Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Standing Flatfooted

I don’t often talk in detail about my paintings.  I prefer the interpretation be left to the viewer.  I think I’m going to step out of that little box for myself and talk about a few paintings here.  Today, I want to talk about a painting I did a few years ago called Standing Flatfooted at the Edge of Reason. 

There is a spot not far from my studio, I walk there often and I have done that since I was a boy with the desire to explore.  It’s a spot along the Taunton River approximately across from the Bicentennial Park at the bottom of President Ave in Fall River.  It pretty much left alone and it would be quiet if not for the raging thunder of vehicles passing over the Braga Bridge just south.  I find this spot very inspiring and have painted from there many, many times over the last thirty years.

This painting of the cattails growing along a creek that empties into the river, challenged me like only a few others have ever done before.  It took about eighteen months to come to terms with it and another four or so to decide I liked it.    The colors are the most vivid and personal choices I had ever used in a landscape.  I found new ways to relate the manufactured shapes and expressive colors of my urban motifs into a natural environment.  The reds and yellows look more like sign paint that something sprouting from the ground.  The yellows look and feel like flames of torch fire, but together, they relate to me in a powerful and personal expression of the energy I get while walking the shoreline there.  There is a power I feel there, feeding my expressive energy, and this vibrant blend of manufactured color and shape expresses that feeling for me.

I am drawn to the spot.  I return and repaint the motif in a wide array of emotions.  As I move along, I will post more paintings of this spot.  I call it Pokanoket Point for the Native American tribe that once lived in this area.  In reality, there is no name, no road, and only limited access.  My wandering footsteps and wandering brush bring this spot to the canvas, and ultimately to the wall.  Standing Flatfooted at the Edge of Reason was the first of a recent cycle of work inspired by walking one thousand steps or less, with a pencil, a camera and an open heart.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

"Why are the guy's ringers webbed?"

Why Are the Guy’s Fingers Webbed?

In the early years of my artistic quest I met two like minds travelers.  We were taking those uncertain and tentative steps toward an undefined dream.  We knew we wanted to make a life of sorts creating art.  Not just any art, but the kind of art that would satisfy our deeply rooted needs to express ourselves.  We didn’t want to illustrate someone else’s ideas, we wanted to create our own world through the images and words, and yes, even our music.  We explored different materials, techniques and methods.  We explored museums, novels philosophies and love.  Love was always a part of the journey.  There were friends, women, and our families, yes, both births and loss, different forms of love and different forms of expression. We became tied together in a friendship that has lasted thirty years.  We have fought and inspired each other, asked questions of each other that pushed us deeper into our individual searches, and I believe I for one would be in a different place had this friendship not existed.

David Aguiar and Jim Charette were 18 and 20 years old when I met them.  I was just  21 years old.  David is intellectual in his questioning and exploration. 

Jim follows the dictates of his heart.  Exploring the concepts of order out of chaos, often diving into his own angers and fears to find the muse he aims to appease.  That’s not to say his work is angry or dark, sometimes it is, but is just as often hilarious and sarcastic.  His bold colors are sometimes slashed, sometimes splashed and even allowed to drip and run.  He paint over and outlines, pushing and pulling shapes and contours into focus and eventually allowing a narrative to form and become defined as he scrapes his knives, pulls his brushes, and empties the brown bottle at his side.  He will swears, holler and stride across the studio to his digital keyboard and compose spontaneously, while he records his improves and planes his next brushstroke.

David questions.  He first asked me “Why are the guy’s fingers webbed?” back in 1983.  It’s a question that inspires me with every painting and every tale.  He said a creature would need to evolve webbing for a solid reason.  That reason in turn would affect other attributes, like clear eyelids or even gills behind the neck.  He would question the clothing, vehicles, and decision making of any character he developed.  Because of the questioning aspects of his process, he developed a method of creation that lends itself to the modern digital world.  Changes are quicker, cleaner and more effective with the click of a mouse or keyboard function.  He starts with a hand drawn image.  Basic and fundamental in its simplicity.  Graphite on paper, retraced with marker on trace, he develops and image to be scanned and manipulated in multiple digital programs and printed on fine paper, creating artwork that expresses his world in an almost scientific manner.

I have spent thirty years bouncing between these two wildly creative minds, being influenced and questioned from two vastly different directions.  My own muse demands I start from an emotional response to something I observe and record in some manner.  After the first layer of color has been added, in ways that Jim would respond to, I question and correct in a manner that David would.  Their opposing questions have a way of defining my own methods in a way that I have found comforting and rewarding.  My colors work as they do because of the questions.  The shapes are formed because I feel the balance and emotion they inspire.  I look at my work and can see the influence of my two friends as though they are in the studio beside me every day.  They guide my hand, my choices and even on some days my responses.  Thirty years of trust, friendship, and motivation.  What more could an artist ask of from two guys he met while checking out the cute girls on the other side of the open studio that was our classroom.  And the parties?  Well that’s a story for another time, maybe.

A look at some work.....

                                                      "Needle" by David Aguiar   mixed media

                                             "At the Gates of Big Man Town" by Jim Charette
                                                                               mixed media

"Yellow Woods"  by C.R. Chuck Boucher  oil on canvas

Tuesday, August 7, 2012



Motivation can be a finicky muse.  It is deceptive, mysterious, and evasive.  I found that if it is not consistently pursued, it vanishes, and the painting stops.  Motivation can be as simple as the vibrancy of the deep cerulean sky, floating above a purple and green horizon line, or it can be as complex as the line of people waiting to get into a small doorway.  Traditionally the muse has been described as he female form, soft and sanguine, gently lit and inevitably beautiful.  I started there in those long ago figure classes.  A nameless model contorted into traditional and contemporary poses. An instructor strolling about the studio encouraging us to look, to see, he recites, “Ignore what you know a naked woman looks like and draw the nude woman in front of you,” for months, like a mantra, that’s what we hear as we learn to look.  For a time the entire world belongs to the muse on the podium.  She breathes, she moves, she casts shadows and reflects light.  She is alive and we borrow her life for a time as we learn to see and translate that vision to our paper and canvas.

In time we see more, we feel more, we translate some mixture of what we see and what we feel.  That is the beginning of our relationship with the muse, and that is the birth of motivation and those first questions and puzzles.  I remember a when I first discovered the source of the rhythms and movements I had seen on the canvases I admired in the galleries of the MFA.  The shapes of Matisse and Picasso were real and right in front of me.  Michelango’s distortions, Rubens rhythmic volume, and even to a certain extent, the emoting colors of Vincent Van Gogh.  The muse spoke to me as I began to use the vocabulary I would continue to discover and will use for the rest of my painting days. And it is so, that each new painting begins for me continuing all that came before and sparking what will someday be.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Studio D

David L. Smith

Reflecting on my professor, mentor and friend after learning of his recent passing brought me back to a place and time that remains so important to me.

One word and a letter, they joined together and gave birth to generations of artists, and a community that thrives and nurtures a city trying to create a new identity.

Studio D

It was a long somewhat narrow room in what was called the Crapo Building on the campus of Swain School of Design.  A room where David L. Smith led a small troop of teaching artists through the trials and rewards of bringing excited classes of young people into the world of art.  Some kicked and screamed and fought, while others absorbed, and adapted.  Some earned degrees, and some earned attitude.  Not every artist accepts guidance regardless of the sincerity of the offering.  But I think what all of us found was the first short steps on a lifelong road that would lead us into countlessly varied careers and choices.  Not all of us became professional artists, not all of us even create art, but oh so many of us do create.

I remember the intensity of mid-morning.   The light would be coming in those large northern windows, augmented by some warm flood light focused on the curves and swells of a model in an almost still pose.  Most of the time she was a young woman, one of three or four who showed up regularly, although now and again a new model would show up offering us a contrast to the classic poses of a trim, fit, attractive woman.  The light would create deeper shadows and toned highlights.  The model would remain alive, not still, under the scrutinizing gaze of maybe twenty fledgling artists, trying to please their mentor nearly as badly as they wanted to please themselves.  Most times it seemed those goals were at odds with one another.  It always seemed to me on the days I tried hardest to get my proportions correct, or the face just right, David Smith would be looking for rhythms and movements.  And on those other days when I would work so hard to create energizing shapes and controlled space, Sig Haines would be looking for color and value relationships.  Ben Martinez never seemed to see a finished painting, ever.

Mid-mornings, a full class of highly focused students worked to discover and express an idea that could not be defined or even clarified.  The sounds of hard breathing could be heard.  Scraping palette knives and rubbing brushes were all enhanced by a string of expletives muttered, hissed and often shouted.  The model would shift a bit, her hand not quite were it had been at the start, someone says, “Shit,” while another whispers, “better.”  And then without warning, David would drag the easel of one unsuspecting student, to the other side of the room and quietly say, “Okay, that’s better for you.”

As the day wore on, and focus waned or shifted altogether, you might realize that what paint you had applied to the canvas, had betrayed your sense of expression.  It looked like nothing you intended, or in extreme cases, even recognized.  Your head pounded from a combination of concentration and the heavy toxic fumes that floated above, around and through your head.  The heart beating thunder would follow you from Studio D into the fresh air only to be cleared when someone looked at you with the same bewildered gazed and you both broke into unrestrained laughter.

Studio D

At night it could become a dance hall, a mosh pit, a community center, or mostly all three.  John Nieman would show up with his drum kit and his latest clutch of rockers.  Someone would deliver the beer, and there were always young women and men looking to blow off steam at the least.  The lights would be dim, the model, long gone.  The heat of intense study would disappear with the toxic fumes and those first embers of a community that would span generations would glow.  The flames they created would develop a legacy of artistic creativity that is unsurpassed.  What happened in that room has affected the lives of more than those who spent time in it.  Those affects radiate throughout our community, our state, and literally our country. And the only people who have heard of it have lived it.

The studio is gone, and as cliché as it sounds the spirit does live on in those of us who teach, create and remember.  Studio D has become a way of life, an attitude, and yes a legacy.  I for one am glad I live it.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Welcome to Juxtapositions

Welcome to Juxtapositions the Taylespun Blog

For the last few years, friends and colleagues have asked why I didn’t have a blog of some sort.  I have been an artist all of my life and have made it the driving force behind all of my life decisions since 1982 when I left the U.S. Coast Guard and became an art student.  I spent nearly 25 years working for an independent art supply store, where I learned and shared information about art materials and techniques from hundreds, more likely thousands of practicing artists, art supply manufactures and their representatives.   I have mentored, taught and shared everything I could, without reservation to anyone who asked.

3 ½ years ago, I lost that job that had helped me to define myself.  I miss the interaction with artists, hobbyists, and those who just mess around with their creativity.  With this blog I hope to get some of that back.  I plan to share my experience and my opinion with those who wish to spend some time here.  I hope to inspire a few discussions and answer some questions.  I hope what I have to say is meaningful and maybe important.   It is my anticipation to evolve this blog into an e-zine of sorts as I travel the Southcoast area and beyond, visiting galleries, artist studios, and even a few rock and roll shows.

I plan on linking to articles I respect, even those I may disagree with.   I hope to recreate the community I left behind, make it something broader, more vivid, and inspiring.  I hope to find many followers as I grow and discover a new path on this journey.

If you have suggestions or question, send them.  You want to discuss, let it rip.  Let’s have some fun and help each other grow as artists, art lovers and friends.