Saturday, June 07, 2014

Some Thoughts On Painting Part 2

In my last post I talked a bit about the Perceptual Painting Process or theory of it's principles as I came to understand it in relation to my own process as a painter while in school at PAFA, and specifically working with teachers like Scott Noel, but also Peter Van Dyck who also would fall under the same "school" as a painter.

 Here are a few more notes on painting from Scott in one of my last master's painting Seminars I had with him:

"Slosh and cut with paint with very little rendering, wet into wet. Pay attention to the scale and location of what you are painting as well as the precision of your stroke and the opacity of your paint. Paint on a surface prepared with cremnitz white, which will give you a unique quality to the way your paint behaves. No glazing or underpainting, build with blocks of broad color. The paint is most beautiful when it is not cut with medium. Paintings with scale and complexity are exciting. In the end it comes down to what you really value as a painter, it shows in your work." Scott Noel

The medium Scott said he uses is a 1to-1to-1 of Gum terps, Stand Oil and regular terps. Mix it so it has the feeling of honey.

I think Scott has had a huge influence on both Peter and his wife Carolyn Pyfrom who also teaches at PAFA and I have both of them as teachers in the Certificate Program. Peter and Carolyn both attended the Florence Academy, The Florence Academy which was founded and run by Daniel Graves is a school who's curriculum is probably even more like the traditional cannon of the 19th century, much more focused that PAFA, which while embracing the past does embrace the present and modernism. I had Carolyn only once as a teacher in my first year in the Certificate program at PAFA but I had Peter a few times as a teacher, first in Animal Drawing and then Life Painting, but the class I where learned the most from him was his Painting Interiors class.  I did a post on taking that class with Peter here.

I this class I got to see Peter paint and demonstrate the Perceptual Painting process live and then apply that philosophy in my own paintings. I guess what I want to state here is that for while I did learn a lot from my teachers I am not a follower 100% of any one teacher, category, philosophy or school. I can't bow under one flag or one way of working or thinking, but try and take in these sometimes divergent ideas and let them cook down through me. That said I did learn a tone from Scott and Peter and Vincent Desiderio, who I will talk about in a future post.

Some ideas will strike you so boldly as a painter, like a lighting bolt illuminating your darkness tossed Zues-like from the hand of your teacher, it will strike and brand your mind and stay, and some will not. Some ideas from teachers will just fade out, not fit in with your personality or taste.

Buddhist master Lin Chi is supposed to have said, “If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him.” I think this is true, at some point you must break from any system of teaching and any teacher or you risk making it a fetish or worse a dogma and a poor imitation of another artist's work. It is very tempting, especially for the young artist to fall under the spell of a strong and dogmatic teacher. They offer you all the solutions its seems to all your problems. This actually is what I think happens and works for most painters, especially what we snobs call the Sunday Painter or hobbyists, which frankly is the bulk of people painting in the world today.

It's so seductive to follow a guru, as the worry and struggle and fight is gone, you can worship at one alter and all the answers are given. But "Danger, Danger, Will Robinson!" I think that leads to being brittle and inflexible and that is death as an artist. Struggle is life! Struggle is essential, But it is not all.

While I do have some very deep core beliefs, such as drawing is the foundations of art for me, the foundation of thinking and analyzing and painting, I'm don't think you must draw only in one way and never have to follow any teacher 100%.

In that PP category I would list painters like Lennart Anderson, Isreal Bershberg, George Nick, Stuart Shills, Caroyln Pyfrom, Philip Geiger and maybe the king of them all, Antonio López García. For so many painters he is the top of the top in the Perceptual Painting world. I do like his work a lot, but I don't fall under the romance of his struggle which I think many painters do. That can be a false way as well. A trap that you can fall in and think as a real "arrrteest" it must be all hand-nailed-to-the-forehead and never a joy of real gains and performance from practice and hard work. So many holes you can step in as an artist.

                                                            Spring Fed, Andrew Wyeth
                                                    Sink and Mirror, Antonio López García

I think López García's work is very similar to the work of one of my biggest influences and painting gods, Andrew Wyeth. That statement alone would condemn me in many circles, I can hear the brushes breaking and teeth clenching now. To me both artists are more similar in temperament and subject than they are different. They both create a paint-space of powerful melancholy and memory.  A loving, deeply personal paint space about the worlds they live in, Garcia, Spain and Wyeth, the Brandywine. I think their work both inhabits an intense specific atmosphere, of a specific place, of a time, of their cities, homes and friends as intimate as a lovers hand caressing in the small of your back.

 There is an honesty I feel that makes them kin as artists. But the fact is one painter's honesty is in some circles is another's stage craft. This happened a lot more in the Masters Program than he undergrad, but it did happen at time there too--sometimes I feel I had to just pull away an disengage from that mentality and business as it was a dog chasing it's tail, and a waste of energy.

Under the general category of what I call  or think of as "realism" there are many different movements that are all like "kissing Cousins" to me, you have the Novo-realists like Jeremy Lipking, Alexy Steel, Tony Pro and a few others. These guys tend to hang out as a group much like the Ashcan School did so while its not an official movement there are a many artists who share a similar desire to paint a certain kind of truth.  See the world in a similar way as painters, At the Art Renewal Center you have another group of artists sharing a similar aesthetic. What I don't get is other than jealousy, why do one group have to hate on another? I think all of these movements have more in common than not and most all of them trace their love and art gods back to the same pantheon of great painters of the past.

And then there are realists like Vincent Desiderio and Alex Kanevsky, both of whom build paintings up out of concepts or ideas and both of whom often use photography as part of the process for generating their images. I don't see them as being officially part of any sub movement of realism per se, or I have never heard them claim an allegiance. Maybe this is imporant and why they are at the top of the painting world right now, they are not trying to play with a certain group or camp. I guess my thinking on this is that you can get caught up in this gamesmanship and waste energy that you could apply painting and waste negative energy on other artists that return you nothing.


E. Tage Larsen said...

Michael, thank you for this series. I hope there's more. Your notes and explication and wanderings added to them are a nice insight.

Now, get back to painting. :)

Unknown said...

Really interesting and informative posts, thanks for taking the time.

information said...

thank you so much for this information. i am far from attending the PAFA yet very hungry to practice this idea of perceptual painting and to learn scott's teachings. i savor every morsel of knowledge i can pick up.

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