Thursday, July 1, 2010

Mia Bella

I've been working on this off and on for over a year.  Though I am not unhappy with it, I find myself thinking its not quite there yet.  Alas, I have to accept that my skills have not yet caught up to my expectations and let it go knowing that someday in the future I will look back upon it with embarrassment.

"Mia Bella" - Oil on Linen Panel 11" x 14"

Friday, June 4, 2010

A Couple New Sketches

A couple of recent sketches:

Monday, April 19, 2010

What is Creativity?

"Making the simple complicated is commonplace; making the complicated simple, awesomely simple, that's creativity." ~ Charles Mingus

It is difficult to have a discussion on art without defining creativity. Before I give my definition, lets take a look at the word itself. The root word is "create" or what the dictionary will define as "to bring into existence." Creativity is then defined as, "the ability to create." Though I agree with this general definition, I think I am in the minority when it comes to explaining what is actually being created. If you were to ask yourself this question, how would you answer? Most likely you would say some artifact is being created: a painting, a piece of music, a performance, or maybe a book. I would say, that's not it at all. I would argue that none of those things are created. They are simply a reorganization and manipulation of what already existed.

The painter takes raw materials - canvas and pigment - and organizes them in a particular way to produce an image just as the musician takes the sounds made by instruments and organizes them in a particular way to produce a melody. A computer programmer takes code to produce software. A Chef takes food and prepares a delicious meal.  A writer uses words to write a novel or a poem.

I provide the last example because it is something that anyone reading this blog can do - write.  Yet, it is not often we look at the way in which we have strung a number of words together and say that it was the act of creativity.  Usually its simply a matter of utility - a means of communication. Yet, I am willing to bet all of us have felt moved by the eloquence and verve of a well written book, the lines of a poem, or the lyrics to a song.  The writer, in a creative act, organized the words in a way that gave them meaning beyond mere utility.  In such cases, I would argue that something was "brought into existence" that did not exist before - beauty.

I think society has perverted creativity to mean 'different' or 'novel'.  For most of my life the modernist movement dominated the art scene and a few pompous critics tried to convince us that the ugly monstrosities that were being shown in galleries as art.  Everyone I knew who saw it quipped, "I don't get it."  I don't get it either. An unmade bed, soiled and sweat-stained, surrounded by garbage is not beautiful.  It is not creative.  It is not art.  Yet Tracey Emin proposed this very thing as her work of creativity and it is on display in a modern art museum.  I ask you, is there any human being on earth who could not recreate this scene in their own house with enough slovenly disregard?  No beauty was created here.  Its simply blatant exhibitionism - more of the same "look at me" attitude that bombards us in the media.

Please don't misinterpret my statements above to mean that I do not appreciate abstract art.  I love abstract art that is well conceived, designed, and executed.  It takes great skill to make good abstract art, just as it takes great skill to make good representational art.  Despite the perception, many of the same skills used by the representational artist are also used by the abstract artist.  The use of composition, color, light, shape, and form to create beautiful paintings or sculpture.  This is much different from finding dog droppings on the ground, sealing in a jar, putting it on display, and labeling it as a creative act of genius.

I believe creativity has a purpose beyond simply seeking unconventional means for solving problems.  Its purpose is to create beauty.  It takes great skill and knowledge to create beauty.  We rarely look at someone who is just beginning to learn the piano and consider the music they play to be beautiful, but a pianist who has years of training, study, and practice  transform the simple sounds made by the instrument and elevate them into something truly moving.  Its not limited to what is traditionally considered "the arts" such as music, dance, writing, or painting, but to almost any human activity.  A mathematical formula can be beautiful.  A meal can be beautiful.  A speech can be beautiful.  A golf swing can be beautiful.  The way someone provides customer service can be beautiful.

Beauty matters.  The modern world seems to be forgetting this.  Rather than explain this myself, I recommend watching philosopher Roger Scruton's six part series on YouTube on why beauty matters.

When I am working on a problem I never think about beauty. I only think about how to solve the problem. But when I have finished, if the solution is not beautiful, I know it is wrong. ~ Buckminster Fuller

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Self Portrait

"It is bad enough to be condemned to drag around this image in which nature has imprisoned me. Why should I consent to the perpetuation of the image of this image?" ~ Plotinus (on being asked to sit for a portrait)

There has been a long tradition of painters painting self portraits, but this is a first for me and something I was hesitant to do. I'm comfortable behind a camera but never in front, so this exercise was like being on the red carpet during a paparazzi feeding frenzy. However, I would be a hypocrite if I did not venture beyond my comfort zone from time-to-time. Its possible I may never do a self portrait again, but you never know. Many painters seem to do it annually to have a record of their progress.

Self - Oil on Linen Panel 9" x 12"

I found so many good quotes regarding the subject, it was difficult in deciding which to use for this post. I've included a few more below:

"Self-portraiture is a singular in-turned art. Something eerie lurks in its fingering of the edge between seer and seen." ~ Julian Bell

"I paint self-portraits because I am so often alone, because I am the person I know best." ~ Frida Kahlo

"I loathe my own face, and I've done self-portraits because I've had nobody else to do." ~ Francis Bacon

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Portrait Sketch: Annie

A quick 3 hour sketch:

Portrait Sketch: Annie - Oil on Linen Panel 9" x 12"

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Focus on the Process

"I don't believe in failure. It is not failure if you enjoyed the process." ~ Oprah Winfrey

Far too often we focus on results instead of the process. We cannot control results. We can only control the process. I was not chosen as a finalist in the competition, but I had nothing to lose. There were over 1,300 entrants and only 15 were selected. I recognize most of the names in that list of 15, so it should tell you something about the quality of work that made it in. I look forward to seeing their entries as I always have something to learn from those who are better than me.

The experience reminded me how important staying focused on the process is. The process of getting into the studio, putting out paint, mixing it up, and applying it to canvas. The process of continuously learning from the works of others. The process of assessing my own work and seeking improvement. All these things are necessary if I am to find the results I seek because results will never come without it.

I didn't always see it this way. I was results-oriented for much of my life and it served me well in corporate America - but it was chaotic and highly stressful. Maturity and experience showed me that being process-oriented would lessen the drama and produce results that were more consistent and of better quality.

Results-orientation is acting based on how you feel about your need for success and an utter fear of failure. It ensures a high level of stress because it is driven by emotion and how closely success is tied to your sense of self. Anyone who is a perfectionist is almost always results-oriented.

Process-orientation is acting based on how you feel about the activity and less so on the final outcome. It is a rational approach to working because you are thinking about how to produce the result in a repeatable, efficient way. The joy is in the work itself and not just the rewards, recognition, or fulfillment that comes with the product of your work. It doesn't mean that you have no regard for the end results, because there would be no sense in refining the process if you didn't.

We all lean towards one side or the other and neither approach is necessarily wrong. I have learned the latter is more enjoyable and better suited for me. Others need the drama in their lives and thrive on it.

"Shallow men believe in luck. Strong men believe in cause and effect." ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Monday, March 8, 2010

Website Launch

The Internet is like alcohol in some sense. It accentuates what you would do anyway. If you want to be a loner, you can be more alone. If you want to connect, it makes it easier to connect. ~Esther Dyson

The new website has been launched along with my Facebook fan page and Twitter feed. Please take the time to subscribe to the mailing list on the website, become a fan on Facebook, or a follower on Twitter.

Its a little sparse right now, but I will continue to add content throughout the year.

I was skeptical about using Twitter, but decided it was useful in lieu of having a separate news page on the site. These blog updates are automatically posted to Twitter and Facebook.

Starting a new painting this week and trying to finish one that I've been struggling with for a while.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Portrait Sketch: Ashley Greene

A quick 3 hour portrait sketch of actress Ashley Greene. I'm working on a couple paintings I plan to enter into a competition and getting close to publishing the web site.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Daily Grind

I've been trying to come up with a better way to start my painting sessions, so decided to begin my day with a quick sketch to warm up and just have fun before I continue my day with more "serious" work.

I spent about 45 minutes on this one and like how it turned out.