William Kosman - Artiste Peintre

Thursday, November 29, 2012

#38 - Some Basic Ideas

"River View" 

Portion of Mystery Painting

Fellow Art Lovers

Some time has passed since Oct. 20 and 21, the occasion of Philadelphia Open Studio Tours.  But I want to take this occasion to thank all of the fellow art lovers who visited my studio and offered their support for my work, in particular those who offered their heartfelt comments about my paintings and my Painter’s Blog and those who honored me by sharing my work others through purchases and the placement of my paintings in their homes. 

During the two days, some people mentioned to me that they enjoy my blog postings about my painting and my views about art.  Several people (Are you ready for this?) told me that they look forward to my postings so much that they read every word.  I take those comments in all humility, because I write with the knowledge that there are so many people who have so much more knowledge about art and painting than I do. 

However, at the same time, I realize that what I write are conclusions and ideas based on some acquired knowledge, but mostly ideas based on personal experience and personal beliefs.  Most of what I’ve written describes that I want to achieve and what I go through trying to get there.

For you to understand some of my comments, I want to take a short detour.  Without boring you with long explanations, I want to tell you just a bit about my background.  Painting is actually my third career.  Before deciding that the brush (or palette knife) is mightier than the sword, I spent 18 years as a journalist, starting as a police reporter and wire-service newsman to working as a reporter in Paris and magazine editor in New York.  More than anything, my tools were words. The pen was mightier than the sword.  And this was also true for the next 18 years, during which I worked in marketing for smaller technology companies and major corporations. 

During all of these years, I enjoyed – in a way – a split personality.  I went further with words and wrote a series of novels, including my last completed novel, which I self-published, The Picasso Paradigm (www.AuthorHouse.com).   I still have not put words aside; among other things, I can’t stop myself from writing raps. But also, since childhood and during all of those years, I always painted, including watercolors in Normandy and in courses and workshops in France and the U.S., including the Art Students League in New York.

That puts me in perspective.  It’s up to you to judge whether the ideas I offer are valid and worth reading.

Painting with Confidence.  I’ve thought a lot about what it takes to paint with confidence, that is, take brush or palette knife in hand and load the instrument with paint and then apply a stroke to the canvas, without going back and adjusting or diminishing the impact of the color or the form of the stroke. I believe that it takes a considerable force of character to make that commitment to paint and canvas, without hesitation, without forethought, without cleanup or adjustment.  So, how do you get there?  And, I want to add that I’m not always in that state of mind.

To back up just a second, I believe that painting expresses the painter’s ideas and emotions, and to express those ideas and emotions forcefully, he (I use the masculine “he” only because I’m referring to myself.) has to have full confidence in those ideas and emotions. In short, he has to have a world view of how our greater environment is formed and how it functions, and what his role in that environment is. 

For example, if he understands that he’s a mere speck among multitudes on another mere speck hurtling through an infinitely shifting and expanding universe, and that that he sees himself as one miniscule but honorable being who makes one minute but consistent contribution to his own little community of beings, then he can be calm and confident when he takes brush to canvas.   In the way of contrast, if he sees himself as a genius high above the level of other mortals, if he sees himself as an eminence who bows to share his brilliance with the lowly masses who surround him, and he is confident in that role, then he too can paint with confidence.  The only requirement is to have examined the world and to have come to a confident conclusion.

If our painter has that confidence, then he can explore his own creativity, move into new realms, take new approaches, and define his own forms and colors, and thereby know that whatever he puts on the canvas will ultimately work out in fully valid new work or perhaps in a brilliant new creation.

In all humility, I have to admit that I do not achieve that state of mind every day, but I believe I am constantly making progress.

The Links that Bind the Arts Together.  I constantly think about another idea, and that one is similarities among all of the arts, for example painting and the other plastic arts, the worlds of music and dance, and the world of literature.

Of course, I’m talking here about huge and complex subjects, and I realize again that there are thinkers and writers and scientists who have studied and written about this subject. And any discussion about the arts involves the miracle of human creativity, the conscious and subconscious processes that deliver wonderful ideas to all of us. And these ideas can be applied to so many areas.  

But here I am talking about just one small slice of art, so I hope my words here have some validity. In my view, every form of arty has subsidiary themes, and in their execution, they need points of interest, and active segments and quiet segments, compact areas with a great deal of activity and detail, and expansive areas with noble and calm expanses.

For example, in a novel, we find passages with rapid-fire action and clever repartee, but – at the same time - passages with wide-ranging descriptions of expanses of land or sea and exposition of long historical trends.  In so many novels, we go from the bang-bang of action in short sentences to the long, patient explanation in longer, sweeping sentences.  In the same way, the world of dance includes rapid movement and graceful movement of sweeps across the stage.  And, if your mind is jumping ahead, you’re thinking about the different movements of great symphonies and even the phrasing of popular songs.

Thus, in my world of painting, I’m conscious of the need for sections of detail and at the same time, expanses of restful space. I believe that, if the entire canvas is full of busy movement, you - the viewer - will be overwhelmed, and you won’t be able to see what I believe are the most important things to notice. But, if there’s a balance between movement and calm, you’ll notice the details that I want you to see.  Those details, for me, are the elements that transmit an emotion about human beings.  Beyond the ideas, I also think about the basic question of what’s a pleasure for you to look at.  Here again, a balance lets you feel the pleasure of viewing a painting.       

Which brings us to the painting and the piece of a painting above.

The painting “River View” was painted in two separate segments of time.  The first segment was about a month ago, when I painted at the site over two or three days, several hours each day.  Painting outdoors, I did feel confident and free.  But when I got back to my studio, I just didn’t feel thrilled with the style.  I waited for about a month and revised the painting.  Frankly, I literally let my brush fly over the canvas.  Now, I’m a lot more pleased with the painting.

The other painting, a mystery painting whose totality you’ll only see when I’m satisfied with the entire surface, seemed to go swimmingly during most of my work.  But in viewing it when it was near completion, I just wasn’t satisfied with two specific portions of it.  I want to insert an idea here:  I talk a lot about freedom, but at the same time, I believe it’s important to examine my work with a truly critical eye, to the painting expresses as much as it can. I do that a lot. Therefore, I’m going to keep working on those portions until I’m satisfied with them.  And then I’ll show them to you. For the moment, just to prove there’s really a painting I’m working on, I’ll show you the traffic light from the upper-left portion of the painting.

Now, I’ll let you be the judge.  Do you feel confidence in the execution of the painting?  Are they a pleasure to view?    

You'll be able to see "River View" and, I hope, the Mystery Painting during a special Open Studio Event being held on Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 8 and 9, from noon to 6 pm, at my studio, #407 at 915 Spring Garden Street, near 9th and Spring Garden St., with the entrance on Percy St., of course in Philadelphia, PA 19123. 

Also, on both days at around 2 pm, I plan to give a demonstration on how I stretch canvas over a wooden frame called stretcher bars.  Several people, including some children, have asked me how it's done. Since I need to prepare some canvases, I figured I might as well do it with a few onlookers. 

Thanks for listening.  Boy, I really tested your patience this time, if you chose to read this entire blog entry.


William  Kosman