In describing how the design came to be for my recent bronze receptacle for an Eternal Flame candle holder (see Architectural Elements page), it became clear that what is taken for granted as an approach is not necessarily how others work, so I thought a note about it may provide some insight.
Commissioned works are created after I first engage mind and energies in deep thought about many factors and gather as much information as relevant regarding theme, site, client and/or audience aspirations, lighting, weather if applicable, maintenance, historical or cultural significance, and on. I may have some ideas beginning to form, but in fact most design solutions come directly as a vision after trying to tune into what belongs there (if the “there” is known). Sometimes standing at a site is sufficient for the design to appear in my mind. On occasion there is not a specific site determined, which then opens up other possibilities.
I can design conceptually from ideas or mental constructs , but I like it best when, in a relaxed meditative space, ideas appear as visions fully formed. Then the challenge is to remember the details well enough to sketch and translate them into physical form. The vision always seems grander than what is possible to achieve given human limitations. I just do my best to stay true to the spirit of the vision if not the fullness of every detail so elusive when trying to draw down from Spirit into phyiscal reality.
By the nature of Art, beginning efforts are rough and seeming far removed from the outcome. Were anyone to see those stages they likely would not catch the vision. As it progresses it gets closer to the vision, which is when it becomes especially exciting to work on. Fine tuning the nuance of detail is an excercise in loving patience, and often a deeply spiritual experience. At last, it becomes a matter of deciding to let go and realize, “I’ve done all I can, now release it into the world”
An artist friend posted on facebook this insightful quote from “The Practise and Science of Drawing” by Harold Speed, which was the text we studied at The Atelier LeSueur and likely used at most Ateliers….an excellent book to help learn the art of drawing:
The search for this inner truth is the search for beauty. People whose vision does not penetrate beyond the narrow limits of the commonplace, and to whom a cabbage is but a vulgar vegetable, are surprised if they see a beautiful picture painted of one, and say that the artist has idealised it, meaning that he has consciously altered its appearance on some idealistic formula; whereas he has probably only honestly given expression to a truer, deeper vision than they had been aware of. The commonplace is not the true, but only the shallow, view of things. Our moments of peace are, I think, always associated with some form of beauty, of this spark of harmony within corresponding with some infinite source without. In moments of beauty (for beauty is, strictly speaking, a state of mind rather than an attribute of certain objects) we seem to get a glimpse of this deeper truth behind the things of sense. And who can say but that this sense, dull enough in most of us, is not an echo of a greater harmony existing somewhere the other side of things, that we dimly feel through them, evasive though it is.
Have you ever noticed how visions of future cities and their architecture almost always seem to embrace an aesthetic that looks like rocketships turned into buildings, or other forms of smooth-planed abstractions that seem machine made but never humanly crafted? Sometimes these visions drape building surfaces with lush plant life, a fantasy that plants will just naturally and neatly grow over every part of a steel, glass, or concrete building surface where desired, without regard to direction of sunlight or water supply.
What is usally missing is the treatment of architecture as a respostitory for artistic expression through accent and ornamentation, using the actual building materials to express organic beauty in both blending and contrast with the rigid geometric planes…such as is found in the work of Louis Sullivan.
Why do visions of future architecture tend towards aerodynamic space ship aesthetic and away from an even more profound evolution inspired by the genius developed in the past? Why not include geometry found in nature’s organic designs, along with depicting when appropriate the spiritualized aspiration of humanity expressed through accent and ornament? Is there a reason why the touch of the human spirit in artistic expression should cease to reside in futuristic concepts?
My architectural aesthetic was shaped by growing up in Chicago and Evanston on it’s Northern border. While it has it’s share of streamlined skyscrapers, it has always been home to a vast amount of architectural ornament expertly woven into the fabric of its buildings, continually bringing joy and a special sense of place to each area. The appreciation of architectural quality has been so highly regarded since the late 19th century that even the skyscrapers often set standards of design rather than merely making do with the easiest, less elegant solutions. But there is no reason to abandon the ornamental aspect even in the steel and glass tower constructions. There is a lot that can be done to bring architecture to a higher plane of artistic expression in the future by considering ornament and artistic accent along with form and function, and thinking about Art-chitecture.
It may be acknowledged that the soul of an artist is more sensative than usual as regards to being open and receiving perceptions from Spirit, from nature, and from the world we live in. I know I’m not alone among my fellow artists in having been deeply affected by the barrage of unsettling negative events that the year 2020 brought us, including so much of daily life that we have experienced all our lives suddenly and often arbitrarily being shut down over real or imagined fears. Many including myself had their livelihoods threatened or curtailed without recourse. It goes against my grain to seek outside help for that which I can do on my own. A fortuitously timed commission helped, and then finding things I could part with, rather than looking for “free” money from the gov’t, was how I made it through in a material sense. On other levels, it was not always as smooth as desired. The heaviness made it difficult to find that joyful, natural creative space almost taken for granted that allows my best work to flourish. And as apparent on this website, I did not write blogs. ..did not want to verbally express reactions to the tulmult on the world stage, as if doing so would give it even more power to have a negative impact. I try to stay positive and a calm in the storm.
Writing today on facebook about architectural aesthics reminded me that I should share thoughts again here on my own blog page, and so….I’m back!
Children learn in many ways, a powerful one being to absorb visual patterns in the environment. As children try to discover their identity, the environment provides information to assist in that process; language, social cues, emotional states of those around them, and sensory information including visual. Having heightened sensitivity and given that identity-forming is a key to survival, childhood memories are deeply ingrained. We can access these at seemingly random times when similar stimuli such as a smell, taste, or visual experience triggers resonant chords with the particular memory. For example seeing a box of 64 Crayola crayons can bring back the memory of the joy and creative enthusiasm of doing grade school art.
I was deeply and profoundly influenced by an original painting by William Adolphe Bouguereau that hung in the Evanston Public Library. I can remember at age 6 or 7 staring at it in awe as though it were a holy icon. The purity and innocence so heartful and expertly rendered made a lasting impression. In 1996 I spent 10 days painting a copy of it. (See my figure painting page)
Because of this and other insights, I value the high responsibility artists should have regarding their patterns put out into the world, visual or otherwise. Our work affects others, and can especially influence the sensitive and absorbing nature of the child mind. This sense of responsibility motivates the time spent on each artistic effort, as well as the choice of projects that I take on, and what I do with those choices. Put love and light into all work that it may serve others to perceive more about their true nature as a spiritual beings in human form.
Please bear with me as I build a new website. Website building is not my specialty. My previous website became unusable and then vanished into hyperspace, so I find myself having to figure this out from scratch with the help of fine folks at wordpress.com. Meanwhile, you can contact me at: email@example.com if you would like to know more about what I can create for you or to see as yet un-posted works in a huge variety of media from over 30 years of creating Art.