Monday, February 19, 2007

Okay, that thread was getting too damn long

Pipe down, you guys, okay? Take your Gamblin war outside. I mean it. Life is too short.
First, an observation. The painting "Curtain" intrigued me, and I made it my desktop wallpaper for a while a couple of weeks ago. Although I certainly can see the curtain contained in the painting, with the yellow floor it resembled to me the edge of a forest, suspended in a dusk sky. It would take a long time to explain this, but certain cirrus cloud formations sometimes (to me) look like broad swaths of deserts with snowcapped peaks. It's merely a matter of perspective shifting, the orange sky is the sand, and the clouds are the mountains reflecting in the distance. It takes effort to see the sky in this way, but while I sound utterly insane it is possible to see this given the correct meteorological conditions and an open mind. Even with the removal of the orange floor (sky) it still looks like a fantastical yet spooky treeline, to me. I guess a lifetime spent looking at and traveling along treelines will do that to a man.
Actually, I intended the 'orange floor' to give you the feeling of light, just light, flowing up under and behind the curtain, blocked by the dark heavy line at the bottom, glowing through the top. So I guess it's not a complete failure, if you're getting 'sky' from it.

I look at treelines, too; in fact I have spent my life staring at all things organic, and growing things, and moving around with them as though I could get inside and become them, with the result that now any random mark I make tends to follow some sort of organic pattern, more or less. I'm still not hugely happy with the painting, but after slapping a 'brown-pink' glaze over the bottom yesterday, which somewhat intensifies the glow, I've come to the conclusion that it is what it is, and trying to make it something else will only make it worse. I'm glad you like it.
Ok, for the questions. I have driven past an art school once or twice in my life, and that is the sum of my training. That said, why is it necessary to use canvas, as opposed to other materials to paint on? I understand the material itself is resilient, but isn't it possible to paint on some other surface and achieve the results you want? Aside from black velvet Elvii (is there a plural for Elvis?) prominently displayed at the finer east Texas trucking establishments, I cannot recall anyone using alternate materials for the backing of their work. Is there a reason?
In the course of my career, I have painted on:
canvas
burlap
plywood
construction palettes
scraps fetched out of dumpsters
masonite
lids of tin cans
muslin
bedsheets
lauan (high-quality plywood veneer)
linen
various other types of fabric, including silk, velvet and prints
walls of buildings
dead flowers

Each of these materials takes paint in entirely different ways; it's like a completely different activity, with a whole different set of results. Therefore, once you get good at something and like the results, it's difficult to switch to something else. Perhaps a major reason that most painters paint on canvas, then, is that we're creatures of habit, and basically lazy.

However, I can also tell you that burlap, muslin and bedsheets are for shit; they disintegrate within short order, and the burlap has too loose a weave to hold any detail at all. You have to prime them all, of course, but even under an acrylic primer that could survive nuclear war, they still rot.

Metal is good, except that the paint peels off it. Glass and plastic have the same problem. I know a few people who paint on aluminum.

Wood is great, except that it's heavy. I once made a piece on a construction palette that weighed about forty pounds; it was a nice piece, but schlepping it around was a real pain, and it was impossible to hang on a normal wall. It ended up being a sort of standing sculpture. You don't want your entire oeuvre to be like that; life is difficult enough.

Also, when you paint on a rigid surface like wood, the painting is much easier to damage and much harder to fix. You whump a canvas painting into the corner of a table, it gives. You do the same with a piece on plywood, you get a nice lovely triangular scratch, and the paint color that matches is back in Mexico.

The benefit of wood is that you can use rigid materials like encaustic (wax paint), oil sticks, and collage. It's also much easier to get a perfectly smooth surface.

Cotton duck canvas is the preferred student-grade medium, being cheap and durable. I hate the stuff. It's ugly, and the machine-woven texture is a cliché on the order of a Thomas Kinkade print-on-canvas, pretending to be a real painting. During the many years I used it, I put on so many coats of gesso by hand that the texture was completely eradicated, replaced by a subtle texture made by the marks of my hands. That texture became the basis of the vibratory energy in the painting.

Now I use linen, and a whole lot less gesso. A piece of linen is a gorgeous thing, all by itself; it is organic, irregular, rich and poetic. You put one stroke of paint on it, it already looks like a Degas. So that is what I'm sticking with. Even though it's $150 a roll.
My second stultifying question is style. Dig if you will the picture that does not fall into any of the known "schools" or is an amalgamation of two or perhaps more styles - does this negate the piece because it was not strictly Impressionistic or combined Realism with Surrealism? In addition, if the artist is completely ignorant of both of these schools and yet paints within the confines of a few varying styles does that automatically render his burgeoning masterpiece into a festering piece of shite?
Painting in a non-named style, in this day and age, does not 'negate' the piece, unless you mean 'disqualifying it from a plein-air kitsch art fair,' which is a GOOD thing, in the context to which I (and the other artists reading this blog, hopefully) aspire. If you are painting in a recognized style, such as Impressionism or Surrealism, in this day and age, you are not considered an 'artist' by anyone who writes for, or reads, Art in America, Art Forum, the New York Times, or anything in the art blogosphere. You are considered a commercial craftsperson, if you are considered at all.

You see, the one required quality of anything regarded seriously by the avant garde art world is newness. (Do not even get me started on Jeff Koons. Just don't.) The nastiest, most dismissive thing ever repeatedly, snottily said to a struggling art student during critique is, "That's been done." (Or, "that's kitsch," which comes almost to the same thing.) You may, of course, borrow from the vocabulary of recognized styles out of the past, but if you're just making an Impressionistic painting, welcome to Hotel Rooms, Inc.

If the artist is ignorant of style, period, he is termed an 'outsider artist,' ignored while alive, and lionized after he dies, penniless, in a mental institution. See Henry Darger.

I wonder if the lack of training or knowledge would provide the painter a unique, fresh perspective or merely damn the fledgling artist to a life of noisome craft shows and loving renditions of the King?
Yes.

13 comments:

Chris Rywalt said...

She sez:
Pipe down, you guys, okay? Take your Gamblin war outside. I mean it. Life is too short.

Oh come now. We haven't even reached a third of the usual Anonymous Female Artist length.

And anyway, it's important. I want to learn.

I didn't address Crom's questions because I knew you'd cover it. I'd just add this brilliant quote from Robert Hughes on Albert Pinkham Ryder, who you mentioned in the previous thread and who is, coincidentally, making an appearance in the comic strip Apartment 3G:

Though his color was rich, he drew feebly. The convention is to treat this as Ryder's good luck, as though it permitted his native, visionary qualities to prosper, unsullied by academic convention. But the truth is that his figures and animals never benefited from his awkwardness. Ill schooled in anatomy, he spent no time looking at bodies and analyzing their structure. His men and women looked like slugs.

Crom said...

PL - Thanks for the detail on the painting surfaces, it explains a lot. I am not planning on painting anything - I could never even draw "Tippy" - but was curious about the mechanics of it.

I do like "Curtain" despite my misunderstanding of it's basic mechanics. I'd like to see it now that it's finished, if you don't mind posting it.

Desert Cat said...

Thanks so much for shattering my naivete. I did not know who Jeff Koons was, and now I very much wish I still did not.

If that's avant garde it may well be enough to make me throw myself heartily into the production of "kitsch".

arebours said...

!

flaming geebus said...

for gods sake,pluck yer eyebrows,woman-

this time round said...

I think that a lack of training could give a person the invaluable qualities of emotional honesty and directness. I have been trying for years to get rid of my art training baggage and find again why I became an artist in the first place. my children create some truly incredible work, I hope they can maintain that communication and through the minefield of education.

I enjoy your blog. thanks~karen

prettylady said...

Gosh, Valerie, I'd hoped I'd seen the last of you.

prettylady said...

Thanks, Karen! I like yours, too!

painterdog said...
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painterdog said...
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painterdog said...
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painterdog said...

I think that a lack of training could give a person the invaluable qualities of emotional honesty and directness. I have been trying for years to get rid of my art training baggage and find again why I became an artist in the first place. my children create some truly incredible work, I hope they can maintain that communication and through the minefield of education.

Why is it that art has to be this low low thing that is based on lack of training. Why is it any different than say being a plumber?

Let me ask you this, would you go to a doctor who thought like this or a car mechanic?

Why would anyone want to de-train themselves unless of course your a completely talentless person and need an excuse to justify the art that you do.

Crom said...

After returning from a few weeks to see what was new I see that my questions sparked some debate. Painterdog has a point regarding technical competency, I do not hire non-ASE certified mechanics, I look up my doctors online before allowing them to treat me, and I ask for referrals for things like plumbers and attorneys from my friends.

However, art seems different. I bought a piece from a local artist that provoked an emotional reaction, and I put it in my study. Whether or not this particular artist went to school is irrelevant to me, (and I did not ask her credentials) I simply handed her the $120 that she asked for the piece. I did ask her a few questions about her method of shaping the metal, since I am planning on learning some rudimentary blacksmithing skills, but I did not want to know her opinion or motivation or training regarding the object.

I don't know if artistic talent can be taught, or instead is eventually revealed through hard work and discipline.