|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 https://makingamark.blogspot.com/2021/09/review-david-hockney-arrival-of-spring.html
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, https://www.mallgalleries.org.uk/whats-on/exhibitions/natural-eye-2021
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.