Art as Communication without a Subject

Poinsettia 1155s

There are artists who create Conceptual Art and photographers who insist that photographs are about Storytelling. To me art is about communicating at other than a conceptual level.

We grow up steeped in the societal convention establishing the primacy of intellect and reason as the best approach to creating a life worth living. Reason coupled with pragmatism is indeed a useful skill for navigating life’s many challenges.

But I doubt our lives are largely shaped by choices we make deliberately using reason as basis. There are more faculties in the mind of a man or woman that seem to me more potent, as potent as other people’s ideas of God.

Baudelaire famously wrote: “In the spiritual life of the initiators a crisis inevitably arises, when they desire to rationalize their art, to discover those obscure laws by virtue of which they have produced, and to draw from this study a series of precepts of which the divine end is infallibility in poetic production… it is impossible that a poet does not harbor a critic.”

Art is the divine end we initiators strive to unerringly produce. I don’t know about infallibility but my tiny experience of living spills into my understanding of art. The most powerful forces that our lives unleash have their founts elsewhere, our minds or souls only a conduit for their expression.

There are plenty of ways we communicate with others but art for me is one way the communication occurs despite reasonableness and analysis. In this it mirrors the events that enter our lives and that as artist theorists we attempt to divine. Art is at its best a gateway into our non-conceptual being, the core from which stories arise, which reason so steadfastly imitates but finally accepts is a realm beyond its reach.

Art is language of the gods if by gods we mean the engine of creativity that provides not only the stuff of our worlds but the very foundation of being, the mysterious that is at once the most intimate reading of our hearts and its most ineffable expression. It is communicating without a subject.

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Composition and Viewpoint

New Guinea Impatiens Lake 0807s

Composition and viewpoint are two elements of a photograph or painting that shows off the photographer’s or artist’s “art“. Most people look at objects or scenes from their usual vantage point i.e. the level of their eyes from their standing position. A photographer seeks to make us see the world, that same world everybody else sees, in a new way.

We compose by cropping out or including certain elements in the picture. Again this is how we show that conventional world we all know in our unique way, by eliminating elements without which the picture looks new or including elements that distinguishes this view from again the view most of us see when in a locale. Art is to a large extent the artist’s judgement of what is essential in a picture.

A picture therefore is not the real world but the world as created by the artist’s eye. It is reality only in its origin for the artist re-creates reality in his or her own way. The artist represents reality, does not simply reflect it.

For how can we reflect the vastness of the universe within our finite selves? Artists hint at this infinity by showing that vast, unspeakable Whole in something conspicuously small. As Blake would have it, Oh, but

“To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.”

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Vectors and Beyond

Vector Art 0732s

This is not what I had in mind when I wrote the other day that I had ideas for color lurking in the silent corridors of the mind struggling to get out. But it is about color.

This is foray into the use of vectors, free-floating drawing, art from scratch if you will. Truth be told, feelings of inadequacy about creating ex-nihilo had something to do with my picking up a camera. At least that’s how that interest started. I learned much more than what I thought I would from photography. I learned to use color, composition, balance, texture, aesthetics of siting and details, etc.

Much of what I learned apply to “start-from-scratch” art as well, point in fact to working with other genera. I wanted to try my hand at drawing and using the brush to create work digitally. Obviously I also want to work with analog supports and media but first I leapt into printing my photographs and photo art. Seeing work on paper has added a dimension I didn’t realize before. I can explore the effect, on production and post-production, of using machine-made paper, handmade paper, cotton canvas, linen, boards, wood, etc. There’s size—miniatures and murals—and frames and installation. Analog and digital can combine in the same piece. I can start with a digital camera, move to the computer, export out and add analog elements, then back again to the computer—back and forth and in and out, ad infinitum if necessary. Possibilities upon possibilities upon possibilities I am breaking out of the computer screen!

I stumbled into this piece tonight exploring tools in an iDevice app that I had not used before: drawing brushes, vector shapes, and textures. I finished the piece on the computer.

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Colors, Colors, Colors

Blue Sky Mall 0437s

Nothing creative with this image but walking out of Barnes & Noble tonight at closing, 9:05 PM, I was struck by the beauty of a deep blue sky with streaks of dark gray clouds, and the yellow parking lot lights and building façades. Color, this is what drew me to photography!

Lately I’ve also eschewed doing creative edits, just enhancing the photos without structural or even color emendations. Am I a closet realist?

No, I don’t think so. Waiting in the wings are these marvelous ideas for using color more creatively. It’s a matter of coaxing these creatures of invention, fun and delight to come out of the subterranean stables of the mind that they can add ornament to our shared universe.

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Graphic Arts

V Veggiess

It’s humbling to realize that after almost eight years I am still discovering major things about my interest in visual representation.

I started thinking I would edit digital films (videos, we used to call them) before getting sidetracked into still photography. That led after four or five years to an interest in traditional, realistic art i.e. done with brushes or palette knives – but digitally. From studying the history of Western art I came to find my interest in “modern” art, art starting from the Impressionists in France and Belgium on to contemporary art all over the world.

My interest then gravitated around abstract expressionism, then the many ramifications of this quasi-movement and only lately began to grasp what contemporary art was about, an anything-goes potpourri of styles and techniques that an artist today would choose from to express his vision, his passion for the visual media.

Today though I realized that as much as I love straight photography and modern art e.g. conceptual, post-modern, etc I am also at heart attracted to graphic art, illustrations that accompany books and now, of course, magazines and online magazines. I’d long liked graffiti art, manga and American and European comic books and Dr. Seuss is a hero but I’d never realized why the editing I do of photographs often tend towards the stylistics of illustration or graphic art e.g. posters, marketing projects, etc.

Maybe I am taking a journey of exploration, locating along the way genres that resonate with me. Maybe someday I’ll find myself with the confidence of someone who’s walked enough miles to know it’s not getting there that matters but the boldness to stake a claim on a piece of the road – until the journey moves us on.

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Simplifying Lines and Color

Summer Gardens

My first love was words and writing one learns that the most fundamental editing a writer does is to go over the words one by one and eliminate unnecessary words or phrases while clarifying the idea one is trying to express. Editing words is at the barest of levels simplifying.

I apply the same principle when I edit an image although this being a more recent activity I may yet have much to learn about simplifying lines and color in an image. There is, of course, black and white for the ultimate simplicity in color and converting to a pencil drawing for simplicity of line but line seems to me even more complex than color.

Reading Rolina van Vliet’s Abstracts: Techniques and Textures was helpful. She started out with her take on what “abstract art” was by delving into the common meaning of the word “abstract.” From this she derived her two main “assumptions” about Abstract Art: a) there is no connection with reality and b) there is an inventive connection with reality.

This was illuminating. Abstract Art is not reality but neither is it completely divorced from reality. To my mind, it is reality from which are abstracted what the artist does not consider essential to the image and and the use of reality as a launching-off point for adding the artist’s own vocabulary for expressing his or her inner vision (or feeling) in the image.

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Collage Is Not Easy Business

Then and Now L0018s

Heretofore I have not utilized collages to create multilayered images. I need to but there’s a kind of resistance to doing this. To layer two or more images in one feels to me like a destructive act, treachery in the creation process.

This would, of course, be treachery if I were subscribed to doing only photo-realistic images – which I am not. It must then be habit, the cursed, cursing habit of the familiar.

I wonder if my reluctance does not stem from a fear of failure. As long as I confine this powerful technique to my purse of potential devices I can look forward to digging it out when the situation requires the stronger weapon for survival. Then the odds favor the bold.

Collages are really easy to execute. What is challenging is its aesthetic use, not just for the sake of appearances but for intrinsic meaning that is the creative intent.

This is then why I have not until now employed collages. There are technical subtleties for using them in an image, subtleties that require new skills to effectively deploy. I’ll also need an archive of harvested and digitally created textures and sundry images to add as elements in the composition. It’s like using movable type during Gutenberg’s times. A composition needs elements, structure, background i.e. wash, etc. Collaging layers then is just one technique among several that I’ll need to avoid being disingenuous or to appear duped and facile.

A powerful technique requires a correspondingly deeper understanding to support the deployment or one demeans the process, loses the fierceness of true enterprise!

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