Vision Thing is a journal I write to share my experience and passion as an artist with my collectors,
galleries, friends and art enthusiasts everywhere. My goal is to offer a "behind the scenes" or
insider's view of what makes an artist tick...this artist at least.
I appreciate you sharing my journey.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Visual Tension = Vital Energy

What gives a piece of art its energy? What makes it engaging to you as a viewer?

Last week I watched an excellent interview with children's author/illustrator, Chris van Allsburg, a long time favorite of mine. He mentions the idea of "cognitive dissonance" as an important aspect of his work. Cognitive Dissonance is a psychological theory which basically states that feelings and thoughts in conflict cause action which resolves them and returns an individual to a state of equilibrium. This same concept is often used in visual art to set up some form of tension or dynamic interest that forges a connection between the work and viewer. This visual tension energizes the art and makes it engaging...imbuing the piece with the "vital energy" the artist intends.
Rene Magritte "Time Transfixed" 1938
Visual tension is an important underlying principle in art and can be developed in many ways; composition and arrangement, color, scale, direction, surface, subject, etc. Often it can be as simple as the juxtaposition of two very different elements, or a subject in an unusual or unfamiliar context. In other aspects it can be very subtle such as the broken color and powerful brushstrokes of John Singer Sargent painting the edge of a stream. The Surrealists, particularly Rene Magritte, made very compelling images simply by taking two ordinary things, a fireplace and a locomotive for example, and putting them together in an usual way. Contemporary painter, Michael Parkes, known for his "magical realism" employs these principles throughout his work. Parkes famous painting "The Juggler" is an excellent example as the juggler defies gravity while walking a circle of rope suspended in the sky...the stuff of dreams.

John Singer Sargent "The Chess Game" 1907

Michael Parkes "The Juggler"
"Destiny's Angel" Digital

As I thought about van Allsburg's work I realized that I am drawn to art that explores these concepts and I use the same principles in my own work; Leonardo DaVinci wings on an astronaut, soft, feminine forms set against machinery, organic, natural forms such as a fox skull set against industrial textures or technical diagrams. My aluminum work explores the idea of visual tension and energy in a different way. This work relies more on dynamic surface qualities of the metal as an industrial material juxtaposed with natural forms such as stones, clouds, dragonflies, etc. I enjoy using a "tromp lo'eil" approach with these pieces to further enhance the illusion and sense of tension. Again, the conflict between the natural and the industrial, the realism and illusion provide the work with the interest and vital energy I enjoy sharing...and I hope others find engaging.

"Aviatrix" Digital
"Ritual" Acrylic on Aluminum

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Connections: Music & Art

How do you paint sound? How do you "see" music? How do you capture something that takes time, a musical piece, in a single image...or can it even be done? The connections between music and art fascinate me. Music is crucial to my life as an artist; it inspires me, it moves me, it complements every aspect of my creativity. To give you an idea, the position of my stereo and CD collection in my studio is more important than where I paint (of course, where I paint has to have plenty of room to hit those big air guitar windmills).
Luminous Horizon Digital/Aluminum
In this piece I was exploring musical concepts such as rhythm, repetition, linear progression and the waveforms of sound

This is my first "Connections" article on the subject and I would like to explore the language and terminology music and art have in common. Music and art are often called the "sister arts" and there are many ways in which they are inter-related; the commercial aspect of album covers and visual marketing, the imagery music inspires, the "Mtv" phenomenon, the language they share, etc.
"Senses" Features Study Composition
Charcoal on Toned Paper
Why are music and art sometimes called the "sister arts"? To understand why they are so connected I feel it is important to consider where they come from. I believe music and art are tied to our two "primary" senses, hearing and vision. At first these two senses, and the quality of their respective "input" or information do not seem at all related - one sees things - one hears things. Indeed they are separate in that regard, however, the language and vocabulary used to describe things we see and hear are often the same language - "Wow! That color is loud!" or, "I think I'll sing me some Blues"..."Excellent us of tones in that drawing" or, "That painting has a nice sense of rhythm." Some of the most fundamental aspects of music and art use the exact same language: composition, movement, tone, color, harmony, arrangement, passage, rhythm, note, structure, texture, etc.

"Rosetta Signal" Acrylic on Aluminum
(In this piece I was trying to convey the concept of a radio signal  from space
...a "cosmic song" and the key to understanding a galactic civilization).
Many artists, particularly in the modern, abstract realm where concepts such as painting music can be considered, have explored this theme or the idea of painting music. They have used color, composition, arrangement of elements, shapes and forms to attempt to capture the "feeling" music inspires in two dimensions. Kandisnky had a lifelong passion for music and explored the idea of painting music in his "Composition" series. He formed a longstanding friendship with the innovative Viennese composer Arnold Schonberg who had amjor influence on his concepts of composition. In fact it was perhaps his deep interest in music theory and its connection with art that led Kandisnky to a more free expression in his work.

Kandinsky Composition VIII
Oil on Canvas 1923 551/8" x 791/8"
I find it fascinating to translate what seem to be such different experiences or senses in an attempt to unite them in some common expression. This comes out very strong in my aluminum work because the physical grinding process is very rhythmic and feels a great deal like "playing" an instrument. I try to incorporate these concepts into each painting in some way, whether it be through, rhythm, composition, tone, texture, etc. I always try to bring some "music" into my art - my hope is that you can "hear" my paintings.
Swann's Lament Digital
(An homage to Led Zeppelin for a friend)
My goal is to be able to paint the way Pete Townsend plays guitar...I'm working on it!


Next week: On Cognitive Dissonance (maybe...not as hard as it sounds...honest)...stay tuned!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Name Theory

Are you ever disappointed upon discovering a piece of art is "untitled"? I simply miss this concept as an artist. In reality, I believe it is either of two things; a lack of interest in one's own work or an affectation intended to further distance the viewer - perhaps both.
"Artifact 9"
(this sculptural piece, with moveable wing vanes,
seemed very much like an artifact from
some future time or culture, hence the name)
The names of things have always been important to me: a character name, song title, place name and of course, the name of a piece of art. It seems obvious that people, in an effort to understand and discuss something must be able to refer to it by name or title - the more descriptive and accurate the name, the better it suits the subject. The name provides insight and clarity to the subject. The Sciences are a great example of the importance of name theory. I believe this is as true for art as it is for the taxonomy of dragonflies.
I spend a great deal of time thinking about name theory in my work. This is not to say that I agonize over names for particular pieces - they generally come like bolts from the blue - sometimes the challenge is to sift through the names for the one that feels right. I often have multiple names for pieces; a rock and roll name, a funk name and a "real" name - the name the work gives itself.
"Diamond Star Halo"
(an "homage piece inspired by the "false Maria" robot from "Metropolis.
A "rock and roll" title from the T. Rex [Marc Bolan] song "Bang A Gong")

I have numerous books on naming theory, as well as some very esoteric science books loaded with fascinating concepts and ideas that always kick-start my imagination. A random example from a favorite source, The Dictionary of Theories: Detonator Theory. Well, there ya go. It will be showing up as a title for a piece in my next show, guaranteed.

"Energy Fossil"
(a "physics" title inspired by the intriguing idea
that energy can leave a physical imprint)
I know my artist friends and I have spent many hours discussing naming our work. I would love to hear from others about their naming ideas or if anyone can shed light on the concept of "untitled" work. I would particularly appreciate insight from non-artists on their feelings and reactions to the names they have encountered when viewing art. Are they even important at all? Do they add any insight into the work or enjoyment of the piece?

Personally, in my own creative expression, a work is not finished until it has a name. Once named, it is freed from my influence, it can stand on its own...long after I'm gone. In a way this is its final "tempering" and is an integral part of its character. The name I connect with a piece may further illuminate its origin, it may provide insight into its process, it may "extend" its vision in another way or it may be designed to enhance its mystery. There are many reasons names are important...I imagine I'll be re-visiting this topic again another time...right now I have to get started on "Detonator Theory"...

Thanks ~


Next week: Music and Art...stay tuned...

Thursday, July 9, 2009

The Long and Winding Road...

As this is my first "official" blog entry I would like to begin with some words of thanks...and some other stuff. I'll try to keep things short and sweet...

First I would like to thank my beautiful wife Ruth for her patience, her support and her Love. Today happens to be our 20th anniversary (25 years together) so it seemed like a good place to start. It has indeed been a long and winding road and I'm looking forward to another 25+ years of our journey together.

A heartfelt thanks goes out to all my friends and family as well who have been companions on the journey. Thank you for all your support, guidance, inspiration and cameraderie over the years. Friendship is a treasure...

I would also like to acknowledge the teachers who have been important guides: Mr. Kirk, Richard Wilson, Ruben Heredia, Gregg Berryman, Matt Smith, Scott Christensen. Their inspiration and example are important factors in my development as an artist.

The other stuff...

To blog or not to blog...this was a tough decision for me. One of the aforementioned friends recommended I do so (talked me into it) and now I'm looking forward to the prospect. I tend to be very informal and this seems like a good venue to share more in-depth thoughts, ideas and musings about art. My goal is to post something art related once per week that will be useful in some way or at least insightful. We'll see...

Thanks for joining me on the journey...