A bit of lateral movement this morning as I take a slight detour from the usual to offer a few personal remarks on a quote I read this morning, posted on Facebook by an artist friend, thus . . . 'Most representational artists know strong abstract design underlies every piece of representational art, and values are the bones. So, interesting shapes and design, held in unity by values, are the backbones of all good paintings . . . '.
This quote came from Bill Davidson, whose work I was somewhat familiar with, having seen it in issues of Southwest Art magazine over the years and occasionally stumbling across it on line. But, I never really took an in depth look at his body of work till this morning, when I decided to seek his work on line and found his wonderful blog, Reflections.
Digging deeper into dozens of his paintings, his words above, really resonated with me and in such a brief statement, spoke volumes about not only his personal approach to painting but the underlying 'bones' of how I tend to construct my compositions with what I always hope are 'interesting shapes' and designs. I've spoken about this on numerous occasions before and especially a number of years ago when I was deep in the midst of preparing for my solo exhibition, Unknown Bridges, with the Woodson Art Museum. I talked then about how I was struck by the very abstract nature of bridges and their structure and wanted to somehow incorporate that abstraction into my art. It dawned upon me then, that I had rekindled my youthful desire to be an abstract expressionist artist within the confines of the realistic manner in which my graphite work had evolved.
Reading Davidson's words this morning reinforced what I had understood deep down, ether consciously or subconsciously, all these years since my expressionist painter days in art school and proved to me that I was not alone in that understanding.
Though Davidson is a painter and uses values of color to organize his shapes and designs, my organizational framework in graphite also depends greatly on the opposing values of light and dark, sharp and soft, and intense and subtle to bring to life the shapes and designs that form in my mind's eye.
I've often spoken about how new ideas for work materialize, for me, out of basic geometric shapes a good percentage of the time; overlapping shapes of variations in grey, circles over triangles over squares butted up against rectangles in unique and appealing 'structures', the variations posible in juxtaposing positive and negative spacial relationships - black over white, white over black. All of these elements of good design, present even in abstraction, play into thoughts and compositional arrangements within the context of my figurative and representational subject matter. This is the stuff that always gets my creative juices flowing!
If you take a few moments and look at Davidson's paintings, you become quite aware of his well thought out placement of all elements and shapes; the well balanced positive and negative spacial relationships; his use of cool and warm values to move things forward and back - developing great depth and dimension. All of this is accomplished with very loose brush work, bold, non-fussy shapes, and lost edges which are structured over a basic skeleton of abstract forms within the confines of his canvas. Sure they are 'pretty pictures' but they have far more bones to them than being just a nice representation of some inviting scene in nature.
The well thought out work of art should and will grab your attention much deeper and with greater intensity than the lesser planed work. You may not know why, but you will know that it speaks more strongly to some emotion than other works might. The time spent by an artist on finding the 'right' placement of subject matter, the right intensity of light and shadow, the right attention to focus and detail - leaving out what is not needed and including only what is, and basically building upon a set of bare bones shapes, should result in a most engaging work which, if representational in feel, when eyes are squinted and the view is fuzzied, can pass for a totally abstract formulation.