Sunday, October 17, 2010

More Thoughts on Beauty

So I had some time to digest the Lecture on The Banishment of Beauty by Scott Burdick, and I've finally come to my own conclusions of exactly how his ideas have impacted me.

Beauty has, for the first time in my life, become a valid and extremely important thing to fight for.

One concept I spent a great deal of time pondering today is the idea that "beauty is simply truth" because that's the statement that caught my attention. Now I don't think Scott's intent was to define the universe or anything simply by saying that we'll find it if we focus on beauty. But he definitely piqued my interest in the subject.

You see, up until now, I have always devalued beauty. I defined it is as something that was, at best, simply nice to have but not essential. At worst, beauty was something completely superficial. This opinion made it hard for me to value my talents and to rectify within myself the strong desire to pursue art. It seemed so inconsequential in the long-term scheme of things. But this tie from beauty to truth made me take a second look at my opinions.

Although I still believe that beauty can be superficial and therefore distract us from ultimate Truth, here's where the light went on for me:

Beauty is not sufficient, alone, to lead us to absolute truth; but absolute truth is never found without beauty.

Therefore, beauty is valid. Beauty is important. Indeed, beauty is essential. And the part that I play as an artist who is doing my best to create beautiful images is, indeed, essential as well.

Beauty is worth fighting for in a world full of ugliness and I'm happy for the choice I've made to pursue it.

Friday, October 15, 2010

New Perspective

Ever had the experience--the Ah Ha moment--that completely changed your paradigm and subsequently your life?

I just had that today with regard to my purpose as an Artist after watching Scott Burdick's lecture on The Banishment of Beauty.

I am not exaggerating when I say this video completely changed me. In fact, it was only last post that I proclaimed my distaste for people's flowery, emotion-laden attachment to their art. And yet, here I am feeling suddenly like I am a crusader because I pursue Beauty in my art.

Here are a few of my favorite quotes from the film:

"there is no limit to the subjects and forms of aesthetic beauty. It can be seen in old faces, industry, and the most unexpected subjects imaginable – sometimes it is merely the play of light itself on a simple object. Tragedy, and even death, can be painfully beautiful subjects in the right hands. "

"It is not hard to make something ugly. Transcendent beauty, on the other hand, is a sparse commodity, something that helps make life bearable and spurs us on to heroic efforts to rise above the horrors of life. This is why beauty has been valued for all but the last century of the history of mankind."

"The beauty of love, of the sacrifice of a mother for their child, of the natural world and all its wonders of earth, sea, mountains, and wildlife, these are the things that inspire and remind us of what is worth fighting to preserve, be it another culture or our own humanity."

"The Impressionists were genius in showing the world a new form of aesthetic beauty, in both subject matter and technique. But this doesn’t mean that ever work that shocks will someday be called a masterpiece. Unfortunately, the lesson was the rebellion itself and soon the pattern of rejecting the past in ever shocking ways to make headlines would soon become the crucial goal. Eventually all that was left to rebel against was beauty itself, and modern art was truly born."

"Aesthetic beauty, while rare, is self evident."

“Beauty is a value as important as truth and goodness. I think we are losing beauty, and there is a danger that, with it, we will loose the meaning of life.” (from BBC Documentary titled "Why Beauty Matters" by Roger Scruton).

"I cannot count the times I’ve been asked in an interview, what 'message' I was trying to convey with my paintings. I’m sure every artist on the faculty here has gotten this question. When I honestly say that there is no message in the sense they are seeking, that painting is above all a visual language, and to translate the positive emotion that beauty can convey into words is impossible, I find these words used against me over and over. 'Traditional Realist painters admit it themselves – their paintings are meaningless, superficial depictions of beauty!'”

"Beauty is not useful in any material sense at all. Beauty is simply truth. The message of beauty is beauty. It is the ultimate circular argument, which is why you cannot argue it in words. It is a thing beyond us, a thing that hints at the divine."

Personally, I'm still digesting his whole message--even leaving room for some disagreement--but I know that something inside me was stirred deeply. And I know from past experiences that this stirring feeling means I'm on to something wonderful.

Thank you, Scott.

Friday, September 24, 2010

My Art Philosophy

I suppose for anyone to figure out their niche in the art world, it's commonly said that he or she must start with a philosophy behind their art--their "why." Trouble is, communicating my philosophy is almost as difficult as finding my style. It just so happens I'm a very practical person and am usually bored by the flowery, emotion-laden statements many artists make about their work.

Lest I sound cynical, let me describe it this way: we've all heard it said that a picture is worth 1,000 words, right? Well, what if I post this picture?

Above is a random image I stole from this site after a quick Google search for "cute baby." Do you have 1,000 words come to mind when you look at it? I know I don't. I think, "Oh, another cute baby photo," and move on with my day. That's only 5 words.

You probably say something similar upon seeing this photo:

But, for me, I see much more in this one because this is my oldest daughter, Brynn. Don't worry . . . I'll spare you the Mommy bragging. It will suffice to say that she was born weighing a whopping 1 lb 4 oz and has spent a great deal of time fighting for her life.

It's all about experience.

In the painting world, many artists pour their hearts and souls into some emotional expression as they paint and then define their art by those emotions. They could talk forever about their work, their experience, etc, but does that come across perfectly as intended? In my (humble) opinion, probably not. A viewer only sees what connects with their experience. If they don't have an experience or an appreciation for what or how an artist paints, far less than 1,000 words come to mind. In fact, they barely glance in the general direction of the piece representing the blood, sweat, and tears of that artist. And, when the viewer actually does have 1,000 words come to mind, what are the chances they are the same 1,000 words as the artist? Practically nil.

Does that mean the viewer isn't "enlightened" about art? Despite what some NY Abstract Gallery owners may say, I think not. Not everyone is going to appreciate your art . . . but some people will and that's all that matters.

My point is, although I do have a philosophy behind my art, that's not why I create it. I have large doubts that anyone will spontaneously pick up on my philosophy without reading my blog or getting to know me personally; and at that point, I've communicated much more effectively through verbal language than visual.

But as far as concrete visual communication goes, I connect a lot with painters like David Leffel, who are very practical. He said in his book, Oil Painting Secrets from a Master, that the concept behind one of his paintings was "the movement of light from left to right." Another painting's purpose was about, "purple and yellow." Now THAT is something I think I could try to communicate visually. And yet, even still, one of his patrons said, "Oh, I thought your work was about 'quiet.'"

And that's okay.

Even without perfect communication of some overarching philosophy, I still paint. Why? Because I love to paint. I love to learn about light and how it reacts with stuff. I love to play in the oils and see what they can do. I'm fascinated by the effects you can create with different tools--a brush, a knife, my fingers, a paper towel, sandpaper, saran wrap, etc. I love getting lost in a concept--even if it's a concept that only I will ever fully understand--and how the rest of the world melts away as I totally lose track of time. I even love my failures--okay, maybe at the time I really want to throw the painting across the room--but eventually I love that the failure happened because I improve for the next one.

So what's my philosophy? Well, I suppose it's the same for my art as it is for everything else. It would be this: seek lasting peace in all aspects of your life, pursue excellence in the things that matter most, embrace pain when it's necessary, and then share what you've learned with others.

But if you connect with my art or my blog in some other way, I will clap my hands and say "That's wonderful!"

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Review #2

After wasting a few college years being convinced that Fine Art was not a "real" profession, I decided to get back to the roots of what I love. Seeing the work of Marvin Mattelson made me realize there is, indeed, a market for art and clients who want realism. So, I did what any rational artist would do: I rebelled against all the teachers I'd had that taught realism was baaaaaaad while abstract was gooooood--and went to super tight portrait work. At my peak, I was turning out stuff like this painting of Dr. Lew and Cheryl Roht:


Since then, I've fallen more in love with painters who magically blend realism with looser, more expressive brushwork. My biggest hero was William Whitaker, who was kind enough to let me study under him any time I was in his area. I spent weeks under his tutoring (and still do on occasion) and learned invaluable lessons I never would have learned any other way.

As I continued to develop, I studied more and more historical as well as modern realists and am starting to really filter out what I simply admire from what I want to become. I'm still not there yet, so I feel my work lacks some cohesion, but my style is definitely starting to emerge. After playing with the knife and some high-contrast lighting, this recent painting is one of my favorite Plein Air landscapes so far:

My good friend Mara Schasteen convinced me to start this blog to chart my growth from here and I invite you to join me. Hopefully, this journey will be helpful to those of you who are also finding your unique artistic voice in a sea of "anything goes."

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Review #1

Since this blog is about my journey as an artist--and I'm already 20+ years into that journey--I better give a short background.

I began as most artists do: drawing incessantly. By the time I was 11, I was selling portraits of dogs at AKC shows to kind people who had pity on my makeshift "lemonade stand" way of selling things. Here I am then:

I was turning out pictures like this after I ventured into color (in this case, Prisma colored pencils):

And by high school, I decided to try my hand at painting. This is one of my first acrylic paintings--an assignment to put together a still life:

I loved to draw and grew up with an image of myself as a stay-at-home mom, running an art business from home in my spare time. Though the details are still being worked out, the only thing about that image that has changed is the realization that there is no such thing as "spare time!"

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Opening Day

Sometimes I laugh when I think about all the "mysticism" surrounding the profession of an artist. Why images of berets--or, worse, purple hair and spikes through the lip--are conjured up in my own mind, I will never know. Except it does serve to remind me that the power of stereotypes can still benefit me--especially when I've forgotten yet another important date or delivery and someone says, "It's okay, aren't all artists a little loopy?"

But stereotypes aside, I'm just an average girl on an average journey, trying to figure out what kind of art career I want to have "when I grow up." I thought I should wait until I had it all figured out before I exposed myself in cyberspace; but at the encouragement of my Artistic Accomplice, Mara Schasteen, this blog is actually about that journey of figuring it all out. I hope you enjoy it; or better yet, I hope it helps you on your journey.