Sunday, September 23, 2012
The Magic of Light
Just recently I needed to complete a resume of my artistic career and also create an Artist's Statement for an upcoming show. One of the notable parts of it was the fact that I've done abstract art since grade school. As I thought about it I realized that I've always preferred abstract art, from grade school through graduate degrees in college and beyond.
When I tried to think of contemporary representational artists who had influenced meduring my artistic training two stood out: Elmer Bischoff, with whom I studied at University of California, Berkeley, and Richard Diebenkorn, a fellow Bay Area Figurative Painter of Elmer Bischoff's, though by now a far more famous one.
Even the White House currently hangs an abstract Diebenkorn. This Diebenkorn is from his earlier Berkeley series and not the later, and really magnificent, Ocean Park series. When I was in California and studying with Bischoff it was his contemporary abstract paintings and those of Diebenkorn that really struck me. I'm sure I did many bad imitations!
Nonetheless I also was thoroughly taken with their ink and wash figurative drawings. Both seemed to portray light as solidly as if it were a Yosemite rockface. I was competely entralled with this and also did many poor imitations in my figure drawing classes.
I didn't turn to representational art until about 10-12 years ago, first with insects, then six or seven years ago with birds. Occasionally my love of light will surface in that work. That is partially what happened in the ballpoint pen drawing at top. It's based on a photo, which in itself seems to do something with light in terms of capturing it and making it solid. I do feel it's cheating in a way to use it as a source. But I've always loved the photos I've taken of shorebirds on Nummy Island last spring..The birds are Black-bellied Plovers, Short-billed Dowitchers and Dunlins.
The combination of light, variety of shapes and bills, not to mention color makes this scene one that I keep wanting to portray. Here I did it with the intention of just getting down the shapes of the different birds. Inevitably I also tried to capture the sense of light.
Art can be many things. Though as I've said I've spent so much of my artistic career as an abstract artist I can't help but stand in wonder at the way some artists capture light in naturalistic paintings. I think that Diebenkorn captured light in his abstract paintings but it seems to me to be a rare accomplishment. For that representational artists as varied as Hopper, Vermeer and Constable are always the best examples. And a very strong reason to work representationally. I'd have to say that for me there's not anything much more moving than light captured in art.