Zen Rocks – a small series of zen rocks on 2.5 x 3.5 Strathmore artist cards.
As I’ve been tapping away, laying down small dabs of colored ink on my current drawing “Succulent”, I found myself feeling a bit lonely. Now when I say lonely, I’m not referring to an absence of social interaction or some sort of lack of being understood. Rather what I’m referring to is this loneliness I felt in artistic style. The way in which I create my work is by using a drawing and painting technique generally known as stippling or pointillism. The terms are often used interchangeably but I like to think of stippling as when I use nothing other than black ink and pointillism when I use mostly colored ink. It’s my personal way of keeping the two terms straight in my head. But you see, pointillism isn’t as widely used as a technique in the art world, which I’m sure is probably due to how time intensive it can be. So if I where to go to my local bookstore and pick up a drawing magazine, looking for inspiration, it is very rare that I will flip through the pages and see scores of images of contemporary artistic works done using pointillism. It is in that I felt this bit of loneliness. So for inspiration, instead of turning to contemporary artists, I am led back to the works of Paul Signac.
I first became aware of Signac while taking an Art History course in college. I had already been introduced to the technique of pointillism in high school but I knew nothing of it’s origin and history. (I’m glad that I took Art History instead of some other elective.)
Signac was a close friend and influenced by George Seurat, who also created pointillistic paintings. And although Seurat is more well known for his ‘A Sunday Afternoon on the Île de la Grande Jatte’ painting, I’ve always taken a liking to the work of Signac more. Maybe it was how he seemed to focus more on landscapes and natural elements in his work rather than the human world. Being someone who is more oriented towards the world of Nature than man, it’s natural that his work would appeal to me more. But I also find Signac pointillistic paintings more defined, taking on a more realism feel where Seurat’s pointillism feels more diffused and a bit abstract. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that Seurat’s work is bad or wrong, I do admire his work especially in regards to pointillism, so I’m not dismissing him. It’s only that if I had to choose between Signac and Seurat as a source of inspiration for my own work, it would be Signac hands down. It’s to Signac I turn when I might need an idea on how certain colors may mix or when I need a reminder of what can and can not be achieved with a pointillism. But it’s also to Signac I turn to quell that tinge of loneliness I feel travelling down the pointillist path.
Taking my time with building this drawing. I’m working with only nine colors; six primaries along with brown, rose and black. Trying to create different colors along with various hues with a limited palette is a bit challenging but fun. I tend to think that creativity flourishes not when their are many options but rather when your options are limited.
In all honesty, I can’t say that this is one of those questions that I’ve ever given any thought to. It has never dawned on me to wonder or explore the reasoning behind why I create things. I’ve always just accepted it as a part of who I am in the same way that my brown eyes and a liking for parmesan and smoked paprika on my popcorn is a part of who I am. But recently the question was brought to my attention and I felt stumped. At the moment I couldn’t think of much more than “It’s just something I’ve been doing since high school.” which didn’t seem to be a very satisfying explanation. Unfortunately when you’re an adult you expect to be able to give some kind of philosophical treatise on why you do what you do, even if ultimately it may sound vague and convoluted. So I was a bit perplexed and started giving this more thought. Why do I create? Or as the question was presented to me “Why do you art?” For the past three days I’ve been mulling over this and to my surprise the explanation I’ve come to delves into my own belief system and cultural values.
In an era where so much that we own is mass produced and almost everything is at our fingertips and available instantly, I still value that which is uniquely made by individuals by hand through time, skill and effort. I have a love for craftsmanship and derive a deep appreciation and satisfaction for work that I can see took time and skill. When I sit down to stipple or do a carving I feel like I am creating something unique and worthwhile that can’t be easily mass produced on a machine in some factory. I feel drawn to hone my skills to mastery and create things that are delightful or awe inspiring. At times I feel that craftsmanship is something that we are losing in this fast paced digital age as we become more enthralled with technology and programs can be coded into machines to create art for us. But each time I sit down to create something with my very own hands I feel as though I’m keeping the spirit of craftsmanship alive. So this is why I create, this is why I art.