29 February 2016

"What's Inspiring Now" - Contemporary Figurative Artists

Figurative art is indeed on the rise within popular appeal, yet again, and with a bit of a reboot in creative drive.

Here's not too short (nor too long) a list of contemporary artists that I have been looking at lately, inspiring fresh verve on new art projects and coming future creative investments.

Zin Lim's drawings are an expressive, gestural draw for me, pun intended:



Figure#D04 - by Zin Lim

Vanessa Lemen, enough said:



'Lady of Mermaid Inn' - by Vanessa Lemen - 2016

Tyler Vouros:



'Athena Owl' - by Tyler Vouros, 2015

Stanka Kordic's artwork visits from between worlds:



'Leila and the Wren' - by Stanka Kordic - 2016

I've always loved graphite - I would say it is still as yet my favorite choice medium to work with - and I have discovered Mandy Tsung feels the same - On Instagram, of course.

Here's some Mandy Tsung for you:



"Feral Love" - Mandy Tsung - 2015

João Ruas

'Godiva' - by Joao Ruas, 2013

Johan Barrios:



'Lo Efimero' - by Johan Barrios

Frank Top:



'Bird Watcher' - by Frank Top, 2015

I'll close this inspiration-themed post with a quote I've found through more art means, about the practice of art in lifestyle:

"To capture through art a fragment of our collective experience. To discover deep meaning and deep thought, the joy of creative expression. We move through life with grace, ethics and spirituality, and relearn daily through our art to cherish humanity and our natural world."
—Valerie Kent

Happy creating!


17 February 2016

"It's Like Drawing People" - Tree Post II

Ever since my mother (also an artist) pointed it out to me via the book 'Castles', Alan Lee's artwork has been an integral inspiration to my own. His drawing temperament spoke resonantly to my natural inclinations, and even before my teenage years, I began to "look closer", because of Alan Lee. I know many artists who've been driven in their own work by Alan Lee's, just as strongly. He's A Great!

Continuing on with these tree posts for this project with my "Infinity Tree", I've revisited some of my favorite quotes from the master of trees in the 'The Lord of the Rings Sketchbook' - Some things to keep in mind and to be inspired by anew - In Lee's words:

"I love drawing trees and forests. It is like drawing people with an endless capacity to stretch and twist, their history recorded in every scar and irregularity - and they hold their pose for years! invented woodlands, informed by spending long hours sketching in real ones, gave me an opportunity to draw and design with freedom as well as delicacy, as long as I remembered that trees have an anatomy too."

"The competing forces that affect the growth of a tree - gravity, wind, and the need for light - can be read on the contortions of branches and the form of the trunk. Like skin, bark only partially conceals the structure underneath, and in old trees bark is frequently rotted or broken away. Drawing trees is more an act of empathy than analysis, though, and I seem to find it a little easier now than I did when I was a sapling."

I love the notion that to interpret a tree - or any living thing - via drawing, is more an act of empathy than analysis. I'm always seeking the moments throughout the creative process, the drawing, the painting and capturing of light and gesture, structure, etc., moments within that can balance empathy and analysis, so to keep the two dimensional artwork living, breathing, engaging, emotive, and certainly from my personal experience.

So with my Infinity tree, I'm eager to convey, one;

- the merged imagined and referenced technical analysis of the tree's anatomy,

as well as, two;

- the sense of it's enigmatic character explored with empathetic and gestural pencil work...

If that makes sense.

I've been admiring and considering some formerly accomplished main character trees of the drawn or painted page, by other artists:

This example of ancient Norse myth, featuring Odin thrusting a sword into Branstock in the hall of Volsung, as illustrated by the legendary English artist Alan Lee (and from his book 'Castles'):

Illustrated by Alan Lee, 'Castles', 1984, all rights Alan Lee

Or this stunning work illustrating "Jason and the Talking Oak", by the legendary Maxfield Parrish:

Maxfield Parrish, 1910

Here, a 'natural world' version of the subject entitled "Oak Tree on a Northern Beach", painted by Leopold Rothaug:

Leopold Rothaug, 1924

And again referencing legend in this illustration of "Giant Velles Protecting the Ancient Oak Tree" painted by Serbian-born master painter Petar Meseldzija

Copyright and Illustrated by Petar Meseldzija, 2014

There are myths of dangerous trees in cultures across the world, as in this plate illustrated from J W Buel's 'Sea and Land', a Madagascan man-eating tree called "Ya-Te-Veo" ('I see you'):

Illustrated by A.W., 1887

Or this religious woodland, "Harpies in the Forest of the Suicides", as from the notorious Dante's Inferno, here engraved by Gustave Dore:

Engraved by Gustave Dore, 1861

Notice how all of these trees in some way merge two worlds, be they literal or metaphorical, most definitely ethereal, and physical. I'm after that in my own piece, for certain. The tree as "bridge".

I am excited for the next batch of work on this project!

Back to others, first, though.


10 February 2016

"And Then There Are the Secrets of the Trees" - Tree Post I

“And then there are the secrets of the trees.” –David Friend

It has been my resolution to reconsider, actively, the icon and the reality of the tree, and utilize both more in my work.

This is a relatively easy realization or observation to put forth, but it struck me as peculiar how my love for the giants of our natural world still has yet to translate into my visual vocabulary with any fluency. You would think whatever holds our affection, and fascination, would be an automatic integral part of our creations, but in my case, with trees, not so much.

While I continue to explore for myself why that is, the point here is that more reading, visual art exploration, and continued in-person observation on trees has been working steadily, increasingly, back into my daily process.

In particular, I’ve waited not too patiently these past few months to develop a concept to completion through a multi-product process that indulges the tree as the sole subject. I’ve been given an opportunity to work with it finally, and so, in tandem with the other gallery show work, I’m going to see what I can manage with this long standing idea.

It started with two words: ‘tree bridge’

This was put down on paper as an intentionally loose, playful, and ‘note-taking’ large scale thumbnail sketch, that I came home from one of my jobs to scribble down in the sketchbook, and looked like this:

I received repeat positive response to this initial exploration through social media and from person to person critique amongst art friends. When I talked about my interest to develop it further into a large-scale drawing and then painting, I was encouraged as well.

Now, I’ve been psyching myself up for the next approach to this concept, a large, decent drawing, with further studies and references to the tree, in both art and fact.

One of my favorite books on trees is by James Balog, an adventurous photographer, whose work marries science and poetic artistry into a project of inspiring power. I’ve owned this book for a while, and gifted it to a few photographers I know:

I’ve reread much of it and poured over his stunning photography within it’s pages for the millionth time, this last pass focusing more deliberately on connections to my own project vision.

John Muir, a naturalist involved with the Sequoia and Yosemite National Parks, said, “To the outer ears these trees are silent, [yet] their songs never cease. Every hidden cell is throbbing with music and life, every fiber thrilling like harp strings”
I am certain I am not the only one to feel that we are encountering something ‘knowing’ and dynamic when we take in the presence of a tree, such is the impact of so many years active within one seemingly statuesque figure.

James Balog himself writes in his book “Tree”, paired with one of his compiled photographs of a gorgeous, ancient angel oak, “I can’t help wonder who truly is the observer and who is the observed. While we watch them, do they gaze back at us? It is easy to understand the reciprocity of the visual exchange when a creature has eyes. Does a plant have some other sense that we mammals lack the capacity to understand?”…. It’s a sense we get sometimes, anyways; “this forest has eyes”, we say, when venturing forth into the unknown woodland, perhaps feeling as if we are somehow observed by the strange beings standing all around us like a freeze-frame militia party.

I want to impart something of those non-existent “eyes” into the piece I am developing here, a personified presence as if wisdom and eons of observing us tiny, flimsy, fleeting Homo sapiens is retained within the colossus standing patiently therein.

Normal trees can get truly massive in scale compared to us humans, let alone mythical and metaphorical ones such as the famous Yggdrasil from Norse mythology. I’m referencing the latter kind of tree, something of epic and ethereal proportions, so I want to tackle the challenge of stepping back and sizing up such a thing within the confines of a composition.

Balog observes, “If, as Wallace Stegner said, ‘Space is a place with no memory’, then a great tree infuses empty space with memory and turns it into a place, creating a bridge between civilization and wildest wilderness”.

My ‘tree bridge’, now dubbed ‘The Infinity Tree’ as the working title, needs to grow into a space that holds a sense of place at once unbreachable and venerable. A being imperative to bridge two dimensions through it’s own existence. A vertical union, communion, a pillar of light, water, life force, and integrity, that is what this epic tree drawing should be about.

By extension, I want to impart that long held connection to the god-world that we’ve assumed of trees into the drawing. In our awe of the elegant, expansive, symbolic strength of the oak tree, for example, it’s character would be a good element to work with. As Balog writes, “Lightning strikes oak more often than it does other species. To ancient cultures, this made oak appear to be conduits for bringing the power of the sky gods down to earth. Accordingly, the trees were held in great reverence”.  The Celts, for example, not only recognized natural patterns associated with trees and the elements, but honored the trees as a system of symbols for virtues and values in life. They had a tree ‘alphabet’, called ogham, which was their only known form of written documentation in the culture. Oak, one of the most prominent of the native trees in their iconography, represented strength and integrity.

With reference from the oak, I’ll pull in inspiration from other appealing trees that lend a more universal final figure to the drawing’s subject. It shouldn’t be a certain kind of tree, but a tree of all trees, beyond any human identification system.

That's all for now. More to come on this tree installment shortly.

Happy creating!