Monday, September 2, 2013

Hearing Paintings: Part II

In my previous post, “Hearing Paintings,” I described how artists and art appreciators hear as well as see visual meaning recorded in a painting.

Many of you told me you enjoyed that post.

I am still working on the painting I described in it. That allows me to notice how an artist, in this case me, transforms “reality” into color units.

For example, I mentioned in the previous post that freshly cut grass in a nearby park told me how to pattern an area of my painting. Then I showed you the area of my painting in which I adapted the stripes and bands I noticed in the grass.

Here is further documentation of that process.

First, another photograph of cut grass in the park:

Here is how I used this in my painting:

My color shapes do not look like the cut grass, do they? My color shapes glow, and they wiggle across the central upright plane in the picture. Their shapes and colors rhythmically repeat in other parts of the picture as well.

Below is a photograph of a tree in the same park. From this tree, I found color shapes that helped me build a section of my picture.

Here is one color unit on the left side of my painting demonstrating how I used what I saw in that tree:

Again, something else is going on here. I bet you did not see anything in the photographed tree that remotely resembles what I did with it.

Next is a photograph of some more trees in the park:

Here is the color unit “saying” tree on the right side of my painting:

I suspect you are thinking: Huh? What the heck happened?

What happened is informed perception.

You may only see green clumps of foliage in the photographed trees. A long time ago, when I started studying painting with Wilmington artist Edward Loper, Sr., that is all I saw.

For example, when I visited Santa Monica in May, many people I met asked me where I was from. When I told them Delaware, they looked at me blankly. A few said, “Oh, where the Vice President lives.” Others said, “Oh, where the witch ran for senator.”

Once we settled that, they asked me what Delaware was like in the summer. My one-word answer: “green.”

Since my early painting experiences with Edward Loper, green has been one of my Waterloos. First, he insisted a lemon was not yellow. Then he insisted the Delaware landscape was not green. We were working near Alapocus Woods in Wilmington and, trust me, it was as green as the landscape in the photograph above.

Ed Loper kept insisting I could see color in that landscape, and one day I quit in frustration, throwing my painting gear into my car and telling him I was never coming back. He stood there, head lowered and face sad. On my way home, on a winding road through Alapocus woods, I felt as if I had focused the lens of a camera. Suddenly, what I insisted was green morphed into a myriad of color. My “Alapocus Conversion” assured me the invisible could be made visible if I knew what to look for. You may want to re-read “Making the Invisible Visible” for the complete story.

Remember, I told you artists see what they want to see. The traditions of art make it possible for them to see what their pictures need. If they understand visual ideas other artists have expressed in their work, those recorded discoveries help them “see” through their eyes.

Mark Slouka, in an article in the New York Times, wrote this about his struggles to write a story: “We’re running on faith and fumes. In the early stages, before that magic moment when the voice of the story begins to speak, we want—no crave—validation, someone on the outside who will say, preferably with godlike authority and timbre: ‘It’s brilliant. You’re on the right track. Just keep going.” (quoted from “Don’t Ask What I’m Writing,” 8/25/2013,SR 8)

Did you catch that simple phrase: “before that magic moment when the voice of the story begins to speak.” Paintings speak too.

In my case, then, I know van Gogh’s work, Bonnard’s work, and Delaunay’s work. So when I want to see what I want to see, I know what to look for.

Yes, it feels like magic, but it really is informed seeing. As I work, I feel as though I am recording what is in front of me exactly as it is. What I am doing, however, is expressing the qualities I respond to, and I give them a new form, a color form. I do not make grass or trees. I do not copy grass or trees. I make color shapes on a flat surface, and those color shapes express the qualities of grass and trees that interest me. Because they interest me, I search for them. Because I search for them, I uncover their visual meaning and record that meaning in my picture.

If you feel fuzzy about qualities, re-read theses earlier posts: Learning to See and What to Look for in Art.

Look at this painting by Delaunay and compare the qualities Delaunay expresses in it to the sections I showed you in my painting.

Color Symphony, 1915, MusĂ©e d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris

My painting still speaks to me, so I know it is not finished. Once it is, I will write another post and try to figure out what it has been saying. Then I will share that with you.