Monday, January 19, 2015

Fear of Drawing

I sketched today at the Isabella Stewart Gardener museum and found myself battling the demon of perfection as usual. The assumption always seems to be that I will fail or create a visual that is supremely subpar. Do all artists face a blank canvas with trepidation? Or do they reach a point of unchallenged confidence and start every sketch, painting, sculpture with a pure, anticipatory sense of excitement?

For me it seems more like dread I experience as I lay down that first tentative mark on the hopeful empty sheet. With over 20 reasonably good pastel paintings under my belt it is still impossible for me to believe that I am capable of creating a successful painting again. When does that doubt subside? At 100 paintings? 1000?

I choose to wage war against my self-doubt and armed with my shiny, new sketchbook I will go forth to do battle at the MFA, at home, in class... wherever I can. And each time I find something pleasing, but imperfect in my sketch or pastel painting I may be slowly marching forward into artistic confidence.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Frigid Beauty

As each new winter arrives I find myself with less tolerance for the cold. Most likely it is linked to my declining muscle mass, increased arthritis and other corporeal delights of aging. But on a completely different trajectory, am discovering more visual and aural joys of winter every year.

Last year (my first on the lake) I was shocked to learn that the freezing lake plays a unique soundtrack throughout the winter. As the water first begins to harden along the shoreline it is often knocked loose, breaking into fragile shards that clink melodically as the waves toss them around. These tones, reminiscent of wind chimes, dance off the shore and soothe with their harmony. Other unexpected sounds I have observed range from deep burp-like noises and ominous groans as the massive plates of ice jockey for position. All in all, it is quite entertaining and I only wish I could keep my windows open to continue my observations for longer periods of time.  

The image above was taken a few days ago as we skated on our newly minted ice rink. With much less effort than I would have predicted we shoveled off a rough rectangle of pristine ice in less than an hour. Within a few minutes I became intrigued by the designs my skates were carving into the surface. Although this photo is a color image it depicts the honest tones of winter... black and white. All that is left behind when the color is drained out by this bleak January day is a sharp, clear study of form. And that is beautiful.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Me and My Shadow

I see them everywhere now. They jump out at me from the most unexpected places and surprise me with their beauty.

With perfect choreography the lake was transformed into a pristine white canvas in the last three days. First came the slow motion freeze which gently morphed the choppy, blue lake into a motionless, glossy mix of indigo and black. Next, the snow delicately dropped a three inch velvet smooth blanket of virginal white on top. Throughout the day yesterday I watched as cold blue images flickered across the undisturbed snow cover. And then, when the sun was directly behind my house I saw this image painted in periwinkle with bits of lilac rimming the edge. The intricate branches of the trees as they frame the house are a lovely counterpoint to the stark angles and creates a composition that an artist could have conceived.

Just days before, my daughter Sarah pointed out a cast shadow inside our house that I had walked by so many times without seeing. The small wooden bird perched on a window gently broke up the harsh angles of winter light filtering through the panes. Soon after that I began noticing other shadow play throughout the house and I was reminded (again) to look more closely at what I see, because often, there are many hidden delights lurking in the shadows.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Looking Deeply

Josiah McElheny's
Endlessly Repeating Twentieth Century Modernism

While visiting the MFA Boston I came upon an exhibit that is hard to ignore. It glistened at me from across the room and I was drawn through the gallery by the shiny surfaces fractured into a million different shards of light.

At first glance I assumed I was looking at multiple rows of glass decanters being reflected endlessly. Like a sophisticated, witty take on the fun house mirrors from carnivals of past. But in this case, there was no distortion or warping of any kind. Simply perfect repetition of perfect glass vessels. Moving to a side view of the display, I was surprised to see that just one row of vessels in a staggered formation was used to generate this seemingly infinite mirage. The artist's concept for this work suggests that it "attempts to depict the capitalist notion that all objects are eternally repeatable, that everything can be remanufactured endlessly without regard to era, geography, or culture".  I decide to leave behind the weighty questions of capitalism just dwell in just the visual itself. Over time I am pulled deeper into the mirrored facade and wishing I could walk back as far as my eyes can see. This wouldn't be the first time I have wanted to take up residence in a work of art. But more about that in my future post "Top Five Paintings I Want to Live In".

An Unexpected Pause

Even in times of Covid, we find ways to keep ourselves busy. There are still problems to be solved, errands to run, social media to be viewe...