Back East

I grew up on the east coast. This morning, on the beautiful west coast, with its ever-sunny days, I began to think of the days back east. Mainly I thought of the time between colorful autumn and winter, when all the leaves are gone. That’s me, not a glass-half-empty kind of guy, but rather a what-glass? person. I often grab Defeat from the jaws of Victory.

When I think of those desolate pre-winter and winter landscapes, my mind turns to thoughts of my older brother Michael.  He is very low functioning, autistic and nonverbal. My relationship with him, when we were in closer proximity, was hard to classify. I still don’t know if he ever knew who I was. The relationship was a static, unremitting condition; no promise of anything different than the last visit; no hope of the kind of renewal that comes with spring. If I let myself, I can get stuck in that space. My ability to compartmentalize somehow leaves me.

Visualizing emotional space

I have been studying some of Hans Hofmann‘s teachings. His work is in the realm of abstract expressionism and created spatial relationships among ‘plastic’ forms on his canvases. I haven’t quite figured out the term ‘plastic’, but I am pretty sure it has to do with ambiguity of depth based on contrasting colors and relationships between forms in his compositions.

Hofmann and Paul Klee both included the emotional state of the artist as an ingredient to the creative process. Klee likened the artist to a bow drawn alongside a plank of wood on which was scattered sawdust. The artist releases pent up energy and uses tools (pencil, paintbrush) to create according to his or her own vibrations. Hofmann counted the artist’s inner emotional state as a key factor in creating art. He stated that the difference between the art of a child and that of an adult is the life and emotional experience that an adult can bring to the canvas.

Today’s experiment:

I was hoping to create a space in today’s composition. Thus far, I have been unable to achieve an abstract spatial construction that makes sense to me. Since I have completed the watercolor/acrylic sketch before I started writing, I can tell you that I have not achieved that goal today either.

However, I may have fulfilled one of Hofmann’s measures of success. He said, “I want not to know what I’m doing; a picture should be made with feeling, not with knowing.”  (Seitz, W.C. Hans Hofmann The Museum of Modern Art, Arno Press New York: 1972 reprint edition pg. 18)

I certainly didn’t know what I was doing in the study below. In the first phase, I tried creating a space, with a distant blue rectangle and a closer purple shape pierced by jagged lightning bolts. I tried for maximal contrast between the green twiggy shapes and the red background.

Watercolor Sketch - Abstract Pen & Ink, Watercolor Failed depiction of space

The sketch, as it stands above is very weak. It is not held together by visual elements or by harmony or contrast of color. I could have shown a lot more of my feelings.

The finished sketch below is a little contrastier, with a tad more spacial depth (two planes, instead of one: the black marks in front and everything else behind).  However, I believe it shows a bit more feeling.

Watercolor Sketch - Abstract Pen & Ink, W.C. Acrylic; Failed depiction of space

Failed Space with Trees
4″x6″ 140# Cold Pressed Watercolor Block

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