Tuesday, November 24, 2015

What is a personal style in art?

A personal style in art making is not the same thing as a style of art in history, or culture.  A personal style in art is a deep reflection of how I, as an artist,  respond to the world.  I am thinking of the visual arts because I am a painter, but this response to the world is parallel for writers and dancers and musicians; for all creative effort.
To catch a glimmering of my personal style in art, I look for patterns that emerge across the years of my art making, and not just within individual pieces.  I have discovered three patterns of apprehending and responding to my lived world that form a core of my personal style as an artist.

I attend to density.  Every part, and every part between the part, is whole.  Density is not just physical complication, it is a feeling tone that suffuses every mark and material.

This painting originated from a failed drum head intended to be a frame drum whose surface just kept inviting me in and then in again--layer upon dense layer until I realized I was creating an ovum and the sperm were reaching its rim and the blood was coursing around the feather soft nest of the mother dreaming her child to her.  In my art making, my style is saying density is not a result of confusion or a welter of data, it comes from a full weight of meaning.

I attend to edges.  The lost and found edges in these original paintings for the  Journey Oracle cards are what pulls me into the mystery of who and what I am seeing.  We are none of us complete, and when I allow an image to be incomplete, I feel a kindred vibration. 

Even a simple sketch of the BC coastline made while leaning on a ferry railing can become suffused with awe if I do not anchor the sensory impression to my urge to control the form.

Perhaps the most predominant aspect of my personal style in art is my love of curves.  I seem to not be able to render a form with a hard angle--

no matter how sharp and dramatic are the angles of the total composition.

The qualities of a personal style in art are mostly unconscious.  These Oracle cards are filled with lines, and yet the overall sensation is of density, lost and found edges, and curves.  We each respond to the feeling tone of forms and spaces based on our unique way of being in the world.

 If you are not sure you have a personal style in art, just look at your signature.  The pressure, width of line, boldness of stroke, size and flourish are all a mirror of the patterns and preferences that flow from your fingers whenever you sign your name.

Of course, there are times when the Art in nature conspires to show the human artist a deeper version of her style.  For this remarkable image on a frame drum I only added the eyes, the ochre and black iron oxide of the nose, and the lines defining the mouth.  It was mostly painted by mold as it grew the dense, curved, indeterminate edges of its art across the hide surface while the skin was drying.  

Monday, November 16, 2015

Wild stones of the Palm Springs desert

Now home from hiking in southern California, I am enjoying gazing at the wild stones of the Palm Springs desert that came back with me in my camera.  But what is a wild stone?  It is more than being natural or undisturbed I think.  It is the feeling of presence.  Of a self-organizing consciousness. What Stephen Herrod Buhner asks us to feel from all Nature in his brilliant new book "Plant Intelligence and the Imaginal Realm."

Although this carved stone rabbit near the Santa Rosa Mountains Visitor Center is amazing for its human effort and clever manipulation, the stone itself doesn't feel present.  As if imposing a form from the outside changed the energy radiating from inside.

When the forces applied are water, sand and wind, the stone stays in dialog with its sculptor.

We humans are very good with our hands, and efforts made with our opposable thumbs are well received by us as art, yet what artist could outdo these forms embellished by dripping water,

or painted by eons of the patient layering of colors,

or fired in the crystal-forming kiln of magma deep with the earth?

To my thinking, "wild" means "intact." That an ensparkedness, a goodness of fit  shines through, and we feel we are in the presence of something with an intensity of knowing we cannot even imagine.  I have mentioned in several of my website posts that the teaching stories in my Journey Oracle card deck were given to me by a stone. The presence of the wild speaks--just not in English.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Mountain vista hikes near Palm Springs

Why do we like to climb to the top?  The mountain vistas near Palm Springs seem to call me more dramatically than the canyons whenever I am hiking.   I feel more energized, more enthusiastic, more alive. 

Is it because the rise in altitude creates a rise in expectation that something is coming?  That something will be revealed, as in these trails of the San Jacinto mountain peak? This is the same sensation for me that anticipates the finishing of a painting, of the first hearing of the voice of a new drum. 

Perhaps it is because I can gain a perspective of the whole—see how the parts fit together—like here in the painted canyons of the Mecca Hills.  I think this is what Chip Kidd is referring to when he talks about the great value of Google Earth is that it lends perspective to how small we are.

Certainly climbing to the top of a mountain is also just about the perseverance of getting there.  Seeing these boots that were only two weeks ago a crisp new birthday present in a tissue-lined box.

Being atop a mountain does encourage special moments.  Sitting in meditation with the wind.

Finding a sacred space.

Discovering a sign to ponder left by others. 

Sometimes the most remarkable part of getting up is trying to figure out how to get down.

I think that like all moments that linger in the memory long after the time has passed, climbing to a mountain vista is an opportunity to feel in awe of the world.