Wednesday, October 5, 2011

More Sharp Teeth


The experience of living can be like trying to take a drink from a fire hose- there's just too much coming at you too fast. 

In the previous post I talked about using drawings to pare down the overwhelming complexity to make the sense of it. Paintings that try to encompass everything fail every time. The irony is we have to back away from a direct confrontation with nature if we're going to make landscape paintings that can ever do her justice. Making drawings is a way to do that, stripping away color and dealing just with shapes and darks and lights. It's getting down to essentials. 

I'm illustrating this post with more of the series of vine charcoal drawings I did last week up in the Adirondack Mountains in northernmost New York State. I've been going there regularly for the last half dozen years and feel I get a better understanding of the potential of those mountains for making paintings with each visit. 




When I was still an undergraduate art major at Oberlin College I discovered the critical role making drawings played in Rembrandt's process. He did hundreds of them of all sort of subjects. He always tended towards radically simplifying most of the details in favor of an overall mood, light, sense of movement and an elegant but unpretentious drama.  I used to pour over his drawings for hours. Back then I couldn't understand their appeal as clearly as I do today, but their pull on me was profound. Rembrandt, through his work, taught me deep lessons about how to see the expressive side of forms and light. Four hundred years after he died he had a really, really eager student in me.



One other thing about drawings. Sometimes we really do have BIG ideas. Grand panoramic visions that need a huge canvas to get realized. But more often I think our best ideas come to use in just the other fashion. The sort of tip toe in, appearing at first to us as just hints of what they might become. If you don't have a quick way to capture these ephemeral little insights right when they appear, you're likely to loose them (good ideas love nothing better than to slip away again if you don't grab a hold of them). A drawing is fast- it summarizes more than it describes (especially the kind of soft vine charcoal drawings I make). It's the art equivalent of a good butterfly net- a medium able to capture a delicate winged little creature without hurting it).



Down below is a photo of me standing near the summit of Whiteface Mountain looking southwest towards the Adirondack High Peaks.



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