Monday, October 20, 2014

Experimentation

When I was in graduate school there were whole classes devoted to experimentation.  Over the past 11 years, however, I have sometimes viewed experimentation as a waste of time, preferring a model of production over a model of improvement.  To be sure, I've spent a good deal of time attempting to get better with my medium, but I think that over the course of the years I found my self rather pigeon holed.  My website name is Lewis Acrylics and while I still use acrylics almost every day, not all of the artwork that I make is acrylic.  In fact, even the pieces that make use of acrylic paint often bear Bic pen marks as well, making my work not acrylic in nature but mixed media.

I have also not been a fan of moleskine sketchbooks for some time.  The paper is so thin and the hype so oppressive, but a few people whose images I've seen online make me a little bit more excited about them.  One of these artists is Mattias Adolfsson.  He makes me want to draw all of the time.  With some of his work in mind I started putting together some sketches of boomboxes and cassettes and later some abstractions of the two.

 These were four contour drawings of cassettes which I put together while my class was drawing cross contours of their hands.  I drew them over top of some other random sketches so I'm not sure how well the information is translated.
These boomboxes were more as research than anything else.  I wasn't that pleased with the quality of the drawings from the get go.  However as I was sketching boomboxes it occurred to me that I was interested in the shapes within the boombox and how they might break down, which led to this series of drawings.

I felt very much influenced by Wassily Kandinsky later Supremacist pieces.  The color is very much meant to be viewed in the same manner and the shapes are much the same as well.


It feels odd to be working in watercolors.  I keep fearing that I am using them incorrectly.  I layer my color with them a bit more than I remember being taught in school.  I do, however, like laying compliments and near compliments over top of each other.  I think it gives a particularly vibrant pop to the shapes.  I am surprised at how good it feels to be experimenting.  I don't feel as though these pieces are particularly precious which helps me make some more rash and spontaneous color and shape decisions.  Perhaps I finally understand what my professors were getting at.

Peace
-Mike


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Warm Grids and Cool

In response to the large gauge piece with cool grids as the ground, I have started two smaller pieces which are to function as a diptych. 

I had my studio assistant, Marc, trim the edge of both boards; one by cutting and one by ripping. He then sanded both edges down a bit. I knew generally what movement I wanted to feel from the edges of the boards but I wanted the actual shape to be left up to a bit more chance. 



In the piece that I've started, I drew a boiler with the gauges in a similar spot In the composition as the first piece. However, the smoke in this work became more intense and splits into two shapes which start to convers with one another. I began working the grids with warm colors as the ground to see how it changes the read of the illustrated object.  
The object itself is not painted at all so I wonder how much I can push the read without painting the object. 



As I have been workin with the warmer grids, I've become more aware of the shapes that I am making. Previously with this work I had made decisions on shape and color both from my gut in a very spontaneous manner. While I am not abandoning this I am asking myself after the shapes and colors are in what they are actually accomplishing. As I was suggesting to my baby in a moment of clarity today (mind you he didn't seem to care much about painting knowledge but was more interested in his bottle) I think I should relate the shapes more to form and the color to emotion, content. The feel of the piece idea come from the color but to what extent depends on the shapes and the shapes scale. 



I have plans for several more of these pieces and I am feeling quite excited about this method of working. Perhaps I'll be able to answer some of the questions of content that I have been stuck on soon. 

Peace
-Mike

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

All Small

The fall generally means invites to Holiday sales and group shows.  This year I was asked to participate in the Sohns Gallery Show, "All Small" this November.  Each artist has been given three 6" X 6" panels to work with.  We were instructed to "paint, draw, collage, print, assemble on our panels.  Anything goes as long as the panel is still able to hang on the wall.  Normally when given these types of group shows I have tried to make cute works involving characters that I think will sell.  I've been trying to steer clear of some of the character work recently.  I don't think that I am getting out of it what I once was. 

Instead I decided to make a small series out of an image that I had been obsessing over for some weeks.  A while back I found myself sitting at a coffee shop called Crema, here in Portland.  There are several chairs and a couch which face a massive window in the front which overlooks the harbor.  I felt drawn to the power lines across the street.  The light was dim that day as the sky was overcast.  It hearkened back to the days sitting in coffee shops in Seattle.  As I was sitting looking out the window I noticed a plane landing.  Suddenly I felt very much in tune with the aircraft which were taking off and landing far more frequently than I had ever noticed.  I thought back to living in my old house where I could feel the planes as they started to come into the runway.  The silhouette of the plane seemed so powerful to me and yet so small against the vastness that was the sky.  It's a simple image really, but one that I've been obsessed with since.

I started drawing the scene over and over again on small pieces of wood.  Several of the resulting pieces I then glued down to the surfaces of my three All Small pieces.

 The first piece I really wanted to add an element from a Jasper Johns piece.  For some reason the target pieces seemed to work with the airplane imagery.  I'm not sure exactly how the viewer will read this piece, but that's a good thing right?
The second piece started out very graphic.  I had several diagonals which opposed the wood block that I had glued down to the surface.  I was working with those geometric pieces for a bit until I realized that I absolutely loathed them.  I then started to lay a lot of paint over top.  The piece became one solid color.  I then started splattering and painting very gesturally over top.  I was quite pleased with the result even if I keep looking at the piece and wondering if there shouldn't be more to it.

 The last piece included the first image that I drew from my coffee shop experience.  I decided to work with the same type of imagery that I had used in my work for 10 X 10 Brunswick.  I determined that the painterly and the more graphic would balance out nicely, and I think that it does.

The pieces don't feel like my usual imagery or like they fall into my usual visual tropes.  It was an extremely liberating process to work on these pieces.  Hopefully I can loosen up even more in the coming months.  I feel like I am finally feeling more interested in the act of painting than I am in trying to push some false agenda on the work.  I wonder how that will effect the viewing experience of my work.

Peace
-Mike

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Waiting for Something to Say

I've been waiting for something to say.  I've been absolutely certain that the work that I've been creating would lead to something to say, but that really hasn't proven to be the case.  I feel like Joseph in the Dangling Man again.  Work has been different.  Studio has felt freer.  While I have in the past spent much of my time in studio with preconceived notions of the pieces that I would create, I have been stuck in a conundrum.  None of the work which I have been creating has any pre-determined answers.  I've finally reached a point where I've freed myself from the necessity of having an answer and that, ultimately, is a good thing, although it does leave me in a bit more of a bind when I'm trying to figure out what kind of shows to prepare and for whom.

When I speak with my good friend Julie, she has everything figured out.  She understands her concepts front and back; the references that might be conjured, and every element of visual fodder that exists within her work.  I don't.  I have no idea.  When I attempt to understand how someone is going to see my work then it merely gets me thinking in a manner which makes me construct things specifically so that people will understand my work.  This seems inherently bad.  And so I wonder if people don't just create from different perspectives much like they view from different perspectives.  This is obvious.  Of course we would, but it seems that when you go to graduate school the intent is to learn how to mold your work with a viewer in mind and how to build multifarious works which speak to several different levels with every piece of work.

I don't know what I'm doing though.  It seems incredibly frustrating.  I am left with images that are burned into my mind, characters that I obsess over, and systems with and without function.

It's also been suggested to me that my artwork should be split up into that which is for commercial work and that which is for fine art.  I have so much trouble with the idea of it.  My illustrative work informs my fine art and my fine art informs my illustrative work.  I've always wanted to make work that functioned in both spheres, not in just one.   Perhaps I'm just confused.  Here's my opportunity to let you all know that I am immensely confused.  I am, however, very pleased with working, being in the work, and feeling the rhythms of creativity that keep me moving.

I've studied a great deal over the past few years, tried to remain present within my work, and mindful of my surroundings, but I still do not seem to have any idea of what I am doing before I make things.  At first I am only attempting to make something that is stuck in my head and I don't know that that accounts for anything to say.

With that all said, here are some of the projects that I have been working on most recently.  I am super stoked about all of them.




The first series that I have been working on is for the All Small show coming up at Sohn's Gallery in Bangor, Me.  I am one of 28 artists producing a total of 84 pieces.  Each piece is six by six.  I chose to create each of these pieces surrounding a plane motif which I discovered while sitting at a local coffee shop looking out there great picture window.  The power lines across the streets framed the landing planes perfectly and I haven't been able to escape the rudimentary plane silhouette since.



 I have been working on a segmented series of vertical patterns and city scape paintings which I most recently have started to combine.  The intention of the segmented piece is to finish it and have it occupy the Space Gallery window.  Every time that I apply for that window space I am told that the gallery is looking for something that says "Maine" more.  I feel like the city scapes automatically say Maine and I am also quite interested in communicating the different spaces within my city in very small segments of the city.  The two seem to make sense with each other.


The last series that I am working on is a stereo train which I am creating on different boards about a foot tall.  The lengths of the boards vary, as do the styles of drawings and painting.  The idea of the trainset is that it will span one small segment of the room near the top much like an actual train set that used to run around the top of the Boxcar, a restaurant where I used to stop with my old friend Kelly after we had hiked at Magnussen Park in Seattle.

I'm pleased to be in the midst of all of this work.  I wish I understood more what I was doing, but I imagine that I will find the meaning somewhere on the other end.  Hopefully at least admitting my lack of intent will help me to find some.

Peace
-Mike

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Studio Cleaning and Teaching Once Again

Last weekend was Picnic. The show went pretty well. Sales were pretty good and I got to see several art friends that I very seldom see. Mostly it is very interesting to here the various comments on your work. While I was never excited about this when I was younger, I do find some of the comments helpful now. People will respond very well to this or that. It often gives you an idea of what you are doing right. This time around it seemed very obvious to me that viewers have different opinions. Some people preferred totems while some liked drawings. Usually the folks who like buttons are not interested in anything else that I have to offer. 

Each time that I go to one of these shows or set up for a first Friday I find that I am left with my studio a mess and wanting more out of the sale. I always wish that I would have met more people or possibly sold more. I find these to be unproductive trains of thought though and so, it happens that I must clean my studio. I clean both make room for new projects in the studio in the physical and mental states. 


Today I cleaned my studio. I cleaned my studio today and I cleaned my head again too. 

Peace
-mike

Monday, August 18, 2014

Camus and the End

Last night I started to read Albert Camus' Exile and the Kingdom.  The first story is called The Adulterous Woman.  The main character of this book is a woman who is very unhappy with her marriage.  She longs for adventure and newness.  Her husband showers her with money, which it is implied is the main drive in his life.  The woman finds that she must escape her life, she runs to the highest parapet in the small town that she is staying in during the middle of the night, leaving her husband behind asleep in bed.  She experiences the cold and biting air of the desert ripping through her lungs from the top of the parapet but also witnesses as far out as one can see, where the desert met the sky.  She was free of her constrictive love.  She returns to bed but has found another energy which actually expresses her love more.  Her husband has been cheated on.

Sometimes when I go to studio at night I feel an energy not unlike this one.  It is by no means that I am cheating on my wife.  We do not share such conservative views on the world as this couple, but it is as if there is a life of freedom and a vitality of breath at the studio which is not present in the regular everyday family experiences.  There is a rush, a pit in the stomach, a resistance to thirst and hunger which do not exist in the home.  All sense and all knowledge sometimes leave without any conscious effort.  Movements become fluid and intent becomes only creative.

There were many times over the past several months that I experienced these feelings while working on this series of totems.  The totems have evolved in such a way that they are now individually spiritual.  Each totem is imbued with an emotion felt through the act of discovery.  At first I felt lost as to the characters and which characters would work in my cosmology and then I felt lost in how to make a pattern.  Last I found myself lost in color again.  I feel I can always become lost in color.  It is a dilemma that I search for and a mystery which I find comfort in.

I cannot do any more totems this week before Picnic.  I have run out of gas.  There are 67.  It is notably less than the 100 that I had planned on, but I did gift one to my mother and traded two for a haircut, which brings the total to 70.  I gave two to the midwives after they helped my wife and I birth our son, so that is 72.  It's been a lot of work and the discovery still allows more, but for now, I am done.

video                                                                                 
It is time to run down the stairs of my parapet and return home to the comfort of my wife's embrace.  Tomorrow I shall climb again.

Peace
-Mike

Friday, August 15, 2014

Production and Making



I recently sent myself a text message to my email from class.  It read, "Art is found, not created."  The reference was to an image I had just sent myself of a gap in the ceiling with two lights to either side of the gap.  It looked as though there were a face coming out of the ceiling and while I was teaching class and waiting for students to respond to the ideas and prompts that I was feeding them I couldn't help but have this image stuck in my mind.

It kept telling me that "art is found, not created."  It's true, I think.  The ideas that pop into my head are the results of explorations.  During the exploration we find something new here or there and add it into our repertoire or respond to it accordingly. 

With this sort of logic working in me the last several days it seems as no surprise that while in studio working on what has become a production project in the totems.  I say it is now a production project because I am not trying to solve anything new with the totems at this point, or least if I am the realizations are coming much slower than they were.  Ideas seem like that.  As we first explore the ideas there is a change here and there and all over the place, but as we sit on the idea for a little while it mellows out a bit.  It becomes an idea which is in need of transformation or modification. While I am not done with the totems project, I have learned a lot of what I am open to learning before I intend to show the work next Saturday at Picnic.  To be fair you have to stop someplace. 

I started looking around studio.  Four years ago when I got to graduate school I started working on a couple mobiles.  They weren't balanced correctly and I failed miserably in producing them successfully but the panels which I used in the mobile are still around.  They were in the style that I have been using for the past several years; drawn with a flat paint background.  What the patterns have made me realize more than anything is that I miss pushing paint, mixing colors, layering and overlapping.  I needed a change in 2010.  There was a lot going on in and outside of art, but now I am feeling patient with myself again.  I am not in a rush to get everything done and more importantly I am feeling very excited about the contrast between well rendered painterly subject, flat patterns and flat backgrounds. 

This image popped into my head and as I am a student at all times, I followed it with all my might.



There is something that may be better about the raw drawing, but I am excited to face this dilemma and for now it is nice to work with the machinery again.  I stopped working with the machinery when I was in graduate school because none of my answers to questions there were good enough for faculty and peers.  The thing is that modern art doesn't like an image which states what it is.  This image is what it is and there is no room for the modern art world to negotiate its space.  I am not leaving myself open to learn in the showing process perhaps, but frankly I don't care.  Our world is full of machines tearing down and rebuilding our landscape.  We try to fix everything that we destroy by destroying it even more.  I am merely waiting for the day that we try to repair our atmosphere and water cycles with machines. 

Peace
-Mike