#11 in progress
Earlier today I launched into bringing #11 to completion. The plywood is 4 inches by 30 inches, hangs vertically. Here it is with cardboard glued in place, the whole gessoed and the edge painted black with some fast-drying paint made for painting furniture. True to the rule of thumb in this series, the board was found as it is. The cardboard was found. I mixed an orange that turns out to be BIC lighter orange, a bit stronger orange than sherbet. It's a light orange that is not pastel. I glued a strip of fir to the back of the plywood for a brace to keep it from warping. I mixed the orange I wanted in a styrofoam bowl with medium by palette knife. It feels like kneading clay, preparing it for the potter's wheel; smooth out all the lumps, work it until it is smooth and consistent throughout. I pick up a glob of it with the palette knife and slather it onto the form. This is my favorite part. All that goes before is like setting the stage. When I lay on the paint, the concert is on. Applying the paint is where I sail. I hesitate to use a palette knife for the tendency to want to make pretty swipes with it and make interesting patterns. I'm not one who likes a painting made with palette knife, unless it's an abstraction. I wanted the thickness of paint that needed to be put on by palette knife. I lay the paint on as it happens, sole purpose to cover up all the white and distribute the paint more or less the same all over, letting the strokes be a record of the process of spreading the paint. I make it a point to avoid aesthetic considerations smearing on the paint. I wanted it to look as rough as a stuccoed wall without mind arranging patterns, no matter how loose. Random. Mind contributes the cardboard's shape and place, color too.
#11 in progress
Bypassing mind is one aspect of making an art object important to me. In the time of doing figurative painting, I felt like it was all mind, staying inside the lines. Capturing a likeness and creating a feeling are fun projects in themselves. Living rurally, there is not much of an art market around here but for landscape prints in cheap frames from Walmart. I paint for the people of my world, the mountain people. They can't afford to buy paintings, so I don't sell paintings. I tried big city gallery once and that was enough. I'd rather sell things to my friends for prices they can easily afford than drive back and forth to a city to deliver and attend special occasion "parties," where I'm expected to suck up to the rich and sell myself as a cool dude who knows Art, a good investment. I'm not cool and I don't know how to impress somebody with my approach to art. I don't even want rich people or corporate offices to have my work. I dislike intensely the role of token artist at a dinner party or cocktail party of the rich. I've never been able to learn how to run my mouth and spontaneously be able to say nothing at all in a continuous stream of words. A day came very soon after stepping into that world, I had to get with self, break through denials and admit I despise this shit. I've reminded self several times that my purpose applying pigment to surface is not to be invited to cocktail parties where I might meet somebody new to impress with me as somebody special. I always return to, I'm just a Joe. In my private mind, TJ stands for The Joe, nobody special, one with all of humanity, not an exception. And Joe is WW2 slang for American. I take it for the name of Everyman.
Because I'm not career minded, or attention minded, about my painting, I've been free to do what I feel like doing and let other considerations go. It doesn't mean I'm a creative genius, because I am not. I'm an art minded individual in a world where art has no place. The interest of the rich in art is more about investment than the art itself. I'm not even sure if anything I have done and am doing now could be called art. Recalling a conversation with pencil artist and friend, Willard Gayheart, of Woodlawn, Virginia, Willard said, "I'm not really an artist." This is someone who also plays rhythm guitar as a master, bluegrass, old-time and country, and he sings, knowing the words to a long list of songs. He has written several really good songs he's recorded over a a period of forty years. I said, "You are, indeed an artist. If anybody is an artist, you are." I felt like he had an elevated idea of artist, so elevated it was beyond this world, where only a gifted few have access to it. In my way of seeing, art is about this world, the world of duality, of humanity. Art is one of the many talents we humans are born with, a form of expression from who-you-are. Hank Williams is singing in my mind, calling me to see the artist in him. And when my money's all gone, I'm on the telephone, saying, hey, hey mama, can your daddy come home? An artist wrote and performed those words. A couple of lines stay with me from the Stones, She drove a pickup truck painted green and blue....she's going back to Baltimore, she sings there in a bar. An artist wrote these lines, and again, an artist performed them. A woman I know has spent her life working full time, home manager, wife, mother, who, in her quiet times, made drawings of her own visual preference and never thought of them as art. But they are. Dadaist Sophie Tauber had a similar vision in 1915, and Bauhaus later, that Anne did not know about.
The physical need to make images o'ertook me at the age of 40. I started, wanting to use drawing as a meditation. It took hold of me as a fascination. A time came when I'd been told I'm as good as Norman Rockwell the last time. That was not my goal. I'd rather be like Mr Rogers than Norman Rockwell. I stopped for several years. One day I was inspired to take up oil paint. I wanted to paint round things. Given that a canvas is square or rectangular, I wanted to balance the straight lines with curves. Yin and yang. Stopped again for a number of years and took it up again painting portraits of mountain musicians. That came to an end a few years ago when I couldn't paint inside the lines any longer. I felt from the start that I was teaching myself to paint, step by step, with reaching toward abstraction the goal. Since I've started up again, I want to make these "single color abstractions" the only thing I can think of to call them that is accurate. It turns out the piece of cardboard becomes the subject. The first two had two colors each. Using two colors was original vision, but I preferred one color. Suddenly, a whole cosmos of what I could do with cardboard and one color opened up before my mind's eye. I wanted something totally mine I'd never seen before. Surely, somebody somewhere has done this, maybe in Italy in the time of Arte Povera. That I don't know about it makes this theme mine. Even if I were to find that somebody has done it before, it's still mine. Nonetheless, I date the influence back an entire century. I don't see it as NEW to world of contemporary art. What I'm doing goes back a century. It has come out of what I've learned paying attention to the art of the last century as it has evolved unto today. I feel like I have come into something I've been working toward in the super-conscious from the beginning. It surfaced like a slow-rising bubble from the ocean floor.
#12 color yet to be determined