Thursday, March 30, 2006

Defining Art

What is art? Who would think such a small sentence was so loaded? Gombrich’s “Story of Art” talks about how the idea of “art” didn’t come around till after the Egyptian paintings. I always thought that was art, but he made me see how it is beautiful but it is also a part of a very intricate ritual with very rigid rules. It seems in the “serious” art world painting is art. At least that is what it would seem when you see what the art history books emphasize and what everyone assumes when I tell them I’m an artist. I always hear, “Oh, what do you paint?” (I do paint too, but that’s not the point.) And if you look at sales, though other art is selling, nothing sells like a painting because the general public has been told that is art. Photography was not seen as art at first either and now it is accepted by mostly everyone as art. Digital photography and manipulation seems to be the new art. This is a very exciting medium that can go in so many directions.

But this is all historical. What this question really means is, “What is art to you?” Of course, there are a lot of galleries and museums out there that are making up their own rules. You have to make up yours. I recently examined this question for myself and found I had two views (maybe there’s more in there, but I’m not going to get into multiple personality traits).

One view is from my perspective as an art teacher. That is that whatever each individual creates is art and we should all explore that side of our personalities. My neighbor who is taking pictures of her garden and blowing it up as a digital canvas is doing art. She is expressing herself in a creative way. I think this is a necessary part of the human psyche that needs so to be explored and cultivated.

My second view is as an artist. Basically, it comes down to one thing. Does it move me? Now, I can break it all down and say why one piece works and one doesn’t according to design and composition rules. I can find the logic and an understanding in any piece of art. But that doesn’t tell you what I’m really thinking. What is important to me is that it makes me feel or think, that it either answers an unsaid question or creates new ones for me to ponder. Craft, art, computerized or hand made are not the ultimate issues for me. I recently said I wanted to see the artist’s hand involved, but now I see these are the wrong words. I want to see their heart and soul. And I want that to somehow touch me, come from their realm into mine.

Can I do this with my own art? Well, I’m trying and will keep trying because I am an artist, a creator, and somehow want to give something to others of what my vision is. I want to touch someone, and I am going to give my whole heart to do it.

And that, folks, is what I think art, at least the man-made kind, is. Now, give me a misty morning with the light coming through the trees kissing the newly fallen leaves of autumn and my breath will stop. That is art too, but the artist’s hand is left to each of us for interpretation.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Work in Progress

I have been pondering a lot about this new permission I have given myself to make mistakes. Realizing that up till now I have truly been assuming tht whatever art I do it has to be perfect. When it is not, my back gets all tight and I am frustrated. It is way time to let this go. I realized this even more when I began taking this painting class and for the first time in my life I was afraid, intimidated, to put anything on the canvas! Now how was I expecting myself to paint perfectly when I was only beginning? Silly me. I think it has also something to do with my expectations of other peoples expectations. I have to remember, as Art and Fear so well pointed out, that I am not doing this to please the masses. I may please some people and that is wonderful. In fact I want to do this, but I also want to express myself freely without worrying what impression it makes. Even on myself. I tell my students all the time to leave the inner critic behind when they come into my classroom and yet I've been carrying her on my shoulders all this time. No wonder I have back problems!

So, in line with all this and my personal promise to draw everyday, I drew my breakfast, as Danny Gregory reccommends. It was awful and I wasn't awake. But, I did it and I'm going to continue every day to do the same, not breakfast that is, but drawing. I think this is a true necessity for all artists. Hopefully, it won't be so awful in the future and I will feel more confidence in putting down what I want quickly, without fiddling over the details. I love those details, but there is something to be said for confident, immediate response. Details can come after.

Otherwise, I got back to my batik yesterday and today, yipee! I was missing the texture as compared to the flatness of painting on canvas. I also realized that it is really a good idea to plan for entering competitions/shows. Gives me a solid reason to finish by a certain date other than thinking I would like to show the pieces I make someday...

Oil painting tomorrow and we will be exploring color! This time I am jumping in without checking the water temperature. It might be a bit cold at first, but I'll get used to it. Just have to swim, even if sometimes it is a dogpaddle and not the butterfly.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Later and later

It's late and I should be going to bed, but I'm feeling so guilty about not writing in here for almost a month!! I did take some pictures, so now I have to figure out the download. Again, actually because my husband showed me and I took notes and then the notes disappeared! I might just try this on my own...

Let's see...where to start? Where did I leave off? Painting class. It is fantastic and I am on a huge learning curve. With my teacher and a little help from WetCanvas!, I have been sopping up information. I learned that you can make a linseed turpentine mix to cut down on the turpentine. I learned to scrub in the paint and not use so much turpentine. I was really overdoing it. I learned how to make a grisaille after doing it once in class and twice at home. I was on a bit of a slower learning curve with catching on about tone/value. I know about it and can teach it but doing it myself, another kettle of fish. How strange. First, I needed to accept that I couldn't get all the values of nature in, and second (and this is ongoing and big) I need to not get caught up in the details. I'm working very hard on painting and drawing quickly now to avoid this tendancy. I love detail! Problem is I get so involved in it I am not seeing the whole, the gestalt of the actual tableau. Retraining myself though, with a few pushes and shoves from my teacher. :0)

Drawing everyday now thanks to my teacher again and a little help from Danny Gregory. I just got his book "The Creative License". While I don't really need it for the beginning drawing it is a good book for beginning journaling which is something I've been meaning to do for some time. I think he has some good things to say about it. Plus his drawings are fun. This weekend I went back to the International Art Club for sharing a model. I drew in my studio on Friday and Saturday at the IAC. At the end of Saturday, I felt I was beginning to get something, starting to let go. It's funny how it is so hard to give myself permission to draw for the sake of the exercise and not having to come up with a finished drawing. I need to do this in my painting too. I forgot how to learn and the only way you can do that is by making mistakes. If you are afraid of mistakes, you will never learn. I hearby give myself permission to make mistakes and learn!

Ok, I'm going to go get my beauty sleep, not for my own beauty, but to create beauty tomorrow and every day!