Sunday, December 19, 2010

The" Groove" & Painting

20"x 20"
Acrylic & Oil
Canvas on Panel

"Modal Change"
24" x 48"
Acrylic & Oil
Canvas on Panel

The "groove" is a key component in my painting process.   

Groove is the sense of propulsive rhythmic "feel" or sense of "swing" created by the interaction of the music played by a band's rhythm section(drums, electric bass or double bass, guitar, and keyboards). Groove is a consideration in genres such as salsafunkrock musicfusion, and soul. The word is often used to describe the aspect of certain music that makes one want to move, dance, or 'groove'.

Groove #1: "bass drum on beats 1 and 3 and snare drum on beats 2 and 4 of the measure...add eighth notes on the hi-hat".[1]
Musicologists and other scholars began to analyze the concept of "groove" in the 1990s. They have argued that a "groove" is an "understanding of rhythmic patterning" or "feel" and "an intuitive sense" of "a cycle in motion" that emerges from "carefully aligned concurrent rhythmic patterns".

I have a passion for the groove!   Jazz/fusion of various genres (particularly piano).   Listening to musicians grooving with their intuitive sense of " aligned rhythmic patterns" affects and energizes my inner and outter response in the studio.  Showing up, preparing, concentrating,  a painting begins-- laying down a line, a form, a color, a surface. 

The groove of recurring pulses, structure in the pulses, repeat rhythm patterns, and the repeat of this "groove" beat transports me to a special zone.  Musicians call it "the groove", atheletes and artists sometimes relate this same feeling as being "in the zone".  Whether in the 'zone' or in the 'groove', an artist finds the hours passing quietly-- in painting, writing, performing or practicing their art form.  

 This new series  "Groove" reveals a different type of pattern and complexity. The comp and layers are appearing rhythmically repetitive and riff-like.  Some recent feedback on the work has been referenced to music.  It is satisfying to hear this response to the work. 

I use whatever paints I have and mix my own colors.  The form-color-harmony works itself out.  A lot of the time, I paint myself into a corner not knowing what's going to happen.  I have practiced not abandoning or prematurely destroying what isn't working.  I step away, let the painting breathe and return later or work on another piece.   These paintings are satisfyingly challenging as I push and pull the work to a new edge.  My work concerns making serial paintings with complex comps, surfaces and color relationships leading to a moving rhythmic field.

Here is a look at the working out of a painting.
(Below are a few evolving shots of "Compression 2").

 Process shot of a point when abandon & destroy arises.

The next session of painting my way out.

The form's influence on colors...  and, color's influence on forms....

The particular "groove" inspiring these paintings come from a long history of listening and spending time at the piano figuring out the complex compositions  of  "Joe Sample" -- an American pianist, keyboard player and composer (  one of the founding members of the Jazz Crusaders).

I am having fun with this new shift in the work & facinated with exploring more on music, color, form and painting.  

The Imperfect Art: Reflections on Jazz and Modern Culture”
Author & Musician Ted Gioia has this to say:
Errors will creep in, not only in form but also in execution; the improviser, if he sincerely attempts to be creative, will push himself into areas of expression which his techniques may be unable to handle. Too often the finished product will show moments of rare beauty intermixed with technical mistakes and aimless passages.

(Ted Gioia is one of the outstanding music historians in America & his most recent book is 
"The Birth (and the Death) of Cool").

Kandinsky's  "Concerning the Spiritual in Art" exerpt:
"Any realization of the inner working of colour and form is so far unconscious.  The subjection of composition to some geometrical form is no new idea.  Construction on a purely abstract basis is a slow business, and at first seemlingly blind and aimless.  The artist must train not only his eye but also his soul, so that he can test colours for themselves and not only by external expressions."

"I like painting -- it's like jazz -- it goes where it takes you"
                                     -Brian Eno 
(English musician, composer, record producer, music therorist, singer and visual artist)

 "The way we respond to color is similar to the way we respond to music: words fail us"
                                                                     - Robert Swain - American Painter

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

"Working Progress"

How do you get the momentum of work flow going in your studio?  What warms up the creeping coldness that you sometimes naturally encounter? As artists we can't help but experience feeling hot and cold.  Whatever your cirumstances, life brings lots of distractions, sometimes stress, tension, pressures and anxiety. 

In the past few months I've relocated to a new city.  I have traveled between my  live/work loft space in Los Angeles to San Francisco for work/  family time.  It has been a smooth transition outwardly with everything falling into place easily, but the internal adjustment has interferred with working steadily in the studio.  

It's natural  for conflict to set in  between life and art when major transitions happen.  In reflecting on my process lately, I realize  a strong need for longer periods of solitude in order to settle in.  The environmental adjustment and transition carries weight, but I have been persistent  in pushing through by showing up in the studio.

There have been incremental productive sessions but mostly  chaos, studio messes, many mistakes, ruined materials, starts and stops, and frustration.  I realized several days ago that you must embrace the visceral sense that you can't skip the parts of the process!  When it doesn't work out, you can't be attached.  This attachment and disappointment brings on the coldness.  Persistence and patience can feel unbearable at times especially when you know the work is wanting to move somewhere else.  

If you have a ritual that helps you get back to picking up the  thread, or to the place that helps you enter the zone of working, then do it.  I have my ritual and it's simple.  "Circles".  That's it.  When I'm stuck, I make circles with whatever is near -- pens, pencils, paints, crayons.   It symbolized the circular flow of life.  I do it for hours, days, weeks -- until I don't want to do circles anymore.   And then, I shift.  It's a form of warming up when nothing is calling me yet.  I call my freeze an  'alienation from self'.  This  temporary disconnect that happens can disengage one from the artmaking process.  

Here are some progress shots of working -- keeping the tension outside the studio and turning my full attention to engage with the work.  


This is the first post from my new place at the SFAC - Santa Fe Artist Colony!  I will  be getting back to this blog regularly and hope you'll stay tuned!  

Author, Joan Didion’s “Slouching Toward Bethlehem,” --  excerpt from her "Self Respect" essay. 
It is the phenomenon sometimes called “alienation from self.” In its advanced stages, we no longer answer the telephone, because someone might want something; that we could say no without drowning in self-reproach is an idea alien to this game. Every encounter demands too much, tears the nerves, drains the will, and the specter of something as small as an unanswered letter arouses such disproportionate guilt that answering it becomes out of the question. To assign unanswered letters their proper weight, to free us from the expectations of others, to give us back to ourselves – there lies the great, the singular power of self-respect. Without it, one eventually discovers the final turn of the screw: one runs away to find oneself, and finds no one at home.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

"Engaging Analog Drawings"

These are some of my 18"x 24" Analog Drawings made today non-stop one after another.   In total I drew 30 of them within a 4 hour session.  This is an exercise you can use to engage yourself back into working when you catch yourself obsessing over things which are unproductive.  

An analog drawing is a symbolic drawing expressing one's emotions, ideas, and feelings, often used to identify and help solve problems.  Betty Edwards (author of "Drawing on the Artist Within") calls this kind of automatic drawing "analog drawing." Whereas automatic drawing is about nothing in particular - just whatever the hand draws - an analog drawing is about a specific feeling.  It's still a completely free drawing. You just pick up a soft pencil and watch the marks your hand and pencil make on the paper. You're releasing all control.  (In my session today I used marking pens, crayons & colored pencils). 

The charged emotion in silencing creativity is "anxiety".  As artists, we have our individual coping mechanisms dealing with anxiety that take us away from working.  We sometimes call them "distractions" and they appear quite regularly in our daily life.    

Feeling tired of the business of working on non-art related details and attending to family affairs has created an imbalance in my world!   I am appreciating what small workspace I had and finding out how important making art really is in my life.   

Are you aware of feeling low, unproductive and  maybe obsessing?   Those thoughts.... large or small?  Obsessing over stuff -- the lighting in the studio, the location, the city,  the materials,  sensitivities, rejection, the work, bad review, finances -or---- maybe distracting with social media, television, controlling others (haha!), or overdoing in some area other than in the studio?  There are always more things that clog up our mind than we'd like to admit --and these thoughts create worry, anxiety and loss of focus.  

Can you get a grip on your mind and let go of small thoughts?  Eastern philosophy and Western psychology have both addressed the issues of the 'mind' and taming it through regular meditation, relaxation techniques, Yoga, physical exercise to gently bring the mind and thoughts back to center and back to our comfort zone.  

Are you finding it challenging to return to a comfortable place in life due to changing situations good or not so good?  Sometimes it happens you know  -- and a drag to admit!  Do you have a practice or discipline to commit to your working sessions whether you're making fantastic work or feeling bored, tired, uninspired, frustrated, or anxious?

At the moment I am living a very unstructured life and very busy with the long and lingering details of my upcoming move to another city.   The absence of routine for a certain length of time can become unnerving.  My weeks are consistent for only one week at a time -- flipping from one home-base to another!  I found myself obsessing over the frustration of not being able to paint!  After a week of ignoring the urge to do something, today I made up my mind that I would engage in a positive obsession -- sketching anything that came to mind (analog drawings)!  Fueled by the desire to paint, I shut out the anxiety  (and pressure to make studies)...and with much patience I reached the trance state of working.  It doesn't necessarily happen with only doing important or meaningful work.  It happens when we engage long enough to let it happen.  Not different than the state of watching our in and out breath during meditation and floating in that space between the breath or that space between our thoughts.  

I combined the technique of using Analog Drawings with a non-stop drawing session where you continue to work with a stack of paper and drawing tools for a specific amount of time.  In most analog drawing sessions you use a soft pencil and a smaller sheet of paper for direct problem solving (and usually in smaller increments of time).   In these drawings there is a spiraling affect of chaos and order, attempt at a new pattern emerging,  energy going up and down, harmony & complexities in color usage,  tightness in the loops, going thru a tunnel with twists & turns, and some looping out of order which signals the upcoming changes in the next chapter of my life.  

Can you differentiate what drags you away from the work?  Paying attention to your responses and taking action leads us back to the same 'ole cliche -- - "showing up"!   

Thanks for stopping by and reading about my process.   Your comments here are always welcomed and appreciated!  

You may want to engage yourself in a 'free' non-thinking analog drawing session!  It's a good way to produce energy to revivify your work...and it helps one sift through unproductive thinking.  

If you're living a confiscated life --- Jung says....

"It would be far better simply to admit our spiritual poverty...
when spirit becomes heavy, it turns to water...
Therefore, the way of the soul...leads to the water."