption id="attachment_799" align="aligncenter" width="600" caption="Viewing the Elgin Marbles"]Viewing the Elgin Marbles[/caption]

Derek Fincham, honcho of the blog, Illicit Cultural Property quotes Michael Kimmelman in his recent New York Times article, Michael Kimmelman,When Ancient Artifacts Become Political Pawns, The New York Times, October 24, 2009, as follows:

"So argues Michael Kimmelman in the New York Times in describing the recent calls for repatriation of works of art. He takes as examples the recent repatriation claims made by Egypt against Germany and France. He makes two points that I'd like to draw out of the article."

"First, he claims that globalization has intensified "cultural differences" between nations. This allows nationalism to "exploit culture". He may be correct in some cases, but he fails to note that the frescoes returned by the Louvre had been purchased recently, with little history. Given what we know about the antiquities trade, this means they were likely illegally exported or looted."

"Second, he argues these claims are often based on emotion. That is certainly true in some cases, because after all works of art are often designed to conveyemotion. One example of this would be Scotland's desire for the return of the Lewis Chessmen. But not all of these claims are without merit. Moreover, why is it that only claimant nations are "emotional". Are not museums and other groups "emotional" when they make arguments that works of art should stay where they are currently situated? Kimmelman makes the argument that justice has shifted. But I think that is a good thing. We are closer to better justice for all nations, not merely the wealthier market nations via International treaties like the 1970 UNESCO Convention, and important decisions like the Schultz and Barakat decisions in the United States and the United Kingdom."

The Damien Hirst Problem

[caption id="attachment_797" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Damien Hirst"]Damien Hirst[/caption]

Fabled and much feted art bad boy Damien Hirst opened his newest paintings to the dismay of the critics.


The London Telegraph's critic, Mark Hudson, said in a headline "It couldn't get worse for Damien": Here, Hirst's daubs have been hung on walls newly lined in blue silk at a cost of £250,000, close to, if not actually alongside works by Titian, Rembrandt, Velasquez and Poussin. The result has been one of the most unanimously negative responses to any exhibition in living memory. Sarah Crompton, writing in this paper, was one of the kinder critics, finding the paintings merely "thin and one note". "Deadly dull, amateurish", wrote the Guardian's critic. "Not worth looking at", said the Independent. "Dreadful", pronounced The Times.

"Not to like the dipsy wild-card Tracey Emin, self-styled bad boys Jake and Dinos Chapman and the spectacularly vacuous Sam Taylor-Wood was simply to be out of touch. Never mind that most of their supposed innovations had been made by other artists, most of whom had stayed poor, decades before. Ordering his art to be made by other people over the telephone, which earned Hirst such admiration and notoriety in the 1990s, had been done by the Hungarian artist Laszlo Moholy-Nagy in 1924. Indeed, the very name is telling: while the names of other modern art movements, from Cubism to Pop, tell you about their intentions, the term YBA says nothing more than that they were young and British."

"No, the groundbreaking aspects of the YBA phenomenon related almost exclusively to money and celebrity. When people look back to the initial "Freeze" exhibition, it's to the fact that the catalogue of a student show was sponsored by property developers Olympia & York. The actual content of the exhibition is rarely mentioned. The entire meaning of Hirst's diamond-encrusted skull is embodied in its price. The title, For the Love of God, is meaningless spin."

The Time's critic was even nastier: "And here's where Damien's work goes off the historical track, or more rather exemplifies the immoral roller coaster we've been riding, only to fall off in the current bursted bubble. The work of Hirst and the YBAs celebrate nothing bigger than the bloated egos of the money people, exalted no higher ideals than money and celebrity."

To my mind, here's the big ah-ooof, Hirst actually painted all these paintings himself and the gimmick of hiring others to execute is gone. Vanished. The critics can't get over it. The alleged novelty of hiring others gone. Silly critics, silly Damien. Art and artists have always been collaborative. Artists and their patrons have always hired services, vendors and expertise. It was only in the late 19th and early 20th centuries that the myth of the lone, starving artist wove its way into our narrative. Rembrandt, Michelangelo, Vermeer used assistants. Picasso's lithographs and etchings were pulled by master printmakers. I myself have hired fabricators to make panels for my big drawings and paintings. Damien Hirst was always right, and he's still right, in this regard, it is okay for an artist to present his ideas via whatever means he/she chooses. It doesn't matter whose hand makes the work. The thing that matters, that has always mattered, is the idea. Then decide if the shark in formadelhyde matters, if the diamond encrusted skull matters, if the paintings painted by the actual hand of Damien Hirst matter.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Why Don't More People Collect Art?

[caption id="attachment_214" align="alignleft" width="201" caption="Rainbow's End, 44x30in., pencil, prismacolor, charcoal, oil stick, oil wash on 90# white Stonehenge, 2009"]Rainbow's End, 44x30in., pencil, prismacolor, charcoal, oil stick, oil wash on 90# white Stonehenge, 2009[/caption]

Hat tip to Lisa Boumstein-Smalley, in Chicago Now, Gallery Director Chicago Art Source Gallery.

Here's her explanation of why more people don't collect art: It's our own damn fault that more people aren't collecting art. I choose to embrace the fact that it's not easy for some people to get over the intimidation hump, and that truly they want to have cool/beautiful/smart/evocative artwork on their walls without getting roped into a huge involvement of the artist community. I am confident that we can do better as a community because when a pedestrian turns into a first time collector, everybody wins. That's a beautiful thing.

Of course, the image is a "collectible," Rainbow's End, 2009, by Nancy Charak, 44"x30", oil, wash, pencil, on 90# white Stonehenge.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Henry Moore Elephant Skull Etchings

[caption id="attachment_789" align="aligncenter" width="600" caption="Henry Moore"]Henry Moore[/caption]

Deb and I went to the Block Museum on the campus of Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, yesterday; we looked at Henry Moore's etching series on an elephant skull. In the process I learned and relearned an important lesson on looking and seeing and drawing.

[caption id="attachment_790" align="aligncenter" width="600" caption="Henry Moore"]Henry Moore[/caption]

An inscription on the wall of the exhibit quoted this from Henry Moore: "You may think you are observing an object carefully when you stand in front of it, but you really look much more intensely if you draw it. . .because then you have to look very searchingly to understand its shape."

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Bridget Riley on Drawing and Painting

Bridget Riley has some wonderful things to say about drawing and painting in an article with the lovely title of "At the End of My Pencil," in the London Review of Books.

[caption id="attachment_786" align="aligncenter" width="600" caption="Bridget Riley"]Bridget Riley[/caption]

For me, drawing is an inquiry, a way of finding out – the first thing that I discover is that I do not know. This is alarming even to the point of momentary panic. Only experience reassures me that this encounter with my own ignorance – with the unknown – is my chosen and particular task, and provided I can make the required effort the rewards may reach the unimaginable. It is as though there is an eye at the end of my pencil, which tries, independently of my personal general-purpose eye, to penetrate a kind of obscuring veil or thickness. To break down this thickness, this deadening opacity, to elicit some particle of clarity or insight, is what I want to do.This practice is rooted in my experience of drawing from the nude and from nature. But I found it could be moved across surprisingly easily to the elements of abstract painting, centering as it does on inquiry and what happens down there on the paper. I have always believed that those ‘ultimate’ statements of the great protagonists of abstract art were, in fact, declarations of new radical beginnings. Would those principles and geometric forms really yield the riches dreamed of? Or would they prove a block to creative will and passion? But, in art, prohibitions and denials are always a challenge and a powerful spur to inquiry.

[caption id="attachment_787" align="aligncenter" width="600" caption="Bridget Riley"]Bridget Riley[/caption]

Perhaps the time I had spent drawing allowed me to trust the eye at the end of my pencil.Movement in Squares (1961) began in this way. It came at the end of a time of great difficulty for me. I had very nearly lost the studio, and even when I managed to secure it, I had no real sense of what to do there. Although I had taken a few steps in the direction of abstract painting, I had not yet arrived at a point where I could establish a dialogue. One evening on my way to the studio, I thought of drawing a square. Everyone knows what a square looks like and how to make one in geometric terms. It is a monumental, highly conceptualised form: stable and symmetrical, equal angles, equal sides. I drew the first few squares. No discoveries there. Was there anything to be found in a square? But as I drew, things began to change. Quite suddenly something was happening down there on the paper that I had not anticipated. I continued, I went on drawing; I pushed ahead, both intuitively and consciously. The squares began to lose their original form. They were taking on a new pictorial identity. I drew the whole ofMovement in Squares without a pause and then, to see more clearly what was there, I painted each alternate space black. When I stepped back, I was surprised and elated by what I saw. The painting Movement in Squares came directly out of this study. My experience of working with the square was to prove crucial. Having been lately becalmed, now a strong wind filled my sails.

We Were Switched from Lead to Zinc White Because....

Everyone knows that lead white is poisonous and thus had to have been banned. So all the manufacturers of both common house paint and artists' paints switched to zinc whites. Now, there's no evidence that lead whites poisoned artists, but became dangerous in the modern era when used as house paint. Now a study from the Smithsonian Museum's Conservation Institute quoted by George O'Hanlon for Rublev Natural Pigments has bad news for artists using zinc whites. It becomes brittle and cracks easily after a mere 28 years.

The article concludes:
"Paints made with zinc oxide and drying oils become extremely brittle in as little as three years. Paints containing zinc oxide exhibit severe delaminating problems after drying and especially zinc oxide paint on acrylic emulsion grounds. Even commercial lead white and titanium white oil paints containing zinc oxide become quite brittle after seven years of drying ... Mecklenburg and Tumosa's paper forewarns us about the potential problems with oil paints containing zinc white commonly used by artists today. Artists may choose to ignore the report and continue using zinc in their paintings -- perhaps at their own peril. Whatever the choice, the paper helps artists gain a better understanding of the materials used in their work."

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Art When Museum and Curator Index it as Such

THE LIMITS OF LICENCE AT SAM: Artist-cum-security-guard Amanda Mae has caused a stir in Seattle after she pushed the limits of a participatory Yoko Ono piece at theSeattle Art Museum (SAM). Ono’s seminalPainting to Hammer a Nail is a small panel with a hammer hanging next to it, and a wall label that encourages visitors to "pound a nail into this painting" (the very artwork that, according to legend, brought Ono and John Lennon together). Hammer a Nail is featured in "Target Practice: Painting Under Attack 1949-78," June 25-Sept. 7, 2009, an exhibition that showcases works that "deconstruct painting in order to usher in a new way of thinking" -- though, apparently, this new way of thinking has some strict limits of its own.

Let me see if I've got this right; Yoko Ono and the museum grant the museum visitor the privilege of nailing a piece of paper next to the work on the wall, but not to allow a different artist to remove the papers and place them on the floor neatly with the stated intent of archiving scraps. So, one performance artist cannot "undo" or alter the work of another performance piece, that's where the sacredness of the "object" is encountered.

At SAM, someone had the idea -- whether it was a museum official or a member of the public is disputed -- of using the license granted by Ono’s work to nail a piece of paper to the museum wall next to it. In short order, the piece was surrounded by a dense ring of announcements, receipts, business cards and other detritus that visitors had posted, all under the museum’s approving gaze. Informed about the paper-hanging, Ono stipulated that it was acceptable as long as the scraps were preserved as part of the work, and returned with it.

On Aug. 20, Mae -- who in addition to working at SAM, also makes performance-based photo art, and is about to start a graduate program in museum studies at the University of Washington, according to Stranger art critic Jen Graves -- decided to take things a step further. She set up in front of the work and began to remove all of the pieces of paper, categorizing them in neat piles for archiving. Mae dubbed her own performance Yoko Ono Excavation Survey, or Y.E.S. After a half hour, SAM curator Michael Darling arrived, and ordered Mae to halt. The next day, she was fired.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Blackbird. . .

[caption id="attachment_215" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Drawing by Nancy Charak, 2009, "Blackbird," 30"x44", pencil, prismacolor, oil wash on 90# white Stonehenge."]Shipwrecked on an Unknown Shore, pencil, prismacolor, oil wash on 90# white Stonehenge, 2009[/caption]

Blackbird


(A Riff on a Wallace Stevens’ Poem)

Because it was dark

all afternoon, because

it was snowing and

would continue to

snow, the Muse

decided she wanted

to be a blackbird,

wanted to sit in the

cedar-limbs, look

across the great

white vastness that

is her.

Here she is in a field

of white snow. She

has always been a

Taoist.

Look how beautiful

she is in her coat of

black feathers. She

could be a tarred

angel hanging from

a tree branch, could

be a rotting corpse

with a lolled tongue.

Cut her down! She

will fly up again,

become a magnolia

blossom stunned by

a snow storm.

She will smell of

death and burnt

feathers then, but

is she not beautiful?

She is like an icon

of the beloved black

Virgin Mary. Don’t

put a gold frame around

her. Set her free.

Poem by Jenene Ravesloot

 

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Slow Looking, Slow Down....Take Your Time

Spend more than a minute looking at one painting; you don't have to get in all of your lifetime's art history requirement in in just one day at the Art Institute, the Met or the Louvre; you can slow down; it's a new movement akin to slow food, slow art.



Read this from the New York Times....

Cameras replaced sketching by the last century; convenience trumped engagement, the viewfinder afforded emotional distance and many people no longer felt the same urgency to look. It became possible to imagine that because a reproduction of an image was safely squirreled away in a camera or cell phone, or because it was eternally available on the Web, dawdling before an original was a waste of time, especially with so much ground to cover.

We could dream about covering lots of ground thanks to expanding collections and faster means of transportation. At the same time, the canon of art that provided guideposts to tell people where to go and what to look at was gradually dismantled. A core of shared values yielded to an equality among visual materials. This was good and necessary, up to a point. Millions of images came to compete for our attention. Liberated by a proliferation, Western culture was also set adrift in an ocean of passing stimulation, with no anchors to secure it.

So tourists now wander through museums, seeking to fulfill their lifetime’s art history requirement in a day, wondering whether it may now be the quantity of material they pass by rather than the quality of concentration they bring to what few things they choose to focus upon that determines whether they have “done” the Louvre. It’s self-improvement on the fly.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Think About Judith Leyster....

[caption id="attachment_772" align="aligncenter" width="600" caption="Judith Leyster, self-portrait"]Judith Leyster, self-portrait[/caption]

Think about Judith Leyster, a great woman artist 1609-1660. The link is from the New York Times review of an exhibit at the National Gallery of Art.
Think of “Judith Leyster, 1609-1660” at theNational Gallery of Art as a 400-year-old answer to the art historian Linda Nochlin’s famous question “Why have there been no great women artists?”

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

On the Passing of Merce Cunningham

Merce Cunningham, legendary choreographer and dancer, died at the ripe age of 90. His obituary in the New York Times has a quote from him about his dancer's life and passion, which is so different from what I do as a visual artist. I tell people I am a mark-maker, that I make things. I make some effort to ensure that my artworks can potentially survive me by using archival methods and materials. Cunningham's greatness lies in his understanding of the ephemerality of what he was doing.
Mr. Cunningham often spoke and wrote movingly about the nature of dance and would laugh about its maddening impermanence. “You have to love dancing to stick to it,” he once wrote. “It gives you nothing back, no manuscripts to store away, no paintings to show on walls and maybe hang in museums, no poems to be printed and sold, nothing but that single fleeting moment when you feel alive.”

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Colors Exploding Like Dynamite

[caption id="attachment_769" align="aligncenter" width="512" caption="Ellsworth Kelly, Spectrum I 1953"]Ellsworth Kelly, Spectrum I 1953[/caption]

This is the way I feel about Ellsworth Kelly's paintings. I think many misunderstand his intentions and think that the work is about creating optics vibrating at the edges. I think not, I think he wants the colors to be big and bright and to explode into the viewer's consciousness.

Here's a quote from Tate Etc. from him:

"In the 1960s the Minimalists’ work was considered to be more or less what it is. The painting or sculpture represents itself. I feel that ten years earlier, starting in 1950, I was struggling with exactly the same problem. Colors for a Large Wallconstructed of 64 separate panels becomes a “painting object” that separates the form – the painting – and the ground, which becomes the wall. The edge of one panel next to another panel is not the same as one colour painted next to another colour on a single canvas. When I want to do a painting with one colour overlapping another, it has to be a real overlap, not a depicted overlap. I didn’t want to paint an overlap, meaning that it would be a deception or illusion."

"In Europe at the beginning of the twentieth century, the Fauves – Matisse,Derain – were using bright colours in their full intensity, which continued with Kandinsky, Malevich, Kirchner, L├ęger and Mondrian. They employed all the colours of the spectrum. In the 1940s and 1950s the majority of the Abstract Expressionists in New York rebelled against this European use of colour and mostly used mixed colours. That is, the Abstract Expressionists did use bright colours sometimes, but they tended to paint wet-on-wet, which muddled their hues. As Matisse would say, a small patch of any one colour is far less intense than a large one of the same colour. I returned in 1954 to New York and showed paintings done in France at the Betty Parsons Gallery in 1956 with bright colours that wouldn’t really be used until the Pop artists in the 1960s. My idea of using colour at its full intensity, which began with Colors for a Large Wall, hasn’t changed in the 60 years that I’ve been painting."

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Painting of the Day....

Nancy Charak, 2009, "I Found It Just Like You Find Anything Else, I Stopped Looking," pencil, prismacolor, oil wash, oil stick on 90# white Stonhenge.

[caption id="attachment_767" align="alignleft" width="203" caption="Nancy Charak, 2009, "I Found It Just Like You Find Anything Else, I Stopped Looking," pencil, prismacolor, oil wash, oil stick on 90# white Stonhenge."]Nancy Charak, 2009, "I Found It Just Like You Find Anything Else, I Stopped Looking," pencil, prismacolor, oil wash, oil stick on 90# white Stonhenge.[/caption]

Saturday, July 11, 2009

On Behalf of My Pencils

I have lost count of how many pencils I have, how many I work with. Here's a picture of my "guys."


Here also is a link to a story about how pencils are made, and the mystery of their creation in that no one person can make one, it is a global endeavor.

From The Freeman, Ideas About Liberty. . .


I, Pencil


By Leonard E. Read • May 1996 • Volume: 46 • Issue: 5
My family tree begins with what in fact is a tree, a cedar of straight grain that grows in Northern California and Oregon. Now contemplate all the saws and trucks and rope and the countless other gear used in harvesting and carting the cedar logs to the railroad siding. Think of all the persons and the numberless skills that went into their fabrication: the mining of ore, the making of steel and its refinement into saws, axes, motors; the growing of hemp and bringing it through all the stages to heavy and strong rope; the logging camps with their beds and mess halls, the cookery and the raising of all the foods. Why, untold thousands of persons had a hand in every cup of coffee the loggers drink!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Pay Me Now, Help the Economy Tomorrow

Here's a good way to stimulate the economy; buy my art; buy art from LIVING ARTISTS BECAUSE..... "When artists get cash, they spend it both quickly and carefully."

Felix Salmon writes in this month's issue of The Atlantic that a good way to jump start the economy would be to pay the artists, who are among the very poorest citizens. "We’re living in a newly frugal world. But the rediscovered values of thrift and moderation should apply to the government as much as they do to households. No more trillion-dollar misadventures abroad: we need to spend money at home, and we need to get the maximum bang for our buck. If the Obama administration is serious about stimulating the economy and creating as many new jobs as possible, one choice is clear: it should announce a massive increase in federal arts funding. Artists are among the very poorest citizens. When they get cash, they spend it both quickly and carefully."That’s not what most recipients of federal largesse do, but it happens to be exactly what economists look for in any stimulus package.

Free to the Public = Sense of Ownership?

Here's a link to an article in artdaily.org with the wonderful title of "Free Admission Boosts Sense of Public Ownership of National Museums in the UK".

Key quotes from the article; to which I would add, when you take money out of the public till, have respect for the public beyond catering to the lowest common denominator, treat them with respect.....

  • Free admission is valued and seen as a key element of public ownership.

  • Free admission is much valued – and makes the concept of ‘public ownership’ real.

  • Free admission does not of itself mean people think museums and galleries are places for them to visit. Government and museums should make every effort to find out what ‘barriers to entry’ still exist in our museums and galleries. The research highlighted some clear social and educational barriers that need to be tackled.

  • Better storytelling can involve the public and make art more approachable. Even apparently remote and difficult works can be made accessible relatively quickly - but the effort needs to be made.


The public should be encouraged to ask questions and interrogate decisions made on their behalf. Being asked what they think helps people feel a greater connection to the art collections they own, and may be a crucial first step in attracting support for fundraising campaigns. Engaging the public in debate about collecting need not undermine the expert curator’s role. Galleries don’t need to be frightened to ask people what they think, because if the effort is made to engage people, they are happy to leave decisions to experts.

Andrew Macdonald, Acting Director of The Art Fund said: "Free admission has established itself in people’s minds as the cornerstone of what it means to have art owned by the public. Galleries can still feel intimidating or elitist, but those barriers disappear when they engage us in the human stories behind the art in our national collections."

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Women at the Museum? Why Not?

"NEW YORK—A couple of weeks ago, New York magazine art critic Jerry Saltz unleashed a torrent of discussion in the arts blogosphere when he posted a status update on his Facebook page: "Of the 383 works on the 4th & 5th flrs. of MoMA's perm. coll., only 19 are by women (4%)," he wrote. Saltz went on to elaborate that he feels "MoMA has declared itself a hostile witness" and to ask the museum to address the issue."

Why, oh why, do WE have to keep saying LOOK AT US, WE'RE HERE!  WE'RE NOT EFFING INVISIBLE!

From ArtFagCity, here's a list of artists the MOMA has but not on display...

Here is a list of 57 women artists already owned by MoMA, none of whom are on exhibit on the 4th & 5th flrs. perm. collection (work before 1970):


Alice Neel, Georgia O’Keefe, Florine Stettheimer, Joan Mitchell, Hannah Hoch, Anni Albers, Louise Nevelson, Claude Cahan, Leonora Carrington, Leonor Fine, Dora Maar, Lee Miller, Jo Baer, Elaine de Kooning, Romaine Brooks, Ree Morton, Howardena Pindell, Paula Modersohn-Becker, Alma Thomas, Emma Kunz, Eileen Gray, Clementine Hunter, Adrian Piper, Dorthea Rockburne, Lee Lozano, Vija Celmins, Maria Lassnig, Gego, Helen Frankenthaler, Grace Hartigan, Maya Deren, Pat Steir, Hedda Stern, Barbara Hepworth, Gwen John, Jay DeFeo, Jane Freiliecher, Minnie Evans, Merit Oppenheim, Betty Parsons, Bridget Riley, Claire Zeisler, Kay Sage, Grandma Moses, Sister Gertrude, Hilla AfKlimnt, Niki de Saint-Phalle, Dorothea Tanning, Janet Sobel, Atsuko Tanaka, Francoise Gilot, Anne Truitt, Ruth Vollmer, Jane Wilson, Sylvia Sleigh, Paula Rego, Marguerite Zorach.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Why Getting To Be an Older Artist is Good

Happy birthday to me. I'm making the progression tomorrow, June 6, from what I've been calling "60 and a half" to 61 years old. Here's a link from an article on a blog reviewing a book about the value of being an older artist. The blog is titled Ancient Artist....by Sue Smith.

But I recently started reading a book by Martin S. Lindauer, titled AGING, CREATIVITY, AND ART, A Positive Perspective on Late-Life Development.

According to Lindauer, there are seven characteristics that distinguish "old artists and late art from young artists and youthful efforts."

  • "Older artists have more knowledge and are less career oriented.

  • "They also have less energy - the only case where older artists were at a disadvantage to younger ones..."

  • "...which they compensated for with greater maturity, concentration, and self-acceptance."

  • "Older artists were also less critical than their younger counterparts."

  • "However, in two areas, creativity and experimentation, older artists were seen as equal to younger practitioners." (2003, pp.187-188)



Happy birthday to me and to all of us older working, productive artists.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Creative Stifle

How to be an artist? Or more rather how not to be an artist? Yes, be afraid, be very afraid of being ridiculed, laughed at and questioned as to your sanity. Be afraid of being analyzed, asked questions like "have you stopped making the black paintings because you're not depressed anymore?" Or, can you make it to fit my couch in my colors, lilac and lavender?

We deliberately stifle our own creativity and those of others who dare.

From an article in HR Magazine of August 1999 reviewing a book enitled "Orbiting the Giant Hairball."

The first chapter dares to ask how society has managed to stifle genius and hamper creativity even among schoolchildren. When MacKenzie visited elementary schools to talk about his job, he asked the students how many of them were artists. Although almost all of the first-graders said yes, only one or two sixth-graders claimed to be artists. Adults too can unleash their creative genius if they are strong enough to risk ridicule and challenge the status quo.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

No Whining re Modern Wing Today

The Modern Wing at the Art Institute of Chicago is spectacular, a must see. I'm quoting from Paul Klein's Art Letter post below:

"The opening of the Modern wing at the Art Institute is significant cause for joyous celebration.  The building is beautiful, the space dramatic and the installation sensitive and informative.  Not forced or artificial like I’ve seen too often, here are pairings and groupings where important pieces inform one another and rooms are dedicated to a single artist.  Enlightening. I felt like a tourist dropped in an unknown, thoughtful, considered, glorious, confident, consummate museum.  And then I looked out the window. I was at home."

I entered the Modern Wing via the bridge from Millennium Park over the street. The whole setting from the Gehry bandshell past the Anish Kapoor "Bean" past the Pritzker Foundation to the third floor entry to the Art Institute constitutes one of the most magnificent and yet friendly public spaces in the world. Like Paul Klein I was home. I saw many, many old friends on display, paintings that had been out of sight for years. The building is suffused with a magnificent light throughout that makes the paintings glow and pulsate. Unlike the huge, intimidating entry hall at the Tate Gallery London Turbine Room, the main entry hall is large without being oversized, and is light and airy. The work throughout is grouped and hung so that they are easily seen and awed at. Gerhard Richter has his own room, the Giacommetis dance in their space, the Joseph Cornell boxes are back.

I don't know if it's worth the admission fee, you know how I feel about that, but geesh, go there, it's been a long wait.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

837 Words from Art Institute of Chicago re Entry Fee

Here it is, 837 words on the Art Institute of Chicago's admission fee structure starting TODAY, May 23, 2009...not merely is this link from the Art Institute's own website, but I pulled it via an article in Modern Art Notes called "Museum Cannibalism: Pricing Out Visitors."


Just as young people, the middle-class and the less fortunate can least afford access to the great collections in Philadelphia and Chicago, their museums are making it harder for people to visit.

For the museums it comes down to simple math: Endowments are down, government grants are down and private donors and foundations apparently aren't inclined to give enough to prevent admissions hikes. Museums are facing a tough decision: Cut (even more) staff, or raise admissions costs. Philadelphia and Chicago are (in part) choosing to maintain staff and other infrastructure instead of maintaining public access at current price levels.

The problem with looking to admissions costs as the place to make up revenue is this: Admissions are not substantial contributors to most museums' bottom lines. At the Philly Museum, for example, admissions made up just 3.2 percent of program-related expenditures in FY 2006.

At Chicago it's a little bit different; few major museums are more reliant on admissions for revenue. Nine percent of AIC's FY 2006 museum-based expenses were covered by admissions fees, down from 11.2 percent the year before. Yesterday the museum admitted to the Chicago Tribune that the increase was 'needed' because the AIC had to cover operating costs, which have risen (in part) because the AIC is opening a new addition this year. AIC director James Cuno effectively argued that because the museum has more space and higher operating expenses because of the addition, visitors -- who didn't green-light the AIC's expansion -- have to pay for it.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Roles of Our Local Museums in Chicago?

From an article in The Art Newspaper announcing the opening of the Art Institute of Chicago's Modern Wing.

(Chicago also has a Museum of Contemporary Art, but its director, Madeleine Grynsztejn, considers the institutions’ roles complementary rather than competitive. “The MCA creates art history and the Art Institute summarises it,” she said.)
Wow, the certainty of Grynsztejn's statement truly frightens me. I've been to the MCA a number of times and find that institution to be woefully wanting. The work on exhibit is frequently obscure, difficult to understand and intellectually inaccessible.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Who The Hell Does She Think She Is?

For every woman who was complimented by a professor who told her that her work was just like a man's, for every woman who was asked by well meaning men if she could balance family and art. Who the hell doesn't have problems balancing? And it's not about the illusory genes thing, it's about allowing serious artists to make their work and attempt to be recognized. It's as simple as that people.
A movie called Who Does She Think She Is?

Schools Kill Creativity

From the website TED.com, not related to the airlines, British educator Ken Robinson talks about how schools kill creativity; it's worth 20 minutes of your life to click, watch and listen.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Why Museums NEED to be FREE!

[caption id="attachment_745" align="alignleft" width="400" caption="Jacob Lawrence, "Ballots""]Jacob Lawrence, "Ballots"[/caption]

Because the Met and the Harlem Library nurtured the young Jacob Lawrence. From an article in Arts Journal.com. "He [Jacob Lawrence] also accompanied various mentors on trips to downtown galleries and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, eventually going by himself on foot, 60 blocks south of his home territory. While still a teenager, he developed an appreciation of early Renaissance art, the murals of Jose Orozco and the paintings of Arthur DoveJohn Marin and Kathe Kollwitz."
"I think of Lawrence whenever museums rise their admission fees. He remembered the MET being free. He wanted to go, and the Met let him in. (Robert Frost: Home is the place where, when you have to go there,They have to take you in.)"

Here is an Art Journal article that talks about the Art Institute of Chicago's disgusting and vile plan to raise their admissions prices. In the interest of full disclosure I am a member at the lowest possible yearly rate.   The best compromise is to adopt a pay what you can policy AND encourage memberships but leave the door open.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Good Art Day Today



Finished this one today! "No Two Lines the Same," 2009, 30"x44", graphite on 90# white Stonehenge.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Art on the South Side of Chicago!

Last Thursday, March 26th, attended a panel discussion at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago which featured Joyce OwensLowell ThompsonNatalie MooreAndre Guichard and Patrick Rivers, organized by Quiana Burwell, all discussing the notion of the "Invisible Artist: Creators from Chicago's Southside."

First,  in the disclaimer department I'm a northsider (and a Cubs fan) born and bred.<

The genesis for the panel was the notion that at the School of the Art Institute students are not pointed or directed to art, artists and art-life on the south side of Chicago. The short answer is that there very much is life, art, artists and art-life south of Roosevelt Road. The long answer as to why the art-school and general public at large have a different and possibly negative perception lies in a multitude of answers, many of which are racist and which I won't go into here.

I want rather to look at the question that Quiana posed which is why did the school not point its majority and minority students south of Roosevelt. My thought is that perhaps it would have been nice, but it is my general unscientific not backed up by any type of data but just anecdotes that the Art Institute and its school are not interested in Chicago art. The school is a machine for matriculating and graduating huge numbers of artists who then make whatever way they can in the world, as artists or not.

I also posit that art schools and major art institutions have serious significant relationships with power, be that money and politics. All I had to do was look out the window of the room that the panel was held in, the former ballroom of the former Chicago Athletic Club to see the Pritzker fountain to the left and immediately across the street to the main entrance of the Art Institute itself, where when you walk in, you are flanked by the bronze plaques of the donors and major endowers of the place, Swift, Armor, Medill, Patterson, some of whose fortunes were made on the backs of underpaid, under-privileged migrants the world over.

Which brings me to my next point, we were all, all of us, so privileged to be there, to be able to complain, while we still live in one of the most prosperous countries on earth, have full bellies, have the means to make art and to try to sell it, under the auspices of an art-school that has a director of multi-cultural affairs as a panel leader.

It occurs to me that my African-American artist brothers and sisters want the same things I want, the means to make art and the means to sell it, to gain some recognition for it. Bless us all.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

James Mesple at Printworks

[caption id="attachment_733" align="alignleft" width="350" caption="James Mesple, "sol and equus""]Mesple sol and equus[/caption]Next Friday night, March 27th, get yourselves over to Printworks Gallery, 311 West Superior Street, Chicago between 7 and 9 pm to see James Mesple's works on paper. Mythic, lyrical, enchanting, other-worldly, precious and yet pungent are some of my thoughts on seeing his work. This one is entitled "Sol and Equus," mixed media on paper, 12"x20".

Too Much Academia in the Arts?

Dana Gioia, a former poet laureate of the United States, has lamented in a May 1991 article in the Atlantic Monthly that as the number of poets, published poets and academic study of poetry has bloomed, the numbers of the public reading and appreciating poetry has plummeted. He attributes this largely to the academization of the study and production of poetry. This process has isolated this art-form to a subculture of the public at large.

I contend that much the same has happened to the visual arts. MFAs abound everywhere and are seen as a key to university jobs and even acceptance by gallerists as proof of artistic achievement. Note, however, that the quality of instructors is high, even in locations and institutions far from the art-centers, New York, Los Angeles and even my beloved Chicago. If you take an art class you will find a good teacher.

But the visual arts, like poetry, have been consigned to the status of a subculture, largely unimportant to the people at large, except when a piece or an artist astounds and offends and is seen as somehow having been paid for out of the public purse.

Further, the visual arts have been isolated in the subculture of the high-end hedge fundies who drove the prices so high as to render relative value absolutely meaningless.

Why should anyone care? Why do I care? I make art no matter what and I make art in spite of my MFA from a university degree factory. I spent years unlearning what I learned at that program so that I could find my own 'visual voice.' I care, we all should care, because we are part of the human condition, we comment on it, we are.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Art & Fear II

Another quote from the book Art & Fear by Bayles and Orland that I refer to in my previous post. On page 79 they quote Howard Ikemoto as follows:

"When my daughter was about seven years old, she asked me one day what I did at work. I told her I worked at the college--that my job was to teach people how to draw."

"She stared back at me, incredulous, and said 'You mean they forget?"

"To the artist, art is a verb." (page 90). I think that's the crux of why the non-artists find us artists to be strange and often crazy; we haven't forgotten how to draw, how to make art and we are much less afraid of failing to make a good drawing. We know we are going to make bad art, we will make work that will not satisfy us, whether or not we show that work to the outside. The "outsiders" don't understand that and they insist on labeling art as a "talent." Talent doesn't go far without the work; it goes nowhere.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Art & Fear

Art & Fear from an artist's perspective, not the viewer's. I am reading Art & Fear: Observations on the perils (and rewards) of artmaking by David Bayles and Ted Orland (1993, Image Continuum Press), which I picked up this morning at my local library.

We artists are plagued by doubts and fears. These fears fall into two general categories, fears about ourselves and about our reception by others (p. 23). Bayles and Orland enumerate a list as follows:

I'm not an artist--I'm a phony
I have nothing worth saying
I'm not sure what I'm doing
Other people are better than I am
I'm only a student [student/physicist/mother/whatever]
I've never had a real exhibit
No one understands my work
No one likes my work
I'm no good
(p. 13)



All of which are potentially true, but all of which are totally destructive of the art-making process. These authors bring out another interesting point, which is that if as is true in the academic art-world, that 95% of the MFA and BFA graduates are not making art in 10 years, that if this was the case in the medical profession there would be congressional investigations.

Fear of failure and fear of success are the only reasons.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Who Owns Museum Stuff?

I grew up in the Art Institute of Chicago and the Field Museum of Natural History, which means that I enjoyed and learned about the world looking at the fruits of loot inside these magnificent catch-all encyclopedic repositories. James Cuno in his book Who Owns Antiquity argues that encyclopedic museums, those catch-all of goodies from the world-over are good things.  He has been excoriated for this.  I stand with him; I agree that these museums are a good thing.

The British Museum is not going to give the Elgin Marbles to the government of Greece.  If each and every nation-state insists that whatever is in the ground belongs to them and only them, then whatever current national interests exist will be the only things served.  Thus in the face of increasing Sino-ization of Tibet, the Amharization of Ethiopia, the Russianization of the former Soviet border states, what contrary issues and ideas will survive.  Eleven and twelve centuries ago an entire tribe of Tartars converted to Judaism, their artifacts lie in the Trans-Caucasus between the Caspian and the Black Seas.  Russian archaeologists deny that those artifacts are Jewish. The Taliban destroyed the Buddhas of Bamiyan out of pure religious zealotry and spite with no regard or respect for their own antiquity or anyone else on the planet.

Der Spiegel ran a story today about the discomfort and downright political hostility experienced by Erika Steinbach, leader of a group that calls itself The Federation of Expellees in Germany that wants to document the sufferings of Germans expelled by the Polish government at the end of the Second World War.  The Polish government argues fearfully that such Germans should not be permitted to see themselves as victims of the Nazis.

I argue that they are victims of the insistence that the modern nation state defines nationhood and nationality on narrow bases of tribalism, race, religion, and language.  Cuno argues the same for archaeological artifacts.

Cuno posits that the argument over rightful ownership of antiquities is not whether they and the sites they come from should be preserved but how to preserve them and increase our knowledge of and increase public access to them.

We are all one tribe, we deserve to see all of our ancestors goodies and treasures; we do not want them besmirched in the name of narrow national interests.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Opportunity Knocks

From an article by Arne Glimcher, "Brave New Art World," take note of cause for optimism: Glimcher is the founder of Pace-Wildenstein Gallery.

In response to the comparison between the recent over-heated art market and when the Japanese collectors were going ga-ga in the 80's, Glimcher says as follows,

"The difference between then and now is vast. The Japanese were collecting already famous artists. Whereas the new collectors of the last decade were making artists famous by their rapacious patronage. Is it within reason that an artist's prices could from $50,000 in the gallery to $1 million in the auction rooms within six months? They did with Marlene Dumas. And within a two-year span a Nurse painting by Richard Prince went from $120,000 to $10 million.

"The only parallel to this frantic escalation of prices was the tulip-bulb scandal that destroyed the Dutch economy in the 17th century. Today's art market is global and therefore susceptible to adjustment on an international scale. Consequently there is an immediate crisis in the art market as in other markets and sometimes they interact. Brandeis University's decision to sell its extraordinary collection of 60's art and close the Rose Musuem due to the diminished value is just one incredible example.

"But in crisis there is also opportunity. Serious collectors who couldn't get near an object now have access."

That's the answer, there is opportunity. Let's get out there and urge all serious art lovers to buy local, buy from living artists so we can buy more art supplies to make more, and remember, I always give 50 percent off to the second sale!

Courage of My Convictions

[caption id="attachment_723" align="aligncenter" width="600" caption="Untitled, 8"x8", 2008, oil stick, pencil, prismacolor pencil on clayboard"]Untitled, 8"x8", 2008, oil stick, pencil, prismacolor pencil on clayboard[/caption]

I attended a symposium sponsored by FOTA, here in Chicago, the topic being how to make a living or at least try to market one's artwork. The main things I took away was to have the courage of my artistic convictions and validation of my current program of promotion, with the concern that I'm not doing enough, but that I have the best tools in hand, this blog being one of them.
The painting of the week is Untitled, 8"x8", 2008, oil stick, pencil, prismacolor pencil on clayboard. These sell for $75.00.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Painting of the Week Deprofundis--Center

This is the center piece of a triptych; artist--Nancy Charak, 2008, 24"x30", oil stick, prismacolor pencil, pencil on acrylic primed masonite. Enjoy.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Darrell Roberts at Thomas McCormick Gallery

You have got to go to 835 West Washington, just west of Halsted in Chicago to Thomas McCormick Gallery to see Darrell Roberts' paintings.  You can also see the exhibit on-line at the gallery's website, but oh gee, oh gosh, you really should see them in the real, they are compelling objects, with great color, texture and presence.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Go to the Cultural Center see Poetic Dialogue

I strongly encourage all of you to run, don't walk, over to the Chicago Cultural Center to see the current iteration of the Poetic Dialogue, which is as always, curated by Beth Shadur.  It is a stunning, intense exhibit, a continued collaboration between visual artists and poets.  The show features the work of a number of visual artists whose work I adore and respect, Charlotte Segal who is linked in my sidebar, John Pitman Weber a stalwart of the Chicago Public Art Group, Mirjana Ugrinov my good friend and super-supporter also in my sidebar, and 28 other artists and their poetic collaborators.  Take the time, there is much to see and think about, go more than once.

The Secret of a Good Painting

[caption id="attachment_716" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Ryman Robert, "Ledger""]Ryman Robert Ledger[/caption]

Once again the magazine Tate etc. hits paydirt with in the section called Microtate, in which Esther Stocker comments on Robert Ryman's painting Ledger 1982.  The painting may be hard to see depending on your monitor, it consists of the subtlest changes of color on aluminum.

"I think it is the deeper secret of a good painting that it doesn't give you something, it takes something away from you.  It leaves you with less than you had before, sometimes even with nothing.  At least that is what happens with me.  My old room-mate told me once that I am the dumbest person on earth for not knowing which things belong to me.  This hurt.  I hated hearing my human importance being measure by remembering (or not remembering) which teacup was mine.

"Paintings such as Robert Ryman's Ledger don't tell you what to see or what to think.  Whatever instruction you might be given for its better understanding, it only shows you it is useless.  I like to hang out in a painting such as this, not remembering this and that, things I always thought I should know.  My head slowly empties and I cannot find much in there anymore.  I am always happy not to find things.  It gives me a calm sense of freedom.  It is so great not to get it, to know a little bit less.  I think this is called liberation."

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Agnes Martin Writing on Failure

[caption id="attachment_714" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Untitled, 2009, 8"x8", oil stick, pencil, prismacolor pencil and watercolor on clayboard; Nancy Charak, artist."]Untitled, 2009, 8"x8", oil stick, pencil, prismacolor pencil and watercolor on clayboard; Nancy Charak, artist.[/caption]

"When we wake up in the morning we are inspired to do some certain thing and we do do it. The difficulty lies in the fact that it may turn out well or it may not turn out well. If it turns out well we have a tendency to think we have successfully followed our inspiration and if does not turn out well we have a tendency to think that we have lost our inspiration. But that is not true. There is successful work and work that fails, but all of it is inspired. I will speak later about successful work of art but here I want to speak of failures. Failures that should be discarded and completely cut-off.

I have come especially to talk to those among you, who recognize these failures. I want particularly to talk to those who recognize all of their failures and feel inadequate and defeated, to those who feel insufficient--short of what is expected or needed. I would like somehow to explain that those feelings are the natural state of mind of the artist, that a sense of disappoint and defeat is the essential state of mind for creative work." (pp. 4-5)

From The Drawing Center's Drawing Papers 51, Agnes Martin, Beginning No. 5, undated writings, in conjunction with exhibit March 19-May 21, 2005 (3X Abstractions: New Methods of Drawing by Hilma af Klint, Emma Kunz, and Agnes Martin).

Friday, January 9, 2009

On Rothko and Mondrian

[caption id="attachment_709" align="alignleft" width="272" caption="painting by Mark Rothko"]Rothko, Black on maroon[/caption]

In an article in a wonderful museum on-line magazine Tate etc., entitled Landscapes of the MindBrice Marden talks about both the physicality and the spirituality of experiencing the works of Mark Rothko in person.

To quote Marden:  "That you're in a space--an indefinable space, but it is having an effect on you physically.  You feel engulfed, totally surrounded by it.  Last year I read that Rothko once said that the ideal distance from which to view his paintings is eighteen inches.  So I do as he suggested whenever I am in front of one.  And it makes a huge difference.  You become much more conscious of every nuance, which probably at some other time I had thought were just little accidents in his printing process.  I realized how carefully they were painted."

I can say that I had the same experience when finally getting close to the Rothkos at the Tate a couple of years ago.  At that point they had nine of the famous Seagram murals.  Standing in front of them made me feel surrounded, like Marden, and transported as well to a spiritual place.  It was almost the sensation of an embrace.  Now, of course, the big Rothko show at the Tate Modern is winding down by February 1st.

Which brings me to my point, which is that art needs to be experienced in the real, in real space and in real time.  It is not enough to do as we all do out of academic necessity to look at them in textbooks, as huge projections in art-history lectures or on-line in our computers.

Paintings, as well as other works of art, are physical, they have size, substance, touch and presence.  They demand to be seen for real, in the real, and we as artists have frequently ignored this at our peril.

Generations of art students have looked at the works of Piet Mondrian through prostheses and then went off to make paintings that they thought emulated this master.  However, when in the real you see the Mondrian paintings, all kinds of things show up, they are small, almost intimate, in scale, they have thicknesses of paint and the lines are not quite straight, in a word, the works are organic.

What else needs to be emphasized is that we need to not only look at the art in person, in the real, we need to look at them in time, both in frequency and in duration.  We do not spend enough time looking, we glance and walk on.  Partly this is an architectural problem, museums don't have enough benches or chairs in the galleries.  Why not take the leisure to sit and look? We need to slow down and look and contemplate, not just glance and run. We need to look at a painting or other work of art more than once.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Got English?

My good friend Mary, an escapee from the winters of her youth and a well educated kind of a gal with a passion for the good usage of our native tongue has started a blog called Got English. She abhors misuse of that whole apostrophe S thing and the confusion between plurals, possessives and its versus it's. Suffice it to say that the apostrophe "S" thing is not a signal that there's an "S" coming at the end of the word.

Above is one of the paintings of mine that Mary has in her home in the Valley of the Sun, it's 22"x30" oil and oil wash on 140# Arches watercolor paper.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Take a Leap, Lay Down ****

[caption id="attachment_236" align="aligncenter" width="550" caption="Dragons Teeth, 24x30in., Pencil, prismacolor on acrylic primed masonite, 2008"]Dragons Teeth, 24x30in., Pencil, prismacolor on acrylic primed masonite, 2008[/caption]

Dragon's Teeth, from 2008, 24"x30", pencil, prismacolor on acrylic primed masonite panel.  The title is from the Greek myth about how the teeth of the dragons when planted would grow into fully armed warriors.  I came to this title after I made the drawing, not before.

But the topic of the moment is my own creative process.  I had dinner with a friend who is an industrial engineer.  She designs, or more particularly, redesigns decision making processes in companies.  She is able to walk into a place, talk to people, look at their manufacturing systems and their decision making flow and assist them in redesigning for greater efficiency and even happiness.

I demonstrated my process to her at the dinner table at one of those cute restaurants that put the brown paper on top of the table with the shot glass crayons.  I explained that I have to have all of my drawing materials close to the table, colored pencils arranged in cans by color families, reds, greens, blues, etc., to the point of sorting the hard and soft standard graphite as well.  Then I make a mark, which sparks a visual idea.  Sometimes, I'll define a recipe of action on the surface, such as red in a cross hatch motion until the point isn't sharp.  Or perhaps a visual decision by stepping back and seeing that the drawing seems to need a temperature change.  A thousand decisions almost all quick and non-reflective.

In Dragons' Teeth the limiting factor was a decision to work only in a range of greys, warm greys and cool greys, pulling definition out of the blackness of the substrate.

In a post to the Huffington Post, Kimberly Brooks described The Creative Process in Eight Stages.They are vision, hope, excitement, suspicion, clarity, obsession and resolution.  The best quote is from Jerry Belson who wrote for the Dick Van Dyke Show and the Odd Couple, who would advise his fellow writers who complained about writer's block to "just lay down shit." At some point, have vision and hope, and then just lay it down. Or even better don't worry about the hope thing, just put something down.

The biggest barrier to being an artist is having the courage to jump into the unknown and lay down shit to see what happens.