Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Steps and Filters in the Painting Process

Today I finished the painting Of Venus I was working on recently. It has taken me more time than expected for the reason that Im working on various projects simultaneously. I find this custom quite fit for my style, that is the style of the Baroque and late Renaissance  old masters, which involved the application of layers of transparent paint called glazes. If you are like me you might find it quite tedious  and boring to be working for a month on a single painting. This has now become an average completion time for me. Instead I have about 5 paintings   sitting around and work on a different piece each day. This enables me to keep unity on color and technique in the body of work and also retains my interest in a single work for a longer time. It wasn't like that when I used to work in an expressionist manner and with acrylics. The painting process has slowly evolved over the years and I have refined my  techniques by implementing self discipline and an established working method that is inspired on the work of  old masters such as Rubens and Titian. I believe we have many advantages over these masters from the past and we should take advantage of all of these tools at our disposal. For instance the use of Photoshop just makes my work so much easier and less time consuming. Also having access to an excellent archive of reference material from good photographed material to reproductions of the old masters at high res that I view from my Computer monitor. Technology is a very helpful ally at my studio and I use it in every way I can. Allow me to illustrate in simple terms my working process: Here's a perfect example for it
Recently I received a commission to redesign a public mural project for a library building in  my hometown of Aguadilla. The municipality already had a design but were not pleased by it and asked me to  improve it
Here's the image that I had to work on.
I usually would not agree to work upon the design of someone else. I respect the artists vision, but I had to make an exception on this one. It was quite evident that the original design presented to me had some serious flaws that needed to be fixed or even replaced all together. Since the building had windows and there were certain limitations like nearby buildings that would obstruct vision I had to take all of these facts in consideration  plus try to preserve the main characters position within the composition. So the first thing I did was draw, draw and draw. Then scan some of my drawings and prepare a preliminary Photoshop montage. Here's how it looked like inicially:

After this I then started to work on my next filter; Creating a poster size preliminary drawing that would serve as my starting point placing all of my characters in place and rethinking the composition without dealing yet with color, just position the on things and the spacial relationships. Here's what came out of it:

Here the elements and characters are much more clear and sent this version first in order make sure it suited the purpose and was approved by the municipal committee. They suggested a few changes and I suggested some more. This is the time to make those changes and make sure everyone is happy with the design before moving on to the next stage: The Painting

Too bad the photograph I took does not make much justice to the work, I must confess I still need some good photography lessons to learn. It came out too dark but there it is. Here's the final design after going through several filters. I think this is the word that should stick out and be learned from this and its the word: Filter. The more you filter ideas, concepts, and even techniques, the better result you will end up with.   Filters come in many forms. A filter can be a gesture drawing or a collage. The more you explore an idea or composition, the more you learn from it and the better you will get at it. Of course I dont normally go on trying to please a client when I paint. I paint for my own pleasure and with my own set of goals and convictions in mind and don't have an assigned committee telling me what to paint and what should I take out or add. But its good to think about having an evaluating committee in order to guarantee good results.  So why don't we imagine one for a moment and imagine that each filter of step of the process is a member. The more filters or steps you add to the process (lets say a Photoshop montage, a drawing, a few other sketches)  the more imaginary members you are adding to your committee. Any work of art in which you have spent a good deal of time in the creative process itself, will bear fruit and the results will talk for themselves. On my next Blog Ill post a picture of my latest painting "Long Live Venus" and explain in detail the techniques I have used for this particular painting.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Christianity, Mythology and The problem with "Passe"

I've been working all day today on a painting which the subject matter is mythological. I have depicted in this painting on center stage Venus, the goddess of passionate love and beauty. I have taken inspiration on several references and models for this painting. I will describe the work in detail and even post a picture of it. But first of all It would be good to explain why I'm so much interested in this mythological figure. Before I developed any interest in religious subject matter in my work, I already had mythological figures in it such as Icarus, the goddess Athena, Ares, and the Sirens among others. What lead me back to this path once more? I guess art as life is cyclic and one always goes back to what feels natural and myth since childhood felt quite natural to me. It has been my main source of inspiration even when I was painting Christian saints, I must confess Ive been thinking about the gods and goddesses. A gallery owner not long ago told me "We dont want mythology in our gallery, it is "passe", meaning out of fashion. I replied inmediatly, "what about religion? isn't that "passe" as well?". "No, that is current" she said. Maybe she is right but then again I can't help but question these assumptions on whats outmoded and whats not. When we refer to religion in any country in Latin America you can be quite sure we are talking about Christianity. If you want to probe this, just visit any bookshop in a country like El Salvador where the section titled religion only offers you Christian books. Christianity is so pervasive that I bet there are more churches than gas stations or as many as shops. Actually many are both churches and shops and sometimes I can't even tell the difference. They are simply everywhere. Now tell me that Christianity has no resemblance to consumerism. On top of that it has been around for nearly 2000 years and you tell me its not passe? Classical mythology had a very brief revival in the Renaissance and trough the nineteenth-century. After the impressionists and post impressionists, painting became more about paint rather than about history, religion or mythology. This to my understanding is what got us to where we are today. In a place and time where we don't even know whats what with so much intellectual BS. I say classical mythology  is calling for a serious revival and as an artist I shall heed that call. And no its not passe.

Perseus rescuing Andromeda By Paolo Veronese

Of course if you judge art by being outmoded or "In" fashion then you will not see favorably anything that resembles classical art. If you are too preoccupied by current trends the art world today you might not even see the value and transcendence in a great work of art done by a master no matter of what era. See, someone like Titian, Michelangelo or Raphael were not trying to keep up with trends, instead they looked back in time and rescued that which what they thought had significant value and should be kept alive in their own time and culture. Many people blinded by novelty and their own definition of "originality" seem to miss a very important aspect behind a great work of art. This aspect is Transcendence. By this I mean an aspiration and achievement to go beyond one one's time and culture and boundaries. Some call it to be ahead of time. I see it as being back in time. Either way it goes beyond our temporal limitations. Any work of art that is remembered trough the ages transcends time. Fame overcomes death and this immortalizes the artist  and his models. This is also considered a Classic, having lasting significance or worth,  . Think about the Victory of Samotrace of the Pyramids of Giza they have endured through the ages and this makes them great. Ok, don't get me wrong here because it is not my intention to say that contemporary art cannot be great. Of course it can! But it has to remember who his parents and great grandparents were stop behaving  and amnesiac childish. In order to do this it really has to go beyond trends, beyond "passe". Perhaps by taking a closer look at Christianity and Contemporary Art one can discover some surprising similarities. Both are relatively new, both are dogmatic in their views. They become systematic, predictable and pretend to be the only choice and the only way to salvation. And they really believe to be the only path and brainwash people into believing their doctrines. They convert millions and disregard any stories that might look very much like their own and  came before them as works of the devil. Think about it, Im sure you will find even more similarities.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Relfections on the Golden Age

Its been raining a lot lately in El Salvador. At this moment Im still working on my next project that will be part the exhibition I have scheduled for my next exhibition in, Puerto Rico, 2010. I already thought of the title for it. EraDorada. (Golden Age)

The work has evolved over this short period of time. Now Im more inspired in Classical culture and mythology but still keeping some of the Christian imagery and symbols. Since I have been drawn more and more into mythology and to the past I thought about an interesting and deep concept that Christianity might share with Paganism and one that calls my attention is the belief in a Golden Age. In Christianity it is the Garden of Eden. In Ancient Greece and Rome it was referred to the Peaceful Age of Saturn of Cronus, where the god reigned and there were no hardships suffering or war for humanity. It is was in a true sense, long ago distant Utopia.  My work is very retro and nostalgic of the past and I notice that many of the European painters from the Renaissance to the nineteenth century shared this feeling for antiquity. From technique to subject matter I identify myself with Classicism and its long artistic tradition. I see there is still too much to be learned from it.

 The Golden Age by Lucas Cranach the Elder

My work has also dealt with the current issue of consumerism. Given our current global economic crisis (funny I still see many people shopping) I see even more reason to reflect on the past and how we got to this point. In my work I got to a point of exhaustion where I was sick of painting consumer products and advertisements in the hands of Christian saints. After a while it becomes pointless even though there is much argument to see direct and indirect relations between religion and commerce. In fact my M.F.A. thesis was all based on these solid arguments which I could take my time and discuss in detail in another blog entry. But today I feel things have changed a bit. Or at least from my point of view and personal experience. Our system is in decay and our values have lost their meaning. After watching the news and hearing people talk about the current situation one gets a very dark and pessimistic picture of the world. it makes me wonder if we are still living in the "Dark Ages". What do we need to get out of it if we are? All of this has inspired my work. There is much to learn from the world and its people and there is much to learn from history and ancient civilizations. I would love to learn and talk more about these things as I believe they become even more relevant in todays global culture.

"Old Mcdonalds"

The belief in a Golden Age is present in many more cultures, not only ancient Greece and Rome. Many of these cultures also believe time is Cyclic and that the Golden Age will return. When I see the decadence of Contemporary Art I like to think of a New Renaissance that might come in the future. I dream of a new art that does not feed itself on drugs, urban artificiality and plastic, ephemeral shock value mentality. This art could be an art that cures the moral and spiritual illnesses of our time. I share this vision of art with artist Alex Grey and author Alejandro Jodorowsky. By providing a connection with the distant past, with nature and the original source of all, I hope to get closer to that which is meaningful and transcendental in art. I hope  to create a bridge that leads us back to the original source of nature and humanity.

In Arcadia by Friedrich August Von Kaulbach

Antoni Gaudi  once said: " Originality consists in returning to the origin" I could not agree more on this notion of originality. In my next blogs I hope to explore the deeper meanings of the concept of the Golden Age and its relevance and meaning to our society today. Hope some of you share this exploration with me. I will be blogging frecuently.