Thursday, September 11, 2014

Haystack Mountain School of Crafts 2014

I just finished teaching a two-week printmaking workshop at Haystack Mountain School of Crafts on Deer Isle, Maine. This was my third time teaching there, the first of which was in 1994.

Haystack is a very special place for several reasons. It is located on the tip of a granite island on Penobscot Bay and was designed by Edward Larabee Barnes to be integrated into the landscape and have a low impact on the delicate ecosystem.

The director, Stuart Kestenbaum, a poet and all-around special human being, is caring, nurturing, funny and very interested in the studios on a daily basis. This is a place where people come to learn techniques in their respective disciplines but almost more importantly to experience time together in a way that day-to-day life does not provide.

In this workshop I covered several direct, non-technical, painterly ways to make prints. I feel that it is important to show ways for all artists to engage with printmaking in a way that is not restrictive, caustic or limited to age-old techniques and above all, lots of fun.

The eleven participants were all open-minded, hard- working, mutually supportive, engaged, excited and all made great work. People hit their strides at different times in the workshop but all did extremely well and will take new ideas and approaches to artmaking back to their studios.

I have been teaching one or two-week workshops at schools similar to Haystack for many years and feel very strongly that these institutions provide an environment in which people can achieve things they never knew they were capable of on many levels.

The world needs these places--and more of them. I saw things happen between people every day that were what we were put on the planet for: kindness, generosity, nurturing, understanding, patience, exploration, risk-taking, sharing, speaking the truth, crying, loving, caring and creating.

It is my hope that the 90 or so people that were there take these things back in to their lives and spread them out to others and keep them alive in the world.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

A Constant Moving Forward

"Obstacle", 21x93x10" carved walnut, maple and cherry, oil paint, varnish- 2014

The life of an artist is a roller coaster with unpredictable peaks and valleys. The last couple of years for me have been challenging—not in terms of making work but as relates to the burden of the marketplace.

I love making and working with my hands to produce things that are my response to what I experience and discover in the world I inhabit. I can do this night and day. It is a practice. It never gets easier but continually changes and evolves like a living breathing thing.

The great challenge in all of this is to separate the making from the selling, and to never repeat oneself. All of what I have done before has to be eliminated from what I will now do.

The market tends to want what has already been done and proven but I have always been one
who goes against what I am told to do.

To keep vital as a person and an artist I keep moving into new territory. I love to work on sculptures when inventing new work as the act of working with my hands in this way releases my brain, allowing new thoughts and images to arise.

Ceramic sculpture is what I started with in high school. I rarely sell sculpture so making it allows me a certain level of freedom. I get a form or image in my mind, do drawings, make parts, and then assemble them until the image becomes a three-dimensional reality.

"Fruit Boat", 78x82x11",carved cherry, maple and poplar, bronze, acrylic, colored pencil, varnish,

It is a constant moving forward towards the finished piece. I love this process and will spend countless hours obsessively working away, allowing my brain a rest that painting does not give me. I sometimes paint for days and then cover it all up and start again. Painting is a constant thought process for me as far as creating forms, images, color combinations and surface treatments.

Throughout my career I have taken breaks from painting and turned to sculpture as way to continue
working through ideas, many of which cannot be expressed in two dimensions. I have been working on two sculptures for the last six weeks that have been a joy and make me happy to be engaged with.

I once again have the feeling of being an eight-year old boy heading up to the baseball field with my glove and ball on a spring Saturday morning; a feeling I constantly strive towards in the studio.

These are transportation images, a car on a road and a boat on a bronze dock.

The long, stretched out car is made of cherry, as is the road it is on. (photo above)