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.
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.
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
Once in a while I tend to experiment with digital medium.
I find it especially useful on the go for some quick visual notations that keep me alert for the beauty of the ordinary forms that surround us.
I mean, it is not always very practical to pull out your watercolor gear when waiting for a bus or in line in post office. True, I could pull out my sketchbook which is always ready in my bag pack and do some quick pencil sketches but I find that the wide range of options allowed by the digital applications that can be used with any smartphone today is truly exiting and besides, is a great fun.
Interestingly enough, the advent of the touch screens and the use of the fingers to smear directly on the painting surface has brought back that wonderful feeling from childhood when we were allowed to smear our paint with abandon without worrying about results. At least for those of us who were lucky enough to be allowed or even encouraged by the adults in charge which many times was exactly the opposite.
Of course, there is a big difference in the tactile feel when smearing real paint onto a paper or a canvass but there are definite advantages in messing around with digital paint and still keeping our hands and clothes clean.
As far as I am aware, the artificial controversy around the digital versus real painting is almost over but frankly I do not follow it very closely. I believe this debate is somewhat misplaced in that it is a superficial dichotomy between the “real” and the virtual.
Personally, I rely on the Buddhist world view that makes no distinction between the two and view all reality as a virtual construct flowing from the projections of Mind.
I know that some of my colleague artists, of my generation, still have a great disdain towards anything that is digital and virtual.
Anything that requires a different look at the very concept of what is art, how it is made and what is the role of art in the new digital age which is upon us, makes them feel uncomfortable and defensive about the traditional ways of making art.
There is nothing wrong of course in the traditional, classical mediums of expressions but it is becoming increasingly difficult to ignore the implications of the fact that our cultural context has moved into an era where the medium has become the message with all it’s implications.
The medium is the message.
It is not my intent here in this short post to go into lengthly explanations of this term coined by Marshall McLuhan but I do think that it is worth exploring his ideas about the role of the
artist in the new digital culture we all live in.
In Robert K. Logan’s book on Marshall McLuhan’s immense contribution to our understanding of our day digital culture, there is a chapter about the way McLuhan saw the role of the artist in our society.Here is a quote from that book:
“ Whereas the ordinary person seeks security by numbing his perceptions against the impact of new experience, the artist delights in this novelty and instinctively creates situations that both reveal it and compensate for it.
The artist studies the distortion of sensory life produced by the new environmental programming and tends to create artistic situations that correct the sensory bias and derangement brought about by the new form.
In social terms the artist can be regarded as a navigator who gives adequate compass bearings in spite of magnetic deflection of the needle by the changing play of forces.
So understood, the artist is not a peddler of ideas or lofty experiences. He is rather the indispensable aid to action and reflection alike.”
My interpretation of this statement is that most serious artists in all times have always took advantage of the changing environment with introduction of new technology.
I am sure there were many artists who didn’t embrace the new medium of oil painting at the time and in fact there was a transitional period between medieval tempera technique into the new medium of oil painting.
I can personally envision a time in not too distant future where artists will be using three dimensional screens like the ones in Steven Spielberg’s film, “ Minority Report “ where Tom Cruise is shifting trough vast amount of data moving three dimensional screens with hand gestures.
As much of the science fiction anticipates future scientific developments so is the technology that was used in this film is apparently is already available and in use in some specific industries.
Imagine an artist in his studio standing in front of these kind of virtual canvasses using unlimited virtual color pallets based on frequencies of light instead of muddy pigments with creating shimmering images of beauty that radiate light from inside adjusting themselves to the different light conditions, independent of outside light source.
I know that many artists will understandably argue here that nothing can replace the “real” feel of “ real” paint as it is mixed on the palette and applied with “ real” brushes.
I believe this argument is based on lack of information and imagination as to the ability of the technology to supplement the touch and feel of our tactile senses.
Again, this technology is already here in early development stages but as we already know, the pace of advancement of this kind of research is usually surpasses the ability of most people to comprehend the incredible speed with which the results of the research roll out of the lab into the everyday use. Remember the shock of unveiling of the iPhone touch screen by Steve Jobs?
To counter this shock and disorientation caused by the new technologies is precisely where the McLuhan’s teachings can be very helpful for the artists in transition to creating in the Global Village. Given the fact that most of McLuhan;s concepts are presented in a non linear jazz like fashion it is not an easy task to decipher the meaning from his revolutionary ideas some of which quite prophetic in anticipating the age where most people on Earth will be connected everywhere, all the time.
The many implications resulting from such a condition can be quite disturbing for many artists that are still cling to by now obsolete world view in which making art is still tied up with clear distinction between the figure and the ground.
Since we live now in the age of total connectivity and instant communication, this kind of separation and clear cut division is obviously not possible anymore and there is a great advantage for artists that can make this shift in consciousness to include both figure and ground in the context of making art that is more then just repetition of the past ideas and visions.
To quote McLuhan once more :
“Art at it’s most significant is a Distant Early Warning System that can always be relied on to tell the old culture what is beginning to happen to it. (McLuhan 1969)
The serious artist is the only person able to encounter technology with impunity, just because he is an expert aware of the changes in sense perception. (mcLuhan 1964,33)”
Looking from a bird’s eye view over the procession of many art forms of the past, it is obvious that Art is tied up with the culture and the norms of the time creating the different mannerisms which we later call the history of art. At the same time we can see just how non linear this progression is.
The cave art of Altamira is not that different in style and eloquence of expression from that of Matisse in spite of being separated in time by some eighteen thousand years .
This mean that our sense perceptions do not change so much in time in spite of a constant expansion of consciousness and this is what I believe that McLuhan has meant when describing the artist as an agent of and early warning system who’s understanding of the World is acquired trough sense perceptions that are at the same time are concepts no less reliable then that of a scientist or a philosopher.
In conclusion, I would like to say that I hope that traditional techniques of doing art will always persist along with the newer experimentations of digital and virtual art emphasizing the importance of inspiration and creativity over trite and banality.
In this age of great cynicism in the Arts with money replacing artistic value, it is important to articulate the new paradigms that would provide the basis for true appreciation of the Arts allowing artists to extract themselves from marginalization and exploitation by culture gone mad with greed.
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.
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.
Summer is here and with it the opportunity to do some cityscaping. One of the privileges of living in a beautiful city, I guess is the fact that the eye can feast in almost any direction it looks.
In the photo above, I have started a new composition yesterday in my neighbourhood of Rose Hill in Buda.
I must admit that I love the challenges of the cityscaping.
One is finding the right spot.
In my opinion, finding the right spot is more then just finding what pleases the eye. There is of course the obvious sight that draws attention of the eye. Then, there is the special angle that is not too conspicuous and is a little of the main flow of the pedestrian flow. Yesterday, I was lucky to find a balcony of a restaurant that is in renovation so I had plenty of shade and even got a chair from the renovation workers.I guess luck is also a very important element in life and it is truly so in finding the right spot for the right composition.
Roaming the streets, exploring the place one lives in, looking for points of interest that go beyond what meets the eye is a very enjoyable preliminary action that creates a nice workflow with initial sketches and first impressions.
In my case, since I am new to my neigbothood, this kind of search for the right spot has an additional value of getting to know the place where I live.
Second, is having the right gear.
Well, there is the obvious stuff like the portable easel, the paints and the materials but there are the less obvious stuff that many times can make a significant difference between a pleasant work session and a disturbed one in which you look for a paper towel to clean either your hand or a paint that was dropped and cannot be left on the pavement.
I mean, there is an absolute need to leave your place without a trace of your activity .
It is more then being considerate. In case of oil painting with all the hazardous materials of turpentine and paint thinning mediums, it is important to have a disposable trash plastic bag that will keep your used paper towels from being scattered all over by the wind. I was lucky yesterday cause I didn’t have a trash bag but there was no wind so my used paper towels didn’t fly all over the place.
Since I am planning to make a video tutorial about the whole subject of landscape and cityscape painting, i will not go into details about it right now but just wanted to mention these obvious prerequisites .
The third challenge, in my opinion is the most important and it is a need for a fair amount of tolerance for being distracted by the audience.
No matter how secluded is your spot, there will always be an audience. I mean,if your spot is not in the flow of the daily routine pedestrian traffic most people will not notice you and go about their usual business.
Some people, take a peek and sometimes smile since a street painter is not a very common everyday sight.
Some people will stop by and will ask your permission to watch .I personally do not mind and usually agree. I know some artists become too self conscious and cannot work with an audience watching over their shoulder.
I guess , years of teaching have thought me to be able to concentrate on my work without feeling too self conscious.
Sometimes if you are open for it, there is a conversation that develops and sometimes it flows into a real interest either to see more of your work or even buy. In this case ,painting outdoors is a kind of promotion of your work. Once in while, though there is the one or two exceptional people who will start tell you their life stories or about their uncles, grandma, children, spouses paintings, seasoned with anecdotes of personal details. Personally, I have found that the best way to send them away is by simply ignoring them.
All in all, there is a need to develop a bit of exhibitionism in order to enjoy the outdoor painting. Without it, the whole experience can be an unpleasant encounter with a crowd that disturbs your creative flow.
Here is a video of the famous Spanish artist Antonio Lopez Garcia trying desperately to disperse a crowd blocking his view on the Puerto Del Sol Square.
Of course one can always ask what is the motivation of an artist to paint outdoors in one of the busiest and most visited by tourists square in the world with full knowledge of the conditions.In early spring, I had an opportunity to do some plain air watercolour sketching in the north of Hungary at the Balaton , Kaptalanfured area.
There is a nice complementary relationship that exists between the two modes of outdoor painting.
The plain air, landscape painting as an independent theme exists from the early Romantics for whom Nature with all her glory was more then just an interesting subject matter. It was an anchor point to escape the stifling constrains of Neo Classicist era with the emphasis on moralistic , historical subject matter with greys and browns as the dominant colors.The beginning of the modern era had a need for a fresh, new philosophy that today we would call ecologically conscious philosophy with the Noble Savage at it’s core.
Budapest is an amazing city for cityscaping and almost any location you choose, you can find many interesting angles from which to start a composition.
I am not referring of course to the obvious tourist postcard vistas like the Parliament house, the Chain Bridge or the Fishermen Bastion, even though, I am sure it is possible to escape the obvious postcard view with the right kind of orientation.
Here is an old painting where I have incorporated an element of the Chain Bridge and combined it with my ongoing theme of the cafe.