Fear not. The series is not over. I couldn’t write about it until I’d done enough images, partly because to do otherwise would be like reviewing an album before it was cut, and also because I wasn’t sure I’d be able to keep it up. Decades ago I read a novel in which a character asserted that he never spoke about his art before making it, because the result was that he lost the need or desire to make it. And true to this series, I didn’t want to be caught up in fulfilling a predetermined assignment. I wanted it completely open and free. What you will see are 15 images created from the imagination, each done within 1-3 days. There will be more.
My main purpose is to create new, captivating, and beautifully rendered images for the collective consciousness. I’m trying to do this by mining the imagination, both my own and I believe a more universal unconscious. In the same way that we wouldn’t really take credit for our dreams, because they well up outside our conscious control, it’s possible to harness the subconscious or unconscious to aid the imagination in coming up with new images and stylistic innovations.
All of the images so far were unpremeditated. I start with multiple one minute sketches using random marks and develop whatever promising images I see. I then filter upwards from the general to the particular, selecting the best images for the next stage. Of course there is extensive conscious control, and everything is filtered through my particular experience, operating beliefs, and so on.
Below is an image I just don’t think I would have ever conceived without going through this sort of process.
There need to be some sort of restrictions to cordon off a series from the rest of ones work. Here it’s working from the imagination and using time constraints.
In terms of working from the imagination, I don’t use references or look up how to render something that might be giving me trouble. If there’s a beach scene, for example, I just have to wing it with what I already know or can remember. I can look those things up and do practice paintings between images to bolster any area I’m weak in.
There’s a game element to these paintings that helps motivate me. I start off with usually one minute sketches, then the best ones go to the next level, and so on. Initially I was doing one image a day, but that expanded to two days and leveled off at three. The time constraint is quite important because it forces me to complete works quickly, which also helps me to be more practical and efficient in my techniques. Outside of this series, I probably average just over an image a month.
I’ve already mentioned starting with lots of quick sketches as a way to generate new ideas. Below are a few sketches I made for my fifth effort. They are separate but I put them all together to view more easily.
The other important element, perhaps more important, is that I’m working digitally. When artists a century ago were declaring painting dead, and saying there was nothing new to be done (the Surrealists and Abstract Expressionists disproved that prognosis) artists were primarily using oil paints on canvas. Working with the computer opens up new possibilities one would want to take advantage of if one were interested in conjuring new imagery. However, few fine artists use digital media for “painting”. It’s much more popular for “concept art”, which is creating characters and environments for computer games. In the fine art realm, there’s a strong trend that something large needs to be created, and one of a kind, that can be sold for a lot of money as a collectable. If that is the priority, digital mediums are a no go. But if the priority is to create original imagery for the eye and mind, I dare say digital mediums are today what oil paint was for painters in the past (replacing slower and less flexible mediums, such as egg tempera).
I combine the strengths of traditional techniques and digital imaging techniques (mostly photo editing) to create my digital paintings. Here’s my favorite so far:
The technique ends up looking like an Expressionist painting by Soutine, with some Van Gogh, Francis Bacon, and Picasso mixed in. Here it’s obvious that my love of painting comes first, and I often use the computer to achieve a very traditional painterly look.
Here’s a detail:
So, in effect, while I work digitally, I am working firmly within the tradition of fine art painting, and expanding its terrain.
I should mention my educational background is entirely in traditional mediums – I have an MFA is “studio art” – and I did a series similar to this using acrylics on canvas some 20 years ago (you can see those paintings here).
Why is this series a valid thing to do artistically in 2017? It continues the long, rich tradition of painting and adds new subject matter, done within a new medium, and new techniques. If you love paintings, new additions to the extant collection makes perfect sense, and his highly desirable.
Of course I am fully aware this approach is if not unpopular, considered irrelevant, hopelessly backwards, and even antithetical to the reigning contemporary art paradigm. Today, we believe that originality and authenticity are impossible, that nothing new can be done in painting, and that if you are a real artist, you are doing conceptual art or art using alternative media.
The flaw with this paradigm is that if you love paintings, you have to satisfy yourself with paintings that are a critique of painting, are completely subordinate to their political commentary, or otherwise sideline the core of what makes a good painting good. The more damning flaw is the cynicism and self-defeating belief that humans are no longer capable of originality or authenticity, in which case it’s best to appropriate plebeian or kitsch objects from popular culture and re-contextualize them in the gallery/museum setting.
A sad result of this belief for connoisseurs of painting is that there is no visual equivalent of the great rock (and other popular) music of the late 60’s and early 70’s. When the Beatles cut “Yellow Submarine” in 1965 the fine art world was exploring hugely cerebral, academic, polemical works, like Joseph Kosuth’s “One and Three Chairs” which features a chair, a photo of the chair, and a dictionary description of the chair. The Jim Morrison, John Lennon, Janis Joplin, or Jimi Hendrix of visual art never happened. In fact, there was room for them AND conceptual art, but we humans tend to go to one extreme or the other. The fine art pendulum swung all the way to conceptual art, and got stuck there. And it’s not that visual artists failed at making an equivalent of popular music, they didn’t even try.
You could say that this series is a bit like popular music, and the paintings like songs.
Starting the series I had no idea what I’d come up with. That was built into it. I wanted to be surprised, and to see what was around the next bend, and I was. After doing the first couple I thought they’d all be roughly in that style, but styles changed as much as imagery: some are more abstracted, some painterly, and some with a element of Impressionist or Post Impressionist rendering.
I wanted the paintings to evolve, and they did. I wanted not just to become more proficient in making images, but for new, unexpected things to develop out of the process.
As for the quality of the results, this style of art doesn’t require placards explaining it. Au contraire, the results should be self-evident, and not translatable into the medium of English. True, one might have to be a fan of fine art painting, or at least painting, to really enjoy them, and perhaps to even get them.
Have a try by watching this 75 second screen show:
Or if you prefer, go at your own pace by clicking through this gallery:
To see blog posts about other individual pieces in this series, go here.
Note that I am looking for a gallery to show the series, and am planning to make at least 60 images. Each piece is 20×30″ (@76×50 cm) at 300dpi, and can be printed beautifully at twice that size.
Naturally I have a lot more to say about the series, but for brevity’s sake am keeping it short. Feel free to ask questions. Also, check back for new paintings. I’ve already started the next two (sometimes I do two at once), and they are different from those already done. What comes after that, I have no idea.
For those that may be interested, I could use some help.
If you like this series so far, there are a few things you can do to help me continue adding to it.
- Like it, make a comment, let me know. Positive feedback makes a big difference. Sometimes it’s a tad discouraging when you put something out there and there’s a resounding silence (not that that would stop me).
- Share this post on social media. If I am making images for the collective imagination, my fondest hope is that a lot of people will see and enjoy the images I make.
- Make a small contribution. Through Patreon (see below) you can give as little as $1 a month, and cancel at any time. Don’t imagine that a $1 contribution isn’t hugely appreciated. Believe me, I’m living on a shoe string, and it really does help. See how it works here. Or go directly to my account.Or you can make a small, one time donation to help me keep on making art and blogging (and restore my faith in humanity simultaneously).