Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Copy or And Original????

When is a work of art all yours and and original and not a copy of another’s work?  Inspired by a viewers comments about a new work of art I posted on Facebook.

Viewers of my work frequently ask me about the squiggly black and white lines I have dancing through just about all of my work.  I always tell them the story of when they first appeared.  I was painting a large watercolor on paper and there was one area of the work that I didn’t like.  Watercolor is very unforgiving and I didn’t know how to make that area work and still keep the integrity of the work.  I took out a ruler and drew three straight lines through the troubled area.  Then I painted them black and white.  These black and white lines have been dancing, they are no longer straight, through my work ever since.  For me they represent motion and movement in the work they appear in.
So where did these lines come from?  Just out of the blue like I described them above or was there something in my history of being around art, literally all my life, that I could look back to and say this is where these wonderful dancing lines came from.  The only thing that comes up in my memories is a an exhibition at the Chasen Museum of Art, where I was volunteering as a docent, of work by a people who inhabit the Ivory Coast of Ghana in Africa.  Just about everything they owned, furniture, footstools, weapons, clothing had a checker board pattern on it.  I must have given over 50 tours for that exhibition and perhaps that is where the black and white lines came from.  I don’t know.
I tell this story because recently I painted a painting which I called “The Performance.”  I was challenging myself to do figures as I rarely do them in my work.  I had been researching how other artists have done figures just to give me some ideas how I might want to do mine.  I knew my figures would be suggestive and not detailed with reality.  To my surprise I created my first figurative work unintentionally, just like the black and white lines suddenly appeared in my work a figure appeared in my work.  When I finished the piece I called it, “RingMasters Coat.”  And there is was my solution to how I wanted to do figures.  And I have been working on an entire series I call “At The Circus” where figures are the main focus of the work. 
For the most part I began the works with watercolor washes like I do 90 percent of my pieces.  The washes don’t always remain but the work always starts out that way.  For the newest piece in this series “The Performance” started out with a wash, and I was going to move into try and accomplish what I have been unable to accomplish in many years transparent watercolors.  I had played with some watercolor sketches in my Kasba Lake Series and thought I had a good idea as to where I was going to go and create a transparent watercolor. I liked where the piece was going but suddenly there was a huge drip in the work that I didn’t know what to do with. 
I returned to what I was comfortable with to make the piece work – I added opaque color.  Two figures appeared.  I saw them right away and began developing them.  But what to do with the background of the work.  I was coming at it backwards.  I wanted to create a wash that flowed across the entire piece but that would have destroyed the figures which I liked.  So I abandoned the watercolors and began using opaque color for the entire piece.  But the question came up what to do with the background.  I blocked out some shapes filled them with color and called it a day.  The work was done.  Mind you there were about 20 different layers underneath the finished work.  I was never comfortable with the solution I came up with.  When I called it a day I posted the work on Facebook to share and get some comments on.
The very first comment was that looks like Bob Burridge’s work.  I was devasted.  What did I copy someone?  I knew of Burridge’s work, he has been a judge in many of the completions I have entered. In fact recently he awarded me a 2nd place in a very prestigious exhibition.  I was extremely honored.  But there was no way I would copy his work.  Perhaps like the black and white lines, the influence of his work just appeared in mine. I went to Burridges website to remind myself just what it was he did.  And sure, enough my work resembled his.  And he loved the colors orange and yellow with complementary colors as a focal point in his work. I love orange and yellow together – and often use a complementary color to bring the viewer in. And Burridge had done an entire series on a circus.  I was devasted.  I knew I could never enter this piece in a competition – it was way too much like his work.  When you enter a competition, you sign a form stating that this is your work, not done in a workshop, not copied from another’s work, not copied from another’s photograph.  You sign that everything in that work is yours and only yours.  I couldn’t do that with this work. 
These two stories bring me to the point of this post – just when is a work a copy and just when is a work yours and yours alone, an original?
Most of us know when our work is a copy of another’s, but do we always?  And what about folks who for example do landscapes, just how different can a landscape be, and you can still call it your own?  Flowers are another example the list can go on and on.  Yes, most artists are inspired by other artists, but not to the point of copying their work. 
Those of you who read my blogs know I challenge many a work as art because it is not original.  The question becomes then what is an original work of art?  If we make figures like others have made figures, if we handle color like others have handle colors, if we create landscapes like others have created landscapes does that mean our work is not original?  I have argued yes it does mean your work is not original.  So, is anything original anymore?  I answer yes, if you the artist are in the work.
My work “The Performers” had very little of me in it as it was presented.  The simple fact for me that there was a horizon line to add perspective disqualified it for me.  What you say, a simple horizon line that adds perspective, disqualifies the work as original.  I say yes, especially if almost immediately a viewer asks if I know of another artists work and tells me how much my work looks like his.  Yes.
I changed the work – the first piece no longer exists except in photographs. I am very happy with the changes, and there is no one I venture to say that has another piece like it.  It is an original.  And yes, I will enter it in competitions.  We are influenced by other artists, we do admire other artists, we are inspired by other artists, but it is not until my black and white lines weren’t straight anymore and danced across the paper that those lines became mine.  And it was not until I changed the background of my work and created my own blocks of space and perspective did the work become mine.  That is how I understand the word “original” when I say to be a work of art it must be original.

Monday, September 3, 2018

"The Performers - At The Circus"

"The Performers - At The Circus"
40x30 Acrylic on paper.

Man did I struggle with this piece - trying to learn how to put figures in my work. Just a wonderful new challenge.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Poppies III

Visit Christine in her studio during Northwoods Art Tour in the Minocqua, Wisconsin Area - July 27-29. Studio hours for the tour are 10-5. The entire new Circus Series to date will be on display during the tour.

Featured image: "Poppies III" 8"x8" x12"x12" Framed, Watercolor and Acrylic on Paper

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Northwoods Art Tour July 27-29

Hope to see you during Northwoods Art Tour - July 27-29. Studio hours for the tour are 10-5. The entire new Circus Series to date will be on display during the tour.
Title: Clown and Her Trickster Dog 8x8 framed 20x20 Acrylic and Watercolor on Paper. Part of At The Fishing Cabin Series and Circus Series.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Is Art About Unknowables?

Thinking about this question I immediately start reflecting on abstract art and color fields.  I think of Paul Jenkins work and the work of current day arts who create work from “poured” colors.  The content of these works is???????  I am not sure.  Beautiful flowing color but does that make it art?  When Paissul Jenkins first introduced the poured color fields he was working in a different time.  The goal of many artists during that time was to find purity to find bliss, to find utopia and present it. 

Jenkins time was trying to identify the mystical source of all things and make it objective.  Artists today are still trying to identify that mystical source that comes from no where they claim and just is there.  They have made very little progress in finding that special kind of unknowable so they link this unknowable to their feelings.  How they feel about a work of art? 

Feelings do very little when it comes to the progress of knowing something – for they are individual and unique.  Perhaps subjective feelings are the largest gulf between objectively knowing something and art, so how can art be objectively know.  How can we begin to make progress in the aesthetic of knowing what art is and the forever idea that art is just based on feeling?

A good starting place might be does the work and the artist present a sense of life?  A sense of life has endless possibilities – including color fields that in the past have come from a search for the unknowable. Perhaps the color fields of today come from that which an artist knows, their foundation and their sense of life.  The joy of the birth of something.

Featured image: "Radishes II"  11x15. Watercolor, Acrylic on Paper.  Artist Christine Alfery

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Best Of Show. "Ringmasters Coat." 30x40 Acrylic and Watercolor on paper.

Best of Show.  “Ringmaster’s Coat,” Watercolor and acrylic on paper.  “The perspective in this painting is abstract and compelling.  You can feel the hum and vibrancy of the circus, combined with a vibrant depiction of the ringmaster as he controls, or ties to control the chaos.  Anne Katz, judge, MAL Annual Exhibition, is the executive director of Arts Wisconsin and is nationally-known arts advocate.  Ringmasters Coat is currently on display at the Manitowish Waters Art Leagues annual exhibition.  It will be on display until Sunday July 22.  Gallery hours are from 9-6 Thursday, Friday, Saturday and 9-2 on Sunday.  

Ringmasters Coat will also be on display during the Northwoods Art Tour July 27-29 in Christine Alfery's studio.  Studio hours for the tour 10-5.  The entire circus series to date will be on display during the tour.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

The Bridge

I heard her, then I saw her. I have one hummingbird coming to the feeder on a yearly basis. I am so delighted she returns year after year to bring me joy with my morning coffee. Today there is also the finch calling and the rain quietly falling. Good day to work in the studio.

Artwork by Christine Alfery. "The Bridge" 8"x8" Acrylic and watercolor on paper. Part of the "At The Fishing Cabin Series."

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

"The Song She Sings."

Moving discovering, exploring – art and the artist. Perpetual discovering, perpetual motion, perpetual movement, forever discovering, the life and work of an artist. To be an artist you must be an artist every day and sing your life's song.

Friday, July 13, 2018

What Is Art? Part 3

"..the earth, and compel men entranced by the sight of distant goals to glance for a moment at the

surrounding vision of form and colour, of sunshine and shadows: to make them pause for a look,
for a sigh, for a smile—such is the aim, difficult and evanescent, and reserved only for a few to achieve.”

"This applies to my goal to make people stop and not just glance at my work but really see it and the
world it conveys." Kay Lorbecki

“ All art appears primarily to the senses, …. All art must make its appear through the senses, if its high desire is to reach the secret spring of responsive emotions.”  Joseph Conrad. Preface to, “The .... of the Narcissus.” This preface was written in 1957.  Back then in order for something to be called “art”  it needed a purity, to it, a notion of originality, the senses it was believed was one way of finding and expressing that purity.  Since then this notion of purity through the senses has transformed, morphed into art can be anything and everything and anyone can be an artist. And I don’t need to understand it because it’s art.
If art is anything and everything then it is nothing.  If art is only related to the senses and it is the individuals personal senses and every individuals sense of art is right – then there is nothing right in art.  And again art is nothing.

Art needs to be sensed, but that is not the only thing that makes art art – the notion of originality hasn’t changed.  The dictionary defines originality as “the ability to think “– note the word think here – “independently and creatively.  The quality of being novel or unusual.  Inventiveness, ingenuity, creativeness, creativity, innovation, novelty, freshness, imaginations, individuality, unconventionality, uniqueness, distinctiveness.” 

This, uniqueness,  includes the senses.  Your senses my senses are one of a kind, unique – so then how do we know a work is a work of art if the concept of art is dependent on originality and the senses.  So when one looks at a work of art – one can sense it is a a horse say, but how is that horse rendered.  If the life of the artist and the horse evident in the work.  If the viewer only sees what is recognizable, then that sense is not unique – the viewer and the artist need to move beyond, discover what is the uniqueness of the form and how the artist uniquely rendered it. 

Does this mean anything uniquely rendered is art?  No because then all unique things could be called art.  It takes more and I do believe that Conrad captured that sense of moreness with his comment, “To arrest, for the space of a breath, …and compel men entranced by the sight of distant goals to glance for a moment at the surrounding vision of form and colour, of sunshine and shadows; to make them pause for a look, for a sigh, for a smile – such is the aim, difficult and evanescent and reserved only for a few to achieve.  But sometimes, by the deserving and the fortunate, even that task is accomplished.  And when it is accomplished – behold! – all the truth of life is there: a moment of vision, a sign, a smile – and the return to an eternal rest.” Joseph Conrad. Preface to, “The .... of the Narcissus,”

So dear friend Kay Lorbecki I come to the same conclusion that you have re the question what is art and I have returned to the quote you like from Conrad

Just what is it about art that holds you as an artist captive?  What is it that you think art is?

"Soulful Jazz Singer - Moody Sax Player." 11"x15" Acrylic, watercolor on paper. Artwork by Christine Alfery. At The Fishing Cabin Series.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

What Is Art? Review of Joseph Conrads Preface. Part 2.

I personally believe that an artist needs to think – to use her mind when she is working and creating. Using ones mind allowing for concepts/ideas to be formed and created is part of the entire process of creating a work of art. Using ones mind also integrates the foundations an artist stands on with these concepts and ideas.
So it should not be surprising when I say I disagree with Joseph Conrads comment in his preface to
“The ....... of the Narcissus,” that “The artist appeals to that part of our being which is not dependent on wisdom; to that in us which is a gift and not an acquisition…” Suggesting that art is a gift is something that many creative people say about themselves, or find that others say about their work, examples include, “oh Christine you are so gifted” or an answer I frequently find myself saying, and I have blogged about, “I have no idea where it comes from, it is just there. It is a gift.“ In truth, for me anyway, it comes from my foundations and my ambitions and drives, it comes from hard work and as a friend Carole Marotti said to me, “you took the blessing and made it flourish.” That is individualism, that is uniqueness which I have always said is what art is all about.

Artwork by Christine Alfery. Watercolor and Acrylic on paper. 11x15.