Wednesday, April 21, 2010

"Light" the ultimate source of the creative process

For any artist looking to free himself from a creative block, there is one source that many artists have looked at for hundreds of years and produced many famous works of art. The creative source was light. The desire to capture light has inspired almost every painter from the time that people began painting and inspired them to innovate.

Because light is not constant, there are unlimited, unique interpretations of light, from a candlelit still life or portrait in the daylight through an open window, to the stormy skies of a John Constable and William Turner or the evening glow captured by Charles Rollo Peters. Of course, for the most well-known depictions of changing light,...pick any Monet painting you like. The pioneering painters were all inspired by light.

Capturing the light on any subject is the key to most all works of art. When I think about creating new works and I get stuck, I typically go for a walk down to the shoreline. I have found that staring out at the water will quiet my mind and fine tune the creative ideas jumping around in the mind. Staring out over the landscape, I can immediately see how Constable was inspired by approaching storm clouds. The light makes everything beautiful. These memories of looking at landscape paintings and looking directly at the landscape led me to create my own interpretations of light; gave me purpose to create my own messages in art about how I perceived light.

I made an important decision a long time ago, "I would not discount any form of light that makes the subject strong." For a long time, painting light used to mean only one thing to me and that was strong and direct day light. It is simple to fall into this trap when creating new work because we spend most of our time in day light. A few years back, during the winter, we had a power-out. I had lit a few candles and noticed how everything was transforemd by the candlight. The light was simple and warm and had not over powered every surface in the room like traditional modern lighting. It has been a long time that candles have been the main source of light in modern art and I felt inspired to draw in my sketchbook. I managed to complete one drawing of a reclining figure behind a few lit candles on a table in the fore ground with a pot of orchids on it. It was the only time I had worked under candlelight to when drawing. Afterwards, I found the drawing appealing enough to do a small painting titled, "Power Out."

The idea for this painting, Nude with Tealights, started from a simple moment having a drink at a local bar that had several tealights in a row. As I enjoyed my drink, I just stared at the light flashing on the candle, the glass container, the shadow and the reflection. It was the beginning of a new work, ...inspiration at last.

Light is still the main source of my creative inspiration when I am confronted with a block. My exploration of light frees me of these creative blocks; moonlight at midnight, dusk on a cold or hot day, midday light, late evening light, candlelight, lighting by a house lamp, and early morning.

I have used light during different times of the day to express quiet images of landscape or portraiture. As with all artists that have come before me, capturing light in my art is still powerful and thought provoking.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Conversation on creativity w/ Jon Kerpel

Last Friday night, I was went to Autobody Fine Art Gallery on opening night as an artist exhibiting in a group show dedicated to the upcoming Earth Day. Artists participating had a wide range of creative expression in various mediums. I was immediately drawn to the many totem and temple style sculptures that were built from wood, glass, rocks, plastic and found objects. These were assembled to resemble a religious alter on some and a oversized Victorian Finial on others. I was introduced to the artist, Jon Kerpel.

Once I shook his hand, he and I realized we have met before and this was the first time viewing each others' art. Jon took a lot of time with me to explain some of his creative process. He pointed to one of his first pieces that explored this new direction in his sculpture. It was a small, white, wood, 6" square box with an opening on one side covered in non-glare glass, which gave it the look of a shadowbox. But, because the glass had a frosted look, the item inside , a polar bear made of plastic, was hazy and trapped in this artificial world. These constructions abandoned the a typical Joseph Cornell approach of creating found object sculptures of meaningless objects grouped together in an abstract manner. Jon had a well thought out vision and message regarding our disappearing environment, and animals. This added a dimension to his work that may resemble Pop Art and combined it with the rough nature of the found objects used to create these alter/temple structures, and backed it with an environmental message.

Jon went on to tell me that part of his creative process is 'the hunt' for found objects. He likes to walk along the shore of Alameda, and also out at the Alameda Naval Base. He picks up whatever he thinks looks cool without any intent or purpose for artistic placement in a sculpture. He just collects, and then uses these objects as ideas pop into his head during construction. Most of the time he has no idea why he picks up certain items or how he will use them. One example of this: Jon said he had a number of large sheets of non-glare glass in his studio for several years that he could not give away due to the nature of the glass making anything placed behind it very blurry, and rendering it useless for framing artwork. In these new works, Jon said the glass was perfect for the first time, because it did add a certain level of sophistication, and the message of his art can now be interpreted with many different meaningful descriptions.

The creative process for Jon is a lot of trial and error, grouping together non-traditional materials, with little meaning on their own that has a greater message when combined as a whole sculpture. His work relies on immediate creative inspiration from the objects arround him. His inspiration comes from anything,..including items that he can not find any immediate use. His found objects have become his dictionary for communicating to the public.

It was my pleasure to spend as much time as I did with Jon and hope he has continued success.

A summary of my conversation with Jon Kerpel, a found object sculptor, at the new opening of "future/tense" at Autobody Fine Art Gallery. (Friday, April 9, 2010)

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Delivering Artwork to a Gallery

This week I am delivering "White" to the Autobody Fine Art Gallery.

Inspiration for artists comes from all places, and the painting "White" is no exclusion. I had started this painting while I was going through a period of down time, or uninspired images. I had not drawn in my sketchbook for months. I forced myself to just keep painting and printmaking. For subject matter, I choose the iconographic skyline of San Francisco. So,....I just started painting, like any old easel painter would, with no direction, no message, or intent. I simply painted the SF skyline as everyone sees it on every sunny day. The painting sat half finished in my studio for months because I was unable to work on something so unattractive. To use the metaphor, "a lightbulb went off in my head," was kind of an understatement. I travel throughout the bay area and remembered the special moments when fog changes the natural landscape into a beautiful and expressively quiet place. These moments when the landscape changes from its regular, sunny, eye catching view was what stuck with me the most and gave me inspiration. It was only natural that I should choose to paint a landscape in various shades of white and grey. It was like a mathmetician working out a solution to a hard equation. The result was a long process of mixing various shades of white tinted by blues, greens, reds, yellows,..etc. to differentiate the sky, land, and water. Through trial and error, and multiple layers of paint, I managed to complete the picture. The alternating shades of white replicate the dead quiet beauty and calm feeling of cold and fog. This simple process of getting back to what I view as beautiful, even amongst the most mundane of subject matter, transformed this small piece from totally uninspired to actively working on an idea.

"If I am not an artist, who am I?"

"If I am not an artist, who am I?"
Those are the memorable words of William T.Wiley who has become one of the most impressionable artists for my own personal work. His statement is appropriate for every and any artist that confronts a mental block, as in this moment of questioning that we look inside ourselves and define who we are by responding with action.

Saturday, April 3, 2010


Welcome to my blog! 

I'm a painter and printmaker living and working in the San Francisco Bay area. Much of my work reflects my deep connection with the beautiful landscape of my home as it is frequently the subject and inspiration of my work. I also feel very connected to the history of art and artists of Northern California. 

In this blog I will be jotting down my thoughts as I progress through my creative process. Also, visit my web site