Saturday, December 20, 2014

Like A Sloth Moving Forward

 Oil on paper 2-3/4" x 8"

As my last post here indicates, I enjoy, receive energy from, open up the 'Art' side of my brain, and generally love to hear what other painters/artists have to say about the process of becoming, and of being an artist.  Some artists have said to me, "I've always been an artist, never any need to 'become' one..."... Fine, I'm jealous of that myopia.  The question that comes to my mind when I hear that is "Really?  You never, ever thought about anything else in life, or found anything else in life to be really cool to do?  Other than what you have always done?" If so, that's Wonderful, I am in awe!

I like to fish, hunt, fly airplanes, mow the yard, tear out brush, work with animals (3 years of being a vet tech in high school almost had me looking at being a veterenarian), ski (I taught skiing professionally from the time I was in the 10th grade until I was off to Art School and could have enjoyed that as a 'life')... cut, rivet and glue big things together (like boats and airplanes), do light construction work... and on and on.  At one time or another, any of those interests almost had me off on another life tangent.

I am getting to a point about art eventually... your indulgence of my sloth like movement foreword is appreciated greatly.  In this stream of consciousness piece, it seems, I am thinking out loud about why I am always questioning my art, and myself as an artist. Pretty boring stuff... you can check out now.

If not...

I'm happy that although I spent my earliest years scribbling in bird books with Crayola crayons, having 'battle drawing' events on lined notebook paper with my other pre-school warrior buddies (the result of being a military brat), copying the cartoons of my dad, and all of those photos in National Geographic, I had many, many other interests in my back pack of life.

I would be an idiot not to think that my life could have taken several different roads (like if I was just a few months older and my draft number had been drawn in 1972), if only due to all of my interests in life, if nothing else.  And I would be blind not to think that all of those other interests, hobbies, curious periods about the wide world around me, didn't have some profound effect on me and the reason that I am an artist.  They made me the artist that I may become, by the time I end up as a pile of dust.  Without those interests, I don't think I could have become an artist.  They are what formed the way I see the world Now... and Now is all I have to gauge where my art is.

To cut this way short, when I left the college biology labs (the ornithologist in me wanted to draw and paint birds) to find an art school program that would give me the best basic training that I was aware of, I chose Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, CA, and began a major program in Illustration. I actually interviewed at UCDavis with Wayne Thiebaud, but decided it wasn't structured enough for who I was then... meaning I didn't know crap and needed a lot of work!  Looking back, it would have been interesting to have tried that out...

I do not have the mind or make up of an illustrator, I knew and had that confirmed at Art Center.  Although I received great training there, I didn't have the right stuff to head off to NYC or stay in LA and work in a commercial studio.  My youth as the son of a military officer, and all of the affiliated discipline that goes along with that, created the rather rebellious attitude that I now carry with me.   Nothing serious, I am not plotting to overthrow anyone, or anything (yet), but I tend to reject being told what to do, and I reject the idea that nothing can change, or be faulted, no matter how long I might have held a point of view, or belief about it. Illustrators must do what the client or art director wants them to do.  I used to try to be that way, but it never worked for me.

The reason I am talking about this, other than as my own therapy, is because of late I have been rebelling against what I thought I knew about me, what I thought I was, as a painter.  I'm convinced that it's very important to keep looking inward to evaluate where I am as a painter, where my art is, why it is, what is it, is it of me, am I doing the most I can do to take advantage of this life as an expressive visual artist?

Cliche alert: Turns out there really is ONLY ONE LIFE, at least only one where there are art supply stores near by, so I better make it the best art life that I can.  I'm sure that many of you think about this too, in fact it's an age old conundrum... Am I making the most out of this gift of life that has been given to me?

Enough of that... the point of this is that lately I have been in the studio painting.  A place where the "plein air" painter in me feels very uncomfortable.  So I have been asking myself why that is?  And is there a way to make the studio as seemingly vital to my art, as I feel the outside is when I'm outside painting?  And... why not just paint outside?

While I feel this way about the studio, I also understand that there are things that can happen in here that won't happen outside.  My challenge is to try to find out what that is... alas... that is the point of this post.  I've spent many years in a studio, painting and illustrating.  Not to disparage that time or those paintings, because they were what they were then.  None the less, I've always felt like I was out of place in here, and that the paintings were something being forced out of me.  Not paintings that were truthful examples of who I was, or am as an artist.  Every once in awhile I would do something that gave me a glimpse of that, but then I'd revert to this other thing.  This is where the sloth like temperament comes in.  It takes me a long time to recognize these sort of things in myself.

Back to those videos I posted yesterday, and some others that I've been watching lately.  I've learned that I have more in me that I can do in the studio, than I have been doing.  I haven't been paying enough attention to the 'Art' in my art.  Not listening enough to my own visual queuing up when it makes noise.  I am not going to be able to paint with the same kind of honesty and truth in here, that I am able to pull out of myself when I am standing out in Mother Nature, face to face with her.  However, there is a different kind of honesty/truth that I know I can find in the studio.  I need to fess up (with myself), listen, and get busy with that.

In listening to other artists talk about their work in these video interviews, like Phillip Geiger, Stuart Shils, Lennart Anderson, Vincent Dessidario, Nicolas Uribe, Bo Bartlett, Kyle Staver, Eric Fischl and others, I have come to a few ideas that should help me in my dilemma.  All of these painters paint based on life observation, but take those personal ideas into another realm... in the studio.  I am critically inspired by that notion, and am on a search to find it for myself.

The two images above (and I have no idea where this is going but am sharing it as if I were a naked baby on display),  are based from the memory of my walk to the studio this morning.  No photos, no field studies.  (I know you're saying to yourself... Wake up Marc!  That's old stuff.)  But from pointed observation and memory notes taken in the studio, and then painted.  This is very exciting to me, I know, maybe it's old hat to many.  It's what I am going to spend the studio time exploring for now.  Like I said, I am like the lowly sloth who is slow while life passes by, but confident that each next move, is the best one.

More later...

Ps... I am not suggesting that I want to make stuff up, hardly.  I think I'm saying that there is more within me, within us as artists, to bring out and work with.  I am an observational LANDSCAPE painter, no doubt about that.  That is one reason the studio is hard for me... there's nothing in here to observe!  But... there is 59 years of the observational logging of information... in me.  There must be a  way to access and use that experience when I can't be outside reacting to life.  That's all...


Unknown said...

Artist to artist - I know how you feel. I don't have a solution or even much advice, but I'm with you in the constant search.

Marc R. Hanson said...

That's good to hear and know, Sergio! The constant search is good, isn't it? Imagine being satisfied and placid as a painter? Now that is scary.

Adele said...

Great post. This is why I like your work - you're very aware of evolving as a painter. I expect to see fabulous paintings ahead!

Maren Phillips said...

Marc, do you like the ballet? I think of your work as a ballet in paint. Ballet is choreographed in the mind of the choreographer... like a sonata is composed, or a poem is written... Your paintings remind me of an internal KNOWING of what is... more than mere observation, altho that is there as well, but the KNOWINGNESS of what you observe, comes from that connection to all life, you can call it God or Spirit it you are so inclined, but a connection to the 'things' you observe. Your work says these things to me.!

Doug said...

Lordy, you make it look so easy (which I know it is not... I've tried) and all this thinkin' may just get in the way. I find that to be one of my downfalls, I spend too much time ruminating and not enough doing, whatever the act. But dang, I like your stuff Marc, and the way you capture the outdoor scene in front of you is pure magic (achieved through years of doin', I know).You're no sloth !

robertsloan2art said...

There are places you've been before you knew how to draw. There are places you've seen before you could paint or handle color. What you're doing now, painting from memory, will open up those memories and make them more vivid.

I don't have that studio aversion you do, thanks to disability I am mostly in the studio, rarely outside and that in a garden in a city, not out in nature pure most of the time. But there are places I've been and seen that I desperately wanted to paint before I could do it well.

I am starting to gradually gain the ability to paint these memories, sometimes prompted by a photo reference, sometimes just by thinking about it and trying, over and over. I have been doing tree and rock and mountain studies for a while as well as waves, now finally getting them. I've gotten to where I can change my cat's pose.

All that is my own direction. It's cool to discover something like that.

What I found is that it sharpens memory. More details come back of the places I tried to paint and couldn't because I painted similar subjects and learned more about painting. While you live those memories are still in reach. Enjoy this!

Anonymous said...

Alright Marc, is it time to try out other locations, like Cape Cod or Maine or back to California for a visit during the cold months there. Coastal views? I saw your art at the Addison yesterday, it was great! So nice to see it in real life. Funny because right then I thought how come he does not paint here, now, outside, it is quiet and peaceful, with engaging sunsets? I am sure CA. must be like that also.
Like Doug said, you capture what is there and it is damm good. Perhaps some travel days away, to keep/be spontaneous in your paintings outside. Then back and off to try out Tahoe or AZ.? Anyway keep painting. Don't let the studio get in your way.

C Underwood said...

Marc I think as painters we are always observing and storing that information then in the studio we bring all of those outside truths and probably explore more in the studio. I think it is great exercise to paint what we remember and when I am in the studio confined and not enjoying the outdoors I listen to music all kinds depending on the mood and I just try to put my memories and thoughts on canvas

Great blog and painting is a life long journey and it is just you and the canvas, sketch pad , brush, pen or pencil and how you see the world. From my view yours is looking pretty great!

John Pototschnik said...

Very thoughtful blog, Marc. I always appreciate it when you post because your blogs are always worthwhile.
Truthfulness in painting is, to those who paint from life, considered by many to mean "being true/faithful to what is physically seen with the eyes". But we also know there is a deeper truth than the mere physical appearance...that which involves all our life experiences and emotional connection to them. So, to me, work done in the studio can in many ways be more truthful to the subject and to who we are as a person than the plein air work. In the studio one actually has the time for introspection, allowing us to grab hold of those emotions connected with the subject...thereby taking the subject well beyond its mere physical appearance. That result is probably more truthful than solely plein air work which generally is more reactive.

Mike Rada said...

Marc, great post! You know I've got many of the same interests and I like to think they add variety to the lenses we see through. To me, they're all ingredients for the recipe of me and if one were left out, who knows how I'd turn out.

I credit you for my answer to the studio vs. outside question. You once remarked how working in different mediums can benefit each other. Learning the strengths and weaknesses and applying that knowledge has benefits to all. I see no reason to leave any of it out. It's all good!

Janet Sullivan said...

In so many ways, this post could have been my life exactly. Change a few nouns and people that influenced me but all in all we travel on the same brain waves of life. Lately I have put my typical way of paintings aside to explore new ways of expressing myself as an artist. All those years of plein air painting are in the back of my mind while I paint instinctively for myself. Trying something new has rekindled my inspiration to painting at a more meaningful level. It is a great time of year for exploration in the studio. Your post not only added to my inspiration but brought back memories of my past. Thanks Marc, you are the best.

Patricia Wafer said...

Marc, this entry was very interesting and thought provoking. It reminded me of an excellent interview from June of this year that I listened to on the Savvy Painter website. It was an interview with Stuart Shils who is about your age and articulated some of the same issues you discuss. If you have not heard it I think you would also find it interesting and validating. Their free podcasts are fun to listen to when working in the studio.

Marc R. Hanson said...

Hoping you all had... er... are having a wonderful Holiday Season! Day after Christmas and we have a fresh coating of about 7" or so of snow. Talk about feeling the need to lock up the studio and stay outside painting! This is just the medicine to do that.

Well, I am very happy to see all of your thoughts about this post. Anyone who is writing a blog knows that one of the best things about this activity, is that you learn so much from those who respond. It's obvious from your replies that we are all engaged in similar questioning in this regard.

Adele...NO... Ducks left, ducks right... right? :) Talk about evolving. Remembering your work from back in the 80's, at Wausau in particular, you have really moved in a new, and wonderful, direction. Your early work was stuffed full of skill applied, yet like many of us who where in love with birds so much that our paintings were infused with them, you have taken that love and greatly expanded it's range. Your newest work at Horton Hayes is a delight to stare into. I was sorry that I didn't have more time there to get deeper into studying what you're doing now. Thank you!

Marc R. Hanson said...

Maren... that is a very kind thing to say about my art work. Thank you. I am not an aficionado of ballet, but I do understand the metaphoric idea. I am a jazz fan, Miles, Coltrain, Mingus, that era. When I paint with them in the background, I feel like I'm painting along with a musician who is painting with music. I have tried to become a musician, without much success, to know that in that kind of music, they have that same Knowingness that you speak of. What it really is, I think, is that painters or musicians, dancers, poets, who come from that place, have invested so much time, practice, thought, miles of dance floor crossed, miles of canvas used, or words formed into meaning, that they're coming from somewhere within... the Spirit of their art is deeper than anything on the surface, as you put it.

Marc R. Hanson said...

Hey Doug... That can be a pitfall, can't it? I spend so much time "just doing", that coming back to the blog to do a little thoughtful 'realignment' is feeling pretty good to me. It's a place to put down the things that run through my head all day long while I'm painting. But thank you, I understand what you're saying.

Marc R. Hanson said...

robertsloan2art... Thanks for the reply.

I'm always embarrassed when I don't consider how lucky I am to be able to have a dilemma, that other folks would like to have, but may not be able to experience for reasons out of their control. I apologize for not mentioning the fact, right off of the bat, that I should be grateful for the ability to even be able to paint, let alone get outside when I want to, or be in the studio when I want to.

Your comments about memory are right on the money. It's been a well practiced teaching technique for a long time. I also have a memory exercise that I use with my landscape painting classes. I use it on the last day, as the last formal exercise in the classes. They are always amazed at what they paint in the exercise, how much they can retain, and how much better they capture the spirit of the scene that they were painting.

I guess in this post, this is what I'm saying, that when I end up in the studio, I'm painting from a different place than when outside painting from life. Since I feel the most 'authentic' when painting from life, being in the studio, relying on memory or trying to figure out other reference, I'm not that comfortable with it.

But... I am getting there! I have quite a few projects going on in there right now.

Marc R. Hanson said...

Anonymous... I concur... travel! I've been traveling so much that I am loving being home for a few months or so and melding with my painting life here. In an ideal world, I would like to stay put and become so involved in my little patch of earth that having to travel to paint wouldn't be needed. Then again, I am a traveler at heart, or by birth maybe? When I was 6 weeks old, we moved to Fairbanks, Ak... and from then until I was 17, I attended 8 grade schools and 3 high schools. You could say that staying home isn't really a very easy thing to do, yet.

I love painting on the Cape!!! And will be getting back out there again soon. :) Thank you for your thoughts.

Marc R. Hanson said...

John Pototschnik... Sir, you are the BLOG MASTER!!! I am honored that you would offer your sage advice. I understand what you are saying, and it makes total sense. And... you are a master at it!

I have a little different thought about it. You are right, painting outside is a reactive activity... and I am a reactive painter, I know that for sure. I've often been amazed by illustrators and the minds that they/you have to be able to go within, and create a world that is translatable by you so that the rest of us can see what you envisioned. It's a marvelous, and magical ability to be able to do that. I can say with authority, that I am not good at that when creating from whole cloth. At Art Center, where I was an illustration major, I found out that I really suffered when that was the kind of work we were asked to do. When, however, I was in a painting class, like with Dan McCaw, where we worked from a still life or a model, or in classes where we were sent outside to draw or paint from life, I was in my element.

This quote from your reply..."being true/faithful to what is physically seen with the eyes". But we also know there is a deeper truth than the mere physical appearance...that which involves all our life experiences and emotional connection to them."... I agree completely!

My goal outside is not to paint only what comes to my eye... it is to paint what I take in emotionally after my eye done it's observational job. UNLESS I'm doing a straight forward informational study for reference later.

While most my field paintings look pretty faithful to the locations that I paint, if I were to take someone out to the locations with the paintings painted, and I were to ask them how "accurate" my paintings are to the scene in front of them, they would most likely agree that they know I painted there. But I bet that they would be surprised how different my painting is in it's components and rendering, compared to what is in front of them, yet it's the place they're looking at. That's because I try to take the 'essence' of the life force that I'm observing, internally digest it, and come up with my (your comment) own 'reactive' piece of art to it.

The truth outside, my personal interest in painting there, or painting from life anywhere, is not the 'thing' I'm observing. It's what I take away from that raw material and use to make a piece of art out of it, that I feel is 'my' truth in the piece. In that, it's 'my' truth, that is what drives me to want to be out there painting. I would dry up and put the paints away if I 'had' to be faithful to what was in front of me. I am creative, in the way that I was talking about above with the Art Center illustration classes, or like illustrators, but I need the life source, the raw material, in front to get the kind of information I need, to go to that place.

I can, and do, step away from the source, with either studies or photos, and do some image making in the studio. I have done that for many years, and will probably continue to do that. But, I will tell you that I feel a bit like a cheaper version of my self, like I am playing a part, not being the artist that I know I can be when painting from life, when I'm doing that.

At least that's where I am now... :) Thank you John, for your thoughtful reply. Good thinking to chew on!

Marc R. Hanson said...

Thank you C Underwood!

Marc R. Hanson said...

Hey Mike Rada! Great to hear from you buddy! It's all good isn't it? I lament some of the outside activities that I've set aside. But I agree with you... it all goes into life experience and comes out of us in our paintings, be they done on site, or in the studio.

When we get to a certain point, maybe we just feel the need to start to narrow down where we want to spend the time we have. We never know how much time that is, but if things go well, and time marches on without premature interruption, at some point the amount of time left is less than the amount of time that has passed us by. A lot of this thinking out loud probably has that as part of it's impetus. :)

Happy Painting my friend!

Marc R. Hanson said...

Thank you Janet Sullivan and Patricia Wafer! Your comments are very welcome.

Patricia... I have read and watched some interviews with Shils. I'll look into that site... thank you!

Rozanne Hubbard said...

Your comments remind me of a rather lengthy quote by Corot. I considered retyping the entire quote but it basically tells us how he would go out to observe the world just before sunrise when the world is hidden behind a "transparent gauze". Once the sun would burn off the morning mist, he would return home to nap...and "dream about my morning landscape. I dream my picture. By and by I shall paint my dream."

Julianne said...

Happy New Year Marc!

I for one enjoyed reading your latest musings! I'll be checking out your previous post(s) after I send this reply!

Looking forward to seeing what unfolds from all this! I can totally relate to everything you're saying, as I prepare to return to painting, (not done much for a few years), though, as usual this can also relate to music! ;)…


Sharon Lynn Williams said...

Marc: You are a true plein air artist at heart. So paint outside and don't worry about trying to be something else. Nothing else will satisy you!

Unknown said...

Beautiful painting.

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