Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Big Sur

Recognize this?

I think the heat has got to me today! This needs color.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Fowlie's Age of Surrealism

I've had Wallace Fowlie's Age of Surrealism (1950: The Swallow Press and William Morrow) on my shelf for a while, having found it a few years ago at the dump. In it there are some very thought-provoking passages.
The word surrealism . . . has one closed and confining use to describe the artistic movement centering in Paris in the years between the two World Wars, 1919-1939. In the 20's and the 30's, surrealism was an organized movement, iconclastic and revolutionary in nature, with its leaders and disciples, its manifestos and publications, its exhibitions and even its street brawls. It became international during those years to such an extent that fourteen countries were represented in its 1939 exhibition. But surrealism has another meaning, perhaps even an eternal meaning, and a context far wider than that of the Andre Breton group which chronologically succeeded dadaism about 1924. . . The importance and the seriousness of surrealism equal now the seriousness granted the other two contemporary movements of communism and neo-thomism. These three "revolutions" seem to be the most important for an understanding of our modern world, and although they appear to us now of almost equal importance, I shouldn't be surprised that in time surrealism, because of its subtle alliance with communism and the problem of spirituality, will grow into its real stature of the most vital and renovating movement of modern thought and art. [pp. 11-13]
Fowlie then places surrealism "beside the two words 'classicism' and 'romanticism' which for so long have been the cause of controversy and definition in Western art."
The immediate words which come to mind when we think of classicism are order, control, condensation, choice, synthesis, rules. The classical movement is that one when the artist is faithful not only to the rules of his art, established by such an authority as Aristotle, but faithful also to the government of his political state. As an artist he is in accord with the moral, political and aesthetic beliefs of his society. [p. 14]
Romanticism, according to Fowlie, is the opposite of classicism and as such is associated with revolution and liberation.
The classicist is closely bound up with society and the romanticist is the artist quite alone and apart, the individual who is opposed to society and who finds the rules for his art in himself. In its highest sense, romantic art is created by a single artist, as opposed to classical art which is created by a society. [p. 14]
Surrealism follows from romanticism in its belief in the autonomy of the artist, along with his isolation and uniqueness. The surrealists extolled automatism or automatic writing:
. . . as being the legitimate method of the creative artist. To seek in oneself, on all the various levels of consciousness of oneself, the rules and the form of one's art is the romantic method, but it is also the surrealist method. [pp. 14-15]
Fowlie explains that the conscious state of man is not sufficient.
His subconscious contains a larger and especially a more authentic or accurate part of his being. It was found that our conscious speech and our daily actions are usually in contradiction with our true selves and our deeper desires. The neat patterns of human behavior, set forth by the realists. . . were found to be patterns formed by social forces rather than our desires or temperaments or inner psychological selves. This discovery or conviction that we are more sincerely revealed in our dreams and in our purely instinctive actions than in our daily exterior habits of behavior. . . is of course basic to surrealism. . . A new kind of absolute is in sight, which, although it contains a refusal of what we usually call logical intelligence, it is an elevation of the subconscious of man into a position of power and magnitude and (the word now forces itself on us) surreality. [pp 16-17]
There are chapters on various surrealist writers, poets and playwrights (Lautreamont, Rimbaud, Mallarme, Apollinaire, Breton, Cocteau and Eluard, the friend of artist Max Ernst) followed by a chapter on the art of Picasso.

Interesting to note that the volume passed through the hands of two Manchester, New Hampshire booksellers.

Here's a bit on solitude which I found to be particularly interesting:
The word most often used to describe the romantic temperament is individualism. The romantic is generally considered the type of artist who has broken the rules and constraining bonds of an established order. . .But before attaining to this experience of himself, the romantic has had to go through a longer, and I believe, a far more significant experience which is that of solitude--a very particular kind of solitude which results in forming the prevailing temperament of the great modern artists. . . each one had to become a new and unique solitary hero, discovering in his own conscience and his own memory the subject matter of his works. The experience of solitude probably explains more about modern literature and art than any other single experience. In his solitude, which is his inheritance, the modern artist has had to learn that the universe which he is going to write or paint is in himself. . . The romantics held this belief partially and intuitively. The surrealists make it into a creed and a method. [pp. 26 & 29]
And this statement on the intrusiveness of the new media made me wonder how the surrealists of that time would react to television's ubiquitous presence in restaurants and Wal-Marts!
They were tired and disgusted with the literary eloquence and verboseness of the 20th century. Their age had become a verbal nightmare for them. The radio, with its perpetual flow of words, was converting the world into a delirious cacophony. The language of man was being prostituted and degraded as it had never been before. [p. 105]

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Listening to Chomsky

I filled a whole sketchbook page with marker doodles while watching Noam Chomsky: Rebel Without A Pause from Netflix. The nice thing about Chomsky's presentations is you really only need to listen. Noam Chomsky, born in 1928, tops the list of people I admire and I wonder who will step forward and continue his great work when the time comes that he is no longer with us.

Alex Steinweiss Album Cover Art

I just discovered a wonderful graphic designer named Alex Steinweiss who was responsible for the invention of album cover art in the late 1930's. Here's a bit of history from the Alex Steinweiss site:
Before Alex Steinweiss invented the album cover in 1938, at the age of 23, all albums came in plain brown wrappers. Steinweiss's idea to create a package that had something visual on the outside to lure the consumer was a huge success. That simple idea revolutionized the record business and spawned an entire new field of illustration--album cover art--that is now inseparable from the product it announces. Steinweiss's covers are still regarded as icons of the genre. He designed them as miniature posters, with eye-catching graphics, distinctive and vivid colors, and creative, original typography. He was an accomplished illustrator, and he incorporated original artwork into most of his pieces. The Steinweiss style went hand in hand with the golden age of jazz, classical, and popular music.

Follow this link to the Steinweiss covers page which has over 70 examples including the one with a cool collage treasure dot shown above. My first LP was "Rubber Soul" by The Beatles. I miss that large 12x12 format. Today's CD's are too small to do their artwork justice, but I guess that's progress for you.

Taschen has published what looks to be a great book on Steinweiss. There is also a biography, For the Record: The Life and Work of Alex Steinweiss on Amazon.

Monday, May 16, 2011


This one makes me feel happy. I wonder how it would look on a 30x30 canvas. It would look even better on four of them. Then you could switch their directions. That would be fun.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Surrealist Kay Sage

I'm reading Judith D. Suther's biography of the painter Kay Sage titled A House of Her Own: Kay Sage, Solitary Surrealist (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1997.) The author describes how the "surrealist espousal of dream states, the non-rational, and the individual's access to the unconscious held the key to authentic creativity."

There's a nice slide show on YouTube showcasing Sage's work. I find her painting titled "Tomorrow is Never" of the shrouded skyscrapers enclosed by scaffolding (at 1:30) to be very disturbing. Makes me think of a last-ditch and now abandoned effort to escape the killing effects of a chemtrail laden atmosphere.

I guess I never realized how may artists are represented on YouTube. Other women surrealists I found there include: my all-time favorite Remedios Varo, Dorothea Tanning, Ilene Meyer (who is new to me and needs to be explored further), and Leonora Carrington.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Still More Dots

Icon With Le Parc Dots

Here's one from the Archive of Indecision. It's on cradled plywood so I've had it hanging on the wall just by the doorway where I walk into the kitchen, and every time I walked by I felt slightly annoyed because I hadn't solved it yet. So today I took it off the wall and placed it on the library table. Suddenly these dots started jumping on!

The sharp white corners at the top pointing toward her head were bothering me. I knew the purple paint was trouble the moment I started putting it on over two years ago. I think if I get rid of some of the white lines I may be happier.

Now that little red dot on the left is pissing me off. I need to punch out two more small purple ones if I can find more of that paper. . .

I really like the way the pink thai unryu looks over the shadowy areas.

Today's Dot Play

I have a few jars of marking pens, a sketch pad, and my circle templates next to my bed and every night I design a few dots. Today I printed two series: the off-center primaries (above) and the orange and green targets (below) as 3.5 inch dots. Tomorrow I will see what they want to do on 20x20 inch canvas. (Better yet, a 24x24 inch one.)

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Green Grid

This is from the back side of another marker drawing. It's a bit of a departure as the grid itself has been highlighted in green.

In this second example I cut and pasted purple dots, pink dots and green squares from the original drawing. It's interesting to note how the green outline can be totally dropped out using Enhance - Adjust color - Replace color.

Friday, May 6, 2011

In Progress On Grid

Here's a work in progress utilizing some of the marking pen dots shown in a previous post. The grid was created with black acrylic paint and masking tape.

892 Unique Ways: The Movie

I think about grids a lot. I would be lost without some sort of grid to support my dots. Pattern thrives on a grid. So I was excited to learn from The Design Observer Group (via things magazine) that there are 892 unique ways to partition a 3x4 grid into unit rectangles. Hugh Dubberly's article is illustrated by a lovely poster which can be downloaded in .pdf format. And there is also a neat video clip which runs you through all of the possible configurations.

Now if you increase that area to 3x5 I wonder how many more variations would be possible? I'm sure librarians everywhere would like to know.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Moon Dots for Peter

Here's Another One

There is something so satisfying about this process. It's like having unlimited Colorforms. I'd like to have this one on fabric.

Colorforms were invented in 1951 when two art students, Harry and Patricia Kislevitz, began experimenting with flexible vinyl as an alternative to paint. Colorforms were one of the first brands in the toy industry to be advertised ("It's more fun to play the Colorforms way!") on television. I loved the colorful basic shapes set as a child. Didn't you?

Paul Rand (designer of the IBM, UPS and General Electric logos) created the Colorforms logo.

I Can't Stop

Monday, May 2, 2011

Diagonal Marker Cross

Another new discovery: the "magnetic" lasso! Now I can cut and paste shapes with irregular outlines.

This exercise is done with a scan from the reverse side of the previous Marker Cross drawing. I love how the markers bleed through the paper and look like watercolor.

Marker Cross

Amazing tool, that Photoshop lasso. It has freed me from the limitation of the dot shape for cutting and pasting.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

More Marker Dots

These are from scans of the back side of marker drawings, which bled through the sketch book paper. I love the effect. Then I manipulated in photoshop.

Here's another version of the one with the green pin-wheel. It looks like it was painted in watercolor. I figured out how to use the lasso tool to outline one of the white areas behind the four dots. Then I painted the area yellow with the brush. Then I cut and pasted the shape so the white and yellow areas alternated. I re-applied the dots to the yellow areas using cut and paste also. Then I rotated a square area (using the square brush selection tool) in the center to get that ribbon candy shape.