Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Style and medium

Well, it may not be a crisis but somehow I'd like to get past a nagging, dragging concern I have about where to go with my work, which I seem to have saddled myself with recently....like within the last day or so. Maybe just this posted examination will help me! So, I'm thinking... "maybe it should be oils only(with a BIG brush); maybe just ink, maybe just water media or maybe I should try acrylic again?" Or maybe I need to write a cohesive artist's statement and go from there. After all, I will not know what my art is about if I can't explain it to myself, will I? What about explaining it to someone else? "Well, thanks for asking: yes I like beautiful images of things........and.....the paint is colorful and I enjoy the............mess!"

Do the paintings have to have a meaning I'm conscious of as I make them? Do I have to have a plan, a completely thought-out idea for an image before I begin? Can I understand all of what there is to understand about the work as I do it and move from idea to idea, canvas to paper and back again? This is what has attached itself to me and I can't seem to flick it away!
I like what I like (and choose to reference in my work) and sometimes I put what I like through a filter (me) and scramble the reference just as I feel like scrambling it. Today I was working on a small (9"x12") oil picture of three trees......I've painted these trees a half dozen times, I think and never tire of them. The image was realist/impressionist with dream like qualities when I went back to it after a day's absence. But I couldn't figure the thing out...how to make it cohesive, consistent, interesting and not dead in the sense that the eye would fall and stay in one place. It seemed to me that my thoughtful, realist hand was winning out over my not-thinking abstracting/expressionist one and that was detracting from what could be a more satisfying piece. I think: "the realist approach is a fall back, one to be avoided at all costs" but then I'm confronted with a question of perspective and I want expressionist depth everyone can see and appreciate as perspective. For some reason I think that is difficult to accomplish but I want to make something like that!

But what are they about, these pictures I make? I look at copies of images I've done and wonder: "learning a skill, looking into my head"? Certain subjects are repeated but not so much the technique, the style, the brush stroke, color or lines. It is as if the work for me is really just experimental...not in the sense of a never seen before style, not like Cubism was new and maybe experimental but more in a "use all the known styles/techniques" kind of way.

Maybe that's it?! Maybe I really want to invent something new! As if.............!!!!

So, here are some images, including one of the interior of my work space, which illustrate, to some degree, the dilemma.


PoedyPencilPrincess said...

Rob! Your obvious struggles amuse me in the best way... Now I don't feel so utterly alone!! This sounds like ME through and through. I've gone through this metamorphosis time and time again.

MY struggle is less about the medium and the style and more about trying to please the buyer thereby alienating my one and only real collector I have ever had (which happened very recently). He wants work that is an expression of the real me and I can't give him that if I am trying to please the world. I know that now...

The question is how true to ourselves are we being when we constantly doubt what it is we WANT to do instead of what we EXPECT ourselves to do. There are expectations, too. I am afraid that the artist's life is fraught with them. Why?

I think it lies somewhere between the fear of admitting we want to be something and the fear that we will never be anything. I do not know how to overcome these fears but I do know that just today I took a bit of a leap of faith and did the thing that I have been afraid to do which was take a drive to a school an hour away from home... It sounds simple, but for me it was a big deal, but I have been a miserable bitch lately because I've been holding myself back from the things I really want to do. Today I decided I'd had enough... Because I chose to not hold myself back, I now feel refreshed and happy and settled and so very comfortable in my own skin. Do you suppose this could somehow apply to art? I do!

I mean, when you do what you want to do and that is your one and only sincere commitment, then you always end up with something at the end of the day that you can reflect upon and no doubt it will be wonderful.

I've looked over these photos you have posted and I am blown away. Each one is beautiful in their own way and yet, each one is undeniably created by you. I think I am at that point where I would recognize your work a mile away. There is a quality there that must speak of you as an individual which means you are doing something very right.

A friend of mine said to me that the new thing on the art scene is for galleries to allow the artists to just show whatever it is they've been doing. If that is even remotely true, then this ideal of cohesiveness may well be a thing of the past very soon and I say FINALLY! Because try as I might I cannot do it. Does that mean I am not a real artist? Is that what makes an artist and artist and if so, says WHO!! Dare I suggest that is an outdated ideal and artist like you and me know this deep down but are scared to say it out loud for fear we would be laughed off the proverbial stage?

What the hell difference does it make if all the work "matches"? I mean, really?

How liberating for artists would it be to know we are no longer expected to bind ourselves up with these types of concerns? If it feels good do it! That's the order of the day, is it not? Today, for example, I painted cows in watercolor. Last week I painted a baby crowning from a woman's vagina in acrylic. I did it because I felt like it, knowing all the while that because I am all over the place I have no hopes in being taken very seriously... or so I tell myself.

Your work is beautiful. Your landscapes are my favorite. But these nudes you've shown with this post are really really great too. I see improvement and tempered movement in them, which seems to me to be an indication of improved skill and technique.

I love the chance to peak inside your studio, too. What a treat!

How is all of this for help! Never ask a writer for advice unless you want War and Peace!! haha!

Keep going Rob. There is no destination, only the journey.



Robert Mace Bent said...

Thanks for all of that, every bit of it!! You sharpened my point of view!! So, I went to my studio and took out an old (maybe 6 years)piece I started and never completed....big, maybe 30" x 48",paper, watercolor with some pastel over it and started putting guoache on and thru lines, just reacting quickly to what I was seeing...spent less than an hour, I'd say. I'll post it when I get back from Maine. Maybe it has helped turn a slow corner...we'll see. Thanks!