Friday, May 4, 2018

A Day Trip or a Journey

'Colored Pencils'  Cory Jaeger-Kenat
  It is often said in beginning art classes that students should make piles of artworks. Some instructors ask that their students pledge to create multiple studies a week, the more the better. In the book, "Art and Fear", authors David Bayle and Ted Orland observe that students who make a greater quantity of art tend to make better art than those who labor over a few select pieces.

I agree with this, up to a point. Right now, I have four pieces in the works, all different genres that interest me. Every artist has their own process, their own speed, and I am right where I like to be.

Apples and Cups, Cory Jaeger-Kenat
Being able to whip out a variety of canvases can keep the artistic child inside me playful and fresh. Not worrying so much about creating a finished, polished work really takes the pressure off, and can help me to access motor memory in my hands and vision.  The study is all about flash and play, spontaneity and a quick unattached result.  There are artists in the 'Painting a Day' movement that are so adept at this style of quick painting that they do indeed make us see the world with whole new eyes. I am not saying studies are less than completed paintings, or vice versa.
Dance of Joy, Cory Jaeger-Kenat
A fitting metaphor for these kind of pieces are that they are a day trip out of town. This approach is much like hopping in the car with a picnic basket, seeing where the road will take you, and winding up back at home by sunset.

But sometimes an artist decides to embark on another kind of conceptual quest. This is a journey to a distant land, where you might stay for months without knowing the language. You will have to adjust yourself to the customs in this territory, and you may have times when you have fallen madly in love with the sweeping vistas, and other times when you are desperate to stow away on the nearest ship for home, but there is no turning back.

The sketch, the study, the bit of dabbled experiment suddenly becomes worthy of investing--and even risking--a bit of your life upon. It becomes a work. The study grabs the artist; there will be an idea that wraps itself around the artist's soul, and then it becomes do or die. And this is when it could take months, and sometimes, even years, of obsessive effort and yes, love. It requires commitment, a willingness to put aside your plans of what you thought the work would be, a willingness to let it grow and develop itself.  For example,the painting below, entitled 'Naomi's Prayer' took over two years to complete, because there were so many different forms it took in process...something I will elaborate on in another post. Essentially, I painted four different complete works--all on the same canvas, before I settled on what you see below.

"It as if a crowd has to walk through the damn painting and shift around before I can lock any parts into place. " Robert Birmelin

Naomi's Prayer, Cory Jaeger-Kenat
This is when the adage that no great thing is created suddenly becomes your life-line. Unlike other artists, I do not believe you can over-work a painting. Yes, there is a point where a painting has been completed, but it is always--in my view-- after a long and thoughtful process, built on mistakes and change, change undergone in the work, and change undergone in the artist.  The artist has crossed an invisible line into a more sublime sphere, a place where years can be dedicated to multiple ideas in one artwork, where layer upon layer of pigment will be painted and painted over, where shining new insights will be found just when it feels like its time to give up.

There is no art which has not had its beginnings in things full of errors. Nothing is at the same time both new and perfect. (Leon Battista Alberti)  

A painting is only done after an inner journey has been completed. It is when you sit back and know it is finished...there is absolutely nothing left you can do to this look at it and marvel a little bit that this creation has been added to the world.

interviewer: How do you know when you're finished with a painting?
Jackson Pollock: How do you know when you're finished making love?

"The painting has a life of its own. I try to let it come through." Jackson Pollock

It is said that Leonardo da Vinci never felt truly satisfied with the Mona Lisa. I can only imagine how obsessed da Vinci must have been, a man so captivated by one lady's enigmatic smile, that it drove him to create a single small portrait that defines the very epitome of painting. The jewel of the Louvre, and he still didn't think it was done.
from Reader's Digest, CA.
So, whether your next artistic endeavor is a quick jaunt to the local Farmer's Market on a sunny day, or six months scaling the heights of Kilimanjaro, plunge in...knowing that all trips, both great and small are a worthwhile adventure. 

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