January 29, 2010

A is for Andy...

My first ode to inspiration is a tribute to Andy Warhol. The jacket above was painted for a charity auction. Knowing that all the items to be auctioned would be made from denim; my brainstorming session about what to paint went like this:
The word
"denim" lead to blue-jean, which became Norma Jean (known for melancholy and often being a "blue" Jean) which was, of course, Marilyn Monroe's real name; and thinking of her immediately reminded me of Andy Warhol's silkscreen portrait of her. The other paintings on the jacket are his self-portrait and one of his diamond dust shoe silkscreens. A fun and worthy project to say the least.
"Stepping Out With Andy"
9 x 12, oil on canvas
And while everyone is familiar with Andy Warhol's films, Pop Art, silkscreens and obsession with celebrities; what do you know about him before he became famous? With training in graphic design, he moved to NYC immediately after college in 1949, and was very dedicated and hard-working; often delighting his clients by going the extra mile and providing several drawings to choose from. My painting above was inspired by his many shoe illustrations from the 1950s, a time when he was a very successful commercial artist/illustrator for these magazines: Glamour, Dance, Vogue, LIFE, Harper's Bazarre, and Charm. His early success right out of college stemmed from the fact that he often worked on marketing his products most of the day while creating his illustrations at night. Many publications had begun switching to photos for advertising but Andy's charming illustrations remained popular, due in part to his mastery of an illustration technique known as the "blotted line" --this discovery allowed him to transfer and reproduce many images as original works of art without the use of a printing press. Later, using "found" images from magazines and library books, he edited and stylized work that became his unique signature...which begs the question of what the copyright laws were in the 50s, but that is a post for another time.
He was equally known for his unique sense of humor, wit and clever viewpoint, and often presented drawings to his friends and clients as gifts. Supposedly, he once encountered actress Greta Garbo on the street. She was known for being extremely reclusive and not very welcoming to fans, so when he presented her with a drawing, she immediately crumpled it up and threw it to the ground. Instead of taking the rejection personally, he smoothed out the drawing and wrote "crumpled by Greta Garbo" on it. I adore this story, because it certainly seems to describe the innovative thinker he surely must have been. Instead of obsessing over the rejection, he simply noted, documented and celebrated the altered version of his drawing--no judgement, just a grand acceptance of "what is"-- a pretty awesome attitude to aspire to, and be inspired by.

And what most inspired him in those early years? Well, clearly his mother Julia played a huge part in his life. She lived in NY with him for several years, also painted; her preferred subjects being cats, angels and butterflies that bear a striking similarity to his own paintings of those same subjects. Also, he took a two month long trip around the world where he filled sketchbooks of what he saw along the way, visited museums, and learned Japanese gold-leaf techniques that later found their way into his own art. And, of course, living in NY allowed him to be inspired by museums, ballet, and the energy of the city and its inhabitants.
And quite honestly, I could go on and on; but you get the picture. There are many books written about him if you are interested in learning more, and the Andy Warhol Museum is located in Philadeplphia, where he lived before moving to NYC.
"Once you 'got' Pop, you could never see a sign the same way again.
And once you thought Pop, you could never see America the same way again"...andy warhol

January 23, 2010

to Inspire is to breathe

Julie & Julia (book/movie) explores the concept of inspiration from the perspective of Julie, who sets out on a journey to teach herself to cook by attempting all 524 recipes included in Julia Child's "Mastering the Art of French Cooking". Julie explains how she was inspired by Julia, but equally fascinating is our discovery into what inspired Julia to "become" Julia Child. In "My Life in France" Julia notes that her inspirations were her darling husband Paul (who was an artist/photographer), as well as her love for cooking and France. Her joy and enthusiasm are evident as she recounts her life in Paris in the 1950s:
"Those early years in France were among the best in my life. They marked a crucial period of transformation in which I found my true calling, experienced an awakening of the senses, and had such fun that I hardly stopped moving long enough to catch my breath"

What does this have to do with an art blog? well...

Inspire and Be Inspired is to
Elate. Enliven. Motivate.
to Spark, Spur, Stir...
Activate and Invigorate...

to b r e a t h e ...
and I am forever pondering, reading, researching, asking, and okay, I'll just say it...I'm positively obsessed with what inspires us all-- so my next project (and series of paintings) will be to explore that in all its glorious detail. I especially enjoy learning about creative people who dare to choose a different path, step out on a limb, or just see things a little differently. Discovering what captured their attention--Stopped them in their tracks- Made their hearts sing -or at least skip a beat! Learning what they loved and cherished about their lives and how their life's work evolved accordingly...yes, it is a wonderful obsession. Psychology meets Art.
(to be continued)

January 17, 2010

out to sea

I recently enjoyed catching up with an artist friend who lamented that it was "time to get back to work!" ~ and I found myself pondering that phrase all afternoon. In my quest to "see things from a new perspective" I thought, why not get back to play instead? I had been mulling over new ways to see color, value and design, so I decided to explore these concepts in a form other than paint. I began by tearing up strips of colored tissue paper and then arranged (and rearranged) them on a background of sturdy watercolor paper until I found a design that I liked best. Then I glued them down with tiny dots of glue to create this scene (just enough glue to keep the fragile tissue paper from falling off the page).
I like how the spaces between the colors work with, and become an important part of, the design. And, allowing the tissue paper to be loosely applied seems to give the scene an overall feeling of energy and movement, I think.
This would be a fun and inexpensive project to enjoy with children (or the young at heart)...and so I wonder...would different textures and thicknesses of paper like that of magazines and newspapers work equally well?...and what about strips of discarded old watercolor sketches...or construction paper...or...
Gray days and cabin fever are so "last year" folks -- there are just too many new perspectives and golden horizons waiting to be discovered just beyond the sea.

"Somewhere beyond the sea, somewhere waiting for me, my lover stands on golden sands and watches the ships that go sailing..."
(Beyond the Sea...by Robbie Williams)