Something to Think About Regarding the “Art World”

I found a conversation online that, in some ways, echoes some of the conversations some of my artist friends have been having on Google+ for quite awhile, though at a level perhaps a bit beyond the dreams some of us have. Still, the blog post, and some of the comments below it make for some interesting reading.

“The status quo in the art business simply cannot persist much longer”

The above is a quote from Ed Winkleman in a recent-ish post on his blog. He then goes on to quote Benjamin Genocchio:

““I have this gnawing feeling that the time is ripe to make something new and exciting happen in the art world. I’m not exactly sure what that is, but I’m convinced that fairs, galleries, auction houses, even museums are changing the way they do business and that the art world we know now will be almost unrecognizable in 20 years’ time.””

And then Winkleman adds:

“In my humble opinion, the most important appraisers of any artwork are other artists, because its potential influence (or not) on them will play a role in the future of art history. The dialog among artists reigns supreme among my interests in the art world. Nothing else comes close to being as exhilarating or eye opening. So it’s upsetting to hear that “sterile” is the word often used to describe what these artists report seeing in the galleries.”

I don’t have much to add, other than that I found the entire post and most of the comments quite intriguing and well worth a read.

Read the whole blog post of Ed’s on his blog.

What Does Paint Do?

Alan Gouk Laughing Torso, 2010-11 oil on canvas, 71 x 112 cm

I’m really enjoying the essays of Robin Greenwood.  This one awakened something in my brain that I think has been asleep since art school!  Not sure if I agree with it all, but it’s exciting (to me) to contemplate these thoughts, as well as the rest of the essay and subsequent comments.

“What’s missing from this, what makes it a defective raison-d’être of painting, is the recognition that paint can carry more potency and meaning through its use as a designator and articulator of form and space than it can by any literal demonstration of its real-world properties. To suggest that the literal ‘materiality’ of paint – or indeed the process of applying it as a performance – is truer to painting than the fullest, richest fulfilment of its potential as an illusionistic medium is to belittle and falsify it. Such a philosophy of painting (for such it is) exhibits a failure to recognise that the meaning in abstract art is not what it is, but what it does. Herein is both enigma and illusion, since what abstract art precisely does cannot be easily described verbally (if at all, and there would be little point to it if it were otherwise), and all painting contains illusion; all good painting contains a convincing matrix of illusion. Every mark on a two-dimensional surface creates an illusionistic (re)presentation of space. With figurative painting, no problem; but how do we reconcile illusion with being abstract?”

Read the whole essay at Abstract/Critical.

My Ten Most Influential Works of Art

Earlier today on Google+, a friend posted Ten works of art that changed his life and asked others for their top ten.  They had to be works you’ve seen in person, not online or in a book.

Well, even though I knew I wanted to be a painter like the instant I was born, I never got to see any real art in person until I was in my early 20’s.  Now I find it very hard to pick only 10 from all the art I’ve seen since, AND to limit it to in-person experiences.  Anyway, these are the ten I picked this morning; this evening, I might have chosen differently.  🙂

In no particular order:

Cezanne, Basket of Apples (and more) — getting a handle of the idea of introducing time and motion into painting way back when.

1. Cezanne, Basket of Apples (and more) — We studied this painting (and others Cezannes) extensively when I was in art school, studying “The Figure in Space:” notice how the back of the table edge, and other parts, don’t line up across the painting?  According to my teacher, this was Cezanne’s way of introducing time and motion into painting, so early on.  He would move around the room to paint the still life from different viewpoints.

Rothko Chapel, Houston
Rothko, Rothko Chapel in Houston — so many shades of black, something that could be so oppressive. I found it very spiritual and deeply moving.

2.  Rothko, Rothko Chapel in Houston — my 1st trip to Houston, during my first art classes in Austin, late ’80s.  So many shades of black, something that could be so oppressive.  I found it very spiritual and deeply moving.  I still get stuck in front of Rothko paintings.  I am drawn in.

Hans Hofmann - Elysium
Hans Hoffman, Elysium (and the better one at AIC) — learning how to use color to push something back or pull it forward.

3.  Hans Hofmann, Elysium — walking around the Michener Collection at UT Austin way before the Blanton Museum existed, with amazing painter Melissa Miller; she explained how Hofmann used color to push something back or pull it forward.

de Kooning, Excavation
de Kooning, Excavation — more push-pull with thick paint and fascinating color.

4.  de Kooning, Excavation — The AbEx room at the Art Institute of Chicago was my sanctuary when I needed a break from painting or some inspiration.  Pollock’s “Greyed Rainbow,” a Rothko or two, a Clyfford Still (love the jaggies), and more Hans Hofmann paintings, but this was my favorite.  I was trying to learn to paint abstractly, and use more paint, bigger brushes!  The thickness of this paint, the colors that peeked through from underneath another brushstroke — all that push-pull of thick paint and fascinating color.

Wayne Thiebaud
Wayne Thiebaud — Lovely color and paint, but even more intriguing perspective.

5.  Wayne Thiebaud — Got to see a whole exhibition at the old Modern Art Museum in Fort Worth in 2000 — while I really love the yummy, yummy thick paint and gorgeous color in his pies and cakes and such, I was really blown away by the perspective he used in his landscapes.

David Hockney, A Walk Around the Hotel Courtyard, Acatlan
David Hockney, A Walk Around the Hotel Courtyard, Acatlan — pushing Cezanne perspective even further.

6.  David Hockney, A Walk Around the Hotel Courtyard, Acatlan — During art school in 1992, some of my fellow art students and I trudged many blocks through the snow one lunch period to visit a gallery showing recent works by David Hockney.  This was my favorite — taking Cezanne perspective to a new level.

Matthew Ritchie - The Slow Tide
Matthew Ritchie, The Slow Tide — 3D imagist abstraction in paintings that spill off the canvas, onto the museum walls, floors, and ceiling.

7.  Matthew Ritchie, The Slow Tide, et al — 2 things: a painting that goes beyond the canvas and onto the museum walls, floors, and ceiling; and 3D imagist abstraction, which was kind of new to me in 2001.  I like others of his works better, but this experience at the Dallas Museum of Art kind of blew my mind.

Marcel Duchamp, The Passage from Virgin to Bride
Marcel Duchamp, The Passage from Virgin to Bride – wonderful muted palette, great motion and shapes.

8.  Marcel Duchamp,  The Passage from Virgin to Bride — I have no words for how much I love this and the other paintings like it: the palette, the breaking up of the image…Not sure where and when I saw this one; I think “The King and Queen Surrounded by Swift Nudes” might have been on display in the same show?

Kandinsky - Sketch for Composition II
Kandinsky – Sketch for Composition II — glorious yellow!

9.  Kandinsky, all the yellow abstract paintings — what glorious color!  I loved the ones on display at AIC, while I was a student next door.  Then we saw a bunch more wonderful Kandinskys at the Guggenheim, NY, 2003.  If Van Gogh’s yellows didn’t make me fall in love with that glorious color than Kandinsky’s did (but it’s a tough call).  🙂

Lee Bontecou, Untitled, 1960-2
Lee Bontecou, Untitled, 1960 — sculptural canvas and wire construction that just fascinates me.

10. Lee Bontecou, Untitled, 1960 — This was the sculptural canvas and steel art protruding from the wall in the Art Institute of Chicago (early ’90’s) that just drew me in and kept me there.  And if you know me, you’ll know I’ve even recently begun a series based on this and other works by Bontecou.  Woo-hoo!

Those are mine; what are yours?

I’m Drawing, I’m Drawing Again

Drawing Media

I sure do love to draw!  There’s something about the act of drawing that’s so immediate, intentional and strong.  My urge to draw has been just huge for the past couple of years, and I’ve mostly satisfied it through sketching, or drawing with water soluble pastels or water soluble pencils which I then brush with water to make little painting-sketches.  Lately, though, I’ve been finding ways to introduce drawing into my painting process (again).

Today I’m starting a new painting which I began by drawing in some basic shapes with pastel, then adding a bit of oil medium, then some thin paint; now I’m working some oil pastel and oil sticks into the mix.  It seems to be going fast, though my plan is for many layers, hopefully creating a glorious texture, surface and image in the process.

No pictures of the work today; I will post some of today’s painting if and when it evolves into something I am proud of.

In the meantime, enjoy your holiday weekend; I am (doing my favorite thing—drawing and painting).

Transformations: The Struggle to Create

"Vortex" Encaustic and Wood on Panel 12" x 12" © 2010 Marilyn Fenn
“Vortex” Encaustic and Wood on Panel 12″ x 12″ © 2010 Marilyn Fenn

Creativity is about play and a kind of willingness to go with your intuition. It’s crucial to an artist. If you know where you are going and what you are going to do, why do it? — Frank Gehry

This is a very comforting quote for me.  When I paint, I frequently have only a very vague idea or sometimes — no idea at all — of what I am searching for in the new work.  I start somewhere, and often, the finished piece is so far away from where it started, it’s unrecognizable.  One of my favorite things about working this way is that I discover things — such as shapes and images — that I just couldn’t invent.

Continue reading “Transformations: The Struggle to Create”

Ten Rules of Thumb for Maintaining Creativity

Wendell Castle Music Stand (1964) Oak, Brazilion Rosewood 55.5" x 25" x 20"
Wendell Castle Music Stand (1964) Oak, Brazilion Rosewood 55.5″ x 25″ x 20″

I just discovered this great blog post about an artist/craftsman named Wendell Castle at Emily Evans Eerdmans’ blog.  Wendell Castle has been creating amazing furniture for over 50 years.  He has ten “Adopted Rules of Thumb” for staying at the top of one’s creative game that I find very compelling:

  1. If you are in love with an idea, you are no judge of its beauty or value.
  2. It is difficult to see the whole picture when you are inside the frame.
  3. After learning the tricks of the trade, don’t think you know the trade.
  4. We hear and apprehend what we already know.
  5. The dog that stays on the porch will find no bones.
  6. Never state a problem to yourself in the same terms it was brought to you.
  7. If it’s offbeat or surprising, it’s probably useful.
  8. If you don’t expect the unexpected, you will not find it.
  9. Don’t get too serious.
  10. If you hit the bullseye every time, the target is too near.

To find out more about Wendell Castle, and view more of his amazing creations, visit his website at

How Much Do You Plan Your Paintings?

"Hex" Oil on Canvas 16" x 12" © 2009 Marilyn Fenn
“Hex” Oil on Canvas 16″ x 12″ © 2009 Marilyn Fenn

I recently read an article by a representational painter on another blog, in which the writer said that one should very carefully and thoroughly plan one’s paintings.  My first thought was, “No waaaaay!”  That would take all the fun out the process of discovery that, for me at least, is a great deal of what painting is about.  Feeling a little smug, I thought of the following much-loved quote:

You are lost the instant you know what the result will be. – Juan Gris

Continue reading “How Much Do You Plan Your Paintings?”

The Challenge of Becoming a Non-Representational Painter

"State of Mind" Oil on Canvas 16" x 12" © 2009 Marilyn Fenn (work in progress)
“State of Mind” Oil on Canvas 16″ x 12″ © 2009 Marilyn Fenn (work in progress)

Vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others. – Jonathan Swift

Abstraction is real, probably more real than nature. – Josef Albers

I am getting very excited about my upcoming solo show. I’m painting like mad, and I’m beginning to be very happy with some of the results. I think I may just have a future in this wonderful world of painting!

Continue reading “The Challenge of Becoming a Non-Representational Painter”

Studio Space – Does it Matter?

Studio - Office
The David Hockney version of my studio/office in a cleaned up, but still half-painted, state.  (view larger image here.)

I love seeing other artists’ spaces, and got just such an opportunity when Farrell Brickhouse posted pics of his friends’ palettes on Facebook a while back.  They have now been reposted on Sharon L. Butler’s blog, Two Coats of Paint, so you can see them, too.

I’d love to have so much space.  Last weekend at the encaustic workshop at Majestic Ranch, I got to work in a large, airy well-lit studio, on a large table with plenty of space for all my tools, palette, painting panels, and miscellaneous extras.  It really helped my workflow.

Continue reading “Studio Space – Does it Matter?”

Color is the Thing for Me

"ZOUNDS!!!" Oil on canvas 6" x 6" © 2009 Marilyn Fenn
“ZOUNDS!!!” Oil on canvas 6″ x 6″ © 2009 Marilyn Fenn

I am getting very excited about my upcoming solo show.  I’m painting like a madman, and I’m beginning to be very happy with some of the results.

When I made arrangements months ago to do this show, I had no fear about showing my work, as I had just come off of a long period of intense and successful creation, and was (and still am) very happy with the work I had created.

But I was ready to move on to the next thing creatively, though I wasn’t sure what it was.

So I began this year by doing lots of tiny sketches and many small paintings, searching for a satisfying direction.  I attempted a few larger paintings, but they went awry.  At a workshop, I created some new work in encaustic, though in the end I wasn’t happy with most of them.  To date, I have completed about 70 pieces this year — which is a lot for me — though most of them are sketches and small paintings.

Then, finally, the realization that color is the “thing” for me, and as long as I’m true to that, I’m happy, and my work succeeds.  The other issues – the other elements that go into an abstract painting (shape, form, surface quality, etc.) I continue to think about and work on as well.