Friday, March 28, 2014

The beauty that happens along the way

I recently had the fantastic opportunity to put together and teach a course in "Composition", as it relates to botanical painting.  I found pieces along the way as I researched this specific topic, but decided I needed to get down to basics.

Digging into the topic of visual literacy was a fantastic learning and re-learning session for me. My purpose in teaching seasoned artists about visual literacy specifically, was to think about moving
past intuitive ideas about composing, toward making informed and purposeful decisions.

The most important thing I learned relating to my interest in design, pattern, and tessellations, was a surprise. Humans are constantly trying to balance, neutralize and harmonize everything that we see. I think it's a way to cope with all of the visual stimuli that bombards us all the time. However, if our desire toward the end, of neutralizing, balancing, evening out - graying - has finally reached it's conclusion, there would be an eradication of senses and total neutrality; complete harmony and no contrast.

An example for me, that I experience in my two dimensional work and jewelry work, is that it is not perfect symmetry, perfect pattern, exactness that I really want to end up with. I created a tessellation a few years ago that was inked as perfectly as I could possible do. I was really excited doing it because I thought it would be fantastic to look at. It turned out to be a boring boring piece... nothing going on. Our eyes delight in finding that slight unevenness... that element that somehow moves slightly askew within a pattern. Now I know why. It plays so very nicely into working with organic botanical forms, because nature is not perfect.

While I am precise in my work and strive toward excellent craftsmanship, I try to include parts in a piece that aren't exactly symmetrical, not lined up perfectly. I am very happy about this. I don't want to make mechanical work, because it is my hand that is making it. Those imperfections, sometimes planned and sometimes not, are what my work is about ~ my handmade two dimensional and jewelry work.

Saturday, February 1, 2014


So many things happened today that made me think and connect thoughts, affirming some ideas that I've had lately. And lately when I learn new things and connect with old things, I feel like my circles of interests collide and overlap, giving strength and meaning. Once in a while a thought or creative process bends around and connects to make a full circle.

I just viewed a documentary film about Tim Jenison's quest to recreate a Johannes Vermeer painting. Tim is an inventor and thinker, and figured out that most likely Vermeer used a camera lucida with an additional convex lens, to paint his amazing canvases. Sparked by Mr. Hockney’s book “Secret Knowledge: Rediscovering the Lost Techniques of the Old Masters,” Jenison set out to create like conditions of Vermeer's (including sawing his lathe in half and extending it to achieve the correct length of spindled leg of the chair) in order to paint. His use of mirrors and lenses makes a strong case for Vermeer's methods, which were never documented. It was just "Wow".

Afterward, the ArcLight Theater in Hollywood hosted a Q & A with the esteemed panel of Jenison, Penn and Teller. There were a few things that just made me so happy:
  • It is not 'wrong' to use technology or what is available today to make art. This reminded me of my engraving class last September. When tested by 'hand pushers' - hand engravers who hand push as opposed to using pneumatic power to push gravers - my instructor responded with the fact that painters/artisans around the time of the invention of electric lighting would not have continued painting by daylight and candlelight when electric lights became available. That would have been dumb. Why would an artist curb the ability to improve their art and move forward? Ever?
  • When asked what's next? Another experiment like the one that came out of this project (by the way, it wasn't their intention to make a documentary about Jenison, it turned out that way!)? Penn stated that he does things that interest him... he's not interested in creating a brand or doing a series. He's in it for the love of exploration and figuring stuff out. Yes. Yes. This is what really good stuff comes out of, I think. He is following his interests. Just like his magic, it is that, but it is the deeper meaning and amazing stuff that lies beneath.
  • Back in the early 1800's, Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, a portrait drawer and painter by trade, drew technically amazing figures. When in New York back in the 90's, I was able to see an exhibit of Ingres' work, and the big buzz about his work was that used mechanical means to achieve his amazing drawings. There were things that pointed to that ~ like some strange distortions of limbs that happened that would have happened by a means achieved with other than just the eye. In "Tim's Vermeer", there were curves and edges that happened, upon closer inspection of the original, that happened because of the curve of a lens, perhaps. Love this.
 Earlier in the day I had visited the Griffith Park Observatory and viewed their show revealing just how many galaxies we know about so far, WAY more than I learned about when I was a kid. It's still changing and there are new things to explore and bring to light. So many great minds at work using everything they've got.