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I have been working on the same painting for over a year and it is going slowly; so, the other day I decided to begin a daily practice of doing transient Sumi ink drawings on gessoed canvas: at least three to four in the morning. The purpose is to keep an edge on my creative imagination as I ponderously work my way through the problems in the main paintings.

I create the Sumi paintings by holding an idea in my mind as I draw the piece; when I am satisfied with the piece, I photograph it and then wash it off the canvas; thus, the name Transient Drawings. The sponge and rag I use to clean off the canvas double as drawing tools as well as the Chinese brush; the result is very much like a charcoal drawing.

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I have been stumped over the past three weeks as to how to portray choppy water of a river. I finally decided to base the sign on shallow scrolls and bringing any brush strokes out in the rhythm those scrolls: I did capture the energy of the water; but the result was so far out of my normal painting that I questioned its “truth” or even whether it worked: in my view, it looked too much as though it was made for comics. I had a trusted friend – who is an artist and a theater set builder – come over to look at it yesterday: the glyph did capture the energy; but it was like a comic book rendering; and it failed in terms of regression into space.

This morning, with my failed attempt in the back of my mind, I came across on Facebook a link to the Metropolitan Museum of Art collection of Vincent Van Gogh. I followed the link to the collection’s online catalog and selected Van Gogh’s Wheat Field with Cypresses.

What am I looking at? Van Gogh’s successful attempt at capturing energy in his brushstrokes and painting. He understood that the brushstroke carries the intent of the focused artist: One can perceive the wind blowing through over the wheat field, not just because he bent the image of the wheat, but because he held the form of the wind energy and the resistance of the wheat stalks in his mind as he put down the strokes. The same can be said of the tree in middle of the field. The strokes of cypresses convey their living energy. One can go through the entire painting perceiving his recording of the energy or vitality he perceived.

One has to stay on focus to be able to do this sort of painting: this is proof that he did not paint in a frenzy; rather, he painted slowly, as his pigment laden stroke reveals; and he painted each stroke meticulously as he conscientiously recreated the energy in each stroke.

Three Chord Ode Version II II

Digital Composition
October 2012


I began doing digital compositions as a way to make quick compositional and color decisions: Photoshop enables the artist to make rapid decisions over a few minutes that might take days or weeks when done in paint. I began doing compositions of arranged abstract elements put together to create a meaningful composition.
Doors2
Beginning in 2008, I was inspired by two musical references: the first was an off hand remark by some commentator that a renowned composer had recommended to the composer of “Porgie and Bess” the use of the diminished fifth; the second was listening to Leonard Cohen’s song, “Hallelujah” wherein he sings of “the fourth, the fifth, the minor fall, and the major lift” (up to now, I thought that was “the fourth, the fifth, the minor fourth, the major fifth”; so my compositions were worked out accordingly).
August_Oxblood_III_small
I continued my experiments in composition and rhythm but now included using the color triangle to realize what I thought corresponded to Cohen’s musical reference. I began doing research on the musical chords using the piano keyboard as a guide. A few years ago, I had the opportunity to ask a rocker musician, friend Tom Chaffee about the color chords. He quickly drew a circle and laid out the twelve chords around it. This was major revelation for me; I had never seen them laid out in this manner.
Tom explained how a musician might decide to play with the intervals between the notes to arrive at unique styles. I took this chart home and superimposed the color over the notes:
Chords_YisA_II
PianoKeys_colors
One can come up with a different layout, but I was interested in relationships and intervals.
After creating this color/chord wheel, I decided to experiment using my favorite country singer Emmylou Harris: I was curious about her statement about “singing the three chord blues” from her song “The Road.” I then located on line lyrics to a few of her songs and noted the chord changes and experimented with corresponding color changes.
Below: my most recent piece:
Composition-IV

The early twentieth century artist John Sloan wrote a book on art and painting titled The Gist of Art; it is a book which should be in every artist’s permanent art library.
For me the most important chapter in the book is “Painting”; specifically, the sub section labeled “The Color Triangle.” Sloan describes the color triangle as follows:

[He] “found the Dudeen color triangle introduced by Charles A. Winter, a very practical color diagram. The triangle represents color mixtures in pigment form more accurately than does the circle.” [page 119; The Gist of Art]

While the chart from Sloan’s book does not show the full range of pigments available today, it provides the basic information upon which the astute artist can build a representation of his newer palette. One innovation could be to create a similar chart using the color index name number now found on artists’ pigments (you will find a complete guide to these numbers in that indispensable tome The Artists’ Handbook by Ralph Mayer).

Mixing_Triangle

My former method of mixing a color was a tedious process of mixing to the exact top color then mixing down with its complement color: a time consuming process which made for very few colors bing put down in a painting session. Now, a series of oranges can be mixed up and down a color chord (e.g., orange to blue which can be understood to be one color) using mars violet and a range between yellow ochre and raw umber: you can see how to mix a color such as mars brown using mars violet and oxide of chromium. The line between two pigments is also a chord.

So, one now can walk into an art store and look at a mixed pigment, such as viridian in acrylics, look at the mixture, purchase the base pigments, go back to your studio, and using the color triangle create the commercial hue and, at the same time, have a greater range of greens.

Why ArtDenotes. Because art is about meaning. It is not vomit on a canvas. Meaning does not, in the words of one silly person, “diminish the art.” Rather, art coalescences around meaning.

To take this stand is to acknowledge the history of art right back to the cave, and sculptures such as The Venus of Willendorf; to do so is to recognize meaning is central to art: the artist must learn to construct two dimensional and three dimensional images which communicate to the viewer and user coherent layers of meaning. This is the standard by which I chose to be measured; and by which I judge my art and acknowledge my failings.