Placing a Hand in the Path of Ants

Someone once showed me how ants will organize themselves in a line and follow their path between two points.  Block the path of ants in some way and they will scramble around and reorganize themselves between the same two points, but the path will be different. Stasis, stability, calm, order, cohesion, whole.  A disruption occurs, and the stasis and cohesion break apart, shifts, and reassembles itself. 

I think creativity lives on that edge of breaking continuity.  In a way, that break in continuity, is a definition of creativity.  After all, it becomes necessary to leave the proverbial “box” to think outside of it.  A teacher I had in college said to me, it is ridiculous, as an artist, that you can just sit down and think, “Today I will create a masterpiece! That just does not happen.”, he continued. 

Mapping out the Noodles

Some years ago, the musician Prince was noodling around with a piano while a tape machine was recording.  His estate recently shared some of that recording where one can hear him stumble upon the prosaic sketches that would eventually become his iconic creative work, Purple Rain.  I can imagine Beethoven working out his fifth symphony. Was it a playful joke at first that eventually had meaning?

Disconnect Two, 2020; Oil sketch over existing painting on canvas; 12″x9″; by Curtis Green

I’ll Have the Cubist Salad

Pablo Picasso did not sit down after lunch one day and start laying out a body of work that he called cubism.  He and his studio mate and friend, George Braque tooled around as painters in a traditional style for some time before the ideas eventually worked their way into breaking the picture plane. They made the work, shifted the order of things, someone else labeled it, even more started copying it.  Even after that threshold of visual tinkering was transgressed, cubism itself morphed into different kinds of cubism, which morphed into other visual languages as well and continue to do so. It is as if Pablo and George, Prince and Beethoven spent some time laying their hands in the paths of ants, watching what they might do. 

Disconnect One, 2020; Oil on Canvas; 11″x14″ by Curtis Green

The Art of Bumbling Around

Stasis, calm, harmony, order.  These ideas are states we often identify as existing on the spiritual plane.  They are states of desire, perhaps.  These are where we wish to be or what we wish to attain.  Like the ants, we struggle here in this physical world, bumbling around and into ourselves, sometimes achieving order and other times not.  We may impose disorder on ourselves, as in the case of cubism for example.  We may have disorder imposed upon us.  Then, like the ants, we find intuitive or creative ways to manage the new circumstance and once again return to order but, it may look a little different than it did before the disruption happened.

Casts and Choruses

Design is often searching for the “hierarchal element” that brings a unique feature into focus. It is meant to set apart from the repetitive elements that support the rest of the design.  In painting, the composition must have that same hierarchal element to be compelling.  In music, there is the flying melody over the repetition of the rhythm section.  In theater, there is the star and the supporting cast.  The disruption, the standout, the unique feature, is dependent on the stability of the repetition, the stasis.  Otherwise, neither of them, it could be argued, could exist or be visible until they appear together. 

Oil Painting of a Patina Tea Pot and Lemon Branch by Curtis Green
Patina, 2021; Oil on canvas; 18″x24″ by Curtis Green

Perhaps that is why we can be drawn at times to the tranquility of a still life.  Its solemnity invites reflection toward the spiritual, the order, the harmony.  But as humans, we often get bored with the monotony of a perfect order and tend to bend and stretch the order of things.  As mentioned before, sometimes we decide to mash things up a bit to learn a better way of doing things.  Maybe for practical reasons or for simple entertainment to humor ourselves.  Sometimes, we are unsure if the order of things are working or we need to step outside of the “box” and simply have a look around.  And when we do that, we learn a little bit, add to our perspective on things, and remind ourselves that no matter what, there is perhaps a harmony to it all. 

Look at Renoir and Get Ready to Dance

Dancing at the Moulin de la Galette by Pierre Auguste Renoir

The attempt at writing my blog post this month has had some starts and stops.  A theme seems to have been developing that centers around our lives during 2020 Covid pandemic.  So much has been offered as recollections and reflections, like occupying thoughts while staring out of a window between points of excitement or interest. I imagine a room where there is a dance, and the music plays to a tired audience.  Let us pick up the beat and get ready to dance!

A Shift in the Rhythm

Spring has arrived and there is “light at the end of the tunnel”.  An exuberance is developing towards an era that may become known as post-Covid.  Perhaps we can all feel the tendency to perk up in our chairs a little and detect a shift in the rhythm.  I see and hear on my own social-media and email, announcements for museum and gallery re-openings.  When that fully occurs, it will be like hearing a familiar song for the first time.  It reminds me how much can be taken for granted. Often the specialness of something re-appears at the thought of never having it again.

Dancing at the Moulin de la Galette by Pierre Auguste Renoir
Dancing at the Moulin de la Galette by Pierre Auguste Renoir, d. 1876

What will it be like to “return to normal”?  Much has been discussed about “normal” and “returning” to it.  Spring is a time of rebirth and renewal, and perhaps re-invention.  I look at this painting, Dancing at the Moulin de la Galette by Renoir now housed at the Muse’e d’Orsey and I see what everyone sees.  People dancing and gathering.  How does this make us feel, looking at it now in the year 2021?  The painting, is both timeless and current, couldn’t we say?

Insight on the Joy of Being Together

How much of this scene is familiar or desirable? Plenty in my mind.  After having been “socially-distancing” myself for so-long, I see this painting less as a work of historical sentiment but rather an artistic statement of truth.  The truth is that people need each other. We have invented many ways to express our joy of being together.  Here we see a scene of dancing and relaxing in conversation with one another.  The efforts we make to organize and attend these gatherings is a community effort making the point even clearer.  Then, to further emphasize, the artist points his brush at recording it and gives it back to us.  But, not as a photograph would record the scene. 

Here, the artist uses the brush as the writer would her words.   This is not a painting of a dance, but a painting of joyous human interaction.  See that after assessing the compositional weight of the painting (towards the darks in lower right balanced by the dancing couple bathed in light) we are drawn into the painting as if the surface dissolves and we are there, in it.  I can imagine the woman speaking, probably in French, while the noise of music and chat fill the air.  A man is there, daydreaming while leaning on the tree.  I might think of him as the center-point for the entire conception of the scene, contemplating all that I am writing about now.  Even that notion transcends time and illustrates even more how this painting repeats its observation in the here and now.

Hit the Floor and Get Ready to Dance

The knowledge that I can once again be in front of works like this and others has given me chills of excitement and a pause.  Perhaps, I will no longer take the moment of entering a museum (or any place) for granted.  Enjoying an outdoor patio or indoor café or to share a table and conversation with people I just met will be a familiar experience, but one I may feel like I will be having for the first time.  The music of life has changed its beat. My toes are starting to tap, my shoulders are starting to move, it is soon time to “hit the floor” and shake my booty.  Let’s get ready to dance together. I cannot wait to join in again and share with you there in joy.

Cultural Literacy versus “Doom-Scrolling”

Painting of Three Guitarists Playing by Curtis Green

There is a notion that a society is defined by its art and culture.  Think about that for a moment.  A culture can be described as a set of behaviors or beliefs common to a society.  Society and culture are two different things but also seem to mean the same thing.  Like the “chicken or the egg” question we can ask, does a society create a culture or does a culture create a society?

I would think the society comes first.  The behaviors and beliefs would then set the culture for that society.  That could be either good or bad.  So, I ask again to think about that for a moment.  Does this have anything to do with how we spend our time?  (See some suggestions below)

Cultural Literacy versus “Doom-Scrolling”

Cultural literacy is a phrase that often comes about in discussions of societal development.  This has to do with how we, as a society basically spend our time or what we place our attention toward.  For example, the more I “doom-scroll” on social media the less time I have edifying myself toward more enriching things.  (And, I have been doing a lot of “doom-scrolling” these days.) 

Shifting the Conversation

To get out of that cycle, I remind myself that making a better place for my immediate surroundings could include a shift in the conversation.  How can I improve the atmosphere around me and encourage the best in myself and others?  Could I create or contribute to a healthier discussion and use of my time?   If I do these things, will I be setting a personal practice that could invite others to consider the same?  Could my immediate friends and family, neighbors and loved ones be a micro-culture that defines how I view or enjoy my interactions with others?  Will I want to hear, listen, and contribute to ideas, concerns and actions of others in a way that is constructive and helpful?  If I do, will I be at least one example of a world becoming a more tolerant place?  Will that mean a culture based on these practices could make a better society?

A Vision Visited

This is a vision that is often dreamt and visited.  We hear this idea many times in stirring speeches and stories.  Artists are usually looked at to help us process and heal.  They often give initial guidance after tragedy or set the tone before a celebration.  We can see this just recently with Amanda Gorman as she stirred many Americans with her poem at the 2021 inauguration of American President, Joe Biden.

An Unspoken Creative Oath

Many of us are processing so much right now including Covid-19, a contentious election, civil-unrest, loss of jobs or loved ones, the list goes on.  As an artist, I sometimes find it hard to make anything during these recent months.  Then I remind myself of what may amount to an unspoken “oath” that creative people might acknowledge as a motivation.  Many artists feel that we can give of ourselves to engender a sense of community.  We want to kick-start the conversation by sharing ourselves through whatever talents we can offer.  Hopefully, this generates and fosters a shared commonality.  A good beat, an inspiring word, a soul stirring picture, a captivating dance, can be felt and acknowledged by everyone despite race, gender, class, or politics. 


Here are some artists and programs you may want to explore and see how they are offering themselves and inspiring others. 

MusiKaravan

Due to Covid19, all concert venues have closed for the time being, so Etienne Gara and YuEun Kim have decided to take to the road with their instruments and safely bring music to people.  The goal of MusiKaravan is to showcase great music, delicious food and wine together with human bonding.

www.musikaravan.com

South Bay Chamber Music Society

The aim of SBCMS is to present the highest quality chamber music performances featuring the finest musicians in Southern California.   Their concerts are now virtual. Visit their site to enjoy their recorded live concerts.

South Bay Chamber Music Society – YouTube

www.sbcms.net

Inner City Youth Orchestra

Led by Composer and Conductor, Charles Dickerson III, their mission is to cultivate musical expression as a vehicle for personal development, and to bring to fruition the full musical and academic potential of young inner city residents of Los Angeles.

Through the ICYOLA Orchestra Program, they present an annual Concert Season of 8-10 concerts that features both the standard orchestral repertoire and contemporary music that resounds within the community from which ICYOLA emanates and that it serves.  That Concert Season concludes each year with a Season Finale at the Walt Disney Concert Hall.  The ICYOLA boasts approximately 125 members aged 10 and above.

www.icyola.com


ART

Google’s Virtual Art Tours

Screen Shot of Google Virtual Art Tours Collections Page
Screen Shot of Google Virtual Art Tours Collections Page

One thing about the Covid era, staying safe at home meant going virtual got better! For an aggregate of information, go no further than the almighty Google to arrange virtual tours of collections from nearly every art museum on the planet!

Collections — Google Arts & Culture

The National Museum

Tour the British National Museum or browse their collections. So much to see. Join their email list and stay involved with them as they continue their work even while they are closed.

Virtual tours | Visiting | National Gallery, London

The Louvre Museum Virtual Tours

The Louvre Museum at Night
The Louvre at Night

Which art museum is more famous than the Louvre?  Arguably none other!  Visit the museum rooms and galleries, admire the palace architecture and enjoy the views! Join a virtual tour.   Choose your language, or enjoy the tour in the universal language of art.

Online Tours | Louvre Museum | Paris

Site officiel du musée du Louvre

Literature

You can visit Penguin Random House for live virtual author events.  Click their link to learn more.

Author Events – Penguin Random House

Enjoy the Arts, Enjoy Life

Our behaviors and beliefs, or said another way, what we focus and concentrate on, will be our culture.  Our culture will define our society.  Enjoy these offerings and explore and create your own connections through art and music. We cannot help but find our humanity in these things.

One for the Books

A Row of Art Books

Summer is now one for the books. The snap of fall weather always gets me going. I love the crisp air mixed with warm sun. Somehow, the fall season gets us to shift gears from the light days of summer and into cozier clothes and heavier foods. Favorite smells and spices fill the air around town and in our kitchens. The idea of warmth comes around as the we all start to settle in for a season of gratitude and reflection.

These days during the pandemic, our holiday time is going to be a little different. Maybe that’s okay. Holidays are often hectic. This year, perhaps it needn’t be so. As I continue to be vigilant for my own health and for the sake of others, I have limited my physical interaction with others. Instead, I have an opportunity to think about how my holiday time may be personally meaningful.

Continue reading “One for the Books”

My Box of Crayons

Crayola Crayons

When I was young and it was time to shop for school supplies, I could not wait to get my box of crayons!

My first set was small and simple, just enough to be useful and fun.  Later, the expanded sets were available. As I got older, it seemed more appropriate that I could handle the big boy box of a previously un-imaginable number of crayons.  It was the exciting sixty-four set with a built-in sharpener in the box! I would arrive at school with my impressive mega-box of crayons and plant it proudly on top of my desk. 

When it became time to use them, I would explore the arsenal of choices and linger over my decision of which one to use.  There were my old friends.  Red, blue, yellow, green, brown, black, even white!  My new friends in the sixty-four cray-o-la mega-set were very exotic, like Periwinkle.  What’s a Periwinkle?

Continue reading “My Box of Crayons”

Putting Black on Palette

Back in Black

Who has not rocked out to the rock n’ roll anthem, “Back in Black” by the group AC/DC? Perhaps you were in your car while stuck in traffic and you turned it up while it was on the radio.  You may have been in your studio, playing air guitar in front of blank canvas. 

If you were painting outdoors it is not likely that the song was running through your head.  However, it would be very possible that black was certainly not on your palette!

Black is often considered to be a forbidden color for outdoor painting.  Technically, black is not even considered a color!  Since black is the absence of color, it is defined as neutral. 

Without getting too technical, black is either the absence of color or the accumulation of all colors at once.  That is a discussion that will be saved for later regarding additive and subtractive color mixing.  For now, let us get back to the use (or non-use) of black as a pigment for painting.

Continue reading “Putting Black on Palette”

The Art Collector vs. The Art Collector

Photo by Aaina Sharma

I read a lot of articles about the art world. I subscribe to current articles that often relate what happened at certain events or shows. They offer news from small galleries to big museums, auctions and art fairs around the world. These articles are shared and reposted over several platforms. They sometimes read like a red carpet review of “who wore what, where and when” but they also contain serious information like auction trends and percentages per genre. Topics may be about a particular artist, who has somehow busted an all time record for the sale of a single piece. This industry reading is part of what one does, when one does, what I do, make art. I wonder, is there a scenario of the Art Collector vs. the Art Collector? Continue reading “The Art Collector vs. The Art Collector”

A Philosophy of Simple Economics for Visual Dividends

Plein air oil painting and fine art print of Aliso Canyon from Top of the World Park in Laguna Beach, CA.
Aliso Canyon – Curtis Green

Often, the simplicity of a painting will cause us to pause our critical thinking and allow us to just take in the image for its own sake.   I liken it to A Philosophy of Simple Economics. This happens when a beautiful balance is struck “just so” between shape, proportion, light and shade and other components of a picture.  Our visual senses somehow evaluate these things on an inate level and we may then respond favorably for reasons we can’t explain. Continue reading “A Philosophy of Simple Economics for Visual Dividends”

Looking at “The Breakfast” by William Paxton

The Breakfast, c. 1911
William McGregor Paxton (1869-1941)

With encouragement, I write these posts to invite appreciation of the visual arts. Each painting has a reason into how it came to be. Likewise, we as viewers can have many reasons for how we respond to it. Thus it begins, each time we go to a museum, to look at paintings, take them in and enjoy them for a while. This type of looking is not based so much on whether we prefer certain styles or colors, but a deeper kind of looking that guides our responses and shapes them into our own ideas or considerations.

Continue reading “Looking at “The Breakfast” by William Paxton”

Immeasurable Details

A Sketch of Aycil Yeltan by Curtis Green

Landscape paintings are easy. A tree is a tree, so a landscape may be rendered any old way and still describe what it is.  Eh … yes and no.  Is there a quantity that often cannot be measured? A tree, it is true, does not usually have the familiar given proportions like that of the human body. Some freedom of the so called “artistic license” is understandable when looking at a tree in a painting.  So here perhaps, is a large point  to consider when it comes to looking at art.  It is a point often discussed. Is it necessary to render a thing so exact for the rendering to be considered art?

The human face, for example, requires more exacting observation in that we are built to intuitively understand the basic proportions and placement of our features.  We may look at ourselves in the mirror and lament that our forehead is too high or our ears are small or too large.  These are little moments of micro analysis, as we instantly determine how our features measure in relation to other things.  How much of this analytical critique is actually necessary in  regarding the essence or character of the face or for that matter, the landscape?

A common remark about paintings is about its detail.  Yet, many artists often remind themselves not to get hung up on the details.  The Mona Lisa by none other than DaVinci, is arguably the most famous and possibly greatest portraits of all time. It captures the sitters mystery that beguiles us to this day some six hundred years later. Yet the portrait itself may only be a contemporaneous characterization of the woman?  For that matter, consider the lonely yet moving work of Edward Hopper, famous for his painting “Nighthawks“. 

A lot of importance is placed on determining the quality of a work of art by how accurate it is in the rendering of the scene.  However, it is possible that the intrinsic impact toward the appeal of our emotion may be the real power behind a work of art. Those deemed as great art possess a quantity that often cannot be measured.