Let’s talk about language for a moment here. Language changes over time. From year to year, there is not a large difference in prose.
One thing I like about English writing is that it’s very much about information. A good piece of writing doesn’t show off with bells and whistles the ability of the author to twist and dance words around. We do see this in poetry, song lyrics, but if you look at a good piece of journalistic writing for example; it’s about something else. It’s about being predictable, perhaps; about telling a story.
And so the language is a tool to pass information. It may be to invoke feelings as well, it doesn’t have to be dry. One of my favorite writers is John Steinbeck. His particular prose is not outrageous, but the story start to finish can hit deep emotions.
So, why am I mentioning the English language here? Remember back to my point about time. That over a long time, the language does change. So there is a continuity, and a growth and modification, although subtle from decade to decade.
Let’s bring this back to figurative art. I believe figurative art also has a parallel of growth and modification over periods of time. Maybe not so much over decades, but if you look at art history in chunks of a hundred years; I believe most people would agree there are changes then.
There are no original isolated artists. Every artist draws from the past and present. Borrowing, copying, stealing. It is via this collective learning of art- that art evolves. Figurative art evolves via this process of exposure to art itself. Exposure of the artists to other artists and works of art, and production of new works of art.
In today’s age we are able to pull up imagery of any artist or works of art. And the variety of work can be overwhelming. To the point that artists may become discouraged to do work- because someone else has already done it, or someone else has done it “better”. The idea that all art has been created, that there are no new works of art to be made- is common. For the evolution of figurative art to take place, artists must keep making art. I believe art will keep evolving. I believe there are new ideas to be had, new masterpieces of art to be made. In order to do so, we must keep our collective learning going. We must keep making art.
My particular choice is figurative art. I believe the human being is the most precious and important thing in the universe. I also believe we are the most beautiful thing in the universe.
My ideal form of working with the figure, is to have as little as possible of anything else. This is why I have a strong interest in blank backgrounds, or areas that contrast with the figure, such as writing or gold enamel; which creates strong contrast between subject and placement.
I don’t know that I will ever create a masterpiece, a truly important and or influential work of art. But I do know that I make good work- and I feel it a worthwhile duty to continue and contribute to the collective learning of figurative art.
As a final point, I want to mention the feeling behind drawing and painting the figure versus taking a photograph. This final piece of ranting may seem to be at odds with some things aforementioned. I believe figurative art is as a poem. Where a photograph is prose, drawing and painting is poetry. We choose some things, leave some out- accentuate- use the “wrong” colors. It’s to create a feeling.
Why I work how I work.
My control of the work is highly intuitive. After doing realism, after spending endless hours drawing precisely, drawing “what I see”, the hand has a memory of things. Letting go of some of the conscious aspects of what you are doing at the moment, some of the muscle memory makes wonderful mistakes. Some mistakes are hidden, some are shown. This is part of creating poetry in the work.
I always feel a little confused when people ask me why I don’t define some things further close to reality. They ask why I don’t spend extra time crosshatching, rendering shadows, doing hair. Even why I don’t “further” my craft and mastery of these particulars. Perhaps I simply find little attachment to work that shows arduous effort. I prefer Egon Schieles, Conrad Rosets, and Milo Manaras- those works speak deeply to me. I am fascinated with doing the most with the least. I think it’s very hard to do, in fact I would suggest it’s tougher to grasp than highly elaborate works.