Posted on May 17, 2015
As a spiritual person, nature for me has always been a healing place. Going back all the way to my childhood on the farm, the fields and forests were places of adventure and self-discovery. Animals were companions and friends, and the world moved at a slower, more rational pace than the bustling cities where I’d resided my adult life. – David Mixner
Posted on April 27, 2014
A romance, a dream, a fantasy. These cliffs in Quercy Périgord, where the people of the Ice Age once lived. They mark my mental landscape, as they must have also made a deep impression on the minds of the hunter-gatherers.
Romanticism attempts an affective fusion between person & her enviroment. Science attempts to practice detached objective observation. The person outside of her enviroment. The slow methodical sifting through of data & remains… But can we ever truly take off the lens of our own vision that shapes that which we think we are clearly seeing… Also, can we we ever see as these hunter-gatherers saw? What would they have made of my notions & prejudices? As an artist, not as an archeologist with their attempts at objectivity & science. Prehistoric art speaks to me 30 000 years later. Not as they intended it to communicate … But should we delegate all of our human past uniquely to be the domain of science? ‘We will never truly know what they meant’ as the guide drones on at every visit… But human history is a history of evolution, where one understanding evolves into another. Intentionally or not.
The meaning of things aren’t stable. Anything can mean almost anything – Jasper Johns
However, preamble aside… one thing is certain : Birds live in cracks & holes of cliffs , than as of now. OK Doubtless not the same species. No swifts in the Ice Age? Crows maybe. Owls yes. Buzzards probably not.
But the vertigo of looking up & seeing the birds swirling around. Then as now.
I also tried to draw the aviform as part of the cliff, as part of the geology, as growing out from the rock formation itself. As a motif that repeats itself , morphing into various transpositions:
There’s a good research paper about ‘abstract’ geometric symbols & signs in prehistoric rock art by Genevieve von Petzinger:
While animal depictions are a common theme in most known regions where rock art is present, the choice of what to portray seems to be contextual, with image-makers generally choosing contemporary fauna from their local environment (Rice and Paterson 1986; Clottes 1996).
AVIFORM (avi = bird) : Less than 10% of sites worldwide – 30,000 & 13,000 years ago
(aviforms) are also concentrated in the later half of the Ice Age (almost entirely from 22,000 years onwards), strongly suggesting that this may have been a local invention/innovation, rather than having been something that was brought with the first humans who moved to this continent.
Aviforms are also sometimes named ‘Signes du Placard’ , after another painted cave in SW France : Grotte de Placard in the Charente, following the tradition of naming prehistory after eponymous sites, the geographic place where the element of prehistory wa s first found. Hence cro-magnon, Mousterian, Gravettian, etc. (Most of which are found in France by French archeologists & where accompanied by proud nationalist rhetoric of ‘Les Premiers Francais’ …) Apparently most aviform signs in prehistoric rock art are concentrated around South West France, with a particularly high density of repetition around the Célé valley in the Lot.
In the nearby painted cave of Pech Merle, not far from the cliff in my above drawing, there’s the famous ‘wounded man’. A conjugaison of aviform sign & a figurative depiction i.e. the sign doesn’t exist on its own (but we don’t know if this is intentional or not, other than comparing to other groupings of drawings in the cave, where again sign & figuration co-exist in the same grouping). The aviform sign is attached to a drawing of a man with lines coming out from his body. Some have interpreted these as spears. Others such as Professor Lewis-Williams reads them as suggestive of as symbolic depictions of the physical cramps that shamans sometimes undergo before entering a trance state.
A stray thought : why not wings? The dream of flight occurs to most children & lucid dreamers… a prehistoric superman power cape? Prehistory is full of depictions of humans dressing up as other animals.
Posted on April 8, 2014
Stone lithograph of a cliff – “the elephant”
We, mankind, arose amidst the wandering of the ice and marched with it. We are in some sense shaped by it, as it has shaped the stones. Perhaps our very fondness for the building of stone alignments, dolmens, and pyramids reveals unconsciously an ancient heritage from the ice itself, the earth shaper.
– Loren Eisley
Mountains do not lack the characteristic of mountains. Therefore they always abide in ease and always walk. Examine in detail the characteristic of the mountains’ walking. – Dogen: Mountains and Waters Sutra
Mountains’ walking is just like human walking. Accordingly, do not doubt mountains’ walking even though it does not look the same as human walking. You should penetrate these words. If you doubt mountains’ walking, you do not know your own walking. – Dogen: Mountains and Waters Sutra
I came to realize clearly that mind is no other than mountains and rivers and the great wide Earth, the sun and the moon and the stars. – Dogen: Mountains and Waters Sutra
Posted on March 22, 2014
Interesting to see the same landscape view in three different mediums : drawing, watercolour & stone lithography.
Different material, different effect.
Each medium is good for certain effects. In the above three images,, watercolour is delicate colours & brushmarks, conté is so immediate & so fresh, lithography is good for a design, a powerful composition.
What does ‘Medium’ Mean in Fine Art Practice?
See the world through art materials…
The creative process lies not in imitating, but in paralleling nature – translating the impulse received from nature into the medium of expression, thus vitalizing this medium. The picture should be alive, the statue should be alive, and every work of art should be alive. – Hans Hofmann
I often work in both watercolour & oil painting. I enjoy the translation from one medium to another. Same view, different vision.
In this case, the watercolour came after the oil, and so, I consider it to be a lot more than a study for the oil painting. Some historians tend to classify drawings & watercolours as preliminary studies for a more substantial, more resolved painting. Here for example is one of my tonal studies for a painting , but it is fresh enough, coherant enough to stand alone :
Posted on January 17, 2014
Posted on January 12, 2014
To master the capturing the likeness part of a making a portrait, try doing the same head three times. Can you maintain the likeness consistently in all three drawings?
I am humbled by Master Watteau. Not only three drawings but three different angles as well. And look how beautifully laid out on the page they are. Almost like cinema… different view points, different angles. Different moments in time. Ephemeral.
I’ve not succeeded in doing three on one page. Actually I haven’t yet tried , other than drawing the same people over & over again, such as the three views of Peter (on five e sheets of paper) in the previous post or the evolving suite of drawings of my children over the years, watching them closely as they grow.
It surprises me the speed with which we recognize someone. Even when they’ve aged & morphed some over time or we when only get a slight glimpse in a funny angle. Bang! We recognise them instantly. What is the mechanism by which see recognize the likeness of someone?
I paint people not because of what they are like, not exactly in spite of what they are like, but how they happen to be. – Lucien Freud
Watteau obviously enjoyed doing this type of ‘two of kind’ or ‘three of a kind’ portrait. Again on one sheet of paper :
Cute isn’t she 🙂 I also warn anyone of the difficulties of drawing a smile… very difficult . I once sat for a painter friend who wanted to try this . I had to grin &smile for hours… it was very painful to hold a smile, which, after all, is ephemeral. Passing like all feelings & sentiments, shifting states of minds – ‘passing clouds’ my grandmother used to call them.. That portrait looked horrible too.
And so now to finish-off with, here’s some Eighteenth Century Rock’n’Roll :
Posted on January 10, 2014
Was happy to be able to pay attention to the profile in these portraits.
Which point comes the furthest forward?
Is the lip further forward than the bridge of the nose? That sort of thing.
Also, to do several portraits of the same person. Do they resemble each other? Is the resemblance consistant across several drawings?
Posted on April 22, 2011
Intimate Portraits of Artist’s Own Children – Matisse, Cezanne, John, Rembrandt, Chardin, Rubens, Nicholson
Posted on March 8, 2011
Intimate Portraits by Artist’s of Their Own Children
Take Augustus John’s portraits of his children for example. Here’s one of his son Robin (1912). A real boy if ever there was. Glaring firely out of the painting, obiviously not far-off from a tantrum:
Another favourite of mine are Matisse’s portraits of his son Pauln (done from memory I seem to remember):
Cézanne’s son Paul (how did he get him to sit so so so very still for so so long?):
Then there’s Gainsbourgh’s two daughters ( When I was a little boy, I used to stand before this in the National gallery London with my Granny & laugh. A cabbage white, two sisters & a smile & a little hand reaching out) :
Rembrandt’s kids… maybe this is a scene from family life :
Gabrielle de St.Aubin :
Chardin (wisely skiving off his home-work):
Renoir (very diligent boy this):
Picasso , of course….many many times over! In some ways, I’m now refinding the greatness of Picasso via his images of his own children… it’s all there : love, play, intimacy, likenesses (consistant over a series & different styles), talent of course… fireworks of course… fun ,as you’d expect from kids 🙂 Here is an image that sings of eternity, of why we parents love our children 🙂 I really didn’t realise that Picasso had done quiet so many paintings of each child, with no thought for commercialism, voyeuristic onlookers, etc:
Maurice Denis, Augustin Rouard et Lucien Jonas.
I could go on with this list…
And what about all the old paintings of kids …Do we know if they are the children of the artist or somebody else”q children? Some of the Quattrocento drawings of kids are astounding!
Lastly, here’s a personal favourite of mine : Winifred Nicholson’s painting of her own two kids.
The last word to Kathleen Raine on Winifred Nicholson, (who lived not far from where I trained at Newcastle University UK art school at the same time …I wish I met her!)
… to be with Winifred was to be with a totally committed artist, for whom each day shed its light on a new theme for a painting. The ever-changing light of the seasons, the flowers, the weather, the arrivals and departures of children and grand-children, all these gave her what she called the ‘stories’ of her paintings in which she captured the day, the hour, and ever-fleeting present. – Kathleen Raine, quoted by Alice Strang, Winifred Nicholson, National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh, 2003
A stray thought crosses my mind about actors/actresses & their off-spring, especially those that become actors/actresses in their turn.
‘e, the artist’s daughter’ by adam cope, sanguine.
Posted on March 7, 2011