30 November 2012

Pablo Picasso Month

People have been posting about things they are thankful for this month.

I've agreed with many of them, liked many of them.

I'm adding – I'm thankful for Pablo Picasso, whose words made me think hard all month long. I've learned some things that I wouldn't have without his words... most of them about myself.

Pablo Picasso Month - Day 30

Absolutely true... if it doesn't stir something deep inside of you, it isn't art (for you)...
"All art is erotic."
~ Pablo Picasso
And what stirs us changes as we change – evolves as we grow in knowledge (and self-knowledge...)
We learn what we should like and we play that game, often very well. Then – if we're really lucky – we rebel and learn to like the subversive things.

And that is growth – or at least, the potential for growth

Why Pablo Picasso 

29 November 2012

Pablo Picasso Month - Day 29

I understand this obsession.
"We artists are indestructible; even in a prison, or in a concentration camp, I would be almighty in my own world of art, even if I had to paint my pictures with my wet tongue on the dusty floor of my cell."
~ Pablo Picasso
If I don't so some art daily I feel bereft and empty and no wee bit lost.

Doing some art doesn't mean working in the studio everyday – it can also be thinking about art (in a rigorous and productive way, not just day-dreaming) or talking about art with others or reading about / listening to / looking at art.

Why Pablo Picasso 

28 November 2012

Pablo Picasso Month - Day 28

This one is funny.
"When art critics get together they talk about Form and Structure and Meaning. When artists get together they talk about where you can buy cheap turpentine."
~ Pablo Picasso
 And probably pretty observant. I don't paint with oils, so I don't know about turpentine... but I do talk about where to get the best mosaic materials...

It might also apply to art professors and art students too.

Why Pablo Picasso 

27 November 2012

Pablo Picasso Month - Day 27

This one is for Verdiano.
"Every now and then one paints a picture that seems to have opened a door and serves as a stepping stone to other things."

~ Pablo Picasso
I am looking forward to the next workshop – I want to see where the next stepping stones take me.

Why Pablo Picasso 

26 November 2012

Welding lesson

This weekend, while in Indiana for Thanksgiving my brothers and I talked about welding techniques - which resulted in me stopping by my brother's house on Friday morning for a quick lesson...

Under his expert eye I learned a new welding technique (MIG) that we think will be perfect for what I want to be doing.

After some practice I'm going to weld two pieces of metal together - a thin piece and a thick piece

Not quite "stacked nickles" but not too bad
for my first time. It would definitely
hold together, even though it's not all that
pretty - and that's the important thing.
So now I'm planning to get a MIG welder in January. I'll have to decide if I want the flux-core set up or the gas set up.

Pablo Picasso Month - Day 26

One of the values of academic or other exacting training is that it gives you a great understanding of what you should do.
Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.
~ Pablo Picasso
And once you've learned the rules really well you can break them, not with impunity because breaking them is still loaded with lots of risk even for those who know intimately how the rules go, but with a purposeful abandon.

I'm not saying that by following the rules you cannot make amazing art... I'm saying that when you mindfully ignore what you've been taught – knowing full well that there are consequences – unpredictable things happen. And out of those unpredictable things, out of that experimentation, comes the new things that would never have happened if we were just plodding along doing the things we (and others) had done before.

Why Pablo Picasso 

25 November 2012

Pablo Picasso Month - Day 25

Late. Sorry. Was on the road and too busy with family to post. That's okay. Family is important.

Why do we have the uncomfortable urge to create?
Painting is stronger than me, it makes me do it's bidding.
~ Pablo Picasso
I'm not very good at just being... I have to make. It's not too Zen (whatever that is), I know. But it is what it is and I am what I am. Driven. To. Make.

As a kid I made contraptions (probably would now be called found object art or mixed media art) – three-dimensional constructions that sometimes spanned rooms (yes, plural – rooms) in our house. I built things outdoors (mostly in the trees). I mixed concoctions out of everything in the kitchen.

As an adult I still make things. And it's only been in the darkness of depression that I didn't make things.

So I'll keep making things. It makes me happy.

Why Pablo Picasso Month?

24 November 2012

Pablo Picasso Month - Day 24

Do we find truth in art... perhaps.
We all know that Art is not truth. Art is a lie that makes us realize the truth, at least the truth that is given to us to understand.
~ Pablo Picasso
I think we must be willing to sacrifice many of our preconceived notions before we can learn anything from art or beauty or love. Perhaps that is what Pablo meant by "the truth that is given to us to understand..."

Why Pablo Picasso Month?

23 November 2012

Pablo Picasso Month - Day 23

The urge to come across as knowing a lot only gets greater as more and more information is at our fingertips... never mind the fact that we are so ill-equipped to discern fact from fiction.
You mustn't always believe what I say. Questions tempt you to tell lies, particularly when there is no answer.
~ Pablo Picasso
Why is it that "I don't know" is so hard to say? We really don't like it when the question has no answer... or when any answer is as good as any other answer. We don't like ambiguity or uncertainty...

I've recently learned that there is a great deal of freedom in being able to say " I have no fucking idea..."

Why Pablo Picasso Month?

22 November 2012

Pablo Picasso Month - Day 22

A recurring theme for Pablo:
I begin with an idea and then it becomes something else.
~ Pablo Picasso
Staying flexible and being open to whatever happens are important skills. I think more than anything these are what helps me keep my balance and my optimism. It's when I get all tied up in a particular outcome (my own or someone else's) that I find myself anxious and miserable.

Maybe they are more than just skills – maybe they are paths to joy.

Why Pablo Picasso Month?

21 November 2012

Pablo Picasso Month - Day 21

It's the subtleties in our lives that speak to our inner being.
The hidden harmony is better than the obvious.
~ Pablo Picasso
A life lived only aware of things easily noticed is a pretty mundane existence, a life easily controlled by the agendas of others.

I need to work harder on noticing the not-so-obvious things in the world around me.

Why Pablo Picasso Month?

20 November 2012

Pablo Picasso Month - Day 20

So is Pablo being defeatist? Or is he talking about something else entirely.
The older you get the stronger the wind gets - and it's always in your face.
~ Pablo Picasso
Think about standing at the edge of the water with the wind coming to you from afar.

Think of the smells and sounds that come to us on the wind.

Doesn't it make you want to head out on an adventure?

Doesn't it make you long to do new things?

Why Pablo Picasso Month?

19 November 2012

Sea and Sky Mosaic Update

Worked on the mosaic a bit on Saturday - between talking to Art Tour goers - and a bit more this evening.

I've got the sea done. After Thanksgiving I'll be working on the sky...

At the end of the day Saturday

Tonight's progress

Pablo Picasso Month - Day 19

The first part of this quote seems obvious, the second... not so obvious...
The more technique you have, the less you have to worry about it. The more technique there is, the less there is.
~ Pablo Picasso
It seems obvious that once you have mastered your technique – and know you've mastered it – it doesn't get in the way as much as it does when you are still learning. But I think there's more to what he's saying than the obvious. I think this goes back to an earlier quote that I posted... when you've mastered the technique for your art you can take shortcuts or even ignore/break the rules and dependably come up with some spectacular work. It sometimes happens when you're still learning, but it's usually a happy accident at that stage.

Learning how to minimize the effects of mastery without affecting the quality of the work we do is the real challenge. How to make the amazingly difficult, complicated things easy and simple – to clarify the method and the results – that is the step beyond mastery. Mastery can sometimes be achieved reasonably quickly... to go beyond that is a life's work.

The second part of the quote is telling me that when technique is glorified above the rest of the components of the work the results are often not what we would hope. Sometimes the purposely technically perfect ends up being sterile or contrived or trite or even merely consumer goods (think Thomas Kincade... a man whose mastery is obvious and whose work is pretty much meaningless, emotional drivel...).

Why Pablo Picasso Month?

18 November 2012

Pablo Picasso Month - Day 18

This is absolutely the way I work.

You have to have an idea of what you are going to do, but it should be a vague idea.
~ Pablo Picasso

I make sketches and plans. I set out specific stone and glass. I test how things are going to fit together.

But all that changes once the mortar is on the board...

Why Pablo Picasso Month?

17 November 2012

Pablo Picasso Month - Day 17

I'm probably taking this one too literally when I tell myself I must be contributing to my art practice everyday.
Painting is just another way of keeping a diary.
~ Pablo Picasso
Perhaps instead Pablo meant that we should be expressing our thoughts and feelings in our art – documenting our experiences in our art, our pain and joy and what we see and what we think.

Why Pablo Picasso Month?

16 November 2012

Pablo Picasso Month - Day 16

A little less scary than the quote from a few days ago, but I don't know which is worse - being artistically sterile, or being artistically pathetic.
To copy others is necessary, but to copy oneself is pathetic.
~ Pablo Picasso

Both are hard to think about, and maybe equally bad if you exist primarily to make art. And some of us do exist primarily to make art. I'm not sure that I do, but when I'm in the studio it feels – briefly, fleetingly – like my purpose it to communicate with ideas made manifest in art.

Why Pablo Picasso Month?

15 November 2012

Pablo Picasso Month - Day 15

I probably don't ask "Why not?" enough.
Others have seen what is and asked why. I have seen what could be and asked why not.
~ Pablo Picasso

But I think I make up for it by almost always asking "What if...?"

Why Pablo Picasso Month?

14 November 2012

Pablo Picasso Month - Day 14

Say it ain't so, Pablo... say it ain't so.
Computers are useless. They can only give you answers.
~ Pablo Picasso
I work with computers almost every day... I have a love/hate relationship with every single computer I know. Some days I might agree with Pablo.

But other days I know that computers are more than just useless answer machines. I know that they are tools for the great wondrous things that people do and say. And far too often, tools for the horrid, wretched things that people do and say.

Why Pablo Picasso Month?

13 November 2012

Pablo Picasso Month - Day 13

Scary. Very scary.
Success is dangerous. One begins to copy oneself, and to copy oneself is more dangerous than to copy others. It leads to sterility.
~ Pablo Picasso

I can see it though. It's the story of the writer who has a best seller and then all their subsequent books are the same book with different details. It's the sequels and prequels to blockbuster movies...

Why Pablo Picasso Month?

12 November 2012

Pablo Picasso Month - Day 12

Abstract art often confuses people.
There is no abstract art. You must always start with something. Afterward you can remove all traces of reality.
~ Pablo Picasso

I don't like all the art I see. No one does. We all have our preferences. I do try to figure out why. Sometimes it's as simple as the lack of skill, or a theme or color scheme that puts me off. Sometimes it's much more subtle. I'm sure it's the same for you.

The important thing to remember is that art is supposed to generate ideas and feelings. It's supposed to make you think about something or feel something. And it should be more than "that's pretty" or "that's horrible."

So many people struggle with how to react to (or interact with) abstract art. We don't know where to look. We don't know what we're seeing. And facing the unknown we become uncomfortable and make the assumption that we really don't like abstract art. I think it's important to take a step back when we find ourselves making those assumptions. It's easy to like art (or explain why we don't like it) when the artwork depicts what we think we recognize (however I would caution against making that assumption too). What we really need is a way to approach abstract art that allows us to experience it without prejudice.

I've heard a lot of ways to approach art – both from the consecrated academic establishment and from others not so lofty... ways that are good and valid and valuable. When you are new to art school or art circles you get told how to do things – by everyone. However, I think each person has to come up with their own way to experience art (and only those who really want to will).

My approach to experiencing art is a bit like what C.S. Lewis recommended (or was it Tolstoy? I can't remember). The most important thing is to really take the time with a piece of art. I don't make way through the gallery/museum/exhibit quickly. Well, I try not to. This means that I often don't get to see all the art that's available – and that's okay. When I know that I've only got a short time I will sometimes do a quick scan and pick out the art that I feel drawn to ( I might love it or I might hate it).

When I'm in front of the artwork, taking my time with it, I try to find the story it is telling me. I look for recognizable imagery or imagery that I can associate meaning to. I make a story about it in my head. I really do try to keep it inside my own head and not tell others the stories – I don't want to annoy them and most people already think I'm a bit odd... and even more importantly – I might derail their efforts to create their own story with the art. Then I try to put myself in the story. After I've spent some time with it I will turn away from it (maybe even visit with another piece of art) and then I'll return to it and see if I see anything new.

I had this conversation last week with someone who thought abstract art was pretty useless... I think he left my office with a new appreciation for his ability to appreciate abstract art... maybe.

Why Pablo Picasso Month?

11 November 2012

Pablo Picasso Month - Day 11

We often defeat ourselves with our own words and worries. I am always amazed (and not in a good way) at the abundance of people whose first response to any challenge is "I can't..."
He can who thinks he can, and he can't who thinks he can't. This is an inexorable, indisputable law.
~ Pablo Picasso

We shouldn't Pollyanna our way through life, but we need to push back against the urge to "I can't" ourselves out of new things. I've been there too, though. So tied into what I thought was inevitable that I couldn't see there even were other possibilities. It can creep up on you, that "I can't" mindset, that feeling that you aren't very good at something, anything...

My mother would always tell us that if we started out with "I can't" we most certainly cannot. [She actually used to say "Cain't never did nothing," – used to drive me crazy.] As kids we weren't allowed to say "I can't" until we had given it our best attempt, at leasttwo or three times. It's not that my parents were task-drivers, or harsh; they were very caring and supportive. They just thought that we shouldn't take the easy way out, and to them "I can't" was taking the easy way out. And the result of that was that all of us kids – and most of our kids – are very well equipped to take on the challenges the world throws at us.

I think all the "I can't"-ers would benefit from living with my mother in their formative years.

Why Pablo Picasso Month?

10 November 2012

Sea and Sky Mosaic

Just a quick update on the Sea and Sky mosaic.

I've got a bit more work done on the water. The Laticrete mortar is very nice to work with. It holds up well to my putzing around and seems to stay workable for quite a while. It may be that I'm using a thicker application of mortar... but in any case the Laticrete is working well. Makes me wish I had a local source for it.

Pablo Picasso Month - Day 10

I can't really explain it, but I totally understand this.
I'd like to live as a poor man with lots of money.
~ Pablo Picasso
I don't want to be poor (been there - no fun). But I sure would like a simpler life.

You see all these articles and stories; you hear testimonial after testimonial extolling the virtues of the simple life.

I think only the rich can afford to simplify their lives.

Meanwhile, I keep chipping away at it.

Why Pablo Picasso Month?

09 November 2012

Pablo Picasso Month - Day 9

A non-art quote, or maybe a pan-art quote.
Love is the greatest refreshment in life.
~ Pablo Picasso
I'm wondering what he was thinking when he said this. Was he thinking of a specific person? Was he thinking of a state of being?

Love may be the greatest refreshment in life... but it is also one of the hardest things to do well.

To love freely and openly, without expectation of reward or specific results.
To love a person/people rather than the idea of a person/people.
To love those who love us, and those who do not love us.
To love the loveable and the unlovable.
To love well.

Why Pablo Picasso Month?

08 November 2012

Sea and Sky Mosaic

It was yoga night so I didn't work on the mosaic. But I thought I'd mention a few technical items.

I'm trying out a new adhesive – Laticrete Glass Tile Adhesive. They sent me a generous sample last month and this is the first I've tried it.It starts out a brilliant white. I've colored it for this project, using a variety of dry pigments (Gamblin & Earth Pigments Mayan series).

I'm using Matteo's method – a thicker thinset application (mine seems to be coming out around 5/8ths of an inch) which allows for more control of the "set" of the tesserae on all three axes (X, Y & Z), making it easier to use elements of different thicknesses or odd shapes and still get them level and even.

One additional benefit I've noticed is that tiny tesserae seem more securely affixed than they do with a thinner thinset application. It does use a lot more thinset which adds to the cost and the weight of the work... but that's not a huge concern for a smaller mosaic.

Pablo Picasso Month - Day 8

Every act of creation is first an act of destruction.
~ Pablo Picasso
This is particularly true of mosaic. First I break things. Then I make things.

I don't think Pablo meant it quite that literally. 

Why Pablo Picasso Month?

07 November 2012

Sea and Sky Mosaic

I think I got a perfect sailboat cut for this mosaic. I wanted to make the sailboat first - for some silly reason it felt like if I got that part right the rest would fall right into place... Don't know if that's going to happen, but the sailboat is exactly what I saw in my mind's eye...

You cannot really tell from this photo, but the glass is the thick Italian smalti and I chipped the edges after cutting the shape. I'm really pleased with it.

After that small success I thought I'd try doing some of the water. It's made up of opaque and transparent green, blue and purple glass that I got at Kokomo Opalescent Glass when Wes & I went on a road trip this past summer.

Detail view of the first evening's work.

Pablo Picasso Month - Day 7

It's important to work on my practice everyday - to be in the studio, or drawing, or reading/writing about art, or engaging in meaningful discussions about art.
Inspiration exists, but it has to find us working.
~ Pablo Picasso
It's too easy to let inertia rule. It's too easy to tell myself I need to do the laundry/dishes/vacuuming/whatever before I go into the studio.

And it's a slippery slope... all that procrastination takes on a life of its own really quickly. And then we find ourselves in the creative doldrums...

So I try to do work daily, because I know how easy it is to find myself sitting on the sidelines of my own practice, wondering if I'm ever going to feel the quickening of inspiration again.

Why Pablo Picasso Month?

06 November 2012

Pablo Picasso Month - Day 6+

Today you get an extra quote post. It's not Pablo, though.

If you ask me what I came to do in this world, I, an artist, will answer you: I am here to live out loud.
~ Émile François Zola

This lovely quote was left on my door at work by a co-worker.

What a nice way to start the day...

Why Pablo Picasso Month?

Pablo Picasso Month - Day 6

I've started drawing more preparation sketches for mosaics. But I rarely follow my drawings with any clear intent... the drawings are only meant to get me started. They're just ideas... places to start from, not destinations to arrive at.
An idea is a point of departure and no more. As soon as you elaborate it, it becomes transformed by thought.
~ Pablo Picasso
The current mosaic is a bit of an exception. I want/hope to follow my drawings closely - I think it's because I really like what I've gotten down on paper.

I'll probably still end up deviating from the drawing though... following wherever inspiration takes me.

Why Pablo Picasso Month?

05 November 2012

Pablo Picasso Month - Day 5

This one is interesting - and sort of goes with yesterday's quote.
It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child.
~ Pablo Picasso
At first I thought that he meant that children are the most free when they create art... that their ability to generate work without prejudice was the key idea here. I thought about Picasso's work progression back and forth from tight, representational pieces to cubism and surrealism. Back and forth in a dramatic exploration of inspiration and work.

I was content with that interpretation...

But then, upon a second look, I decided that what he really is saying is that you have to know and understand the rules before you can break them in meaningful and compelling and coherent ways. That you have to understand line and color and shape and value and texture and form and space before you can take flights of fancy with them.

Line - An identifiable path of a point moving in space, can vary in width, direction, and length

Shape - A two-dimensional area or plane that may be organic or inorganic, free-form or geocentric, open or closed, natural or of human origin

Form - A three-dimensional volume or the illusion of three dimensions, related to shape (which is 2-D)

Space - The emptiness or area between, around, above, below, or contained within objects (shapes and forms are defined by the space around and within them, just as spaces are defined by the shapes and forms around and within them)

Value - Light and dark; the gradations of light and dark on the surface of objects

Texture - The surface quality of material, either actual (tactile) or visual

Color - What is produced when light, striking an object, is reflected back to the eye

Why Pablo Picasso Month?

04 November 2012

Sea & Sky Mosaic

Starting a new mosaic - working title is Sea & Sky. It's a commission for a friend.

Commissions are always a bit more pressure- and stress-inducing. When I'm making something that's not commissioned I can make it how I see it... there are fewer constraints and the only expectation (for me) is that I do it better than the last mosaic I did.

A commissioned piece needs to end up matching the client's vision for the piece. They need to feel like what they asked for is ultimately what they got... and paid for. The last commission seems to have thrilled the clients, so that worked out just fine. It was an abstract encaustic painting - the main concerns for creating it were color and depth and form (and building the supporting framework). I think it was a success. I'll have photos next week of it hanging in its place.

This commission is a bit more tricky. It's representational and based on a smaller, previous work that the client really liked (but was not for sale...). We've discussed what he wants and I think I have a great idea in mind for it.

My goal, as always, is to exceed expectations.

Andamento sketch
This is the first time I've done an andamento sketch... usually I don't plan things out that much. For this mosaic I really want to achieve a specific effect - thus the sketch... even so, I could not make myself draw it all out - I just did enough that I knew where I wanted to go with it.

Color selection

Pablo Picasso Month - Day 4

I've read this in several books – it's not always attributed to Picasso.
All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.
~ Pablo Picasso
If you watch kids, maybe up to age 10 or 12, they aren't all that self-conscious about making art. If you put them in close proximity to art materials they will naturally make art – not worrying about perfection, or what others think about their work. They make it simply for the joy of making, because they simply cannot not make art.

But if you watch teen-aged children in the same situation, you can already see the beginnings of
"I'm not an artist..."
"I can't make art..."
"I can't even draw a straight line..."

And by the time they are finished with high school most of them are firmly on the not-an-artist path...

But we're all creative. It's part of our humanity, but it gets beaten out of us pretty damn early.We all need to find the strength to let ourselves make some sort of art, to do some sort of creative endeavor...

I had to relearn that I am an artist. I had to convince myself that making art was a valid, useful, appropriate thing for me to be doing. I had to give myself permission to do it. I had to recognize that making art was a significant part of what makes me me...

Making art is one of the things that make life worth living.

Why Pablo Picasso Month?

03 November 2012

Pablo Picasso Month - Day 3

This one makes me smile...
Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.
~ Pablo Picasso
Both the making of art and the experiencing of art renews us. That feels really good.

02 November 2012

Pablo Picasso Month - Day 2

Thinking about work/play... you know – balance...
Never permit a dichotomy to rule your life, a dichotomy in which you hate what you do so you can have pleasure in your spare time. Look for a situation in which your work will give you as much happiness as your spare time.
~ Pablo Picasso
I am pretty lucky in that I actually like the work I do at work. Some of it almost sucks, but for the most part I get to be creative now and then and I get to "make" things, even if they're only pixels on a screen. And I do have time (and resources) to make art, which is a joy. And I get to have a great home life – another joy.

Still, sometimes I think about the whole idea of success and the la la la that goes along with that (stress, responsibility, strange/long hours). I think about having a simpler lifestyle which would allow me to downsize my job. I think about not having a job where the first thing I do in the morning is to turn on the computer and check to see if the university's website is up and running and the last thing I do before going to bed is to turn on the computer and check to see if the university's website is up and running (or to check if there are any emergency emails that need immediate response). I wonder what it would be like to go on a vacation and not take my computer (and a mobile hotspot) with me. I think about actually being done for the day, reaching the end of the to-do list and going home (at quitting time) instead of always being behind and having a mile-long list facing me every morning. I worry about not having the time to do the research I need to do to stay current with the technology I need to understand.

I think about a plain old 9-5 job...

And I know I'd be miserable, even if it gave me more time to make art. I guess I like all the stuff that goes along with the job I have.

Even so...
I might like to teach someday.
I think I'd be good at it...

01 November 2012

Pablo Picasso Month - Day 1

I've decided that November is Picasso Month for me... so you get a Pablo Picasso quote each day and my thoughts/feelings/ramblings that the quote triggered.
What do you think an artist is? ... he is a political being, constantly aware of the heart breaking, passionate, or delightful things that happen in the world, shaping himself completely in their image. Painting is not done to decorate apartments. It is an instrument of war.
- Pablo Picasso.

I struggle with (ever since Goddard) the feeling that I should be making art that says something, art that isn't just something pretty, something decorative... It is so easy to generate more crap... the world is full of crap.

I don't really have an answer here - mostly just more questions. But I do like the thought that art is an instrument of war - not for actual war (or violence of any kind), but a war of thoughts and emotions and ideas, yeah, I can definitely get behind that sort of war - especially when it happens inside my own head and heart.

While I'm thinking about this I'm listening to The Battle of Harlaw by Old Blind Dogs, which is also about war (wikipedia article  song lyrics and additional info).