Tuesday, March 29, 2011

"The artist with two brains"

"The artist with two brains"

Don't be scared.  I'm not as freaky as this photo makes me look.  I just wanted to visually communicate the fact that I try to utilize both sides of my brain when I make.  Being involved in ceramics definitely requires an analytical and mathematical involvement in order to understand the material, but also an intuitive and tactile "feel" as well.  In my work I do my share of figuring and planning (left brain) but I balance it with the the tactile carving and mark making of the surface (right brain). 

When I was a freshman in high school I was very fortunate that my art teacher was very inspired by a fairly new book at the time entitled "Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain" by the author and art educator Betty Edwards.  He utilized this book for many drawing exercises  and assignments.  What this book did for me was allowed me to let go of what I thought something should look like and simply focus on what I was seeing.  Looking harder and closer than I ever had before at a subject and training my eyes and hand to move a line at the same speed and in the same direction.  As the cover of the book states it enhanced my creativity and artistic confidence.  It also produced some crazy looking images.  "Blind Contour" drawings were and still are my favorite aspect of the books teachings.  I still do them from time to time.  Above right is a recent pen on paper self portrait.  The idea behind the exercise is never to look at the page and never lift the drawing tool off the page.  It creates a continuous line that follows the contours of the subjects form.  If it looks like anything recognizable in the end your doing great.  What I love is that it's not about the product in the end but about the process of "seeing".

A few years ago my designer wife Kristin discovered something pretty special.  I remember the day I came home from work and went up to her studio to see what amazing thing she had created that day.  I could tell she had something fun to show me.  As she handed me this little scrap piece of canvas with black machine stitching on it I knew why she was excited.  It was a continuous line drawing that she had drawn by moving the fabric under the needle of the sewing machine (view here). I was looking for light pencil lines under the thread work but I knew there wouldn't be any.  That's not how she rolls.  BLEW ME AWAY!  She went on to produce many portrait heads in this "free motion" style and it eventually became a significant part of her design process.  You can see many more examples of her imagery at kltworks.com and here.  

I didn't know then but since I've discovered her influences.  One of her favorite makers is Alexander Calder and in particular his wire sculptures of his "circus" and portrait heads created in the late 1920's and early 30's.  At the time it was referred to as the single-line style and was a major innovation.  Whether Calder developed it first, second, or third is hard to say because at the time a few artists, Picasso among them, were working in a similar fashion.  One thing is for sure.  When I look at Kristin's "Thread Heads" it makes me want to get on a sewing machine and when I look at Alexander's wire heads I want to bend some wire.  Thanks for the inspiration you two.  And thank you Betty Edwards for turning my ideas about drawing upside down and backwards. 

Book Cover Image, Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, Betty Edwards, Published 1979.
"Portrait of Eduard Penkala", 1929, wire sculpture, Calder: The Paris Years, Simon and Leal, 2009.
"View of Massimo Campigli", 1930, wire sculpture, Calder: The Paris Years, Simon and Leal, 2009.
"Edgar Varese" 1930, wire sculpture, Calder: The Paris Years, The Paris Years, Simon and Leal, '09.

1 comment:

  1. I can remember back in High School I had a class called "Dynamic Living" the teacher brought out a picture of horse and told everyone to draw it. We all sat down and drew then everyone displayed the pictures. Most of the drawings weren't very recognizable. Comments from everyone were, "I am not an artist" or "I can't even draw a stick figure" The next day in class the teacher took the same picture and turned it upside down and told everyone to draw it. We all sat down and did it again. When all the pictures were displayed this time (and we were instructed to turn the pictures right side up when we displayed them) it was amazing how many of the pictures were very good drawings of the horse. We learned a lot about right brain, left brain activity in that class. It sure opened up my mind.