Brushing off the Dust

May 28, 2016

Last week I finished a full size painting- something I have not accomplished in over two years. I have started paintings. I have been working tirelessly in sketchbooks. I have been reading about art. I have been viewing art. But this is the first thing I sat down and finished. It is intended to be 1 of 4 paintings in a series of Night Paintings.

night painting 1

Untitled (Night Painting #1), Megan Call

 

Art fuels me, but for some time I had lost sight of what my passion is. I recently visited the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and it put the kindling on the fire. I then did an art night with a friend where we both worked on pieces, and it was inspiring.

egon_schiele_danae

Danae, Egon Schiele

But what does an artist do when there is no inspiration? Chuck Close is one of the many artists who has commented on inspiration, “Inspiration is highly overrated. If you sit around and wait for the clouds to part, it’s not liable to ever happen. More often than not, work is salvation”. I had professors in college who told me 85% of life is showing up. That has been what I have been challenging myself to- showing up, even if I don’t feel like doing it. I have been finding a rhythm to suppress that spoiled child who says, “But I don’t want to!” I have found peace in doing the work, even when it is ugly, even if it feels unfinished.

Self_Portrait1967-1968_Chuck_Close

Self Portrait, Chuck Close

It is the doing that makes us artists. It isn’t about the finished or completed or show worthy pieces. It is about the work we do behind the scenes. The tears and sweat and splashing of paint and water are the things that make the difference- it is in the showing up. It is the act of getting the palette out, picking the colors and sloshing them around, even to make something you end up hating. That is where the ideas are found. That is where all the masterpieces began- mixing the wrong color, having the wrong proportion, tearing up the work and doing it all again the next day.

I am thankful for all the artists that showed up and continue to show up. After all, this world would be quite dim without art.

-Look. Listen. Respond.

Megan

Frida

March 1, 2015

I’ve been drafting this post since last year because I’ve had trouble finding the right words to say. Frida Kahlo is a painter who is very dear to my heart. With the end of winter in sight and the hope of spring, my heart needs some comfort to get through the last bit of this cold.

I know Frida is talked about often. She is one of the few female artists you actually learn about in art history. Her work inspires me because it makes you feel something. She painted to tell stories. She painted to illustrate human experiences- pain, lust, loss, love, beauty.

Her work has been an inspiration to me for over ten years. As artists most of us can only hope to create pieces that make people feel something the way her work does, to make them see the way she did, and to simply produce this amount of work in a lifetime. Because many her paintings are so well known, I have selected a small number of Frida images that I respond to.

My Dress Hangs There, Frida Kahlo

My Dress Hangs There, Frida Kahlo

Frida painting her cast

Frida painting her cast

The Wounded Deer, Frida Kahlo

The Wounded Deer, Frida Kahlo

Frida with The Two Fridas

Frida with The Two Fridas

What the Water Gave Me, Frida Kahlo

What the Water Gave Me, Frida Kahlo

Moses, Frida Kahlo

Moses, Frida Kahlo

Frida painting a portrait of her father

Frida painting a portrait of her father

I have talked to plenty of people who do not care for or understand the works of Frida. I don’t believe her paintings are meant to be understood simply by use of the viewers eye. Her paintings are meant to be felt. They are dreamscapes, a glimpse into something beyond the physical world. She spent much of her life in physical pain, so it makes sense that she would portray a different kind of world in her paintings. She put on canvas a rawness that has the ability to comfort, to shock, and to raise awareness of the human existence.

Look. Listen. Respond.

-Megan

Seductive Selfie

February 27, 2014

With the rise of social media the “selfie” is an ever popular way to show yourself to the world. Cameras on our phones make it possible to share images of ourselves at any moment, in the light that we choose or simply have available, naked or clothed, with an option of camera style. The opportunity for selfies is endless. Self portraits are fascinating to me because we decide how we want the world to see us. We are saying, “Here, this is what I really look like”. Even with all the available technology, people are still painting or sculpting portraits of themselves. They are still using film or wet plate processes with the help of timers or remote shutter releases to capture an image of themselves. Are we all narcissists because we love to share our faces with the world? Maybe we are simply trying to preserve something of ourselves or find a way to let it go.

Ellen Day Hale, Self Portrait, 1885

Ellen Day Hale, Self Portrait, 1885

Munch, Self Portrait with Skeleton Arm, 1895

Munch, Self Portrait with Skeleton Arm, 1895

Patricia Schappler, Self Portrait

Patricia Schappler, Self Portrait

Andre Derain, Self Portrait with a Cap, 1905

Andre Derain, Self Portrait with a Cap, 1905

Lucian Freud, Self Portrait: Reflection, 1996

Lucian Freud, Self Portrait: Reflection, 1996

Some artists are almost solely known because of the numerous self portraits they produced. What if Frida Kahlo had a smart phone? How many more images of her would exist? Would Rembrandt’s eyes appear as glassy as the sea? Would Matisse use Instagram to make everything the color it should be?

The Wounded Deer, Frida Kahlo

The Wounded Deer, Frida Kahlo

Frida Kahlo Self Portrait 1922

Frida Kahlo, Self Portrait, 1922

Van Gogh, Self-Portrait with a Straw Hat, 1887

Van Gogh, Self-Portrait with a Straw Hat, 1887

van Gogh, Self Portrait with Grey Felt Hat, 1886-87

van Gogh, Self Portrait with Grey Felt Hat, 1886-87

van Gogh, Self Portrait, 1887

van Gogh, Self Portrait, 1887

Rembrandt, Self Portrait, 1661

Rembrandt, Self Portrait, 1661

Degas, Self Portrait

Degas, Self Portrait

Maybe we think we are making ourselves everlasting by leaving images of ourselves behind. Maybe we are being bold by allowing ourselves to be vulnerable. We are happy to say, “This is me”. We use self portraits to show the world how we want to be seen in that moment. Whether it is vanity, sheer pleasure, or simply impulse that drives the creation of the “self image”, they are an enjoyable part of history.

Look. Listen. Respond.

-Megan

Matisse’s Carmelina

October 1, 2012

There are some paintings that stick with you. You can look at many paintings and feel some attachment to them, but they can be easily replaced with another current favorite. Discovering new work (or old work you’ve never seen) is always exciting, but there are a few paintings that will never be replaced. There are paintings that will grab hold of something inside you every time you see them. You will never stop looking at them because they always have more to say, always leave you in awe.

The first painting that I have encountered that could never be replaced as a favorite is Carmelina by Matisse:

Carmelina, Matisse

As usual, the digital copy does not do this piece justice. I am lucky to have seen this piece in person many times. (Its home is the MFA in Boston.) Even in print copies, you can see the full color scale– the gray blues, greens, and bright reds in her flesh. No brush stroke is wasted in this piece. I often wonder if Matisse considered this painting finished, or if it was just a quick study. Maybe something happened with the model, making it impossible to finish?

The first time I saw this painting, she struck me as so beautiful. When I did an analysis of the painting through a master copy, I realized her face is bold in comparison to her soft body. She looks as though she has just settled into the pose or may jump up at any moment. The unresolved hands and feet seem to speak of the recent or coming movement. Even the quick stroke of the cloth draped over her holds a memory of movement. Where is she going? Where did she come from?

After the spell of the nude figure has lifted, you see Matisse hiding in the mirror. Is he looking at her or us? Is he looking at us through her? Once you find him, you cannot help but stare at him, that little red patch in the mirror. To me, this painting will always be a beautiful nude, but a self-portrait as well. Matisse is identifying himself as painter. This painting feeds into the idea that every work by an artist is a self-portrait. I will never stop looking at Carmelina and her beauty, but I will also never forget Matisse is there, waving his little red flag in the corner.

Look. Listen. Respond.

Megan

In her paintings, Neel portrays what it is to be human. She paints the sitter’s soul on the canvas as well as his or her physical features, using a psychological and physical approach to portraiture. In many of her paintings, the subject or subjects gaze out at us. She did not censor out any pain or awkwardness that the subject may be feeling. Neel knew many of the people she painted on some personal level, so she had insight into the inner workings of each one’s life. Neel’s paintings give a glimpse of what it is to be human– wonderful, awkward, thrilling, and tormented.

Neel paints quickly. Normally, she would have between three and six sessions with a sitter; using observation and her conversation with the model to choose the most important features (both physical and psychological) of her model.

Neel was a fearless painter. She did not let being a woman hold her back from painting. She did not care about gender. What was important was that being at her easel made her happy. Painting was her life.

I need to be more fearless. I allow myself to worry over making something ugly or something that doesn’t have a “good idea” attached to it. Sometimes I forget that even those that seem to work without fear had it at times, but they continued to work through it. The images that I may consider “bad” or “ugly” are just as valid as those that I find “attractive.” It is a tough value decision to make– what is important? Telling the truth and letting things be awkward at times or lying to make something attractive? It is a balance of what it visually true, what is considered attractive and “lying” to tell the “truth.”

Making good decisions quickly is something I struggle with. I forget to look at where something is going and rush into getting it on the canvas. It is important to me (especially this semester) to slow down and make the right decisions in the beginning, not several sessions into a piece. It is importance to bring an alertness, an awareness back into my work.

I want to communicate through the model. In some of the work I have done, you see the “psyche” of the person as well as their physical appearance. This needs to be pushed further. Neel had formal training before she “made it” as an artist. She understood the importance of understanding the anatomy of a person. Being able to really see and transfer the image to the paper or canvas is an important first step. If I can understand that, my ability to portray the mind, thoughts, and mannerisms of the person I am painting will become a clearer study. (Kind of like slowing down in the fog because you know only so much information is going to be available to you at one time. It isn’t necessarily easy to drive through fog, but there are things that can be done to make it a clearer experience.)

I know that the struggle isn’t something that will go away, but I am hoping that by really taking what I can from artists that have come before me my skill will improve. This improvement will come from actually working– painting, drawing, photographing. The more time I spend observing and working towards accuracy, the easier it will become to make the decisions I need to make. By copying the masters I hope to understand their work, and find a way to use that information in my own work as well.

Look. Listen. Respond.

-Megan