Development and resolution
(Notes on various artistic problems and reminder of purpose)
I was thinking about the younger artist Jacob Collins, who has pulled from various influences and emerged with impressive paintings, employing chiaroscuro painting as seen in the works of Caravaggio and Rembrandt. I looked upon my own ties with this kind of painting. For a time I had fallen under the influence of one teacher's passion for this vein of painting. Although I respected and admired the tradition, it really wasn’t inherently part of my roots. This instructor’s own mastery of it was limited. In painting in a traditional manner one needs to master all aspects of a system, a language of seeing and applying. He had not. Jacob Collins was able to put together a language that looked like the old masters in appearance, but was not quite the same thing. What he did still is an accomplishment.
Perhaps if it had been presented early enough, and comprehensively enough, I could have absorbed it. But it wasn’t and it was not my natural inclination. I was more linear, which is an earlier stage of artistic evolution. I looked for the outline of a subject and rendered the interior forms using lines that followed these forms. At least this was where I think my abilities lie. Training in this was nonexistent. What I needed was a sympathetic environment to at least evolve in this manner if there was no knowledgeable teacher available. From history Durer and Holbein would be examples at the highest level. There is a 20th century Dutch artist Jopie Huisman who appears to have evolved internally while learning from outside influences. He's linear, draws around form, and fills in the outlines. Colors are simple. This way of drawing and painting was doable for me. He does not use massing (forms emerging from one neutral tone) or impressionism (observing shapes of values and color). Instead line remains important. He really cannot handle the full figure or the nude. It's a little primitive, but at least can be done and is not out of reach. Others shoot for the sky but fall short. He stays within his parameters and does well within them.
One teacher I had, Richard Lack, taught me to see impressionistically. It harmed me because it went against my instincts. I had to leave. It forced me to become eye dependent upon everything I saw. One copied the appearance of an object without necessarily understanding its structure. Everything was just a color value. The cure from this thin tradition is to be conscious of going around the form and to understand the anatomy of the form as best one can. Through this knowledge one becomes less dependent upon what one sees. I don’t expect miracles, but I am conscious of it and absorb what I can learn and already know. The hope is through some kind of artistic osmosis my work will move in this direction without being overpowered.
And again I restate my purpose at this point, which is to use the art to raise thoughtfulness in a larger direction and not get caught up wrestling with various artistic ways of thinking. They are interesting and useful, but are the means, not the end.