Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Return from Xanadu

Nonobjective painting derived from automatic
drawing and segmental painting
(approximately) 64"x96-120"
©2013  Cat Tesla

Cat arriving at workshop
End of workshop - - my "easel" behind me.
Nonobjective painting derived from automatic drawing
using large brushes; (approximately) 42"x60"
©2013  Cat Tesla

Last week I went to a nonobjective painting workshop where participants were given various challenges in order to loosen up, be open to possibilities, and work from the body, rather than from the critical thinking center. Steve Aimone of Aimone Art Services guides you through painting exercises on large pieces of paper or canvas using drawing implements and acrylic paints and mediums. Talk about intense:  it's 5 full studio days (up to 9 hours/ea)! Each day you come back to your easel with new insight and ideas - - combined with excitement, discovery, frustration, and pure delight. There's a transformation that occurs midway through:  you suddenly have a different visual acuity, and you're no longer satisfied with doing things your "old way". If you need to shake things up in your studio or get outside of your own box, this is a good way to do it.

Many of the challenges begin with an "automatic drawing" that is gestural using a brush with a long handle, coming at the canvas as if you're going to be in a sword fight. Five seconds later you're ten feet away with your back to the canvas. Then you turn, take it in, and go back to make your next marks. Block over some of it with white, and go back again. Layers develop quickly and spontaneously. There is a freshness to the work that comes from not overthinking. Robert Genn describes something similar in his recent newsletter "The 37 Club":  "Speed, it seems, short-circuits the right brain to the painter's hand. By not passing through the theoretical shoulds, coulds, and woulds of the left brain, the results are more likely to be "artistic." I'm looking forward to exploring the challenges from the workshop here at home in my own studio - stay tuned!

I've long admired abstract expressionist painters from the mid-1940s who adopted automatic methods in their work. Influenced by Surrealism, these artists introduced the appearance of automatism even when their painting was deliberate. Jackson Pollock, Franz Kline and Willem de Kooning are some of my favs.

Nonobjective painting derived from 3 lines; (approximately) 64"x72"
©2013  Cat Tesla

Monday, August 5, 2013

Becoming One with the Forest

“The snow falls, each flake in its appropriate place   ~Zen saying

I just returned from a nice long visit to the Pacific NW where my husband, a musician, was giving concerts and workshops. Nature is at her best this time of year there, and hikes and sunsets were aplenty. (Of course there was also great wine and art galleries.) The second half of the trip was in northern California at a music camp where cell reception is poor to none. Which was perfect for me because I was unable to “document” anything  -  a complete and total break!

There is much beauty in the redwood forests of northern California. There was complete stillness and silence at times. At others, the redwoods had a soft whistle of wind flowing around them and the trickle of water over river rocks flowing below them. New life growing out of decaying matter was everywhere. Kind of a hidden harmony that realigns you.

It is often overlooked that one of the most important aspects of any exercise or training program is the recovery phase:  the time spent resting. This is viewed as the period of “doing no work”, when in fact your body is seizing the opportunity to repair itself and become stronger (more at:  I think the same is true with creativity:  you need to leave the compound and become one with the forest to fuel your creativity.

Cheers to summer breaks!