Thursday, October 14, 2021

Art Is A Favor That Is Given To You


Whimbrels at 2-Mile Landing. Moku Hanga by Ken Januski, copyright 2021.

Every time I'm in an exhibition I  try to advertise the exhibition, just as I'd guess most artists do, unless they are so well known that they don't  need to. But it is tiresome. After all I think my art and the art in the exhibitions I'm in  stand on their own. I shouldn't have to beg people  to  take a look at it.

I was thinking about that this morning in relation to  The Natural Eye whose official opening is today. If you actually spend a bit of  time looking at this exhibition, especially if you have the chance to see it  in person, you will realize I think how lucky you are  to have seen it. And  though I've only seen it online the exuberance comes through. It is both accomplished art and a celebration of nature.

There  are many people I'm happy to  say that want to celebrate nature. But the attempts don't always come off. It is not easy I don't believe. Can you make art that is as exuberant as nature itself? I think that it is  possible and I think you'll find much of it  in this exhibit.

As I said at the  top: art is a favor that is  given to you, just like nature, if  you have the good sense to give it a chance.

Monday, October 4, 2021

Bouncing Around

Red Phalarope at Wissahickon Waterfowl Preserve. Acrylic painting by Ken Januski. Copyright 2021 by Ken Januski.

I sometimes confuse myself by switching media and perhaps styles so I wouldn't be surprised if I also confuse  others. I can only say that it always makes sense to me when I do so.

In all my years of making art, and thinking about it, and in reading about and enjoying  the art of others, both visual and otherwise I've come to the conclusion  that good artists always develop their own language. I guess you could also say  they develop  their own set of  tools to  help them accomplish whatever it  is  that they  want to accomplish.

Sometimes this  language probably doesn't seem too different than the language of  others though the good artist may have an incredible mastery of  that language. But other times artists create their own language, like  for instance Beethoven. And they also are often masters of  that language.

I've always had a fear of cliche in my artmaking, though that has nothing to do with taking on 'cliched' subjects. A good artist can always make a cliched subject  come alive. I often think of  this in terms of abstraction. I don't want to emulate the more  realistic painters of the past in my painting, or  in my prints either. So I think  about abstracting  the subject. But that is much easier said than done. So many ways of abstracting a subject seem cliched to me. I'm not so  much talking about the work of others as my own.

Almost as soon as I put down a mark I think: OH, what a cliche that is!! This can be enervating. And yet for me it seems the only path to take. So, to make a long story short, I think that so much of  my changing media and perhaps styles is just me trying to find a way to portray a subject in a way that doesn't  seem cliched.

Red Knots and Laughing Gulls. Moku Hanga by Ken Januski. Copyright 2021 by Ken Januski

Because printmaking is less spontaneous than painting, especially for someone like me who has spent more  years as a painter than a printmaker, I also need a better idea of the structure, or  perhaps the image, of a print before I start working on it.  I can't just put back all the wood I've carved away when I've made a mistake. In painting, at least acrylic or oil painting,  I can just paint right over any mistakes  I've made. You can't do  this in watercolor.

Digital sketch of  Red Phalarope. Copyright 2021 by Ken Januski

Unless, that is you make a digital sketch, painting, watercolor! I bought an i-pad about 6 months or  so ago because I just got sick of the constant slowness of  my windows pc. I'm not sure of  the cause  but I  suspect part of  it is all that is being done behind the scenes to keep  it secure. I could  be wrong. Either way I  bought an i-pad.  And because  I've learned  that with computers  it's  often best to buy  what  you need at the start I also bought an i-pencil.  I had no specific plans for using it. The graphic styluses  and software programs I used in the distant past drove me nuts.

But  that was 15-20 years ago. Still I had had the i-pad and i-pencil  for 3-4 months and did no sketches during that time. I can't really remember whether it  was viewing the video  of Hockney's  Arrival of  Spring  at the Royal Academy of Arts or my deciding that I wanted to do sketches from the photos I'd just taken of a Red Phalarope at Wissahickon Waterfowl Preserve that prompted me to make the digital sketch that is above.

I wanted to  do  the sketches for documentary evidence  of  the sighting in e-bird and I thought a composite of sketches  from my numerous distant photos was really the most revealing way to show  what  I'd  seen, proof that this was a rare Red Phalarope. But I also was quite  taken with the Hockney show, and realized, especially after I'd  also bought  the  catalog, how accomplished the show  was.

I'm not a fan at all of digital art. In fact I definitely stay away from it.  One more  example of  technology being  used because  it's there  not  because it  works better than an older technology.  So I was surprised at how easy it was for  me to see the artistic choices that Hockney was making in these digital paintings.

All art really is about making choices, with notes,  with words,  with marks with colors, or with their digital equivalent. I could  see the rich results that Hockney got, not  the same results he would get with traditional media, but still rich  results. That I think opened me up to the idea  of  digital painting.

Red Phalarope, Spotted Sandpiper, Green Heron and Belted Kingfisher at Wissahickon Waterfowl Preserve. Digital Painting by Ken Januski. Copyright 2021 by Ken  Januski

Above is the first digital painting I've ever done. Unlike Hockney I  don't have any color  printer let alone a huge one. So I can't print this out. It only lives on a screen. There is  much to dislike about  this. People spend too much time in front of  screens as is. There is also the brighter than life luminosity of anything seen on a screen. BUT it was astonishing how easy I found it  to make  changes. Like Hockney I found that using  layers made things much easier  for  me. Extraordinarily easier. I could make  changes  right and left, forward and backwards, upside down and right side up.

In other words it seemed to be an extremely quick  way to  combine realism and abstraction but with the added ability to  get rid of anything  that struck me  as a cliche almost immediately. I didn't have to move away from a  cliche by finishing a painting or  print and then starting another to try another path. I  could  try another path in about  5 seconds.

So that was exhilarating. BUT  it's still on a screen. There's no tactility, no sense of the handmade. I knew that my best bet was to try to reproduce it in one way or another with paint  on canvas.  The end result is a the top  of  the post.

So that I hope explains somewhat  why I might seem to bounce around a bit artistically. I'm just  trying to make compelling and not cliched images. Often for  me that means switching media  and  sometimes styles. But it's always in the interest of  portraying something in a compelling way.

Whimbrels at 2-Mile Landing. Moku Hanga print. Copyright 2021 by Ken Januski.

Sometimes I try to move from one medium to  another without realizing that it might not be easy to do  without major changes. This and the other moku hanga print above I'm happy to  say are going once again to be in the annual exhibit  of The Society of  Wildlife Artists at the Mall Galleries  in London. This  is a link to an online gallery of much  of  the work, including mine,

This was based on a fairly painterly painting. I tried to reproduce that in this print. And I think  I was successful.  It's perhaps even more vibrant than the painting itself. But it also has all sort of niggling areas, areas that require more care and craftsmanship than I  care to give them. A master carver could have carved a closer imitation of the painting. But I'm not  one and never will be. It's not my main goal. In the end I learned that, at least for  now, I should use larger areas of color in my moku hanga. And that's pretty much what I did in the subsequent print of  the Red  Knots. It is a continuing search for the right image and the right medium

Based on what I just  said I can pretty much guarantee I will  not try a moku hanga of the Red Phalarope, at least not without massive changes!! I should add that since I've done so many acrylic paintings over the last 12-18  months I  have added a link to  them under the Gallery heading at top right  of this page.