August 25, 2007

Creatures From a Han Bronze

In a museum in Zurich I came across a Han dynasty Bronze of a magic mountain. The object had probably originally been used as a censer. The low relief carving on the surface sported exotic beasts, trees and mountains. The trees and animals were on the same scale as the mountains, which made them look like they were encapsulated. The art of Han dynasty China has a very pleasing, flowing form. Everything dances and one has the impression that it was an exuberant time in history. The pencil interpretation I just finished includes my impressions of these delicate Han entities as well as some which probably date from a later period. The monster with the raised arms was originally neuter but in my rendering I gave it a female gender. The original form inspired a relief sculpture of a dancing cat that I created for my show at the Pinckney Simmons Gallery last year. The sculpture is ceramic with a glass backround. In the greenware stage of this piece, while I was cleaning and tooling, I inadvertantly knocked the head off. The head rolled onto the upraised foot of the dancer and fit so perfectly that there it stays. I made a new second head for the shoulders.

August 20, 2007

Matisse and Persian Drawings

I read that Henri Matisse acquired the fluidity of lines in his drawings through hours of practice copying Persian drawings. My attempts to capture the essence of the line quality of these drawings myself was humbling. One can never quite capture the precision of an ink line with pencil, but the effort and forced observation, I think improves line quality regardless. And I think that was what Matisse was trying for in his own copying - an unfettered unembelished line that could form a delicate bone structure in a drawing. In the appropriated mounted horseman that I drew from a miniature painting most of the lines were drawn from memory, adding structure to a fragmentary notation.

August 19, 2007

More Drawings on Near Eastern Themes

I will be posting something from my notebooks, current work, or archive every Sunday so check back every week!
There is something captivating about artist’s books, especially those that document journeys. The books that I am in the process of culling from document journeys both and hysical and incorporeal. Spanning three decades and several countries, the books are my direct impressions of what have moved me and what I aspired to. The drawings shown here are more of my interpretations of Indian and Persian drawings. People familiar with my densely pigmented oil paintings with the heavy impasto or my assemblages of ceramic, galss and rock will no doubt be surprised to see these. It has been a joy this week to rediscover those sinuous lines annd to become lost in the process of rendering detail and subtle gradations of tone.
The details in these works are invented, observed, or adapted. The monkey looking sideways was not a part of any near eastern rendering but an actual monkey I observed in a zoo in Konstanz, Germany.

August 12, 2007

A Little Bit of Persia in my Notebook

Details on a Hot Day
It has been HOT! A record 108 degrees outside in fact. Since my studio has no heat or air I took a hiatus from my painting commission and stayed inside these past three days. The only thing to do in outrageous weather is hide. It was a good time to work on putting things in order for my archive and am pleased that the very last of photographs of thirty years of art work is now in order and ready to scan. Going through boxes and boxes of materials I kept coming across numerous sketchbooks as well. I wondered if they, too, should be documented. My archivist brother would say definitely yes. I’m not so sure. Most of the drawings contained therein were just drafts - incomplete raw material for later work. To makes things complicated, there is a virtual plethora of sketches of school work and museum work. After some wrangling over what to do about them, I ‘ve given in to revisionist tendencies and decided to complete the incomplete ones. They look like artistic IOU’s to me anyway. Next will be the easier task of preserving the decent or interesting ones. (My parsimony has come back to haunt me here - drawings on both sides of the page!) The easiest task of all will be to throw out the bad ones. A persistent phenomenon in artist’s lives is the huge amount of work they seem to do in their later years. I now wonder if that is really due to an increase in activity or just that the kick of mortality finally prompts a need to attend to unfinished business. One can do a pile of work by just completing what one has started.
My notebooks are an odd assortment of things. In my museum studies I had a love for medieval bestiaries, persian miniatures and decorative art. The most marvelous details could be found woven into tapestries and carpets or inlaid into cabinets. While doing my more “serious” studies of master paintings, I would fill the margins with these little gems extracted from such delights as 6th century Perian carpets. Sometimes the margins would take over and I would fill a page with marvelous animals like the ones seen ready to gobble up the unwary traveler who ventures into the end of the known world.. I’m thinking now of making a medieval view of a map of South Carolina with rapacious pick up trucks lined up at the border of Georgia. Just kidding.
I’ve taken some detail shots of my fantasy pencil drawings. The weather is better and I’ll be back on my real job shortly. But for now it’s a walk on the wild side.

August 7, 2007

Welcome to My Blog

I am entering the blog world with the help of a blog savvy friend, Harriett Hilton. This is an exciting new venture and I hope that readers will find my blog informative, entertaining and enlightening. Or at the very least that I'm here and willing to share.

But now that I'm here....what to blog about? For a start I would like to share with readers three ongoing projects; my archive, making new works from old materials, and my China Book. My archive is an ambitious project to catalogue my life's work (well over a thousand pieces), making new works from old materials is my way of using up the accumulation of materials in my studio while avoiding new purchases (going on successfully for three years ) and my China Book is my memoirs of a very special time in my life when I lived in China and trained as a Chinese Artist at the Beijing Central Art Academy and with various masters.

People tell me that I'm entertaining. I would rather be wise, but for the purpose of blogging perhaps entertaining is better.