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.