Daily Rituals for Creatives

7 Oct

picture of book "Daily Rituals"

I found this book to be very interesting.  It was published in 2013, so it’s widely available, and I did manage to borrow a copy from the local library.  You should be able to locate a copy easily.

The editor, Mason Currey put together detailed information on the daily habits and rituals of writers, painters, philosophers, and scientists.  It’s in a short format and easy to read.  It’s interesting that there are so many different types of personalities and creative routines and habits.  Some love it noisy, busy and loud while others are near reclusive.  Some creatives find morning work preferable, others late into the evenings.  Regardless of their environment or hours, the common thread is that they make time for the creating.

This book reminds me that habits can be a key to productivity and a work routine actually provides freedom.  There is no hard and fast rule on HOW to be creative, so it’s really up to each individual creative person to figure out what works best for themselves.

This book stirred me to think about what habits and rituals I have that are helpful or not, and what I can change.  I’d love to hear if others have thought about their own rituals?

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Painting Breakthrough

27 Sep
Pine Trees 1955 Watercolor and ink on paper by William Thon. Credit Smithsonian Institution.https://americanart.si.edu/artist/william-thon-4798

Ever so slowly, I’ve been reading through a pile of very old art books.  After thumbing through a watercolor book from the late 60s I came across a black and white picture of a watercolor painting by William Thon.  The black and white picture was incredibly blotchy and did his painting no justice.  So, of course, I had to look him up on the web.

I was intrigued to find that William Thon was born in New York City in 1906.  That must have been an interesting time to grow up in New York City – it was the city’s progressive era where many of its iconic buildings were being constructed and the population was growing by leaps and bounds.

Thon quit school at 16 years old to work as a bricklayer’s assistant.  He bought paint and brushes with his first pay!  He served in the Navy during WWII and after the war won a fellowship and grant to the American Academy in Rome.  Prior to the Academy, he had no formal art training except 30 days at the Art Students League.  Once he began at the American Academy in Rome he discovered watercolor and began to paint in a loosened style.  His work continued to become more abstract and emotion filled.

His big artistic break through happened while he was painting scraggly trees and granite rocks inspired by the quarry near his home in Maine.  It turned out to be an abstract based in Nature. 

Thon had been painting in oil on canvas prior to his time at the American Academy and his subject often had been based on the sea, ships, sailing, etc.  This was a big change for him.  I couldn’t find much else written about him unfortunately, but if I could I would want to find out what or whom inspired him at the Academy to try watercolor.  It seems there might be more to this story but I may never know.  I’m glad to have found the few paintings online.

Have you ever been so inspired by someone or something that it drove you to create something completely new?  Did you feel like you were out of your comfort zone?  I’d love to hear your story.

Sunset at Cordoba 1956 watercolor, pen and ink, brush and ink on paper by William Thon. Credit: Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.  The painting also is not on display but you can view it online here: https://whitney.org/collection/works/2859

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Collage History

8 Sep

The earliest records report  Japanese artists, from over 800 years ago, may have been the first people to paste descriptive poetry onto paper backgrounds.  Over time collage has appeared on valentines, all kinds of backgrounds, on furniture and lampshades and more.  It really wasn’t until 1912 that collage appeared in the fine arts world with Picasso and George Braque who used collage to embellish their canvases.

Many French cubists and Italian Futurists experimented with collage, expanding its popularity.  The surrealists began combining realistic visual images with collage in unnatural combinations to express their dream-like ideas.

In 1960 Elmers (Elmers & Willhold at the time) invented the polymer emulsion glues which vastly improved this new medium.  The photocopier was another invention that greatly improved this medium.

Assemblage, which is the art of gluing three dimensional objects to the canvas, was a new interesting direction that emerged from collage art.  Technology made it possible for artists to include lights and sound with the addition of electricity.  Some artists produced kinetic art (moving sculpture).

De’collage was a process where a glue piece was torn off giving the old and aged look to an art piece.  Other techniques included stencils, transfers, collagraph( a low relief print of collaged paper) and photo montage.

Artists continue to develop new collage techniques even today. 

Have you used collage in your art?  What is your favorite collage process?

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3. The Third Wife, mixed media (includes collage & assemblage) by Katie Turner

Inspiration from Anselm Kiefer

20 Aug

Anselm Kiefer (b.1945) is a German painter and sculptor who is known for his confrontational art.  He has lived and worked in France since 1992.  Much of Kiefer’s artwork is inspired by Paul Celan (b.1920 d.1970) who was a Romanian Poet originally born Paul Antschel to a Jewish family.  He was a major German language poet from the post WWII era.  His parents died in Nazi labor camps and he spent 18 months in one before escaping.

Reading the book “Anselm Kiefer/Paul Celan: Myth, Mourning & Memory” by Andrea Lauterwein (Publisher Thames & Hudson) I learned how Paul Celan’s poetry is so incredibly influential in Anselm Kiefer’s work.  Sometimes Kiefer will use a word or fragment or theme from Celan’s poetry as his title. Other times Kiefer will write the text itself on his canvas.  Often, Kiefer translates the concepts using straw, ashes, sand and hair on his canvases.

Anselm Kiefer’s works feel like a visual memory – a shimmery unsettling poetic image.  Prior to 1980’s Kiefer’s work was concerned with German origins – the history of the Jews, consequences of Nazism, using German codes of identification and the viewpoint of the generation of executions.  Kiefer undertook the difficult task of decoding different ideas.  His art often references German national iconography which has been poisoned by historical events.

After the 1980s Kiefer’s work turned to focus more on Paul Celan’s poetry, moving from political to poetical – yet the poems he references in his work are still full of historical context.

Paul Celan’s  poetry allowed Anselm Kiefer to escape the cycle of fascination and disgust of the Third Reich – moving to confront memories of Holocaust, Kabbalah and traditions.  Kiefer’s art examines the myths of German identity and Jewish Identity putting them in opposition yet pointing out their interdependence and reciprocity.

Kiefer’s art takes the position of confronting the German viewer with their own history during a time when many wanted to forget.  The art world in Germany after the war had substituted Western art for German art but Kiefer denounced contemporary artistic trends.  He felt that importing formal art design was reformulating German history whereas cultural individuality was vital.  He didn’t want art to purge every hint of tragedy but to allow complexity and restoration through his compositions.

“My thought is vertical and one of its planes was fascism. But I see all its layers.  In my paintings I tell stories in order to show what lies behind history.  I make a hole and I go through.”  Kiefer explains.

Your Ashen Hair Shulamith, 1981, Watercolor, gouache & charcoal on paper 18″x22″ Anselm Kiefer

Anselm Kiefer’s conviction was that German maimed itself and its civilization by destroying its Jewish members.  He doesn’t regularly include the human figure in his works – only occasionally.  Some of his pieces that include figures are symbolic of those who died in the concentration camps with the painting showing properties of destruction.  There are also clear elements of these pieces that represent a hope that is part of the soul.

Kiefer creates spontaneously and uses all kinds of unusual materials in his art which has created issues with stability – a concern that is shared by collectors, dealers and curators.  He acknowledges the issue but explains that change, transformation and deterioration is part of the process and the art pieces essence will stay the same.  He likes the properties of lead and metals, heating and melting them in his process.  He also is fond of oxidation of white on lead and tries to create artificial oxidation using acid.  He has used straw in his work and explains that the color gives off energy, heat and warmth when it’s burned.

Nuremberg 1982 Acrylic emulsion & straw on canvas. 110 1/2″x149 5/8″ Anselm Kiefer

It’s recorded that Christie’s auction house set a worldwide record in 2011 of $3.6 million for Kiefer’s piece “To the Unknown Painter” to a private American collector.

If you’d like to read more about Anselm Kiefer and view some of his art at the MET: https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/kief/hd_kief.htm

His art is in many more museums and galleries. Links:

 Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin; the Museum of Modern Art and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit; the Tate Modern, London; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto; the North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh; the High Museum of Art, Atlanta; the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo; the Philadelphia Museum of Art; the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra; the Tel Aviv Museum of Art; and the Albertina, Vienna. The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York owns 20 of the artist’s rare watercolors. Notable private collectors include Eli Broad and Andrew J. Hall.[53]

“Anselm Kiefer/Paul Celan: Myth, Mourning & Memory” by Andrea Lauterwein

Poet Paul Celan

Kandinsky Abstraction

14 Jul
colorful abstract art
My Version of Kandinsky’s Improvisation 26, Watercolor & Watercolor crayon by Katie Turner

Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944) a Russian painter and art theorist was one of the first artists to move into non-objective painting.  He based his content on emotions and used his materials to trigger like-minded response from those viewing it.

He took what once had been material subjects for a painting, such as a motif from nature or, as the Impressionists did, painting a perception and moved on to painting the absence of object, subject or representation.  Kandinsky focused primarily on spiritual reality he termed “pure painting”.  His art is non-objective abstract art that conveys universal emotion or ideas.  He felt it his mission to share this ideal with the world for the betterment of society.

As a spiritual, intuitive creator he experimented and investigated all the tools, finally coming to a whole new form of abstract art. 

After reading several books about Kandinsky and learning about his development, I zeroed in on his theoretical writing concerning the spiritual side of art.  In my own simple understanding, he defines three types of painting: impressions, improvisations and compositions.  He compares the spiritual world to a pyramid with the artist having the responsibility to lead others to the top through their art.  The theories are very interesting and go into the physical and spiritual effects of colors which I found fascinating.  Of course there were others who had written about color theory, such as Johann Goethe who wrote “Theory of Colors” in 1810.  I read there also was a possibility that Kandinsky had some form of autism that might have contributed to his artistic abilities.

Although I wasn’t impressed with his personal life choices, I did admire his dedication to his art and his exploration of theories.  An updated version of his book is available if not at your local library, then on www.bookdepository.com.  In fact, they have many different books covering Kandinsky at reasonable prices and they even carry stickers and cards with Kandinsky art.

There are many online resources if you’re interested in reading about Kandinsky here:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wassily_Kandinsky

https://www.theartstory.org/artist/kandinsky-wassily/

https://www.wassilykandinsky.net/painting1896-1944.php

https://www.wikiart.org/en/wassily-kandinsky

https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/488319

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“Vasily Kandinsky” by Thomas M. Messer, 1997 Harry N. Abrams, Inc. Publishers, NY

“Kandinsky: The Journey to Abstraction”, 2007 Taschen, CA

“Kandinsky: The Path to Abstraction”, 2006 Tate Publishing, London

Mary Cassatt: Onward

3 Jun
My watercolor version of “Lilacs in a Window” 1889 Oil by Mary Cassatt.

Reading on in my book “Cassatt” by Jay Roudebush (1979 Bonfini Press Corp., Switzerland) I was surprised to read that Mary Cassatt didn’t have her first solo show until age 46.  The solo show (1891) was at the Durand-Ruel which had several galleries within.  She had worked long and hard to prove herself and considered herself equal to her male contemporaries.  She felt gender was irrelevant when it came to art. Unfortunately, a group of artists (many of whom had exhibited with her in the past) formed an organization “Society of French Painters and Engravers”.

Their organization, which still exists today, only allowed French artists, thus excluding both her and Pissarro.  While they had their group show in the large gallery of the Durand-Ruel, Pissarro was in one of the smaller galleries and Cassatt in the other.  Pissarro wrote to his son before the exhibition opened saying “We open Saturday, the same day as the patriots, who, between the two of us, are going to be furious when they discover right next to their exhibition a show of rare and exquisite works.”*

Cassatt’s exhibit of four paintings and ten color prints received praise and a subsequent exhibit in New York.  Soon she was offered a commission to create a mural for the 1893 Chicago World Fair.  It was a project larger than anything she had ever done.  She created a magnificent work with a wide ornamental border all around and divided the composition into three panels.  The panels were labeled: Young Women Picking the Fruits of Knowledge and Science, Young Girls Pursuing Fame and Music and Dance.

Unfortunately the mural was hung 40 feet off the ground which was nearly impossible to see.  Even more disappointingly was the news that at the close of the Fair, the murals were either lost or destroyed and to this day there in no trace of them.

Cassatt never again attempted mural work but she did start painting larger paintings.  In 1893 she held another solo show with 98 works at Durand-Ruel’s Paris galleries and found a lot more success in France than America.  In 1895 Durand-Ruel opened a New York gallery and she had her first solo show in America.  The response was disappointing.

After some time, Cassatt decided to focus her energies on helping her friend Louisine Havermeyer and her husband build a family art collection.  They traveled together through Italy and Spain collecting bargain art that included Goya, El Greco and Titian.  Many are on display at the MET.

Mary Cassatt continued painting but after her mother died she decreased in output.  Her reputation in America continued to grow and she was awarded some prizes which she rejected.  Cassatt declined awards on principle, which all who joined the Independents (Impressionists) had agreed: no jury, no medals and no awards.

Cassatt’s story has many analogies for artists (and all creatives) today.  She was focused and determined to create her art as well as sharing art with the world through great collections.  I find it a positive story in many ways.  Do you have a favorite artist or writer that is a good example for you?  I’d love to hear from others.

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 *Pissarro, C., Letters to his Son Lucien, John Rewald, p 158

Mary Cassatt: Favorite Mediums and Subjects

19 May
My watercolor version of Mary Cassatt’s Oil painting “Young Woman Sewing in a Garden” from 1886

By the late 1870s Cassatt was producing a body of work that was far from the Salon conventions.  She was using strong brushwork and color in the Impressionist style and selecting a familiar theme of young women or children in relaxed or quiet poses.  She had a passion for structure in her compositions.

Cassatt, like Degas, enjoyed the freedom of pastel, creating a number of works.  The two artists began experimenting with layers, steam, turpentine and fixative to keep their layers pure rather than chalky.

In 1880 the Impressionists were planning to publish a journal of original prints called “Le Jour et La Nuit”.

Cassatt spent time working on engravings which she hadn’t done since her studies in Parma ten years earlier.  Unfortunately funding ran dry and the journal was never published but the preparation had pushed Cassatt to once again delve into intaglio printmaking.

Mary Cassatt chose women and children as her primary subject for her work.  What is your favorite subject?

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 “Cassatt” Jay Roudebush, Crown Trade Paperbacks, NY 1979

Mary Cassatt: The Degas Friendship (VI)

16 Apr

My watercolor version of Mary Cassatt’s “The Cup of Tea”

Degas and Mary Cassatt had an interesting friendship.  He could be extremely condescending at times, particularly to women.

I read (book: “Cassatt” by Jay Roudebush, Crown Trade Paperbacks, NY 1979) about a time when Degas and Cassatt were checking out a painting by a mutual friend. Cassatt told Degas she felt it had no style.  Degas laughed at her and shrugged his shoulders as if to imply that women know nothing of art or style, how could Cassatt even have an opinion on art!?

After that stinging gesture by Degas, she decided to teach Degas a lesson.  She found the ugliest model she could find – a vulgar looking servant, placed her in a pose wearing a shift next to a dressing table.  She had the model pose as if preparing to retire with a stupid expression.  Then she painted a beautifully harmonized painting with a strong composition.

When Degas saw the painting “Girl arranging her Hair” he exclaimed “What a drawing!  What style!” and promptly bought it for himself.  He kept it until his death in 1917.

Despite this story, Degas still would make remarks but did recognize Cassatt’s abilities and dedication to her art.

Have you ever held back stating your own opinion? Or experienced someone doubting your abilities?  Maybe you’ve doubted your own abilities and then surprised yourself?

“The Cup of Tea”

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Stone Canoe: Hot Off the Press

1 Apr
“Rising Trail” watercolor by Katie Turner appears on page 144 in the latest edition of the “Stone Canoe”.

I am thrilled that one of my paintings was included in the “Stone Canoe” Issue #15. The “Stone Canoe” is a journal of arts, literature and social commentary published by the YMCA Downtown Writers Center in Syracuse, NY. It showcases the work of established and emerging artists and writers with ties to upstate New York. It promotes greater awareness of the cultural and intellectual richness of the extended upstate community.

If you are interested in submitting your writing or art for the next edition be sure to check out the rules and deadlines here.

To purchase your own copy ($18) *Issue #15 will be up shortly* Click here.

Now I will relax with a cup of joe and enjoy reading through my copy!

Mary Cassatt: What Influences an Artist’s Work? (Part 5)

31 Mar
My watercolor rendition of “Poppies in a Field” Oil by Mary Cassatt 1874-1880.

It was only a matter of time before Mary Cassatt met Degas.  She was so inspired by his work that she encouraged other collectors from New York to purchase his art.  Her own art was now incorporating many of the Impressionist styles that lead to her rejection at the Salon.  She realized at that point that she was either going to embrace the new direction the Impressionism was taking her art or return to the old acceptable art she had been doing.  Breaking away from the Salon meant that her art would not be supported – it would be deemed unacceptable by the official art world of that time.  Of course we know which she chose.  And thank goodness, for what a great contribution she had for the art world!

In 1877 Degas visited her studio and officially invited her to join the Independents (as he called the Impressionists – since Degas detested the term “Impressionist” and never applied it to himself).

“I accepted with joy.  Finally I would be able to work with absolute independence and without concern for the eventual judgment of a jury!  I already knew who my masters were.  I admired Manet, Courbet and Degas.  I rejected conventional art.  I began to live…”  Cassett said.1

Cassatt and Degas had an interesting relationship which was fun to read about.  Degas had a reputation for being testy and cynical, easily offending other artists but Mary Cassatt felt she could look beneath the crusty behavior to see the sensitive human being underneath.  She felt he had uncompromising standards and he was honest no matter the cost.  They both had devoted their lives to art and recognized that in each other.

Have you ever considered what influences an artist and their art?  Have you thought about what the conventions of today’s art are or what is acceptable or unacceptable for art?  If you are an artist, how important is it for you to be accepted by a jury or to follow conventions?

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  1.  “Un Peintre Des Enfants Et Des Meres, Mary Cassat” :  Segard, Achille, P. Ollendorff, 1913, p8
  2. “Cassatt” Jay Roudebush, Crown Trade Paperbacks, NY 1979