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.
I will of course keep you posted as the plans will become reality
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.
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.
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.
Inspiration plays an important role in re- enchatment of the Arts.
In writing this post, I am using few presupposed and self evident truths about the current state of the Arts.
One, is the need for re-enchantment of the Art.
I have taken this term from Suzi Gablik’sbook by the same name where she criticises some of the basic tenets of the Modernist movement that led directly to much of the confusion left by the Postmodernism. Part of this confusion left the artist without a philosophical background needed to establish a basis for relevant correspondences between the personal and the universal principles of creation. At the same time this lack of philosophical support opened a gap in communication between the artist and his audience.
Second, is the need for Inspiration as vital source of revitalization of the current confused condition of the Art. The extreme relativism of the late Post-modernism has left a scorched field where the traditional values of excellence have been replaced by purely personal, anecdotal and many times accidental views that left the Art without it’s Muse .
Inspiration according to full definition of Merriam- Webster dictionary is: “a divine influence or action on a person believed to qualify him or her to receive and communicate sacred revelation “In other words, an inspired person is one who is touched by his Spirit. That sacred part of his being that communicated the feeling of the Devine.This kind of definition tends toward somewhat religious interpretation which I believe tend to distort the real meaning of Inspiration as a direct heart felt feeling that is totally natural to all of humankind and not only to artists.
I have many sources of Inspiration.
Some come from my daily observations of life around me. Be it an interesting form of simple objects that can turn into a still-life drawing,like this Moroccan tea pot done with silverpoint technique.
In the beginning of my artistic development I was enchanted by the magic of Jan Vermeer’s intimate interiors with their delicate balance of composition and the luminosity of his colors.
Here is a composition that was influenced by the Vermeer’s Young Woman with a Water Pitcher
Another great influence on my development as an artist is a more contemporary American Andrew Wyeth who’s hunting and mystical connection with landscapes of rural Maine and Pennsylvania resonates strongly with my own view of Nature. Wyeth’s choice of the tempera medium which requires contemplation and slow visual meditation on the subject matter, invites from the viewer equally slow contemplative viewing. In today’s hasty world it is in itself a huge accomplishment.
With time, my themes have varied and mutated according to context, time and places I have found myself.
At certain point I have found that many of my themes tend to converge into one recurring theme that has accompanied my creative work and that is the theme of the cafe.
I have found that besides a great opportunity to exercise my powers of observation, this theme of the cafe, allows me to combine all other themes in a very simple, elegant way where the spontaneous interaction of all the forms untie to create a unified and sometimes totally unexpected message.
The theme of the cafe is enough in itself and need no other justifications for painting it but as it happens, it has the power to combine a wide variety of objects and themes that seamlessly fuse into each other allowing the mundane everyday objects to interact and create a whole new possibilities for flowing in different artistic directions.
Let’s say, a couple sitting around a table, with a dog playing at their feet, with some messy still-life on the table, with cups of coffee and perhaps some food, in the background. I can paste any landscape or cityscape that doesn’t even have to be in the original composition. This way I can eliminate accidental architecture or replace any other object that feels more meaningful and more appropriate for the final purpose .
In this age of photoshop aid with the cut and paste ability, I can substitute any and all of the components to create a more meaningful and more interesting composition then the original conception.
All these themes and objects, appearing in the context of a cycle of creativity that is inspired by a wheel of The Five Elements taken from the Chinese Wu Xing theory.
On this wheel of creativity taken from the Chinese philosophy of Dao i will write later in a different post
About a year ago I have escaped or so I thought,the war zone of Middle East only to find that terrorism doesn’t confine itself to one region anymore.
As I was sketching this French couple in the cozy atmosphere of my regular place, I had some thoughts on how creativity and art are influenced by hard times and wars.
Maybe they came for the weekend to escape the aftershock of the Paris terror attack two weeks ago.
The fact that cafes have become a target for terrorists attacks, gives my sketching in the cafes a sort of additional dimension of danger almost as being in a front line. I am joking of course but still, the fact that popular and crowded places have turned into a possible target all over the world, creates a heightened sense of tension adding a feel of urgency and danger to otherwise a very benign activity.
My approach to working in cafes as a meeting ground for a diverse and sometimes absurd happening representing the fragmented World in which content got badly skewed out of it’s context got an additional boost from the fact that terrorists find the cafe a legitimate target for their violence.
I find solace in the fact that many artist in the past have created their best work during times of extreme tension and war. One of such artists is Jan Vermeer of Delft who created his masterful works during one of the worst periods in Dutch history, following the Franco-Dutch war.
It is true that Vermeer was not oblivious to the suffering and destruction around him caused by extreme economic hardships and has died quite suddenly after a short illness but the fact remains that some of the greatest art was produced during such an extreme circumstances, gives some strength and hope that it is possible to create beauty even in the middle of chaos and hardship.
I have been doing commission art for many years now and it has always been a concern of mine wether it has the same validity as the art that is done with an artists free will .
Today’s post is about the difference between working on your own free concepts as opposed to doing a commissioned work.
The whole concept of working without a commission as a free agent I think is relatively a very new thing and historically,art was created mainly in a context of some sort of a commission. Think of all the great work of the masters of the past. The Night Watch by Rembrandt,
The Sistine Chapel by Michelangelo,
or The Last Supper by Leonardo Da Vinci..
There is of course numerous other great examples with all their great stories of saintly patrons, greedy artists and the history of the commissioned works that withstood the ravages of time.
No doubt, independent works of art have appeared from the earliest of times and were always part of many artists free expressions but it was not until the Romanticist period that the arts gained full freedom to pursue their true unique vision based on individual inspiration emphasising originality and innovations opposed to the more socially oriented Classicist periods.
In a way, doing a work in consideration of a clients demand as in a commissioned portrait for example is somewhat contradictory to the concept of an independent work of art that obeys no prescribed rules of conventions and the real challenge is finding the middle path between the two approaches.
In my own commissioned work I always try to emphasise the need for greatest amount of freedom for individual interpretation related to style and composition. Many times there is a definite contradiction between the conception of the client and that of the artist, creating a tension that can result in breach of trust and aborted work.
To avoid such result there is an absolute need to negotiate right from the beginning the terms and conditions, explaining the limits of the expectations and demands of a client that many times believe that by commissioning a work they have bought the right to control the result. Obviously, the paying client does have a right to a certain amount of intervention but it has to be pointed out right from the beginning that since the original idea for the commission came from the impulse to have a work of a certain artist’s style, this fact must be respected and be allowed to come to full expression, accepting a certain amount of deviation from the clients vision.
Ideally, an end result of a commissioned work should be something that gives both sides a feeling of accomplishment and fulfilment of both the client and the artists vision.
Sketching with live music has become a practice I enjoy tremendously.
My recent exhibit at If Cafe in Budapest included many works that were done during live jazz sessions . Sketching with the music allowing the eye and the hand to flow with rhythm ha s evolved from simple attempt to compensate for the fact that in many occasions it is not really possible to dance and move the body in a concert situations.
This is really a pity, especially when it comes to energetic music that makes it unbearable to sit motionlessly and just watch. Tapping along with the rhythm is just not enough.
The practice of sketching with live music requires letting go of making nice art and concentrating on the flow and taping into the general energy created by the music itself, expressions of the musicians, the general feel of the place and subtle suggestions generated by the interactions between the formal values of the music itself and what I came to call the sound of form. The sound of form is the sound you hear with your eyes, I know it may sound absurd as we usually associate hearing with ears but what I am referring to is closely associated with chromesthesia which is a specific form synesthesia.
It takes some practise to listen to objects with your eyes and of course I could simply use the term observation or even contemplation but it is all of that and a little more.
Maybe, active contemplation is the appropriate concept here that has a meditative quality about it. The act of drawing, painting from observation is the sure way to develop the sense of hearing with our eyes. There are basically two ways to practice active contemplation trough the art of painting. One is the traditional way associated with the classical approach to drawing using the familiar ways of measuring proportions angles evolving the use of linear perspective. The other is the more intuitive, direct approach advocated by the great art teacher Kimon Nicolaides in his famous book laid out in “ The Natural Way To Draw.”
By mastering the art of gesture drawing one can quickly understand what I mean by the Sound of Form.
August is ending and I am back at my favorite cafe. It is bloody hot in Budapest makes me wish I would be somewhere in Alaska.It was a very busy summer with continuation of renovations of our apartment, visiting Viena , making arrangements for the arrival of my son , vacationing with family in Montenegro
and preparing for the end of my two months exhibit in If Jazz Cafe. For one reason or another, August tends to be a very busy month in my life. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I was born in this month.
Looking forward for the arrival of Autumn.
Apart from the sheer pleasure of doing it, here are some of my observations after doing it for quite few years.
Eye -hand coordination
First and foremost, I would say that sketching generally and not only in cafe has a very beneficial influence on gathering confidence trough proficiency with a gradual enhancement of eye-hand coordination .This coordination is the very heart of being able to concentrate on the Whole Form before going into the specific details.
The Whole is larger then the sum of it’s parts and preceding them in appearance.
This basic gestalt principle is where many of the art teaching of the past with the emphasis on the realistic-academic drawing went wrong for very long time and it is still used unfortunately to this day by many followers of the academic training.
There is nothing wrong of course in mastering the tools of a good craftsmanship but the usual approach of the academic teaching emphasising , right proportions and “correct” angles by following the obsolete system of linear perspective is everything but the reality of how human eye looks at the world. The great revolution of the 20th century in Art, with the advent of Cubistic perception of the World has finally released us from the confines of the Brunelleschi’s perspective and I believe the illuminating concepts of the great British painter David Hockney hold a great significance in the way he interprets the Cubist approach to looking at the world.
In his memorable photo collages he shows how we actually look at the world from different points of view, scanning our visual field utilising much more then just one, two or three vanishing points.
In this short video Hockney shows why the old traditional view of the Brunelleschi’s era is not only wrong but actually makes no sense in theological sense as well.
So another great benefit of sketching the ever changing moods and subtle movements of people in cafe is allowing to focus on the whole rather then the details.
Many of the beginning students in my cafe sketching classes have great difficulties in giving up trying to construct the figures from the usual linear approach but once they are able to let go and the gesture is grasped, the Whole emerges with details fall in they right place.
It doesn’t matter what is the choice of the medium. Be it watercolour, pencil, charcoal, crayons or any combination of all of the above. With any medium, the main thing is being able to concentrate on the theme, which can be anything from a way someone holds a cup of coffee in their hand, a face that has something telling about it, a general gesture or something more abstract like an animated conversation between two or more people.
Many times there is a group of people interacting with each other and it can be a real challenge to find the central focal point that captures the individual movements and at the same time gives a sense of a whole.
One of the well known paintings on this theme is the masterpiece Luncheon of the Boating Partyby Pierre-August Renoir.
I am using this great work of art as an example in spite of the fact that I personally do not like Renoir’s style of painting .This is perhaps the only painting by Renoir that is not totally boring in his usually excessive sweetness of colours.
There are many articles and books written about this specific painting so I will not go into interpretation of the meaning but here we have a nice illustration of the theme of group of people in a casual interaction with each other in the context of a cafe held together by brilliant composition in which the table with it’s magnificent still life is the common ground from which the individual figures emerge and unified.
Renoir apparently didn’t use any sketches for this composition, so in my opinion it was done either from one or several photographs
There is usually not much talk about this issue of the Impressionists use of photographic images in their work but there is much evidence for it in much research on the subject.
I haven’t found any evidence for my speculation about Renoir using photograph for this particular painting but I think it is not too much to assume that if most of the artists did use it then why would be Renoir the only exception.
I personally do to think it matters much for the fact that it is a great painting and obviously neither Renoir’s not any other famous painters greatness is diminished by the fact of their use of then available photographic equipment. All I try to establish here is the fact that by using sketches and gestures we can get away from the limited one point perspective and thus get closer to breaking the barrier between the felt and the purely optical.
Asking this question in the context of doing art has two meanings.
Ok, maybe it has more but right now I would like to concentrate on the two that are coming up readily to my mind,
One, is the simple visible point of focus around which the composition is built. In the art of painting, it can be a simple object that has an intrinsic balance that gives us a sense of beauty that pleases the eye.
A rose, beautiful landscape, an interesting face, a general feeling of a place that can lead to some abstract forms or even a pattern that gives a sense of a meaning like the musical rhythm patterns of Kandinsky or the intricate abstract patterns of an Arabesque.
They all have a sense of a built-in reason for their own existence and require no further explanation.
In Chan Buddhism it is referred to as Tathatā. The inherent suchness of things.It is the seemingly mundane appearances of simple forms that given the right point of focus and right perspective, allow us a glimpse into the more elevated and perhaps a spiritual reality of everyday objects that surround us.
Some of the greatest Art is Tathata.Think of the eloquent line in the Turkish Bath by Ingres
Or Bouquet Of Peonies by Eduard Manet
The exquisite rhythm of lines in a still life by Giorgio Morandi
There are of course countless examples of great works of Art and great artists troughout the history if Art who knew intuitively what is Tathata and in many ways the art of painting could be viewed entirely from this focal point.
Many of the contemporary philosophies of Art that try to explain what art is get into superfluous explanations that miss the whole point of visual expression and the main reason why the human eye is craving to look at beauty.
Much can be said about muchness , Tathata and the God of the simple things revealed to anyone who can listen with their eyes but I will touch on this in another post related to the concept of the Pardes taken from Kabbala mystical way of life.
The second focal point , which i would like to touch and in my opinion is the more important question in the realm of Art making, it is the why of the work of art. The raison d’être.
This can be of course a very tricky question in the sense that much of a good work of art is not done on a conscious level. It would be a very awkward process if an artist or for that reason any creative practitioner had to think about the deep hidden reasons of why they are drawn to express themselves in the that particular way and it would undoubtedly hinder the whole process of creativity.
There is of course countless attempts to explain what constitutes a work of art and why a certain work is a masterpiece while others are mediocre repetition of something trite. The verbiage of artsy talk has been a subject of many of the anecdotical talks in post gallery visits in Woody Allen’s films that intuitively draws laughter from the audience. It makes us laugh, precisely because of the ridiculous pomposity of the words used only by the few initiates of the inner conclave of the world of Art.
What I would like to discuss here is something that is rarely thought in art schools in spite of much talking done in the famous crits of the more prestigious schools of art.
This point is the individual perspective that combines the particular with the universal. It is where according to Carl Gustav Jung , the archetypal world of our dreams converge with the specifics of our individuality, creating a unique patterns that constitute the creative dance of our life.
Putting it all back into an individual perspective,in my own personal art, in the theme of the cafe I am trying to combine the specifics of observations of a given scene with some kind of unexpected element that has a deeper quality.
I is a specific state of mind that allows the subconscious, dreamy quality, to interlace with a more mysterious aspect of reality, usually hidden from a casual glance and requires a deeper, more dynamic and more contemplative looking.