Archive for July 9th, 2014


There’s a lot going on so I am a little short on time.  I thought I would rerun a post from this day four years ago that jibes well with a thought that has been going through my mind lately.  A while back, my friend Linda Leinen (you might recognize her as Shoreacres in the comments section) referred to a Robert Frost line– No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.  I have long contended that one of the most difficult parts of my job is maintaining that sense of excitement for myself in the studio, finding that thing that brings me wonder and surprise.  For me, that normally comes from varying the ways in which I work with the materials that I use in my work.  The materials always seem to hold the key to new surprises, new breakthroughs.  Which brings me to the post below.


Helen Frankenthaler- Savage Breeze

Helen Frankenthaler- Savage Breeze

There are no rules. That is how art is born, how breakthroughs happen. Go against the rules or ignore the rules. That is what invention is about.

–Helen Frankenthaler


I’m using this quote from Helen Frankenthaler, the famed Abstract Expressionist, as a sort of follow-up or addenda to yesterday’s post about change.  I remember reading about Frankenthaler when I was first beginning to really paint with purpose.  In an article that I read but can’t locate now, she spoke of how she came to her trademark stain paintings where very thinned oil paint is applied to unprimed canvas.  She said it was almost by accident that she first experienced the absorbing of the paint by the raw cotton canvas and how that it caused a reaction, a breakthrough, in her thinking about how she wanted to express herself within her work. 

She felt that all artistic breakthroughs were the result of a change in the way one saw and used their materials.  It could entail changing the type of material used or using them in a more unconventional manner, as her above quote stating there are no rules infers.

This immediately clicked with me at the time I read it.  I had been trying to shape my way of thinking to fit the materials I was using at the time.  Unsuccessfully.  What I needed to do was change the materials to fit the way I was thinking.  Allow my thought process more free rein and not cater to the restraints of materials.

That may sound kind of abstract but it allowed me to start working with my paints and grounds in a much different way, forming my own process that worked well for my way of thinking and has become entrenched in my thought process.  Even though it may be outside more traditional forms of using these same materials,this process has over time become as rigid in my use as the techniques used by the most steadfast adherent of the most traditional school of painting.  This is sort of what I was referring to when I mentioned the end of the cycle, as far as art is concerned.  You reach a certain point, a mastery of your materials, where there are few accidents, few surprises in the materials’ reactions and, as a result, fewer surprises in your own reactions. 

For most, this is the goal.  But I want that surprise, that not knowing exactly how the materials will react and that need to solve the problem presented by the need to express with the limitations of the materials used.  So I try to continually tweak, create a little tension in how the materials react to my use of them, to create a sense of surprise.  Breakthrough.

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