Marks with Purpose Alright

Well this one really is.

 

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I wanted to do this portrait of my son at this milestone of his life, in this pose. He’s heading to college very soon, and taking his very direct gaze with him.

Little did I realize when starting this piece that a lot of internal combustion would occur. That the words that rumbled through my head as I gazed into those eyes would make an appearance in the drawing. For awhile, it was all words creating the portrait.  Every prayer I knew, every mantra, every affirmation I could possibly think of.  Stream  of consciousness thoughts, letters, memories, positivity the name of this game until my mind was quiet again. My heart still.

There is always fear at the edges of parenting, and that keeps us alert. I was noticing all that and allowing whatever emotion to come up and have its way with me because that’s what I want my work to do. Shake me up sometimes. And this has. In ways that serve my courage.

Then the marks took over. Often contained and deliberate in detail, then released into imperfection and embedded in the surface deeper still. Some were changed, erased and softened. Other times, the words rubbed in. As if I could physically shove them into his head with every ounce of love I have. With this drawing, I believe that my intentions for him will reach his heart whether he knows what I’ve written or not. Sealed in. Safe.

The Words Often Stay.

Some are visible, most are not. But they are understood in that Within that counts.

The Words Often Stay

 

Ok. He can go to college now.

 

 

 

 

Going Small Part 2

I’m back. Processing this whole process thing again. As much as I talk about the power of intuition, there is also a part of my method that begs for analytical observation. I sit on the couch for this part. So, here I am reviewing my decision to work on a smaller scale. It helps me to do this in the middle of things to stay grounded. The balance I’m forever seeking in art and life.

This whole desire to go small strikes me as very ironic. Twenty-five years ago, artist friends were beseeching me to work large. I couldn’t get my nose away from my tiny little pieces to save my life. Something in me needed that intimacy with the work. A similar thing is going on now. So far, no paint on my nose. Thumbs up.

The work I’ve started lately are not sketches this time. The idea is to make them as full of weight as my larger work. There is a door trying to open up within a new room in my art house and like a good listener, I’m picking up different methods to help me do that. More specifically, the order of things I do is changing, and a tactile application of paint is becoming important. I’m diving right into thicker paint (not super thick, but more than usual) I’m using my fingers a lot (yes I wash my hands a lot too). I’m using palette knives, the oldest of my old brushes, a plastic roundish tool thing I don’t know the name of to push paint with, rags to push paint with. A spray bottle filled with some solvent, oil, and a touch of water to spontaneously spritz with. (just a little bit) Cold wax medium, which equals drier paint. Who knows what else I’ll find to try. So far, I’m not complaining too much. Another thumbs up.

This all relates to one of my popular Rants in The Art World to let go of our well laid plans sometimes. I believe, the vision we create in our heads about what we want our work to look like can often trip us up, and limit us. Leaving it open ended allows a new vision to come to light, something perhaps even better than our minds can conjure. It’s a subject that is close to my heart. Someone whose work I greatly respect actually stopped painting because they couldn’t make a piece like the one they created in their mind. I find that really tragic. Our minds can play tricks on us, including making us feel inferior.

This body of work will still continue on the trajectory of my observations of the strong female within the natural environment, and what the language of paint can offer to the experience of being with a painting. It all relates to the evolution, and perhaps revolution, of my learning as a painter. I’m amazed at how much there is to know.

Here’s a detail of one underway. 11×14 on panel.

 

 

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I Want to Know

I’m sitting here rather sore from a daily 90 minute yoga practice that I’ve been doing for 5 days straight, with more to go this week.  Kind of a yoga boot camp of sorts. It’s called Ashtanga Yoga, mysore style,  for those who may be wondering. This is one of the ‘original’ forms brought to the west about 50 years ago. Not very popular with westerners, but it seems to be growing. It’s a rigid form requiring a great deal of stamina, strength and flexibility. I am finding it’s just what the doctor ordered for my sanity, and for my art.

Yes, the art. All these elements are inextricably connected for me. (I know, I know..I keep saying that)

Now mind you, I have been a physical fitness geek of sorts since I was 19 years old. NOT an athlete by any means, but a so- so runner for a while, a gym-goer- exercise- class- type- person. I tried all the fads, so why not yoga when it hit the scene. Little did I know what would happen. It changed my body, my brain, right alongside my art.

I won’t list all the ways.  It’s truly a mystery how it happened, why it happened, and why it still is after all this time (10 years). All I can say is, it worked for me in profound ways. Try it for yourself, but stick with it. Perseverance counts.

What’s my point? This blog is basically a catch-all of all the insights I’ve gained in the effort to improve my work. It’s not just about acquiring all the right tools of the trade, the skill set of a painter. You can find all kinds of art blogs about process. Sure  that’s important, but something more has to go on in there; ‘there’ being that piece that comes through your work establishing a connection to your viewers.

What is it? What do you bring to your art that triggers a response in people? Is it all calculated and planned? Is it conceived way before you make contact with your canvas?  I ask this because I am interested in how other artists approach their process. How you come to the creative mark. Feel free to share. Not a whole lot of that goes on out there.

To explain in a nutshell, what yoga has done for me is given me courage. I have to tell you bluntly I never had it. I was the shy, quiet kid afraid of everything. So here I am in middle age taking on a physical practice (geared toward younger bendier people) that is often bringing me to tears in fear. This cracking open in a physical sense is lending a hand to the ‘other sense’, the one that is hard to describe, but instrumental in my work. I am willing to try things now. I don’t worry about the outcome so much. I am learning to surrender, because I simply cannot muscle my way through every pose, every brushstroke, every worry, every conflict in life. It makes for a harder yoga practice. It definitely makes for a contrived piece of art.

The ‘What’ will be different for everyone, I know this. Not everyone has the gift of a healthy body. Not everyone has the desire to bring their life INTO their work. There are those that observe and document, and perhaps step away from the process in some way. This too, of course, can be very powerful, and relevant to these times we live in, if it is approached in a sincere way.

How do you access your core, your reasons for creating in the first place?

What is the change you want to bring into the world, through your work?

This curious mind wants to know.

Going Small

I recently completed a Teeny-For-Me piece for the Portrait Society of America’s 6×9 Mystery Sale. The complaining was endless. What happened was, I lost touch with my more controlled self. The one that liked to work in a chair at the easel, and enjoyed the idea of someone being nose to nose with a piece to truly experience it.

Once it was finished, and well received, it dawned on me I needed to do this more. Not only for folks who often ask for pieces at a smaller price point, but for the flexibility of my paint chops. I should be working in a variety of sizes to keep my language alive.

That said, I did not want to make something as complex as my usual work, only smaller. I wanted a slightly different approach, a more controlled outcome. My perimeters were to work in 2 stages. One, the alla prima stage, for no longer than 2 hours. Two, the final stage, which would include glazing and whatever else it needed. That’s it. Subject matter would of course be simplified as well. For me, there is nothing worse than painting a teeny tiny eyeball with single hair brushes. Won’t happen.

So, here are my first two oil sketches underway after stage one. If you are interested, in about a week or so, I will be posting one at a time on Ebay, starting bid to be @250. for each plus shipping. Unframed. These are oil painted on 8×10″ linen panels. (Those 3 inches made a difference!)

Please look me up on facebook for the when. And thanks for your support, as always.

 

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Layered

I’m on a mission. Sometimes it seems dang near impossible, but so be it. I want the world to see art differently. I wrote about it last month, and am adding to it here. Another layer. Going deeper into the creative life and process, via my own. Excuse me if it sounds self-absorbed. It is. It’s a necessary place to start from and move forward and find common ground. May Sarton sums it up best for me:

“One must believe that private dilemmas are, if deeply examined, universal, and so, if expressed, have a human value beyond the private. I am willing to give myself away and take the consequences, whatever they are.”

Those that know my work are familiar with the fact that I work indirectly, in layers.  As I’ve talked about previously, I worked on 3 pieces of the same person, all started with a purple toned ground. It was an experiment of sorts, to see if I could overcome my neurotic ways with commissions. The stress, the obsessive thoughts revolving around likeness and pleasing people. I have a lot of insecurities folks. I hope you know that. I’m old enough to finally admit to them too. I really wanted to walk my talk about ‘transcending likeness’, to see if what I discovered going way deep into that unknown ‘I-don’t-know-if-this-will-work’ space will uncover something new. It did. I found I still have a lot to learn.  About trust.

The good news is, I walked through those doubts and let them exist right alongside  my confidence in what I could do. And just like that, those thoughts came and went. It was exhausting. Add to that an average 4 days of intense yoga practice every week to make it even more interesting. Going within is an understatement.

There is not a day that goes by that I don’t think about the future of my work, its material success out in the world. Can I make things that matter to people, even just a little bit? Will it matter enough for them to purchase it? Will that work be relevant decades from now, or will it be sitting in a thrift shop somewhere waiting for a couch to match it? It can defeat me if I let it, these worries. Like a virus entering in and causing harm to our physical selves, doubts can easily cause permanent damage to who we are at our core. It we allow them to run amuck.

Then it hit me that I need those doubts. In small controlled doses.

How else do I learn to grow as a person?  A person with heaviness that makes it worth that weight? As an artist who wants to offer more than what an image can portray? I have stuff. I think too much. My head gets LOUD. The wonderment, the quiet, the questions, the dramas. The light. All of that gets mixed up and shown along with the beautifully complex people I get to paint for a living. When we meet, I look for that binding thread in their eyes. Then I run with it, and allow it to grow into something else on the canvas. Bigger, more substantial, yet oddly lighter than what it seems. More than I ever could have planned or expected to happen. Transferring Weight.  Allowing all those layers if not seen, than for sure, felt.  I’ve used ‘felt’ a lot around here. It’s part of my mission. Go deep. Make friends with the shadows.

Layers. They are getting peeled back, covered up and reinvented. As much as I talk and whine and soapbox about it,  there is no going back. It’s worth its weight in gold.

 

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Kordic_StargazerDetail2014

 

 

 

 

The Urge to Connect

I find it interesting that so many artists are ruling social media. History often speaks of the reclusive, eccentric artist. Today, we are all over everywhere on the interwebs. Just like the true space creatures I often think we are. Ok.. I’ll speak for myself. I am a space creature that connects on social media.

There seems to be an urgency out there (and in me) to make work that will reach out, and make a difference, even the smallest of kinds. It is possible that it may be just my circle of artist friends, or my genre of painting, but I see very few people treating their art as a factory assembly line. We want to create things that will stay. In homes, in hearts.

I’ve often spoken of art as being a visionary practice. Whether my fellow artists would admit to this, is another matter. The problem with that notion is that it doesn’t look good on a business card. “Visionary. No job too small.” How do I even explain that to my Croatian parents? Is there a word for it?

Ask the people that live with me, I am often frustrated by the world. Most often though, I understand why. It is not easy to live in this day and age, a lot is shifting.  I get it. That’s why I paint what I paint. I want you, the viewer, to know I get it. I want you to know that just because it is murky and unclear today, it won’t always be. There is wisdom in stillness, but you have to be quiet long enough, steady often enough, to know this.

Art in your life will slow you down. It doesn’t matter what kind it is. If it makes you think, if it makes you smile, if it brings up a memory, you slow down. You put your gadgets down and look up at the wall. Maybe grab a drink to ponder further. It may remind you to go outside, and find those clouds that were painted. To look at the bowl of fruit in your kitchen, and marvel at how an artist was able to paint it true to life. You may see a painting of an elderly person, with a map of wrinkles, then suddenly appreciate the time it took to even get to that face. A bold field of color.. what IS it? Who cares! The fact that you even want to know what the heck it means is activating your brain.

We artists already know that art is worth making. We want you to know, that it is also worth having.  The real art, made one at a time, with every ounce of dedication, thought, and craft that any other professional out in the world is doing. There are many of us who have made it our jobs, and so many more that have made it our lives. To be shared.

That is no small thing.

Feeling My Way There

I’m recovering from a particularly gut wrenching bout of paint fling. Lest you think I’m complaining, let me assure you I’m not.

To back pedal a wee bit. My entire body of work from 2009 on started from the notion that I will let my tools of experience guide my hand via my heart. And lest you think this is a tad bit over the top smaltzy, you would be right.

By that I mean, throw all caution to the wind, and chuck any plans, any ideas swimming in my head, and be totally engaged in the moment of painting. It is not always pretty. In fact, it’s usually bitterly nauseating. In spots.

My head questions my sanity all the time, make no mistake. Most artists I know have a notion, then they work out said notion in sketches and color studies. Setting up models, lighting, situations.. Hats off to them. I have lost all patience with that. I’m not saying ‘my way is the right way’, but it is My Way. I own up to my trials and tribulations throughout. I chose this.

I am in the middle of a series of 3, one of which is finished. They all started with purple toned panels, which- surprising to me, changed most of my color choices. I often change up at least one thing from one piece to the next. Purple was it for these. The one completed went through drastic changes. The figure started out being surrounded by foliage of green, which sat well for me for about 6 hours. Then, yuk, too expected. I glazed lots of transparent blues, violets over it, until it became darkened, as if by age. That too didn’t last long. Then it was, get the knife out. Add globs of paint. Orange. It needs orange SKIN! Yes! who doesn’t want orange skin in their portraits. On this went, week to week. The changes made me dizzy.

Now, regular type sane variety painters would be wagging their fingers at the screen right now chastising me for not doing preliminary work.

And they would be right. This type of behavior is what preliminary work was invented for. One needs to predict ‘the problems’, right? Truth is,  I have embraced my scrambled mind. Within the chaos of that, I find a certain clarity, a knowledge I didn’t know I had.  This knowledge is a combination of things. Of 35+ yrs of painting experience, and that open heart I mentioned. Pretend I have antennae on my head. That’s the best visual I can offer you. I pick things up, and go with them. I don’t claim to know all the answers when it comes to painting, but I do know my answers to it. And that’s all I need. One step at a time.

Embrace the unknown. The worst that can happen is that you’ll get lost enough to have something to find. It’s quite a ride.

If you’d like to follow along on my painting journey, please stop by here on facebook for works in progress.

With Dragonfly Wings