Yet I cannot tell you, dear reader (are you there?), how often I have heard people dismiss the ability to draw and paint from observation - most of mine are from life - as being a mere "facility" that, with a little effort, anyone can pick up, like tracing a dot-to-dot in a child's coloring book, presumably. Mostly those people - artists working in non-rep modes - have not, so far, "picked it up" themselves. In the meantime others that I know, accomplished artists, have spent half a lifetime trying to chase down that elusive thing, the human face and, despite sharply honing their skills of observation and deepening their technical knowledge, continue to be eluded by that will o' the wisp: the life force within. Being able to see deeply and transform that knowledge into an image is not a facility, it is a gift - quite a rare gift and I am fortunate to possess it to some reasonable extent.
I am no hater of non-representational art - see my own Mixed Media portfolio on this website - and much of the art I write about is installation, assemblage, conceptual, and abstract. But all art is abstract, certainly in its execution. A case in point is Ellsworth Kelly, one of the most abstract artists of our time, still with us at age 90. His most well-known paintings tend to be vibrant monochromes on shaped canvases - no Rotho-esque romantic washes or soft edges. But Kelly is a superb draftsman who draws every day from nature and takes what he discovers there into his painting. When I read what Kelly says about his most abstract work, I think "but that is what I am thinking when I am painting a face." The difference is that he takes those shapes he sees in nature, separates them from their context, unifies the color, and reproduces them on a monumental scale. Here are some of his plant drawings: http://mhsartgallerymac.wikispaces.com/Ellsworth+Kelly
That is enough waffle out of me for now, so I shall leave you, Phantom Reader (may I call you Phan for short?), to draw your own conclusions.
Oh wait - while I have your attention. Do check out my commentaries about art on Roll Magazine online. Latest is about the new, massive show going on right now (until Dec 15, 2013) at Industry City in the Sunset Park area of Brooklyn: Come Together: Surviving Sandy. The show is a fund-raiser for artists affected by Hurricane Sandy last year and includes both artist victims and those wanted to support the cause, 300 in all. Artists include a number of "Bold Face" names: Alex Katz, Chuck Close, Kiki Smith, Shirin Neshat and very interesting works by Shojo Azari, Bruce High Quality Foundation, Dustin Yellin, Diana Cooper, Corban Walker (from my old alma mater) among many others and also under-recognized and emerging artists. A good read, if I say so myself.
Also check out my article immediately before the Surviving Sandy piece - this is about a very different kind of art show: The Woodstock Landscape, Then and Now, and is worthy of note if you are interested in how Woodstock became "Woodstock" and why it all happened in New York State instead of, oh, North Carolina...
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