Abstract expressionism

2016 09 24 - 20:30

I understand why it has a place, and why folks like Jackson Pollock are significant, but I've never cared for abstract expressionist paintings.

I've never liked Pollock (who's paintings I've often referred to as bird shit), that's for sure, nor Mark Rothko or de Kooning - though I don't mind Kline. I think only because his black and white works are so simple, they aren't masses of jarring colour that leave no rest to the eye or mind. I've always found the genre to be messy, ugly, without anything that could speak to a person unless you count migraine-fuelled chaos, without evidence of skill, and devoid of a message. I am not of the sort that believes art needs to have some sort of message in order to be good art. It doesn't. Good art (by which I mean abstract art in this case) is well-made, illustrative of some kind of skill, and/or appealing to a person in some way (not necessarily pretty, just appealing; and sometimes the ugly appeals). You can get something out of good art. You can get your own message, regardless of what the creator may or may not have chosen to illustrate.

Pollock did open a door: He opened a door and freed yet another path for creators to follow. That is why he is important.

I still think his paintings look like bird shit though.

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Artist Grade Coloured Pencils

2016 09 04 - 20:37

I just had a brilliant product idea that I emailed Liquitex about (because that company loves the experimentin')...

An artist grade line of coloured pencils (hopefully at a lower price  point than Faber-Castell and Caran D'ache), that conforms to the same  colours, colour names, and lightfastness that a paint manufacturer uses,  made of a material that will marry with acrylic paint somewhat better  than wax-based and oil-based coloured pencils do. It would make some  aspects of art-making easier - fine lines that conform to the colours in  the work, augmentation of work such as I do, colouring in prints  produced on a press, etcetera.

Such a thing does not exist, you see. Let us hope Liquitex creates such an animal.

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Lawren Harris

2016 08 19 - 20:35

There is an enormous amount of art that is utterly lost on me because of my eyesight. I cannot appreciate the detail.

Enter Lawren Harris, who removed detail, who distills a thing down ti its essence, and loses nothing of the significance. Because he takes all the overt complication awsy, he made it easy for me to connect, to appreciate the work.

While I'm hoping to get to Toronto to see the Harris show at the AGO, I am more than pleased at the room half full of him at the Art Gallery of Hamilton that I just saw. I rarely get to go to the AGH because of my schedule, so today was a treat.

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Big

2016 07 10 - 20:34

Part of why I don't do more large-format creative work than I do, aside from the obvious problem of the price of pre-stretched canvas, is storage. I live in a small apartment, and there isn't enough space to store big canvas. I'm thinking, though, of at least working on larger sheets of watercolour paper than I've been doing my printmaking with - it's far easier to store, though sizes are limited. The biggest pre-cut sheets I can get, are 22" x 30". It's something, but I really itch to work on huge canvas - 4' x 4', 5' x 8', and larger. Canson (through Curry's) has a 52" x 10 yrd roll, which would be stunningly wonderful if it weren't only 105 lb paper. In order for the paper to be of any use to me with acrylic, it has to be 200 lb or better. I can do the printmaking with 140 lb paper, which I have been doing, and let me tell you this - Fabriano 140 lb works so much better than the Canson does. Even at that weight, light washes and wet media, Canson paper still peels apart, where the Fabriano doesn't.

The issues with working on paper though, are sellability and framing. Some folks are more likely to buy abstract/surrealist acrylic work if it's on canvas than they are if it's on paper - but you can get around that by using even a tiny bit of some other media and calling it 'mixed media', and framing costs a fortune. Paper, unlike canvas, can't be hung without a frame - unless I do the work on paper then glue it to cradled panels before it's to be shown or sold, so that I can still store it easily. Panel sizes come in the same variety of sizes that pre-stretched canvas does, but it's more sellable that way than just work on paper, and with it glued to the panel I can varnish it the same way I'd do a canvas.

I need to live somewhere larger, with storage space.

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Eyes and Balls

2016 02 06 - 20:39

A friend and I, talking about our respective sports loves - she's football and I'm baseball, ascribed it to the fact that you love what you grow up being used to seeing. That's true, in a lot of ways. She grew up watching football with her father, going to Tiger Cats games and the like; and I grew up watching baseball with my grandfather, and classic Dodgers/Yankees grudge match world series. I don't watch baseball much anymore - I don't have cable (nor even a TV), watching the games online can be flakey at best, and the strikes kind of did a number on me years ago that I never quite got past. I've only ever been to one major league game, where the Red Sox beat the pants off the Blue Jays 14 - 1. I swear, as a visually impaired woman I'm sure I could have played outfield better that day than the guy who was doing it.

Here's the thing... I can still watch games if I want, but unless I watch them on TV it goes right by me. That's the one beauty, though, of watching baseball on TV - they always make it very clear where the ball is at any given time. With hockey, football, and basketball, to my eyes it's merely bunches of men going back and forth across various colours of surface. I can't see the detail. It's all lost on me. It just sort of hit me yesterday, when I thought maybe I should watch some of the online Coal Bowl games (it's a basketball tournament in Cape Breton that, as it happens, some of my cousin's children are playing in), even though I've never had a love of basketball, just to see what's going on - to keep in touch with what my family is doing and all that. But, there we are, all the detail of what's going on would be lost on me, so it's more groups of men running back and forth across a surface.

I used to think all the time about what I was missing in life, but not really in a participatory way. It was more of a can't-drive-a-car, can't-be-a-doctor, can't-operate-machinery sort of thinking. Today, though, I think about all the things I've missed because I can't see the detail. No animals-in-the-forest-watching, no people-watching, no shared sports experiences, no eye contact games with men. People have accused me of being rude because I don't look around when I hear someone who shouts after me without using my name, nor do I look at honking cars. No point. I can't see the people in the car, and unless you're within a couple of feet of me, I won't see you standing across the road shouting at me. Rather, I might see you, I just won't know it's you.

So, I spent a lot of my life not bothering with certain things, because there was no point in learning them - there was no point in learning the details of a sport I could never actually enjoy - either as a participant or a spectator. I never learned the details of most sports for that reason. I never bothered flirting with people for the same reason. At times, not being able to participate has been incredibly frustrating. It hasn't stopped me from having adventures and enjoying my life - but a lot of my pursuits are solitary, individual, and late-blooming.

Oddly, one of the things I enjoy most - making art - is only augmented by bad vision, rather than being hampered by it. Do I live the life of a photo-realist? Hell no; but I wouldn't want to. I'm a surrealist, an abstractionist, I like art made from accidents, and bad vision only helps. I prefer abstract art to representational art. I never much got into landscapes, unless it looked like a Dali-esque nightmare. I don't care for portraits either. I get more feeling out of abstract works - from colours, shapes, patterns - maybe because that's sometimes all I see of the world. It was great when I was taking a lot of photographs, because I did what I called abstract photography sometimes. It was never about taking pictures of Things, it was about taking pictures of their shapes and the way they fitted in to what was around them.

My life is a piece of melon on a buffet fruit tray. One time I took a couple of cubes off a tray because I thought they were cheese, because from my eye-level looking down at a buffet table is just a sea of colours. My friend Diane spent a week in Cuba walking behind me at the resort's buffet line whispering in my ear about what was on the dishes in front of me. It's why I like buffets that label the food trays - at eye level. Makes life a little less gastronomically surprising.

I've missed out on a lot, which I suppose was my point - and it was sad, and sometimes still is; but I haven't missed out on everything, and that's good.

Incidentally, I hate melons - but I ate the cubes just the same, because I was too embarrassed not to.

art, iaido, personal
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Value

2016 01 10 - 20:45

I remember the first time I sold a piece of art - it was auctioned as part of a fund-raiser for the Dundas Valley School of Art some twenty years ago. The quality of the piece was immaterial. I was happy, proud - I'd sold a piece of art.

And, at a time when my family life with my grandfather had seemingly devolved to nothing but negation, insults, devaluing, verbal and emotional abuse, it was the first time - maybe the only time - I can remember him being in any way proud of me. He wanted to give me the value of the sale out of his own pocket, and frame the cheque the DVSA had sent me.

The creative has value, even in so simple a way as this. It would be a lovely thing if more of the world gave it more credence than they currently do.

Is a career in fine arts the most practical thing? No, but its siblings - the packaging, car, clothing, film/ TV, bus ad, and menu makers of the world - are. We see and use these things every day. The pragmatic is also not the be-all and end-all. The creative mind can think in ways that can benefit professions outside of the arts, because a creative mind is adaptable, elastic, fluid, extemporaneous - at least, it should be. But, if your child is creative, why would you want to devalue it at all? This is the conversation you could have with your child: "Okay, you want to be an artist. It's a hard life, so while you're making art, get a certificate in bookkeeping so you can make a living while you paint."

As an aside, I still have no idea who bought the piece, nor where it ended up.

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Theory of Obscurity

2015 02 18 - 19:40

I just watched Theory of Obscurity, a film about The Residents.

I had a whole thing written about what I think of certain aspects of experimental music specifically, and arts in general, and some of the people involved therein, but I'm going to keep it to myself for the moment, except to say that while I am not necessarily a fan of some experimental music/arts, I like the idea that they exist (most of the time), because I like the idea that people should be able to do whatever they choose with whatever they choose in whatever fashion they choose, however inaccessible it may appear to the general public. I don't mind working for my art somewhat, but there is something to be said for things that have accessibility - and accessibility certainly does not make a piece of created work invalid, or less valid - although I have met people who do believe that.

Am I a Residents fan? Not particularly. I think my favourite comment on anything of theirs I've ever seen, was "What the actual fuck did i just watch 0.0?" If you can answer that question, you're a better (wo)man than I am. It also puts me in mind of a quote from Operation Petticoat (a stellar, not-to-be-missed, comedic gem), "It's like watching a strip tease. Don't ask how it's done, just enjoy what's coming off."

And, only loosely related:

Last week I think it was, someone I know posted a question that went something like: If you had the opportunity to change a piece of art, what piece would it be, and what would you do? I would personally love to add a slice of cheese to Claes Oldenburg's "Floor Burger". While I appreciate the pickle immensely, I think it's lacking something vital without cheese.

If you wish to enjoy Floor Burger yourself, it's part of the AGO's permanent collection.

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What is abstract art?

2014 08 31 - 23:49



So, you're talking to someone about abstract art, and they ask you the ever-present, "What's the point?" How do you explain abstract art to people? This is a very nice little video that gives a little back story on how abstract art came to be, and what it all means. I highly reccommend its sharing with everyone.

Some thoughts.

I rarely title my paintings; not when I began painting twenty years, and not now. Sometimes I do, but the title is usually a joke, a pun of some kind, that has (usually) nothing to do with anything other than the major colour of the work. Although, I did do a series of drawings one time, and named them all by song titles that the images inspired. Here's why I don't title my work: I'm a process driven person, in large part; and I am most involved when I'm doing the work. That's the fun part. 99% of the time I have no freaking clue what I'm going to do until I slop something on a substrate, and things just happen from there. So, that being said, when I'm done with the process, I'm done. I'm not part of the work anymore. Now, it's your job - you, the audience. You look at what I did, and hopefully you get something out of it. I don't want to tell you what to get out of my work. I want you to get out of it what you want to get out of it. If you like something because of the size, or the colour, or the fact I used black lines, or maybe I used a gritty texture - good. Titles, like labels, are traps, as the Daoists say. They colour your thinking. I don't want to colour your thinking any more than I'd want to learn lucid dreaming. I don't think dreams should be controlled. If there's some kind of deep or noble message in my work, it sure ain't comin' from me - not on purpose, at least.

Speaking of slopping... I like accident art or mistake art. Some things I've done recently were as a result of my attempting one thing, fucking it up, abandoning it, then painting over it with something completely different that I draw out of the mistakes I made. Like the green painting I posted last week - a canvas with a process I fucked up, so I was looking at it and started to see shadows, shapes, light spots, and started building the painting up from that.

If I were to define myself by the terms set out in the video, I'd be a colour field artist. (Though in actuality, I'm more a surrealist.) I like colour and pattern and shape and shading and such. I'm not a big, bold slapper of paint as Pollock was - I'm not an action artist. When it comes to painting, that is. When it comes to drawing, that's about shape more than anything else. It's why most of my drawings are either white on black or done in dark coloured pencils. Drawings, for me, are not for colour - they're for shape.

I believe that there is a creative person living inside just about everyone. I believe that all you need to do is find the thing, the medium, that's going to tweak it out of them - whether it's painting, or paper cutting, or baking cookies, or doing math. It's there.

I try my best not to be precious about my work, or the ego I attach to it. Okay, maybe I have some skill, or what others refer to as talent. That makes me happy. It gives me something to help round out my life. It gives me something to share with others. It gives me a way by which I can make money. It doesn't make me better. I am completely comfortable with the fact that there are seven billion people on this planet, each of them with a differing opinion, and it's likely that most of them will hate what I do. That's okay. Let me say this again so that it's clear: It is okay for people to hate your work. People hating your work means nothing about you. So they hate it. So what? Move on. You'll find someone that doesn't hate it. You don't like everything on the planet, so you can't expect that everyone on the planet will like what you do.

Your work is a commodity to be sold. You need to keep that in mind if you ever want to make money from it. Sure you do it because you're drawn to do it - no pun intended, or driven to do it, or you want to prove a point or send a message, or whatever impetus has you going. I do it, sometimes, because I want to make really big things that look really pretty. But, in the long run, you want people to buy your work. So, you have to do the exact same things that other businesses do in order to sell their products. This does not de-nobleise your work. It doesn't de-nobleise you. It is also okay to make some things specifically for the purpose of making money. On the one side you could have two lines of art on the go: the stuff you do to satisfy your creative self, and the stuff you do to make money so you can do things like eat and buy art supplies. But let us consider Dali. Sure, he was a pioneer in Surrealism, and yes he certainly knew his way around a paint brush and canvas, but he also made no bones about the fact that some of what he was doing was solely for the purpose of making money. As much as he could get. Picasso didn't live like a pauper. The Greek Stoics didn't live in hovels or starve either. Even Malcolm McLaren declared he'd do it to make a million pounds. There is nothing noble about the starving artist. In fact, I'm still trying to figure out how the hell that concept came to be in the first place. Where is it written that in order to be given credence as a creator, you must eschew the money of the world? If you make a dime you've sold out? Exactly where and how are the creative types supposed to get money to live if they don't sell their work? Where is the crime in doing so, doing it a lot, doing it so well we all make the money Gerhard Richter makes? (Which is, incidentally, a lot.) Are we all supposed to get real jobs and only make money that way? In this economy? I've been trying to find a job for years. So, I'm taking a talent and running with it. Being a starving artist  doesn't make you or your work more valid - although it sure can drive your work, depending on the sort of work you do. Being a starving artist is frustrating, that's for damn sure; when your dreams are 4'x6' from Curry's and your reality is confined to 8"x10" from Dollarama.

If, however, you don't care if you make money from it, then you don't care. Nothing wrong with that either. Just don't ever forget that you are a little fish in a big pond, and that unless you happen to be Richter, it's not likely you'll ever make a good living from your work. You're a little fish in a big pond, and art is a highly subjective thing. Sometimes it boils down to like or dislike, not good or bad. Also, as I said to someone the other day as regards why they couldn't sell their work: You can't sell your work for the same reason most folks can't - it costs more money to buy than most folks have to spend.

A friend of mine once asked a friend of hers who graduated from a university fine arts program, why she bothered to do it if she didn't really learn anyhing from it, and the response was that she did it for contacts, and she felt that's why most folks get a fine arts degree - for contacts in the art world. Yes, you want to sell your work to the world, but the only way to do so is by contacts, by making nice with people who can show your work, by kissing ass and taking names (to put it more vulgarly).

Although there are large sections of the crafting world that I don't give a rat's fat white ass about, I sure would never, no matter how shit I think the work is, ever denigrate someone as being beneath me because I do fine arts and they make kitchen witches. Creativity is creativity, and you should urge it out of people, not shit on them for it. Let me put that another way: being a craftsperson makes you a different kind of creator, not a better, or worse, or less valid one than someone who's doing gallery work. Truth be told, if it wasn't for the crafting world, I'd never have cottoned on to some of the things I do to create my paintings.

Why does art cost so much? Do you work for free? Neither do I. I don't know about you, but if I spend hours, even days, making something, I'm not going to give it away for a song (though I have given art away for my supper - and beer).

Art is fun. And if it isn't, stop doing it.

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Why artists starve

2014 08 10 - 23:39

If you want to know why artists starve, or give up, this is a good example.

This 16 oz pot of Golden heavy body acrylic Green Gold (one of my favourite colours of theirs) paint, is $53.95. Granted, that's a lot of paint, but if you're doing a series of large canvas that all use it, and you're doing layering, that 16 oz isn't going to last too long. (The 32 oz jar is $109.79.) Different colours cost different amounts of money. Some pigments (like crushed lapis used in ultramarine blue) are more costly than others. For example, in the 16 oz size, Pyrrole Orange and Red, and Cobalt Turquoise.and Blue, are $71.49.

Now, granted, there are cheaper paints. Golden is the good stuff. Their heavy body acrylics are like painting with pudding. It's very sexy. Here's the problem with cheaper paints, or student quality paint: They have a much lower pigment to binder ratio - less pigment (colour) means that the paints are less opaque; which is okay if that's what you want, but is not okay if it isn't. Less pigment means more paint used in order to compensate for the lack of pigment in the paint. Which is the problem with much of what passes for craft paint at dollar stores.

Do remember I'm citing Canadian prices here. And, no, there really isn't anywhere (that I know of currently) that I could acquire paint any more economically. Michael's is not an option. The way they inflate prices is criminal. I only go there for things I can't get elsewhere, and when paper or certain canvas is on sale. (Which it is right now, but I'm busted flat.) Above Ground Art Supplies is a good shop with excellent selection, but their prices aren't any better than Curry's (and most of the time are a little worse). They do offer things Curry's doesn't, though.

And then there's canvas.

This 48x48 gallery wrapped canvas is $92.95. The option to stretch my own is not really an option, because it's not an ability I ever managed to acquire. Yes I was taught how to do it, and yes I have done it, but my wrists are weak and I could never, no matter what I did, pull the canvas tight enough. So, unless and until I acquire the ability, it's off the rack for me. And no, I don't like painting on canvas panels. I just don't like the way it feels. They also carry another burden, which is that-unlike canvas-you have to frame them. Though they are, in most respects, much cheaper than stretched canvas (in some cases they aren't), the size availability is limited. The largest you can acquire is 24x36, and I've only seen one brand that goes that large. Most of the time you can only get 18x24 - which is great if you're trying to paint a portrait of your grandmother, but not so great if you're trying to be the next Salvador Dali.

If you're lucky enough to be an artist who sells a lot of big works, or one who has employment elsewhere, then maybe you'll be lucky enough to be all right; but if you're trying to make works to sell without any real income to set up your studio with, you're screwed. I can't make the work I want to make, because I can't acquire the materials I need to do that, which means I don't have the work to show to entice buyers with (or get a gallery show), which means I don't make money to buy materials. And so on, and so on.

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Art is...

2002 10 08 - 20:57

Art is a thought, a feeling, an idea, made manifest. Artistic creations are avatars of those thoughts, feelings, and ideas.

An artist, to me, is one who creates. That creation can take the form of anything at all, even things that traditionally hang outside the realm of art. Anything you create from your heart and with your soul, is art. Stephen Hawking is an artist, so is Alan Greenspan. Their talents just lie in directions not necessarily meant to hang on gallery walls. Being an artist is creating, having a certain quality of soul, being open, willing, taking nothing and making something from it. Art is a constant act of being and becoming, of enjoying a process and not caring about the result, of crafting a desired result. An artist is a philosopher, a craftsperson, an anarchist, a spiritualist, one who can see God (whatever form or fashion your god is, even if you don't call it by some deified name), and a madman.

Art coming alive is when some piece, installation, creation, actually speaks to a person or at least conjures up some feeling or thought - and those feelings or thoughts don't need to be complex. If the feeling you get is the same joy you had when playing in the mud as a small child, then the art or artist has done their job. If all you do is look at something and fall in love with the colours in it, then the art has done its job. There may be more that the creator intended, but in some way, however small, it's done its job if it affects you in any way. Where there is nothing flowing between the artist / the art and the audience, there is no life. It is just a person staring at something static that does not, and perhaps cannot ever, speak to them.

Art coming alive is, sometimes, when that art involves a physical act of participation. When you create a piece of entertainment for as small a group as possible, using as many performers as possible. It's anarchy.

Art coming alive, for me, happened the day I snuck over to my friend's house while she was at work, and dyed the snow on her front lawn several different colours, or when a dear friend of mine put a greeting card beep tone music thingie into his passport so that when they opened it up it played "Don't Worry Be Happy".

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