Friday, January 13, 2023

Orchestral Conductor or Courtroom Artist?

Three Brant, Three Black-bellied Plover. Moku Hanga. Copyright 2022 by Ken Januski.

Northern Cardinal on Tomato Cage. Moku Hanga.  Copyright 2023 by Ken Januski.

Boy it has been a long time since I've written here. That was not deliberate. The delay was due to the fact that almost as soon as I finished my newest moku hanga, 'Three Brant, Three Black-bellied Plover' at top I started thinking  about doing another moku hanga, 'Northern Cardinal on Tomato Cage', which is immediately above. It is not so much that they are related visually but that they are related in terms of the contradictions in my artistic motivation.

Sometimes I want to orchestrate my art work, like a conductor, matching this color here with that one there, this shape with that shape, etc., etc. It might sound very formal but I think it is also what gives both joy and delight to so much art. 'Three Brant, Three Black-bellied Plover' uses the same blocks that created the print below, 'Brant and Black-bellied Plover on Nummy Island.' It happened almost by accident when I used some overlapping color on the original print and liked what I saw. But I felt it didn't fit in with the general direction of the print so I got rid of it, thinking that I might come back to it in another version. That is how the print at very top, 'Three Brant, Three Black Bellied Plover', started. 

But I didn't want to carve all new blocks, nor did I want to re-carve the old. blocks in case I decided to print another edition of the first print. That meant that I had to set myself some odd formalistic limits in the second print. I wanted to use the same blocks, but with more overlapping color, without modifying the blocks. The answer was to print some of the old blocks upside down and right side up, and to selectively ink them, that is not print everything on the block. Oddly enough I was listening to some Bach fugues at the same time and realized that there was at least some similarity. I speak from the perspective of a non-musician who enjoys music. My understanding of a fugue is that it takes one or more 'subjects', then  modifies them perhaps playing them backwards or in some similar but creative and musical variation I wasn't trying to create a visual fugue. I couldn't even if I wanted to. But I was pursuing a formal method: theme and variation. If it is a fit subject for some of the greatest music in the world then it certainly is a fit subject for my art. 

All of this gets back to at least part of this blog's title "Orchestral Conductor"... This formal playing has been part of almost all art I've done, even as a child. Strict representation was never all that important to me. In fact representing the real world has only become important to me artistically as I've gotten older. Sometime this summer or early fall I did a sketch from life in the garden of a young Cardinal on a tomato trellis(second photo after this text). I loved it! It doesn't look like a photo, something I have almost no interest in. But it does capture at least for me the sense of seeing that young Cardinal. But is is so, so different in terms of artistic motivation than orchestrating visual elements like a conductor.

This motivation I think is a bit more similar to that of a courtroom artist. It's not the best simile in the world since a good deal of accuracy is wanted in a courtroom sketch. But because those sketches are done quickly from life they almost never look like a photo. But they can be exciting. In any case I find my now field sketches quite exciting, though not all are successful. Some are dreadful. That happens with working quickly, especially in ink, with a subject that may disappear at any moment.  But for me there is a tremendous artistic excitement in them.  I had that field sketch of the Cardinal of the tomato cage in my mind as I did the second version of the Brant and Black-bellied Plover. And I didn't want to post anything on that second version until I'd also done a moku hanga based on the young cardinal. That took another 3 months or more. I finished it yesterday.

You could say my work is erratic. Perhaps people do. But to me it is just a continuing synthesis of varied interests and motivations. I'm somewhere between and orchestra conductor and a court sketch artist using moku hanga as my medium.

Brant and Black-bellied Plover on Nummy Island. Moku Hanga. Copyright 2022 by Ken Januski

Young Cardinal on Tomato Cage. Field Sketch with Sumi Brush Pen. Copyright 2022 by Ken Januski.


 

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