I don't know what possessed me to sign up to paint landscapes. This is not my thing. I don't enjoy them - not even to view a really well crafted piece by someone who does enjoy landscape.
I'm reading "Art as Therapy" by Alain de Botton. This book came to me as a gift - it was a total surprise and means a great deal to me. de Botton starts out describing what he views as the "seven functions of art" - remembering, hope, sorrow, rebalancing, self-understanding, growth, appreciation. In describing hope, de Botton discusses landscape. He states:
The most perennially popular category of art is the cheerful, pleasant and pretty kind: meadows in spring, the shade of trees on hot summer days, pastoral landscapes... This can be deeply troubling to people of taste and intelligence.
This pretty much sums up my response to landscape - they are troubling. They are too pretty, too simple, too perfect in most cases. de Botton goes on to state:
The worries about prettiness are twofold. Firstly, pretty pictures are alleged to feed sentimentality. Sentimentality is a symptom of insufficient engagement with complexity, by which one really means problems.
Problems... That is what art has become to me - a means with which to address my problems. I rip things up to get out my frustration and reassemble them to produce something less ugly. I paint objects in solitude to ease my loneliness. I compose scenes where the shadows have more life than the subject because I giving more energy to my sadness than to my life... To the viewer, the work may come off as pretty, but to me, there is always some disturbance being addressed.
I think I have avoided landscapes for the entirety of my artistic life because they always felt so simple. They are what they are. I fail to see the mystery in creating a scenic picture. I fail to see the symbolism in creating an iddlic scene. I fail to enjoy the "real thing [pretty pictures] represent."
So here I am, trying to paint landscapes... and at the same time, trying to learn to hope again. I have avoided "taking too rosy and sentimental a view" and most definitely have "suffer[ed] from excessive gloom" in recent months, and really, throughout my life. I have spent an excessive amount of time consumed with thoughts of all that is wrong and have forgotten to appreciate what might be right if only I took the time to hope and think positively.
I'm trying. There is always something to learn and through landscapes I guess I will explore the lighter side of life. I "hope" to be moved by that which is simple and pretty rather than always being consumed by that which is difficult and sorrowful.
I really thought I'd be finishing out the month of April with the bunny but I just can't bring myself to paint another bunny. I've lost my connection to the object and feel drawn to...well, nothing really. I just know I don't feel drawn to painting another bunny.
The photo reference for this painting was taken in early February when the area was blanketed in snow. I'm fairly certain the location is the exact same as the first painting, just at a slightly different angle. I've included some progress shots to show the transition of the foreground.
I may need to invest in some new tiny brushes if I'm going to continue in this direction.
This is the earliest image - the foreground was too soft.
In this image you can see a bit more detail in the foreground shadows.
Then I softened the left side of the foreground and darkened the right to help balance the areas of light and dark in the composition.
Final image - I played with the middle ground a bit. I thought I was done after the last progress shot but the more I thought about it the more the middle ground bugged me. I middle ground glows in the photo and in my memory so I tried to create some luminosity within the white space. I'm not sure you can see the difference in these images but in the painting, there is a definite glow now.
I've signed up to be part of a landscape show to be held next year - 2015. The show is sponsored by the county and will feature artistic representations of preserved farmland in honor of the 30th anniversary of the program. No one asked if I was a landscape artist when I signed up...
I'm really nervous about this - the entire process is a new to me. To be a part of this show, all you had to do was fill out a form and choose the farm(s) you want to document. Farms were assigned to artists - supposedly based on postmark date. I listed 7 farms on my application - and the farm I was assigned - "Dublin Creators" in Springfield, NJ - was not at the top of my list. I listed the farm because of the location - I actually used to own the farm neighboring this property in another life... As farms go, this one is fairly typical and doesn't really inspire me. There is a large, open expanse of land and some trees in the distance - no barns, no fences, just open, tillable land - not much to be inspired by, in my opinion. Oh, and I don't paint landscapes, lets not forget that!
For some reason, I didn't want to paint today, which clearly meant I had to paint today. The bunnies and I are close to parting ways which gave me the perfect opportunity to start exploring this new project I've gotten myself into. I took a ride out to the farm tonight, in the rain, about 15 minutes before dark - perfect time to visit a landscape setting.
Here's my first attempt and the photo I used as loose reference material. I took the photo from the car, so you're looking through the grass/weeds on the side of the road to the field. The painting is on the right, just in case you were confused (I'm a comedian tonight).
The composition is all off. The bird feels foreign today - like I've never painted him before. There's a good deal of space between the objects and they are so different, yet so similar... Can they coexist on this board? Their paths might cross but the two don't look like they will actually meet...or maybe they will, one could turn and change the direction.
Last night was the first of two mixers held by Lauren and Andrew for the Trenton CSA. Share holders came together at 750 Cass Street in Trenton to pick up their share, meet and mingle with the artists who produced the artwork, and eat cheese. (I love cheese.). The place was packed and everyone present was excited about the idea of Community Supported Art.
If you were following along during the little bird series, you may recall my anxiety over letting the paintings go. I spent far too much time staring at the birds as a group - unable to accept them as individual pieces that didn't need one another. But now they are gone, off to (hopefully) grace the wall of some collector, and I think I'm ok with the departure.
Unlike some of the other artists whose work allowed for multiples of a single piece, I created 27 different pieces for the CSA. Each painting was neatly wrapped in newspaper when I arrived at 750 Cass, concealing the little bird from me and the share holder who would be taking the work home at the end of the night. This is the only thing about the exchange that is causing me anxiety - not knowing who got what!
If you are a share holder and now own a little bird I encourage you to look back over the blog read the entry for your piece. I can't wait to see each of you at the next mixer to find out what you think of your little bird!
I've experienced a ton of introspection lately. Who am I kidding - this is a constant! I spend almost equal time searching myself for answers and asking others for insights.
Art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable."
I've always loved this quote but never took the time to find out who said it. Asking google reveals some controversy - some sources suggest Banksy, the London-based street artist, is the source of these words while others suggest Cesar A. Cruz, a Mexican poet, is the original source for these words. Beyond these two men, there is also evidence that the phrase may actually be a variation on the saying "comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable", attributed to Finley Peter Dunne, a 19th century humorist and newspaper columnist. His words are often claimed to be a commentary on the role of the ministry and God but is actually Dunne's view on the role of the newspaper...
Regardless, this quote moves me. When I am uncomfortable, disturbed, afflicted, I am most productive. Being creative comes easily to me when times are tough. Making art is cathartic, it is a release, a calming influence on me during tough times. I find that viewing art during these times is also a great comfort. When life is smooth, easy, comfortable, I don't feel the same urge to make art. I don't feel as inspired and I am never as productive.
My most recent subject, the dead rabbit, has definitely brought this quote to the forefront of my mind. Viewer reaction ranges from great appreciation to serious disturbance. I find myself calmed more by the painting of, and viewing of, the dead rabbit pieces than by any of the previous subjects. I felt driven during the ceramic/glass pieces, on a mission to figure something out, whereas with the dead rabbit, I feel like I understand the subject and what I need to do and how I need to do it is very clear. The ceramic/glass objects felt foreign while the dead rabbit feels connected.
To those of you who are comforted or intrigued or appreciative of the dead rabbit images, I'm glad that you are enjoying the work. I think you get it - and for that, I am grateful.
To those of you who are disturbed by the dead rabbit images, I'm sorry my work is challenging your comfort. I don't think you get it. I know that when I feel challenged I try to figure out why and overcome that challenge - not move away from the challenge in fear.
I'm not trying to tell you what to do or how you should react to my work, I'm just some artist who likes dead things. What do I know about life?
I used to watch Shark Tank regularly. You know, the show with all the rich entrepreneurs who listen to small business owners beg for cash to grow. There's that obnoxious bald shark, Mr. Wonderful, who likes to tell the presenters of bad ideas, "You're dead to me." He's so matter of fact, so certain that he wants nothing to do with the business.
Then there's me. I'm looking at this bunny, so clearly not alive, but I'm not sure he's dead to me.
By the way, same bunny, different day, feels like a "him" not a "her" this time around.
Oh, and I tossed the other frozen bunny. It wasn't perfect after all.
During my undergraduate studies, I spent a great deal of time in the painting studio working with traditional oils. Teaching middle school art for the past 12 years has taken me away from those roots. This "one a day" project is aimed at re-inspiring that creativity and technique.
Other "one a day" painting blogs to check out:
Kellie Marian Hill
The usual Subjects