Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Paper . . . not just for reading and writing!

In honor of Museums Advocacy Day . . . 

Paper, it's not just for jotting down notes or printing out a letter. In the hands of a master like Canadian, Calvin Nicholls, it becomes a superb art form. Currently hanging at the Woodson Art Museum, Paper Sculpture by Design spotlights Calvin's incredible cut paper masterpieces from the collection of Follett Library Resources, McHenry, Illinois. On loan to the Woodson through early April, these lively and life-like representations of the animal kingdom join a wonderful exhibition of origami folded paper works to fill the galleries of the museum and spark surprise in visitors. I became familiar with Calvin and his wonderful, evocative work in the late 90s when he was one of the included artists in the hanging of the museum's 'flagship' annual exhibition, Birds in Art. I was instantly astounded by the intricacy of his cut and layered paper work and have been ever since. If you are in proximity to Wausau, Wisconsin or plan on passing nearby in the next month or so, do plan to stop into the Woodson to experience the beauty and marvelous creative skill of Calvin Nicholls as well as all the wonderful folding paper artists represented in the accompanying origami exhibition. The diversity of the ever changing exhibitions that pass through the Woodson on a yearly basis, continue to surprise and amaze me for their non-duplicative, unique representations of all things creative, artistic and thought provoking!

Friday, February 22, 2013

I'm up to my ears in the studio, not surprising after the news of a week ago. Just a little intermission to post this shot from a day ago of a rabble of robins at the frozen bath. At least they were able to beak out a bit of melt along the sides. But, sure is a fine sign that spring is at the doorstep.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

I'm posting several new works that have come off the drawing board over the last few weeks and will be headed out shortly to gallery events. These three were all done with the same basic idea in mind, to come up with an interesting composition using a strong vertical movement. They are all about the same size, roughly close to a 2 to 1 ratio, either dead on or slightly taller. Using a strong vertical line of some sort and letting the other elements of the composition sneak in where they might, I hope I've come up with some interesting and appealing small works that will draw the viewer into them.

After the exciting news of Valentine's Day, I spent most of the last four days digging through files of reference material, setting aside selected photos and sketchy notations that might be developed into all the work that I need to accomplish over the next six months for my mini retrospective during the opening of Birds in Art in early September. I've also dug out ideas that have been stored away in drawers and folders for many years for works that I thought, one day when time allowed and there were no other pressing constraints upon my studio time, I could put into my schedule. Revisiting some of those ideas has sparked renewed interest in the original intentions and I've modified some to expand upon the original idea to suit a possible inclusion of bird subjects. I am enjoying the consideration of just how I am going to come up with a varied set of ideas so I don't necessarily duplicate themes and knowing that my thought process in composing has changed over the years, some of those older ideas are taking on new life. 

I'm deciding if I want to show some of these works in-progress here as they come up on the drawing board over the next few months, or to hold back and not allow them to be seen until the hanging of all during the exhibition in the fall. Something to mull over as I continue to sketch out the ideas that seem to be bursting from my head right now.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Coming on the heels of yesterday's posting about 'The Process' and my way of refining compositional ideas and all, some readers might have gleaned from my, maybe not so subtle, inferences to 'a major jury competition' that I could very well have been referring to the annual jury for Birds in Art at the Woodson Art Museum. So, it was with complete 'knock your socks off' waves of honor and excitement that I received a call today naming me as this year's Master Artist for the 2013 edition of the internationally respected, highly coveted and competitive exhibition. It's a great honor to join the ranks of the previous Masters.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Process . . . I know I've spoken and written about 'The Process' before, but since this blog is shortly to begin its ninth year (wow . . . really nine years?), I thought it might be worthwhile to reiterate how my process of composing and coming up with new ideas for works happens. 

This comes about as a result of some time spent yesterday, talking about and showing examples of the very way in which I go about pulling ideas together with an artist friend who occasionally struggles with composing and finalizing the ideas that spark her creative process. The timing was perfect as I had spent the better part of Monday pulling together reference material and building up a compositional framework for an idea that was really set in motion almost a year ago.

Now some would say that they think I spend far too much time in preliminary motions, nitpicking the details, sorting through piles of reference, working out ideas and reworking them till I feel I've reached a point at which I am comfortable to do a final sketch for transfer to the Bristol Board and begin the drawing. Well, that is just the way I work!

As I've often said and repeated time and time again, that is precisely the 'stuff' that sets my mind a-thinking, the grist for my mill, the kindling that sparks my compositional ideas. I relish digging my teeth into piles of reference photos and notations from years previous when sitting down to compose a new work, especially one that might be headed for a jury and a major exhibition opportunity. I think I spend a good amount of time working out ideas before any drawing begins but for those works that I am going to submit for jury consideration, I tend to really get into . . . the process.

And so, I spent about six or seven hours on Monday working out a design for a larger work that will be, most likely, submitted for a major jury later this spring. Now the initial thought process for that time spent on Monday began quite some time ago, with little rumblings of ideas that I stashed away in my 'brain file' and made some written notations that wound up in a pile alongside my drawing board for future reference. 

The 'spark' or initial mind's-eye-vision of this idea was based upon some images I shot of some distant relatives I had lunch with in the spring of last year. The children were enjoying a sunny afternoon chasing and playing with a group of pigeons and gulls on the waterfront in Baltimore. I knew, upon seeing the images back on my computer screen, that there was good 'grist' for possible future inclusion in a drawing or two and the ideas began to float around in my mind on and off over the last ten months. 

By the time I had turned my thoughts to beginning to consider elements of a composition for this particular jury exhibition, I found myself going back to those images of the children and the birds from last spring. Before long, I had formulated the rough outlines of an idea which then called upon me to spend a few hours going through photos from cross country train trips I'd taken in the late 1960s. Now, how did I get from the Baltimore waterfront of the spring of 2012 back to train travel of 1967/68/69 (Back to the Future?)? I can't explain completely the linkage but that is just how my mind tends to work. In any event, poring over all sorts of photos of those train trips, and immersing myself in my personal love for trains and such, I felt I had hit upon a very interesting idea, one that not only excited me as an artist but I thought would, in a possible finished drawing, emote all sorts of connections with a viewer of that finished work.

And so the process began in earnest on Monday. I set out all the photos that I though had possible connections to the idea that I had in my mind's eye and began placing images together in what I hoped would be interesting arrangements. Here is where Photoshop came in quite handy as I would overlap images, getting them to a point that I felt they reflected what my initial vision seemed to be for the work, arranging and rearranging, shifting and substituting until I came up with a final arrangement of the basic important elements of the design that I was happy with. Now all of that shifting and such took a good five or so hours with me constantly refining my initial idea and even making adjustments that happily resulted from seeing things in the photo reference I was working with that had not occurred to me as possibilities in my initial plan.
 When all was said and done, I had settled upon a composition that was pretty close to my original concept, but that had been expanded a bit throughout the process as a result of seeing other, more interesting or unique possibilities as I went along. Staying open to the possibilities of change and alteration and happy discovery during the process of composing is, again, what makes me smile and feeds my creative desires. 

I've stored what I consider to be the 'final' worked out paste up of my composition and at last look yesterday, feel pretty comfortable with it. But, it will sit, unobserved, for the next few days and I will pull it up again over the weekend and take a look and if I don't see an immediate need to alter the placement of the various elements or overall design idea, then I know it is ready to go. But if upon seeing it with fresh eyes in a few days I spot something that seems a bit off, I can make the necessary adjustment, file it away again for a few days and take a second look next week. It's all a part of . . . The Process!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

In celebration of this year's Darwin Day, the site, Science Art - Nature, is hosting their third annual virtual art exhibition with Darwin in mind. Linked here, there are currently 40 art works posted with more to be added in a few week's time. In the past, I've had several works included in the previous two exhibitions hosted by the group but did not have time to be a part of the posting this time around. Well worth a few minutes of your time, there is a lot of terrific commentary in addition to the fine works of art represented in the on line exhibition. Take a look and enjoy and don't forget to return to the site next month to see more fine works related to the ideas developed by Darwin and his travels.

Saturday, February 09, 2013

Visitors to the frozen bird bath in the backyard this morning. I know the northeast is digging out from the snow last night but can spring be that far away? There was apparently, enough melt near the sides of the bowl for the birds to drink from. I'll go out and crack the ice later on when I refill the feeders and then it's back to the drawing board.