Cloistertime

I’ve been spending much of this year sequestered in my studio , focusing upon work at hand and engaging with the actual world far less . My desire to work has compromised my ability to attend openings, pay studio visits , basic human time . I have ambivalent regret about that , but the time spent at the cloister of my making is so fleeting , my life so short that I feel compelled.

Although I spend less and less actual time with friends , many talented and exciting artists, company I treasure, I do stay engaged, at least superficially. Social media keeps me in the proverbial loop , for that I am grateful .

Work in progress : The Herakles Tapestry

And through social media I am offered moments of reflection . I recently saw a post from an artist I admire very much , this post was hash tagged with “#f@ckoverthinking” ( without my censor ; it increasingly seems the “f” word is the go-to descriptor for almost anything : “f-ing brilliant “, “f-ing amazing “, etc. ).

This admonition to not overthink one’s process and by extension work , inspired thinking about my own process and the work itself . The taste for seemingly spontaneous, emotive work , where the process is an existential eruption feeds a narrative very much in fashion . Hollywood for decades has promoted the mythology of a feverish genius , blind with passion , communicating madly with their unrelenting muse ( the new film concerning Picasso has a cover image that depicts this archetype very well – handsome , paint-bespecked , exhausted ).

I confess my studio time has never been a cardio workout . In fact , contrary to my friends admonition to “f” overthinking, I think a great deal. I think, I write , I connect the dots . And while my work isn’t aesthetically feverish , it is dense with layers , perhaps too many for some, I do not know. But it is the work I find interesting , the work I want to look at and the work I want to bring into the world .

I’ve never been interested in work that doesn’t call me back for another visit . Work that makes too direct a point . The works I most admire puzzle me , tease me with elusive symbols , require my attention  and my engagement. Directness is not my nature , not in life , or conversation, or even in my writing ; I am furtive , and in my studio work I would rather slip in a sly informed allegory than confront an issue directly . A flourish of meaning easily overlooked.

But I do think my approach is at odds with contemporary expectations of what art (or being) is or should be ( my calling my work “art” is an indulgence I allow myself when speaking of it , generally I refer to it as “stuff I make ” ). Street art has in a great way set this expectation : deft, ecstatic , exuberant, and most importantly, accessible. Marx would have been pleased.

My own work tends to be more obscure, more measured , the process at times almost plodding , but a joyous plodding , because the dedication to minute brushstrokes, to innumerable pencil markings or whip stitches is not unlike a prayer .

I had a wise teacher , a Russian iconographer , who insisted that every brush stroke when painting (an icon) is a prayer of gratitude. This deliberate , exacting mindfulness, the antipodes to “overthinking” , is what I seek in my cloister .

Which is where I will spend my day . Have a great one .

(I am inspired by medieval illumination, , the measured , concise focus upon marginalia . This ornamental border , my take on Marginalia, is on a much larger scale , but when finished will, I hope, convey the same spirit . I’m looking to go larger and also to employ fiber art.)

The Artist & their Studio

Many of us share a fascination with the artist and the place in which the magic is made. I know as a boy, fascinated with all things 19th c. , the studio of the artist was most beguiling . The divine Sarah perhaps embodying all that I held dear.

Sarah Bernhardt in her studio.

Miss Bernhardt was an astonishingly gifted “amateur” , far surpassing my own talents. But other artists, “real” artists, also possessed gorgeous palaces devoted to art. John Singer Sargent’s magnificently appointed studio nearly outshines dear Madame X.

John Singer Sargent’s studio, the lovely Strapless One in the distance.

In  my opinion there never was a more glamorous studio than that of the immensely visionary Gustave Moreau ( we here in LA have an outstanding Salome at the Hammer). Moreau was a god and certainly deserved a stairway to heaven.

Detail of Moreau’s incredible studio.
Gustve Moreau’s most gorgeous studio.

Moreau’s lovely digs apparently provided shelter to some comely lads.

Studio of Gustave Moreau, apparently model for his Hesiod.

The Pre-Raphealite John William Waterhouse had a rather wonderful place to apply his admirable talents.

The Pre-Raphaelite John William Waterhouse looking dapper at his easel.

But many of us, particularly those of us working in expensive cities such as Los Angeles, have less Palace to Art and more Hovel. My own , while modest, brings me great delight. My dear friend Kristine Schomaker, foundress of Shoebox PR ( link: https://shoeboxpr.com ) , called recently , the following images a fond memento of her visit. 

With my dear friend Kristine Schomaker.

Although less grand than dear Sarah, I do, in my thrift store way attempt to capture her glamour.

Sébastien-Charles Giraud, “Souvenir d’atelier”

Although Papa Picasso had rather imperial digs,

The grand Pablo in his sumptuous studio.

most of us, as dear Mary Ellen Best ( 1809-1891) have far more modest making places. Yet in the end, the space is infertile ground without its maker.

The painting room of the artist Mary Ellen Best; by the artist.

Wishing all fertile ground.