We can attempt to teach the things that one might imagine the earth would teach us: silence, humility, holiness, connectedness, courtesy, beauty, celebration, giving, restoration, obligation and wildness.
David Orr from "Earth in Mind"

May 17, 2008

Art and Cratf part 1 Art

[Thanks to Abi for letting me use her computer and play with the chickens]

A few weeks ago as I sat in a figure drawing workshop waiting for the model to arrive I was talking to the woman sitting next to me. She is ninety and has been an artist since she was eighteen. Still she makes her way up the four flights of stairs in an old factory building to her son’s studio for our weekly workshop. She was telling me the story of their home on a hill in New Jersey. When she and her husband were looking for a house they drove around the area and he sat in the car with the kids while she checked out the house, if she liked it he would come up and check the yard. That was it, they chose a house that way and bought it on the spot and stayed there for over thirty years.

She talked about how the house was perfect for raising boys, which she had three, with a field in the back and the combined open space with the neighbors they could wander freely. She credits the space where her children could watch the living world what helped two of her four children to become artists. The garage was turned into a studio for her where she would paint and draw all day. Often her husband, also an artist, would come home and look in at what she was working on and tell her that it had been the same thing as what he had been working on that same day.

The conversation drifts from art to music to a discussion of ways of increasing the amount of people who come to our workshop. Right now it is small six or seven people at most (I am the youngest by at least forty years), the problem they have is that when they advertise people show up expecting instruction and the members aren’t there for that, they come together to pay for the artist (and I think for all of us it is nice to get out of the daily routine).

The model comes in and we talk with her a little while about poses and timing and then we draw. There was something particular about that model that was very calm; I found that I did not want to use any gesture lines only smooth shadowing and contour lines. My choices were all about what I wanted the sketches and drawings to look like. I spent the entire three hours discovering what sort of line embodied this woman. There was no purpose to what I was doing beyond the image I was creating; I was creating a piece of art.

After an hour the model is done and I am walking down to my car I feel a buzz of energy, I have spent the last two hours working on one single drawing. I felt as though I had just started and there was so much more that I had to do to in that drawing. But it was late and I was tired, despite the buzz of energy. I drove home scarcely listening to the news on the radio even as news of the cyclone was still new.

I take the time once a week to draw the human body not because I want to eventually do large oil paintings of people; in fact I haven’t done an oil painting since college. I draw from life because as I learn the human body I begin to be able to see the world better. To understand how to put other things down on paper in ways that makes sense to my eyes. Like so many other things in my life I know I need to understand myself, or at least my form, to understand the rest of the world.

Even if a lot of my pieces are abstract I still use what I know from figure drawing to create it. For me all of my pieces are all about finding the balance on the page. When I am working on a collage it is almost like a puzzle to find where each piece belongs with in the balance of the page and the feelings I want to express on it. To me this is art, using a visual medium to create a balance in a specific space.

Of course a specific space does not need to be limited by the edges of a piece of paper. When Christo put up his Gates project in New York’s Central Park he was doing the same thing, limiting his space and creating an emotion with it. To be sure his works have more dimensions because not only do they deal with the visual effect of the pieces but also with the human elements of people interacting with them. Each artist creates these parameters for their works.

The boundaries of art are not limited to the visual, but I can not speak about them with much personal experience (I have already talked about writing quite a bit in this blog). What I understand about the creation of art is that it is a relationship one that leans as much on emotions and imagination as it does on technique. I remember being told in college that a piece of art work is never done but I do not believe this; sometimes it is possible to find the balance and then, if you leave it alone, you are done.

Here is a list of some of the artists who have been inspirations to me for a long time. I am not including any artists that I have discovered lately because I have not sat with them long enough to be influenced, regardless to my attraction to their art.

Sonia Delaunay

Georges Braque

Jasper Johns

Alexander Calder

Faith Ringgold

No comments: