Saturday, August 6, 2011

Getting to a Plateau

I think a lot of artists of every sort work at their art or craft and along the way they become rather skilled, and get to a plateau.

This can present an obstacle to further development as an artist.  One thinks of the writer of a mystery series, for example.  The detective has been created along with a certain world, and if successful the writer begins to publish the mysteries.  It is true that some writers can remain true to themselves and their craft in this way.  Agatha Christie wrote plays as well as had several different series of mysteries with different characters, and I think achieved a lot. 

In the world of the painter/artist there are again many possibilities.  I can say that for a number of years I was just experimenting with different styles, materials and techniques, always trying to make something that had something deeper in it.  In the past few years I have begun to do strictly painting, and this is a limited technique which draws on a lot of other things I have learned over the years.  But still, there is the huge danger of reaching a plateau, with which I associate the word mediocrity.

A plateau artist is someone who has hit on a style or subject that sells, perhaps, or who has mastered a certain technique so that painting is "easy."  I sort of think that when it is too easy your eyes have blinders.  We need to go back to the great poet Basho who traveled and distilled his experience in the most intense Haiku. 

There are so many approaches to the start of a work of art, and then for me, there is the destroying and starting again.  A piece that turns out to be successful must have a surprise in it, not only for the viewer but for the artist who made it.  And that surprise isn't just some arrogant flip of the brush, but the result of letting it sink in and trusting to one's own inner being but at the same time being open to everything in pure mindfulness.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

THE POETESS -- born in the rust belt

I have worked and reworked this painting for about a year.  I feel I have finally completed it.

THE POETESS, 24 x 36 oil on panel, 2012  if you wish to enlarge this, click on the photo, I think you can click on it twice to make it large.

COPYRIGHT: All paintings, pictures and essays in this blog are the property of Christine Zachary. Reproduction or retransmission of these materials in whole or in part, in any manner, without prior written consent, is a violation of copyright law.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Obstacle of Selling Art

 Recently I spoke with a woman deeply involved in the business of art, galleries and the commercial side of our passion.  She was articulate about what it would mean to point oneself toward gallery representation, which includes having a consistent body of work to show.  She mentioned that my present website, which at the time was populated with work I've done over the past 15 or so years in varying styles, was a mish mash of things and not the best way to display my work.  I have to agree, somewhat grudgingly,  and in fact have grown tired of many of my experiments of the past.   Perhaps they need to be organized in a different way as one thing certainly leads into another as I have worked over the years.

What to do with all those pieces I did earlier:  encrusted pieces and mosaics.  Perhaps demolition?  A friend of mine from the distant past said he had burned all his paintings after he left the clinic he'd gone to after his breakdown.  He often exulted about "the big bon" as he called the bonfire of his paintings.  Unfortunately he was mentally ill.    I'm afraid I might not go that far, but perhaps a huge trip or two to the goodwill or a dumpster might be a good idea for some of the things I've done in earlier years.  Maybe a flat pit in the yard which archaeologists can find some future time.  It's all impermanent.

 About a year ago, or perhaps almost 2 years ago, I first got a book out of the library with the work of the 15th century painter, Jan Van Eyk.  When I checked the book out it was brand new, and when I took it back it was quite used as I had read it, reread it and turned the pages so many times.  I then began to develop a strong interest in Renaissance art and techniques of painting developed by Van Eyk and later painters.  My second obsession was Edward Hopper, as I believe his work embodies many of the same qualities I am interested in.  Also I know he was deeply influenced by many of the 19th century European painters.

Edward Hopper said somewhere that he just paints, with no funny stuff.  That phrase really hit home with me as I have gone through so many layers of "technique" and all sorts of funny stuff:  dropping glass beads into wet paint, dropping shavings of pastels into the paint, collage, encaustic, finally gluing globs of paint onto the canvas and later pieces of glass, all of which was interesting to me at the time but limiting to the creation of a really simple and complete work of art.

I believe I came back the other way after doing large mosaics over paintings and the like when I made this piece:  Sunday Morning:
  This piece was inspired from a photo of a young woman sitting at a table which I found in a magazine at the Goodwill.  Having sketched from that I arrived at this which I believe has transcended my intent. The painting is no longer "mine".

 Back to the selling of art.  This piece and the ones like it which I have spent a lot of time on are nothing I want to take to a restaurant or even a gallery and offer for a price.  I feel there are many people besides me out there who feel as I do, people who don't really believe that the making of art is to make things to sell.  Rather it is something that has to be done in order to satisfy a deep need.  I saw John Le Carre's "last interview" recently and admired what he said, that art is your life and to achieve it you have to be sort of meditative and let it live within you.  He said that some other writers he knows are very witty and use up their creativity in that way rather than holding it and then using it in his art.  Surely the fascinating characters he summons from his own mind can come no other way.

I have entered juried shows.  I like them as they give me the feeling that my work resonates at least with someone else, but also like the lack of pressure there is in entering them.  I may continue the route of juried shows, and intend to just paint for a while.  I have given away all my glass I was using for large mosaic pieces to an arts center and don't miss it.   For me there is been a terrible self-consciousness that appears when I feel I am making something to be completed by a certain time, or for a show.  Far better to let things take their course.  Let everyone have their 15 minutes of fame, and be happy in it.  I would never aim for that. 

COPYRIGHT: All paintings, pictures and essays in this blog are the property of Christine Zachary. Reproduction or retransmission of these materials in whole or in part, in any manner, without prior written consent, is a violation of copyright law.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011


Recently I purchased a DVD, a copy of the film La Mystere Picasso, which shows Picasso painting 20 pictures.  I had seen the film long ago at an art museum, probably close to when it was made, and at the time was interested that in some way I and many artists work like Picasso, going over different areas and trying to balance the elements.

This time I watched in rapt fascination as he is so intensely focused and at the same time free.  I can only compare it to what I believe is one of the outcomes of great meditators who have a connection with both a childlike state of being at one with everything and at the same time a clarity of vision which comes only after much self searching and wisdom.  I am sure that anyone who watches this film has a favorite piece out of the group he made.  I think what most impressed me was that he wasn't afraid to begin.  And further he wasn't afraid to destroy.  The piece mutated and grew until finally it "became".  There was some essence at the beginning, but if he'd left things at the stage of a pretty drawing, it would have stagnated.

I have vacillated back and forth between the objective, trying to understand light, shadow and make things look "real" and letting go.  the piece below, "The Mentor" falls into the second category.  Actually I started with a photo of a beach scene and over time things began to evolve.  

Over the years I have read and studied the works, methods and styles of many artists whose work has some special feeling for me.  In the old days I wasn't all that fond of Picasso, as Guernica is to a novice eye a frightening work, and I used to think some of the other compositions downright peculiar.  As time has gone on, I have come to see the roots from which Picasso sprang and some of the influences, and more than that have come to admire the things he said as inspiration.

Since I moved back here I have had an obstacle trying to make things worthy of the new room.  Finally I have just avoided it and let things simmer.  The thought occurs to me that I will never be one of those traditional realist artists.  I am too rooted in Klee, Chagall, Kandinsky, Gaugin, Bonnard, and the mystical feeling I get from certain things.  I must trust myself, much as I see that Picasso trusted himself and the magic followed.

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