Thursday, April 17, 2014

Early Mornings, Day Dreaming, and Listening to Minor Threat During Class

My schedule has changed.  I have added another job.  It seems like this could be a bad time to do so, but as my time shrinks my desire to work grows.  Every time in my life that I start to feel overworked or stressed, in a tight position, I find my work serving as a catharsis.  It starts to grow and change with me and helps me see what I should do and what could work better.

As a result of the new position I have started getting up at 5:30 in the morning and getting to studio at 6:00 or a little after.  I have been able to wake up with a brush in my hand and work through some of the patterns that I have been seeing everywhere.  I have been obsessed with the idea of hanging my new show on an awkward grid of painted panels.  I think that it will serve to locate all of the diverse concepts that I have been thinking about into a united theme.

Here are some images of the grids.

The process is taking a while and I really only have another three weeks to work on this show.  I am glad that I made this breakthrough this week.  If it had happened any later I wouldn't be able to even come close to finishing the work in time.  As it is, should I not finish in time, I am resigned to finish it at some other point.  This work is some of my favorite that I have finished up to this point.

Keep up.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Good and Big

Last night I had a First Friday Open Studio event at my studio in the State Theater Building with my good friend Shirah.  We split the studio walls down the middle and put her work up on one half and mine on the other.  We did not have many visitors, a few good friends who stayed for a bit but not many outside folk.  What we did have, however, was an opportunity to power clean the studio and hang up all of the work that has been going on in the space.

I've devoted the last couple weeks to a bunch of totems, which I can draw at home.  Working at home is becoming more and more useful as my wife approaches her 33rd week of pregnancy.  Meanwhile I've been filling in the time with several books on the Navajo, Athapascans and some of the Northwest Tribes.  It is strange to be reading Navajo legend while working on totems.  Their tribe didn't make totem poles, sand paintings, yes, but no totem poles.  However, the legends and spirit of the nation has been influencing me a great deal.  The Navajo are only known as the Navajo in that the Spaniards residing in the Southwest named them as such.  They refer to themselves as the Dene, or people of the earth. 

This clash of identities is compelling to take on in the respects of being an artist.  During my open studio I asked that my shop be called The Mighty Lark, which is my art making moniker, but the building operator put me down as Michael Lewis and called my business name Mighty Lark.  I do not really think of the Mighty Lark as my business.  I am the Mighty Lark, just not when I am cooking or teaching, only when I am creating artwork and living with my pieces.  With this in mind, my own personal mythologies are starting to come out in force in my new series of totem pieces.  I am going to hang them as an allover pattern and try to take up an entire wall.

Here is an image of them in progress.

They are adding up quickly.  It is the most exciting thing that I am currently working on.  I have also been working more on the laterally divided pieces for Sohn's gallery.  Here is an update of the most recent piece in that series.

I started painting this work opaquely this morning.  Having made that decision there is still more work to do, but I think that the quality of the piece is definitely improving with that change.  If nothing else it is helping me understand what these lighthouse character and squid characters are to me. 

The work is coming along, as is my research.  I finally feel as though I am heading down a path that I understand and desire to take viewers down.  This is a big step.  All of my blog posts in the past six months seem to mention something about big steps.  I don't know if everything that I mention really is a big step or not, but it does feel good, and big, today.


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Authenticity and Workshops, Thoughts and Meanderings

Today, while in sketchbook class, we discussed the idea of authenticity.  It is an old argument, one that I am sure that Walter Benjamin was talking about and probably theorists before him as well.  Questions have surfaced over whether it was workshops who authored Master's works or the masters themselves.  Original thoughts and scenes disappear just as easily as they are originated.  With the age of the internet information is communicated so quickly that as soon as we author or post an image in the ether, it has become public domain.  We have lost both ownership of the idea and ownership of the image.  It is no longer original.  The only original is that initial thought which artists attempt to cultivate into works in their own right.  The nugget of information that fleets before our minds' eye, that is perhaps the authentic thought.  One of my students suggested that each of our individual experiences is actually where that authenticity lies.  When we are tapped into the moment and allowed to react and live with our works we are behaving in a manner that is authentic to our practice and our ideas as artists and human beings.

On the piggyback of this discussion was the idea of the workshop who is working under the commands of the master artist.  The group of students that I was working with this morning and I came to the conclusion that, although it may be easy enough to mimic an artist's or creators final products, it is difficult to live the moment that led to their work.  Each of our experiences with different objects and shapes and images is based on our own individual perception.  Without acquainting ourselves with a multitude of unknown people it would be difficult to have anyone create our own artwork.  Certainly it would be difficult to recreate the questions and concerns within the work that are the artist's own.

I found myself very much opposed to the idea of other people being allowed to create work which would cut my decision making out of it.  My decisions within my work are made on split second judgements, general feelings of my own personal aesthetics, and chance.  I cannot expect another person to make the same decisions that I make.  And so, I wonder if my work is not in some manner completely authentic.

Here are my two most recent assemblage pieces which I am creating for a show in Miami, FL which I hope to get into.  Florida would make the 16 or 17th state.  I am not sure without looking at the numbers.

The show is on a bird based theme.  I determined that it was no longer any fun to create simple works with birds and headphones or birds on the wire.  I had to do something different, so I started creating works like I would make which do not have any birds and just started to add them last minute as an impulsive sort of after thought.  So far I am very pleased with the results.

As for now, it is getting late and I am having trouble keeping my eyes open.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The Questions, Maybe They are all the Same

On Wednesdays at Maine College of Art, I teach a class called Sketchbook as Document and Impetus.  When I first began the class it was meant as a way to encourage the use of the sketchbook as a sort of playground, a place that fostered development through making mistakes and a spot for keen observation.  I spent three semesters working through the class only to find this, the fourth semester,  contains a class full of individuals who all treat the class as a sort of salon, an ear to bounce ideas off of, a forum for the exchange of information.  The class has become a community of artists rather than a class that I feel I am in control of.  By letting go of the control of the class, it has been allowed to become so much more than I could ever make of it. 

Today I shared pieces of my animation project as well as the horizontal additive pieces that I have been working on for my application to the CMCA Biennial.  The class was very receptive of the work and the conversation progressed into a discussion of learning methods, children, and the burning questions that we had as children. 

One student admitted that since he was eight he had been asking himself the same question.  He had spent the last fifty years or more traveling, creating art, and reading all in efforts to find some sort of answer to his question.  The question still remains and it still fuels his work.  Another student in class referred to her experience as a mother and as a daughter.  She found herself asking some of the questions that she asked herself as a child and then being sidetracked to the way that her mother raised her and influenced her as a mother in the raising of her own children.  She claimed that the most important thing was to eat dessert first.  I am not certain that this is the idea that I connect with the most, but it has deep meaning to her and how she lives her life. 

I was left with the thought, "I often stand and look at the sea wondering what it was that my father could see."  I have often wondered what this life is, what it is that we are supposed to experience, how it is that I am supposed to understand life.  I think that creating art probably serves as a means to attempt to answer this question.  What is this?  This question is not about what life is about.  Life goes on every day and is beautiful in so many ways, but what I do want to know is what it is.  I don't really know, but I think that I am starting to arrive at something within my animation and also within my newest series of grouped panels.

The animation is a study in minutia, much like the James Joyce novels that I am think about while I create it.  The grouped panels also carry a little bit of this deference to the insignificant, as I combine all of my imagery which is comprised of such simple objects, experienced in the everyday, in groups of objects interacting to make unique conversations.

Here are a couple of images from the two newest pieces in the series.

I am still asking the same questions I always did.  I still wonder what my father sees when he looks out over the water, mimicking his father before him and our ancestors from Wales before that.  I think that perhaps what is different about me attempting to answer the questions now is that I am starting with honest information.  I am not trying to create anything which talks in metaphors.  I am more speaking in earnest.


Saturday, March 8, 2014

More for the Moving Images

Ever since I left studio the other day I have been trying to figure out what is going on next in my stream of conscience animation.  Thursday night after I finished teaching I came home to an empty house and spent a couple hours attempting to figure out how one of my drops ends up hitting the ground.  It's odd, but none of my drops had ever hit the ground before.  They had always been suspended in air.  Perhaps this animation will make me think through the actions of the characters in my pieces more thoroughly.

I don't know if this will really be the case or not, but I do know that I took a drive north to the Paper Store in Wiscasset yesterday and picked up a few more sketchbooks.  I am starting to figure out drawing again and it feels good.  For a little while I felt as though I should be paying attention to my new wife and my new wife solely, but I can't do that, and she didn't marry that, so I've been working a lot more.  I'm pretty excited about it.

Here's my new sketchbook.  I got two in this style.  I do not feel embarrassed to share that they make me feel absolutely giddy.  Also, I think I figured out how one of my drops hits the ground.

The paper in these books is so great, heavy and accepts the ink incredibly well.  I think I may have to go back and buy the paper store out of them.

More animation to come later this coming week.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Moving Images

I have wanted to create an animation at least since I first saw Kevin Cross's Monkey Mod trailer, but really I think much much earlier.  I always felt attracted to simpler animations.  I was a big fan of the Batman cartoon from the mid nineties and the Powerpuff Girls.  I also was really into Dexter's Laboratory.  When I was a kid, I was obviously into Transformers and G.I. Joe, but even more than the main stream cartoons I was into Hanna Barbara cartoons.  The drawing in Hanna Barbara cartoons was so simple.  I took a lot from watching Yogi Bear and Huckleberry Hound.  Simple shapes translate easier than more complex drawings.  A professor in undergrad once told me that the most successful drawings were the drawings that children would try to copy.  The simple shapes were easier for young people to process and so they were more likely to draw from them.  I was not aware at this time how difficult it actually is to simplify things.  Cartooning, on one front is easy, but providing simple characters with expression and movement can be immensely difficult.  I have spent the past ten years attempting to perfect this quality in my drawing.  I am sure that I could very easily spend another ten years attempting to perfect that quality in my drawing.

Last summer I was talking with a friend concerning the segmented paintings that I was putting together utilizing power lines and pipes.  We determined that we could set up some of those paintings with a qr code which would then allow an animation to play on the viewers' phone screen.  I never completed the animation because of lack of confidence.

Since that failure, I have had some major boosts to my confidence and I have gotten a good deal more rest than I was getting.  Last Saturday while teaching class, I began to lay out thumbnails for an animation.  I have long had a loose plan for an animation but have as of yet not been able to create anything concrete story wise.  However, as I have become more comfortable with the changing events in my life I have grown more tolerant of chance.  I have also been reading James Joyce's Portrait of the Artist as a Young man which has had me contemplating stream of consciousness.  The thumbnails started to look like a completed animation to me.  Another undergraduate professor had assigned a project which involved scanning in a tiny drawing and blowing it up to life size.  The drawings all looked pixelated and rough, but I thought to myself that perhaps that was a bit of the look that I am going for now.  The thumbnails needed to be their own piece.

Here are a couple pages from my sketchbook as I worked through the process.

I love the second page of thumbs.  It seems like the weirdest graphic novel that I have ever seen.  The first set surrounds a sketch of a cowboy robot much like a robot that I drew back in 2007 for a show in Santa Fe.  The following is seven seconds worth of stop motion animation created from 37 thumbnail drawings.

I'm overwhelmingly pleased with how this has turned out so far.  I have already started the second page of drawings.  I think that I should be able to get about a minute worth of animation in a week.


Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Work, It Grows

I have been trying to wrap my head around getting images and work ready for the biennial at the CMCA in Rockport, Me this week.  It is not easy to think about my work in this manner.  There seems to me a big line across which I do not usually step between the contemporary art world and the Street Influenced, Illustrative paintings that I produce.  That said, I know that there is work of that nature in major museums now.  It is very much what is contemporary, but somehow it doesn't really feel like fine art to me if I am producing it.  I have no idea why.  I am just as educated and equally as prolific as so many of the more heavy hitting "fine artists" in the world.  At least I very much think that I am.  I don't understand the hang up.  I can't even really blame the disconnect on a lack of references or allusions to philosophy or art theory.  I spend a good deal of time reading.  Sometimes it is theory and philosophy.  Often it is poetry or fiction, usually things that end up falling in the literature section.  I really haven't much interest in the Science Fiction and Westerns that I loved when I was a kid.  I can't help but think of the great Egon line from Ghostbusters 2 when I say that; "I had a slinky once, but I straightened it."  Absolutely no fun dude.  But actually I don't really feel that way.  I really enjoy the materials that I read.

I digress though.  The fact is, I wonder why I have difficulty seeing my work in a fine art setting and I really don't know why.  I have been trying to get over this feeling.  This series of paintings that I have started include  mixture of ideas from a bunch of different work that I've done in the past.  Oddly I feel like the juxtaposition of many of my ideas allows the work to maybe speak on one of those more intellectual levels.  I at least think that it begins to speak in the same language no matter how rudimentary the translation.

My studio assistant told me the colors in the second painting were very retro.  I wonder about that.  Perhaps the color then mixes with my interests more.  Certainly my reading interests do not constitute incredibly new knowledge or technologies.  She might be on to something.

More work to come soon.  I have one more in this series started and intend to do more tomorrow as well.