As I spend more time in the studio and reinvigorate my body of work, I’ve found I spend a lot of time with my own thoughts. About the piece I’m working on, about my process, the process of making in general, and that of the artists I know.
Watching other artists work is like osmosis, without a direct transfer of technique. I am sure I have picked up on mastery of my teachers over time. One of my most influential teachers was taught by Richard Diebenkorn, and I sometimes wonder what, if any, of his techniques have made their way into my work…
In my latest Get Your Phil of Art, I spend a quick moment sharing one of my preferred materials. Here I’d like to spend a little more time sharing what I love about Williamsburg Oil paints. As a non-representational artists that working primarily in the movements of color and composition its important to have stand up colors. I think my work speaks to that.
The pigments are outstanding, it’s really easy to mix and blend colors. You can tell the quality of the product just by the feel. I’ve been using these materials for over ten years. I used to have to order them direct but now I am able to find them locally as well. I also enjoy that these are made in US, knowing that the company making these has not sacrificed any quality.
I posted last week about an inspirational moment eighteen years ago that has influenced the way I make my paintings. In another serendipitous moment, I got an email Friday for an artist presentation by none other than Homare Ikeda, the same artist I had just reminisced about. And the presentation was going to happen the following day, Saturday, at Meininger Art Materials.
The event was part of a series called Demo & Dialogue, organized by the Art Students League of Denver. The Art Students League was there for me in my youth when I had limited access to art and art instruction.
The idea behind demo and dialogue is open up the artist’s process to the audience by having the art work on a piece. Ikeda gave us an open invitation to interrupt with questions as he worked on two large (and several small) works.
“On the island I am from they had no sense of what art was. I’m lucky I didn’t have a preconceived notion of what art was. Before I came to the US, I studied traditional painting so I’m aware of how I use my brush. I will hold with my left hand or use two brushes, that creates negative space.” -Ikeda
I was struck by how similar his thoughts about process and his approach to making resonated with my own. Ikeda approaches his art with openness and flexibilty, focusing on the process with little interest in the product. He is able to speak about his process and work with depth and humbleness.
“I’m not trying to make a painting therefore finishing is not my goal, the process is something that excites me. I have many paintings that come down from one show and I keep painting it. I know what color theory is but at the same time I just grab whatever I can grab. I’m looking for surprises. In my mind I ask, ‘Should I keep this or do I change it.’ I have options.”
“Painting is honesty. If the artist is honest it’s a good painting. Getting honesty is very hard to deal with. Painting is making me more than I am making a painting. ”
The demo wrapped up after close to 2 hours and Ikeda stayed answering questions and greeting the crowd. I waited to approach him and thank him for sharing his craft and thoughts. Last week I had shared my blog post with him and his response in person was as gracious as his email had been. It may not surprise many these days as Denver emerges onto the national scene, but we have long had a vibrant art scene including artists like Ikeda.
I just finished my first large painting of 2017, “Dialogue with Modern Perception”. I have not finished a work like this in a while and I have a body of new large paintings getting close to completion. I have felt quite successful with the push and pull dynamic of working on both objective work and non-representational simultaneously. As I have worked on both my large paintings, I have also made my drawing series “Studies in Light Dynamics”. Art making is not a liner process it seems, the impulse and drive to create requires time to percolate, because of this, it is beneficial to work in two alternating modalities. Gerhard Richter seems to me to be a great example of this push and pull of two different ways of working. I feel like many artists get pushed into one mode of working, which makes sense. As an artist becomes successful in a certain style, they now have an audience seeking that from them. Working in both of these modes, I feel has strengthened my process and work.
I never get rid of old tooth brushes. To get the speckled texture on this piece I made a stencil with tracing paper and scrap paper. I traced out the area that I wanted to remove from the paper and cut it out with an xacto. I lined it up and blocked out the rest with scrap paper. Then I used a tooth brush that I dipped in ink and then pressed the bristles of the brush with my thumb to create a small splaying effect.
Give it a try and do it on a practice piece first.
Don’t use the tooth brush on your teeth ever again.
I was recently asked when I started painting the way I do. I had to give it a quick thought. I remember starting my exploration of non representational painting in the fall of 1998. It was my last semester at Metro State Collage in Denver before moving on to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. I had been accepted to SAIC because of my drawing prowess at that time.
This was a pivotal moment in my young artistic start. I saw a poster at school for a show, and later a talk at Regis University. The image on the poster caught my eye; its use of composition and color really peaked my interest.
I went to that talk on September 17th 1998 and from that moment, how I made work at changed. Mr. Ikeda had many large works, and one very large painting that really stood out, or at least it seemed very large to me at that time, it was maybe 5′ x 10′. It was, if I can still remember it correctly, mostly done in shades of whites and had textures and lines that made the composition so complex but still easy to consume. I can’t remember the talk that he gave 19 years ago, I am sure it was very informative and riveting. But I still remember the work and knowing that someday I was going to make large non-representational work that spoke to me like Ikeda’s.