A return to Nature

A year has passed since my last post. It is not that I didn’t have what to say. Some of what I had to say or show about my art I did on my Facebook page. Other part is the need just to experience life without the need to project outward for everyone to see. There is something trying and even a bit superficial for an artist to communicate all the time with audience and it is very beneficial, I find to hold back from time to time and concentrate inside.

Also in the past year there was some very intense period with moving outside from the city into the country with all that this entails.

It was always my dream to be connected more to Nature and leave behind the patterns of pseudo bohemian lifestyle with the cafe as the main focus of the artistic endeavor. Part of me longs for a simple life in Nature with more of a daoistic outlook looking for deeper connection to the spirituality of Earth .

There is still much adjusting to do until the new balance will be found in which Mother Nature has a much more prominent role to play both in my life and in my art.

The weather is still relatively cold but come spring I hope to start painting outdoors and get connected to the rhythms of the landscape.

Here is a photo of our new place that was chosen because of its inspiring view.

Sleeping beauty
Sleeping beauty

Red wine as the passion of spring

 

Wine and coffee
Wine and coffee

 

Spring.

Time of renewal. New energies coming in. New ideas. Future plans are brewing.

It’s been long time since i have posted but i do not feel apologetic about it. It is all a question of timing.

Then of course, there is this Facebook thing. Having considerable presence on facebook takes away the desire to write for your own blog.

Especially when your own blog has no audience. Of course there are the seo experts that will offer you all sorts of advise on how to increase your blog’s audience but  I have this feeling that it should come naturaly. Maybe I am naive but hey, I am an artist. What is an artist if not a naive who belives the world is a magical place?

Anyways, i feel like writing an update, so here it is.

Winter was quite cold this year and it made everything kind of retreat inside. Cold itself is not a problem of course but since my studio is still not functional, I had to rely on the sketching in cafe.  Working in cafes has become my second nature by now. It is my daily exercise.
Like every obsession or devotion, after a while it becomes a habit that is hard to give up.
In this case, I believe it is a good habit so there is no need to give it up.
Over the years, what started as a simple observation has slowly mutated into something that goes beyond the appearance with the subconscious getting to play a larger part in the final outcome.  Some of those ideas have already manifested in some of the oil paintings i did earlier but
once the studio will be more functional I hope to be able to devote more time in my studio.

With the approach of the summer, there are plans for traveling to do some landscape painting in the beautiful Carpathian mountains of Transylvania ,Romania.

Carpathian mountains
Carpathian mountains

 

I will of course keep you posted as the plans will become reality

Please marketers, do not turn social media into yet another mall

Jesus cleansing of the temple
Jesus cleansing of the temple

 

Social media marketing is a contradiction in terms.

Why? Well, for the simple reason that introducing money into what supposed to be an unsolicited, free zone of interaction between friends and people who have something in mutual to share with each other, breaks the trust that is the basis of free communication .
In the world saturated with an obsession for profit almost at any cost it is kind of an absurd that it is not self evident that marketing and selling stuff should not be imposed on our relationships with our friends and closed ones.
Apparently the culture of consumerism has reached now such proportions that we started loosing sight of the sacredness of this trust. Without this sacred trust the whole fabric of interest free association and interaction with friends is breaking apart and impoverishes all involved.
Social media revolution began when people realized that they can connect to each other independently trough all these platforms that have offered all kinds of connectivity possibilities, like sharing ideas, pictures, talking to distant friends and relatives.
Besides writing emails, social platforms like YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Reddit allowed people to express themselves with the multimedia options and create all kinds of grouping possibilities according to their preferences. The whole idea of being able of making new connections trough friends of friends and finding new friends based on mutual interests and hobbies opened up the window to a whole new universe of possibilities where people could suddenly feel less isolated.
The old world in which you were stuck for life in old circles depending on your localities has been suddenly radically altered and new patterns of association have opened up.
Imagine you are a young single woman or guy, open to romantic interaction. Somewhere in the back of your mind you know that this lovely new contact, who is a friend of your trusted friend could be a potential date. After while you realize that the real reason they have ask for your online friendship is because they see you as a potential client for whatever they have to sell, whatever it is and you are free to insert your own personal experience. Wouldn’t you feel disappointed and let down? Wouldn’t you feel a breach of trust?
Now, of course I am not talking about sharing our experiences and expertise with our friends and relatives which could be called natural marketing. If you are my friend and you are a lawyer, of course I would value your expert advice in your field as you could naturally rely on my contribution of my own field of expertise. This natural sharing of gifts is part of our human generosity and it goes back to the dawn of humanity.
As an artist, I share freely the images of my art, as well as ideas and feelings. There is a possibility that someone will like my image enough to want to buy the original which has happened several times in my online activity. This is great and it’s a great pleasure to be able to make a free non coercive transaction where goods and money change hands. I have a used car in good condition that I want to sell and I would naturally let the friends in my network, know before I sell to complete stranger. It could be argued that this is exactly what social media marketing is and therefore I am wrong to criticize it.But honestly, I do not think so. There is a big difference in attitude and intent between the two.
Making monetary interactions with your friends is natural and feels wholesome since there is an element of gifting when you allow me to buy something of value from you, be it your expertise, your book, painting or pair of shoes you wore only once.
Recently I asked a friend to bring me cigars from another country cause where I live they are not available. There was a monetary transaction involved but it has nothing to do with selling or marketing. Social media gurus and marketers incourage their followers to engage in selling their stuff trough the circle of their trusted friends, online and elsewhere which weakens the sacred bond built on trust.
Many years ago when I first came to live in US a friend introduced me to a multimarketing company called Amway, selling at the time mostly cleaning products. I had no idea what is multilevel marketing, selling nor was I aware to what extend the American way of life is based on the idea of selling. I thought it would be a great part time income supplement and invited all of my friends in Boston to join .It was a lot of fun cause non of us was really into selling and most of the friends where academicians who worked or studied in one of the many academic institutions of the greater Boston area. Soon of course I have ran out of friends and then came the challenge how to approach complete strangers . It was pre Internet days and the big gurus who were boasting at rallies with their five figure incomes incouraged us to turn our relatives and friends into customers and if we ran out of friends, then make new ones. I have found myself suddenly looking at people I’ve met in parties or social gatherings as a potential customers of sell man in my marketing organization. It felt awful. Instead of trying to make friends without any incentive other then the friendship itself I found myself agonized about different schemes of approaching people without making them immediately aware of the fact that I want to sell them Amway.
I think I have lost many potential friends at that time.
I have no doubt that in today’s rallies those high income gurus incourage their followers to join social networks and built followers to recruit them into their marketing schemes.
Again. I am not against marketing or selling and buying. But please, dear marketers, leave the social media free of oblique selling, using our networks of friends and turning the great invention of the Internet into yet another great mall.

Jasmin with friends

Jasmin
Jasmin with friends

 

Part of my daily sketching practice involves interaction with people around me.
Sometimes the people involved notice they are being drawn , curious about the outcome they come up timidly asking permission to have a peek.

Other times people just curious about the creative process as it happens live and ask permission to watch over the shoulder.
As a n art teacher for many years, it is usually not a problem for me and in fact, I am actually enjoying the showmanship and the performance.

This is something that every cityscaping, street or pleinair artist is well familiar with and in fact, the ability to tolerate and even like the interaction with audience is part of being a successful outdoor artist.
I have some colleagues, friends who would never be caught dead doing something so intencely exposure intensive as painting outdoors or having to interact with live audience. For them the creative process is a deeply internal and personal work and being alone in the privacy of the studio is a must. I guess it is a question of where on the scale of the extrovert-introvert continuum you find yourself.
Personally I find myself leaning towards the extrovert,a bit exhibitionistic side.

This specific digital drawing I was drawing yesterday, attracted a very nice tourist couple from the beautiful medieval city of Bruges.

Bruges
Bruges

 

We had a lovely conversation during which the table which I was drawing has left, so another inevitable consequence of communicating with people while you creating outdoors is allwing yourself to be interrupted once in while. Since it doesn’t happen very useful often I am quite open for this kind of interruption where I believe that having great conversations with complete strangers and perhaps making some new friends is as much important as the creative process.

Amazing Grace

amazingrace 

Sometimes, as I gaze into the space around me I can see the infinite correlations between the different objects floating in that space with all their trajectories, connecting the invisible  lines  going back in time, revealing the history of those objects, transforming them into events that created the present, extending into the future with all the karmic implications.

This delicate balance between objects, events and patterns, creates the cobweb we call the NOW, pulsating with life in suspended animation allowing us to see how we created those connections with our thoughts, feelings and actions.

It shows us the inescapable truth of us being the creators of our own destiny without any judgement , making apparent how every move we make in either direction will always create the ripples in the pond of life, generating the future waves that we can either learn to ride or let them roll over us until we learn to surf.

It’s four in the morning , three days after my sixty fifth birthday and there is a painful lucidity to this vision right now in my life as the ripples I made long time ago came back as crushing waves , sweeping over me in this very moment of the Blessed Now, leaving me the decision to reject it or gracefully accept it as a birthday present.

With tears rolling down my cheeks, I humbly accept in Gratitude.

Observations- sketching in Maimano cafe

maimano from josef on Vimeo.

 

Sketching in cafes is my passion of many years. It provides me with an excellent opportunity for

men-watching as well as a daily exercise in observation and improving my technique of water

color painting.

Upon arriving to Budapest few years ago, I have explored many wonderful cafes with really nice

atmosphere, beautiful and impressive architecture and interesting history dating to pre WW2

time. Places full of history when artists, intellectuals and prominent people of the time were

gathering regularly, dreaming, arguing and discussing the events of the day.

Sadly, many of those places have lost their old charm and became tourists traps devoid of the

soul of those days when the magic was still in the air.

This is why I feel especially lucky to have discovered MaiMano café, a small unassuming place in

the middle of Budapest that in spite of being relatively new, has all the characteristics of those

old establishments where interesting and creative people of all disciplines are still gathering

and share their visions and dreams in a very casual atmosphere provided by the friendly owners

and stuff who are real friends and not just service providers, which is always exceptional,

heartfelt and punctual.

The regulars of MaiMano café are a wonderful bunch from all walks of life, of different ages,

with an impressive backgrounds and interesting creative occupations that makes the

interaction an uplifting experience.

In this small display of selected watercolors in this show, I am trying to catch both, the casual

atmosphere of the place as well as some of the gestures of the people who are part of

MaiMano’s café daily routine.

I hope you will enjoy looking at my work at least as much I enjoyed creating it.

Thank you

Josef

An upcoming exhibit of cafe sketches in MaiMano cafe in heart of Budapest

 

Hanging
Hanging on

I was offered an exhibit in my favorite cafe MaiMano at the heart of Budapest.
The date is not set yet but I am thinking about the beginning of June as a good time when the temperatures are very pleasant and there is a constant flow of people including many tourists.
The exhibit will include mainly my watercolor sketches done in this lovely cafe, which is in my opinion a very appropriate setting for them.
I am still didn’t give up on the hope to find a decent gallery somewhere in Europe but meanwhile with every passing day I can feel how my desire to deal with the hustle of working trough intermediary is diminishing quit e significantly.
Ever since the Internet , the idea of having a gallery which in best case has about two weeks in two years to show your work is totally out of sync with the current reality in which you can showcase your work on a daily basis which I actually doing. For me doing art is before anything else is a process in which the creative flow is not limited to studio work but has a much wider significance in quick response to many life situations.
On my daily rout one for example, going into the city by tram, I meet people in this limbo situation between station between stations, most staring vacantly into the space absorbed with their inner thoughts, in different body positions. Being able to make quick sketches with an iPhone app is a great advantage that besides sharpening my observation of the essentials of the body movements and perfecting my ability to register in a glance the essence of a gesture is also at the same time gives me some insights into inner state of people observed.
People in a state of suspension, will be probably the topic of my next exhibition.
Yesterday, I have come back to my usual watercolor sketching in the cafe after some time spending with digital experimentation with a new iPad Pro. Together with the apple pen, they give a very nice feeling of a decent approximation of a real sketching.
As I have written before

, digital art is not a replacement of the real thing but it has some advantages to ordinary painting and sketching by adding some dimensions which real life painting still cannot do. Working with separated layers, allowing mixing different feels like water color effects together with oil like smears. Working with light instead of the additive process of mixing pigments on a canvass adds a deeper understanding of luminosity and chroma.
Changing backgrounds is a breeze with digital medium which is another great advantage in creating scenes that are not limited to what is given in front of the eyes.
Another and perhaps the biggest advantage of digital creations is the deepening of the understanding of the power of the image. Because of the ephemeral nature of the medium it has no real substance out side of the computer screen and that makes the reality of the image much more pronounced.
This issue of reality of the digital image deserves a whole post to itself so I will not go deeper into right now.
For now all wanted really is to announce the news about the upcoming exhibit of my cafe sketches to be held at MaiMano cafe in the heart of Budapest.

Good form doesn’t show

It seems like my subconsciousness  is busy I lately with relationship between form and essence and this morning I woke up with this message;

“Good art is the relationship between the exact amount of information and details that are relevant in a given form. Too much or too little make the form incomprehensible.
This is also the essence of good design.
According to Rudolph Arnheim ” good form doesn’t show” . One of the examples he has given is when a woman wears too much perfume it acts contrary to the idea of enhancing the essence of the personality . My own example is the superb design of iPhone where the feeling is that it felt totally natural as if it has always been like this. Touch screen felt totally right from the very beginning as if was obvious that this is how mobile phones should have always supposed to be designed. Many great ideas when they first appear have this feeling about them as if they always existed and always been around. Great art has the same pleasant feeling of the balance between content and form in which the constructed image gives the impression it has always existed. Think of the Last Supper

Last supper by Leonardo de Vinci
Last supper by Leonardo de Vinci

or the Night Watch.

Night watch by Rembrandt
Night watch by Rembrandt

 

Much of the greatness of these images connected to the fact that their design feels completely ” natural ” going to the essence of the message without attracting much attention to their construction and the overall design.
This is why Art is so important especially at this time. It gives a sense of meaningful order in the world of information overload.

 

Quick digital sketches on the tram in Budapest

Digital sketching keeps captivating my attention.
Recently I have discovered this wonderful easy to use application for iPhone called Procreate which so far is the best app that allows for very quick doodling in a very simple and easy way.
The public transportation in Budapest is very efficient and convenient and even on occasions when its very crowded it is still comfortable enough to steal few glances without drawing any attention. This is actually a very important key element in doing these sketches. I found that people usually do not like to be observed and if they catch you looking at them, they usually change their position or can move away, annoyed.
There are about five station from my home in Buda to the centre of the city which I visit quite frequently and it is a great opportunity for some quick sketches on my smart phone.
Here are some recent quick sketches of people between the stations.
These are gesture drawings that leave no room for details so it’s an excellent way to practice capturing the essence of the movement.

I have started the practice of quick digital sketches almost from the very beginning of the appearance of the smart phones and with time I feel more and more comfortable with the medium. Here are some ideas on the use of digital media as opposed to “real” painting.