Triangulation

By relating compositional components to one another, I am able to expand context and achieve greater accuracy in my drawings and paintings. Through my studies, I observed my tendency to relate things in terms of their proximity. Upon considering why I do that, I believe it is simply for the sake of convenience. It's very easy to compare or contrast something in relation to whatever is immediately next to it. I've found, however, that In order to improve my understanding of something, it is advantageous to push the boundaries of comparison points as far out from the point of origin as I am able. Thus, pushing me out of a visual comfort zone. The further out I look for a relationship and point of comparison, the more I am able to accurately render it. This applies to shapes, colors, lines, angles, values, and even life.  

The visual technique that helps me to accomplish this is triangulation. With this approach, I look for a single, distinct point of reference as a source of truth (an anchor), by which I compare all other references. Once that point is established, I look for the next obvious point. From this secondary point, I look for a third point to relate to, in order to further perspective. Of course, I could expand to have additional points, but three seems to be the minimal number required to achieve the accuracy I seek. This is one of several tools I use to interpret the visual world through pattern recognition.

The examples above were studies for a self portrait.

The examples above show the progression of a work in progress, illustrating how triangulation ultimately translates into an actual drawing (self-portrait).

Jared 2.0, Back To The Blog: Part II

“I’m gettin’ old, man. Heard the gun for half-time go off when I turned 40. I’m at half-time in my life. My life is half over. And I played a sloppy first half, man.”

-Billy Gardell


Self-introspection had begun in earnest. I was looking at my paintings through the eyes of a critic and what I saw was work that didn’t match my vision. I simply wasn’t producing the caliber of work I was striving for.

The first problem I identified was my drawing ability. I have been drawing ever since I could pick up a pencil. Throughout my life, I’ve been told by friends and family that I was a good artist and until last year, I believed it too, whole-heartedly. Once I began viewing my work more critically, it became apparent my drawing skills were lacking. In the past, I settled for these inadequacies because I always managed to tell myself that I could do better if I wanted to, if I really tried. The reality was that regardless of whether I could or couldn’t, I never made a concerted effort to improve my drawing skills and thus, I had yet to prove to myself that I was as good as I thought I could be.

As I was driving one day, I listened to a radio interview with an author who had written a book exploring whether talent is something inherent or can be learned. If my memory serves me correctly, I am thinking of David Shenk and his book called The Genius in All of Us: New Insights Into Genetics, Talent, and IQ. The particular subject discussed was “Why many childhood prodigies never fully live up to expectations.” He referred to a study where a grade-school classroom was divided into two groups: Group A was told at the beginning of the grading period that they were straight A students, that their work was exceptional, and they were doing very well in class. Group B, conversely, was told their grades were average to below average, and if they hoped to improve, they would need to work much harder. Riding on infused confidence, Group A proceeded to coast through the semester, turning in very average work while Group B worked substantially harder in order to produce better grades. In the end, Group B outperformed Group A. I could immediately see the lesson and how it applied to me. I’m embarrassed to admit that until my realization, I never worked at becoming a better draftsman because I accepted that I was talented and therefore had no drive to work on my skills.

I needed a resource to help me improve. I looked up possible classes and workshops, but they were either filled up or too expensive for me to attend. During an evening making canvas boards with Tony, I explained my recent revelation and that I was interested in improving my drawing skills. He suggested I pick up a book called Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Dr. Betty Edwards who has a master’s degree in art, a doctorate in psychology and a passion for education. In her book, Dr. Edwards breaks down five levels of visual comprehension, followed by basic brain anatomy, function, and visual cognition to provide an excellent foundation of understanding. She then provides various techniques to help counter those obstacles to obtain objective perception; a new way of seeing. All of these concepts are referenced in one form or another in all drawing training material I have found, such as: utilizing negative shapes, determining a basic unit within the image and using it to compare and measure other, larger shapes within the same composition, determining angles, and several other methods. I therefore believe this book is the best place to begin if you are interested in improving your drawing, whether you are a beginning or advanced artist, because it is the most comprehensive.

Understanding brain anatomy and function piqued my interest and after reading about them, I was prepared not only to utilize different measuring and self-checking techniques to develop better drawings, but to continue learning about how we learn and other concepts that related to and transcended the world of art. I also became aware of how much effort needed to be put into practice. Drawing is a discipline- you can’t merely study it and expect to get better without actually working at it. Again, a discrepancy I noticed between reality and my perceived reality.

I began doing the exercises diligently with an eye on revisiting the fundamentals of composition.

The Art of Self Perception

She held up the drawing to me- a self-portrait. I asked her what she thought of it and she said liked it, yet admitted she could have demonstrated a wider range of value. I agreed.

I didn’t want to say too much. I didn’t want to criticize. That certainly that wasn’t the point. The drawing was merely a mark in time; the beginning of her process. Who was I to judge her perceived self? I explained to her the first time I showed my mug to the public. Mind you, this was not the first self-portrait I ever did, merely the first one I was actually comfortable enough to show.

“Your nose isn’t that big,” someone assured me.

“Your nose should be bigger,” someone else declared.

“Your face is fatter,” I was told.

And so it went. I received an equal amount of praise and criticism from friends and family alike... whether I wanted to or not.

A portrait is challenging enough, but a self-portrait even more so. We know ourselves better than anyone else but can easily get caught up in preconceived ideas about who we are. Consequently, we tend to view ourselves in a subjective light revealing our own biases and criticisms of ourselves through the rendering of facial features in terms of exaggeration, distortion, addition or omission. In some instances, these embellishments are deliberate, but often this is not the case. Not to mention the complexity of technical skills it requires to draw a face in the first place.

This exercise in self-perception is designed for the artist to learn to view the world more objectively and thus, yield a work that rings true with its audience because it comes from a place of honesty. Finding this honesty in a self-portrait takes practice.

It has been over a year since the last self-portrait I painted. After my student presented her work, I felt it was time to do another. So yesterday I drew one (pictured to the right). I think it's good, but there's always room for improvement. We are all just works in progress. Please feel free to comment on any of this.

The Benefits of Teaching

Lately, I’ve been taking on students for private instruction. Though it’s a path I’ve considered for some time, I was hesitant to move forward on it because I wasn't quite sure what area of expertise I wanted to offer. Two years ago, I taught several students: one was an experienced artist who wanted to learn oil-painting specifically and the other was learning to paint for the first time. After the sessions ran their course, I convinced myself it wasn’t worth pursuing any further, convincing myself I simply didn't have the time as I toiled over the inadequacies of my studio with excuse after excuse.

This year, I’ve had several inquiries from friends who were either interested in learning more about painting or wanted to further advance their techniques. After some coaxing, I agreed to develop curriculum specifically for each student. So for the past month, in addition to my own painting, I have created lesson plans that focus on the exploration of color. I started by reviewing my original plans from two years ago to revise and improve them while researching and organizing new information. Keeping a general audience in mind has forced me to examine details in a way that I hadn’t for quite awhile to disseminate information in a pragmatic way. In doing so, I am becoming reacquainted with some basic elements I normally take for granted. This process of taking a step back is not only enabling me to become a better teacher, but I am becoming a better artist.

Conceptual Cycles: Part II

I have been reflecting on my increasingly evident cycle of artistic patterns, recently. When I have learned what I need to from one particular style or a series, I move on to the next and advance it until I am ready to move on again. Eventually, I return to the beginning again, renewing the cycle, like a spiral that originates from a vague periphery and rotates itself toward the center, becoming more assertive as it refines and defines itself.

Since college, I have been fascinated with the Cubists. Their approach of rendering multiple angles of a form simultaneously with bold delineations breaking the figure down is both visually striking and conceptually advanced. Earlier in my career, in my own way, I attempted to work in a similar fashion through a series of jazz musicians. The instruments and intimate portraits easily lent themselves to the fragmenting of visual components, providing me with a structure to strengthen my compositions through line and form. (Example pictured, upper right)

After working this way for several years, I sought a more painterly approach with my work, making better use of color and brushstroke. The Impressionists seemed to offer the best blueprint to make this shift. In studying their compositions, I found it necessary to fully break away from Cubism. My work, therefore, moved through that direction and beyond, while my subject matter has also expanded to include ‘Scapes (expanses of land, sky and sea) and Narrative (implications of stories) works. Through this phase which has lasted the better part of four years for me now has enabled me to delve deeper into the potential of color and value. (Example pictured, lower right)

Artistically, I feel like I have absorbed concepts from both Cubism and Impressionism and am now able to employ elements of both into my work. Lately, I have considered Cubism again as I am realizing it matters less and less what I paint than how I paint it. In other words, the form, texture, depth and transition of my compositions have the potential to be as visually intriguing as my choice of subject matter. Stay tuned…

Things They Don't Tell You In Art School... But Should

I am priming four new canvasses today. My priming process requires three layers of Gesso. Before I apply each layer, I carefully examine the canvas to make sure the surface is clean. One thing they failed to explain to me back in art school, I would like to pass along to you, is the wisdom of wearing a long-sleeved shirt during this course of action, especially if you are male.

Inevitably, when I prime canvasses, I will find at least one lone hair that has plunged from my arm to the canvas, eventually smothered but still quite visible in a layer of fresh Gesso. Naturally, this development requires immediate extraction from the thick, wet mixture- a messy and sometimes challenging task (especially if you have just clipped your finger-nails). Removal, however, is essential because I cannot, in good conscience, deliver a hairy painting to someone. So remember, dear artist- hair nets and long sleeved shirts are not just for the lunch lady.

Paying To Play

As an artist, I am always looking for opportunities to display and sell my work. There are a variety of ways to do this, such as hosting open studios, exploring gallery relationships, art brokers, festivals, group shows, juried exhibitions, and even local restaurants and businesses. Through networking and searching for opportunities, I have found some interesting propositions to artists that, after all is said and done, seem to favor the party making the proposition. This is all done under the guise of "exposure", of course... a word carelessly thrown out to entice, but rarely amounts to anything of substance.

I ran across a posting on CraigsList the other day that took the cake. A local coffee shop posted a call for artists. Most of the time, such a venue will make this type of request with the understanding it will receive a percent of the commission, should a work sell. The idea being this is good exposure for the artist. In reality, however, most of the time this is nothing more than an opportunity for a venue to obtain free artwork. The aforementioned coffee shop however, seemed to be operating under an even more lopsided premise. They were requesting a $400 fee, upfront, from the artist, I suppose for the "privilege" of showing work there for a month. I couldn't believe the audacity of this request. I urge any artist to carefully weigh the pros and cons of allowing these kinds of business practices to continue by refusing such preposterous invitations.

I realize legitimate venues are attempting to hedge their investments in artists by guarantying a certain profit for the cost of putting together a show. Businesses that rely solely on the sale of artwork for their revenue, for example, take a risk by showing artwork that may not sell. I can't see how a coffee shop, on the other hand, would fail to benefit from having free artwork on their walls, from an artist of their own choosing. If they need money so bad as to suck blood from turnips, perhaps they should explore other business ventures.

DVD Review: Art City (3 Disc Series)

I rented a three-disc series called Art City. Each DVD explores an inside perspective in the world of art through in-studio interviews with artists and other art players in various parts of the United States.

The first DVD concentrated on the southwest and west coast. The artists in this film, for the most part, seemed to have retreated into the open spaces of New Mexico and other less, urban locations (though one artist had set up her studio in the middle of Los Angeles). I enjoyed the feeling of this disc the most, though at times, the artists themselves tended to delve into esoteric dialogue that some might have difficulty appreciating.

The second DVD was all about Manhattan and 'making it' in New York. The people in this part of the series were more direct in their interviews which made for a nice contrast of insight offered by the artists in the first part of the series.

The final DVD was my favorite- really thoughtful, more in depth discussions. I felt like the producer and director of the film really got more from their efforts with each part of the series, which were filmed at different times (three separate releases).

I believe this is a must see for any aspiring or emerging artist. It has provided me with inspiration, affirmation and a renewed sense of community that tends to dissipate over time, while we work in our studios alone.

It's All About Perspective

One technique that artists, particularly painters, employ is to step back from the art frequently to gain a different perspective on the work. By doing this, we can see the work within a greater context. Often, this perspective uncovers clues that help direct us to where we want to take the work.

As I paint, for example, I am only working at an arm's length, away from canvas. If it is a larger piece, more than say 12" in any direction, because of my close proximity to the canvas, my attention is focused only on the passage I am working on. Yet, there is still a larger area of the canvas I am consequently ignoring from this intimate view. In order to find harmony within the painting, I therefore need to step back to make sure the passage I am working on works within the larger composition. Additionally, stepping back enables me to more clearly see how the painting as a whole works.

By stepping back, I am providing myself opportunities to see things from a broader perspective and make changes that serve to unite the work, making it stronger. I believe this is a metaphor for looking at life beyond art.

Green Eggs and Scam

For the most part, I really dig the internet. It has made life convenient in many ways, particularly when it comes to finding opportunities in business, as well as art for that matter. For as much as I enjoy the benefits, it amazes me how many people are out there, waiting to screw over innocent and unsuspecting people in the form of a virus, identity fraud, or scams. Over the weekend, I received what I believed to be a suspicious e-mail from a “Garritt Miller” (his e-mail, btw, is m_garritt01@yahoo.com). It went like this:

“Hello,

My name is Garritt Miller from Owasso OK, I’m interested in buying some of your beautiful artwork for our new home in the UK.

However, i must tell you that they are very beautiful work. After a close look at your work I will be happy to buy the following carefully selected artworks;

1. Frankie Got His That Night At The Dub Club
2. Listening

Kindly get back to me with the total price of the selected Artworks excluding shipping cost, and also if there is any details regards the inspiration of the work.

Await your response,

Regards

Garritt”


At first glance, I was half-inclined to believe the e-mail because this person mentioned two of my paintings by name. Never the less, I found a few things about the e-mail that didn’t seem quite right so I did some research and sure enough, I discovered some interesting information (and necessary reading for my fellow artists out there) that related directly to my new “art fan”:

http://www.artnewsblog.com/2005/09/art-scammers.htm

After reading the posts from other artists on this link, I decided not to respond to “Mr. Miller.” Furthermore, I wanted to draw attention to these low-lifes so they don’t scam anyone else in the future. Please pass along the information and feel free to comment if you have any advice based on a recent experience. Protect yourself!