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Waiting for Inspiration

Waiting for inspiration is a little like asking the waiter for the check. I am not however one of those artists who debunk inspiration (per sey). But perhaps we should clarify the term by saying that this is something clearly beyond our normal bounds, our normal interpretation or our normal range of vision. THis is something quite beyond our current mental and emotional barriers. Inspiration comes (if it does at all) when we have hungered for quite some time for that ‘otherworldly’ experience that typically lays hidden under the rocks and trees and the scars of our emotions.
When it does come it does not come with the playing of drums. There are just subtle but beautiful insights of vision. These can often dictate a painting which is precisely why I prefer abstract painting versus anything pre-conceived. Regardless, inspiration may come or not. It may come three times a year in very small and incremental degrees. But it is these that the artist aspires to recognize. Once recognized the artist must act, or be tormented by that vision that becomes more and more veiled. It is the response, the act that is critical here.
The purpose of this short article is to convince the reader for the necessity of practice. Read the book, the Natural Way to Draw and you will get a good bit of direction on how to practice the art of drawing. Drawing or painting – we simply must be about our task. It is not good to let a week or two go idle. Paint anything. There is no endeavor that will not lead and improve your handmanship and of course that vital connection between hand and eye and mind. Those three are uniquely brought to the fore when it comes to painting. Practice so that when inspiration comes – that desired element that so illlusively lives beyond our normal experience – we will be more the ready. We will be like the gunslinger who has practiced his draw and aim and can now pull and fire with decent precision. What good is it to attain some level of ‘other-worldly’ experience if we are ultimately un-able to manifest that expression in our work through poor facility? In short, practice makes us ready for those bursts of insight that we as artists hunger for- ala Jackson Pollack. There are often long travails through the desert until we come to our oasis. I suppose this is just the way the universe operates.
It is however always the case, that the paintings tell the story best. We only need to look more carefully.

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The Bridge between Painting and Photography

The bridge between painting and photography is becoming blurred and I think we should welcome this evolution. Photographers have become more adept at modulating common images. They can subtly overlap images, juxtapose photos, give them an appearance of movement, fade and blurr photos to the point where they barely resemble the simple, fixed photo.
This may be an attempt at abstraction, or sometimes just to see what and how an image can be bent and changed. Whereas photos naturally tend to be more incisive, more specific or more detailed, this process of abstracting an image in the dark room or now with photoshop is bringing the two disciples much closer together.
There are some painters who take photos and place them within the painting. This kind of interplay sometimes works well to enhance an image on canvas. This bridge between painting and photography will no doubt continue to be explored. The photographic image in the hands of a professional can in fact resemble a good abstract painting. This kind of creative effort is invigorating for the broad art scene in general but also opens up possibilities for the individual artist.

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A Difficult Painting

It is not unusual to wind up with a painting that becomes extraordinarily difficult. Sometimes as artists we try something new and we get half way and get stuck. We are just not sure how to proceed – we are faced with a difficult painting. When this happens it is best to put our brushes aside and to rest on it for awhile.
After a time pull out that painting and have another look and ask yourself what is it you are trying to do? What mood, what effect?
Try to establish a basic, fundamental direction for the painting.
WHen I have a difficult painting – one that I am just not sure about, I will attempt to get one small area of the painting right. This may mean getting a particular design correct, or just the right hue or shading but get it just the way you want it. Be very satisfied with that one small part. It is surprising how a painting can develop once there is one section that is done perfectly. All the other parts can then begin to relate to that first successful area.

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Trust your eye and not the critics when buy art

It is always best to trust your eye and not the critics when buying art.  This is especially true when buying abstract art.  Critics might suggest there are few reference points in abstract art – that there are no guidelines to follow.  This of course opens the door for their own personal evaluation regardless of the validity of a critique.   Ultimately,  the published art critics today when evaluating abstract art,  typically come up short both in experience and true perception.   Trusting your own impression – your own eye is often the most reliable means to determine a purchase that suits your taste.

Actually good abstract art (specifically the masters) employed tried and true art fundementals in their work.  As some critics suggest, they did not abandon established art theory.  Elements such as balance and rhythm are essential elements used consistently by the masters such as Kandinsky.   I have studied many of the modern masters and have found this to be true.   There is a force and dynamic in his paintings that captures the eye and holds our attention.   This dynamic is not halfhazard and it is certainly not by chance.  Kandinsky was a student of music as well and had already learned the mathematical sequences provided by music composition.   It is clear in his writings on art just how carefully he employed art theory – eventually expanding the essential components of line and form in abstract art.   Contemporary artists such as Gerhardt Richter have benefited from his studies.  Jackson Pollack’s work seems completely random yet contains remarkable cohesion and force.

In the example in this article (a painting called Elsie, painted by myself) there are two opposing forces left and right.  THough they are very different forms in composition they each balance the other out.  They create a tension that works towards the center, that pushes against the center so that the painting seems to have an inherent energy.  I learned from Kandinsky just how important the background is – that it too must generate force and interest and that it must support the forms which are forward.  There must be an interplay between the back drop and the forms which are more forward.  Without this balance, without a sense of rhythm it is almost impossible to create a painting that has a dynamic, inherent force.

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Buying Abstract Art

There are four main choices in buying abstract art.  The costs between these can vary dramatically.  Following is a brief guide to help you navigate through these options.   One very safe and obvious option is to buy a print of a known and famous abstract artist such as Kandinsky or Klee or Miro or Pollack.   Prints are inexpensive so I recommend spending money for a high quality frame.  You will need to find a true, custom frame shop for this.  Try to insure that the print you buy is large enough to suit the intended wall location.  Sometimes an interior designer is needed to scale the work correctly because if the the painting is too small it will not look appropriate on the wall.   Always measure before you order to insure the scale is right for the wall.

When buying abstract art keep in mind there are many, many very good abstract artists at work today.  A few are quite well known and there are many more who are producing good art but are not yet on the critic’s radar.  It is very possible to buy an excellent abstract painting by a contemporary artist for less than $5,000.   These are usually shipped without a frame.  These can be easily found by searching the internet.   Again, make sure of the scale and size of the painting.   It is impossible to determine if the artist you buy from will ever gain any degree of fame and if the art you acquire will gain in value.  Buy it because you really like the piece.   A good frame shop can determine the best frame for your new acquisition.  Especially in the past five years a number of excellent art sites have become sources on the internet.   They host a number of different artists and charge a percentage of every sale.   You will find a wide variety to choose from.

Private galleries and showings is another choice.  This will take more time but the effort can be most rewarding.  Seeing an original hanging with good light represents an excellent way to decide what kind of abstract art you prefer.   In most gallery showings there will be a number of pieces by one artist which gives you more choices.  Cities will often host outdoor shows and for a fee an artist can set up a booth to show his or her work.  You might be amazed to see just how good some of these paintings can be.  In the trade we call these ’emerging artists’.   Paintings hanging in galleries will always reflect a  spike in pricing, especially over art that is sold in ‘open, City sponsored’ shows.