Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Perfectly Mistaken

http://tomsarmo.blogspot.com/
[This is a re-post of a blog previously published in the winter of 2014--more relevant to me and my work now than ever.]

Flaws.
Blog-reading accompanies the coffee most winter mornings. David Apatoff's blog posts enrich that experience. His cerebral writings provoke musings about art in general, and specifically reflections on my own beliefs about what I do. The comment threads are unusually edifying as well.

Apatoff's latest, That Knob on Mort Drucker's Lamp 
has been like getting one of those super-fine splinters in a finger--except this one's in my brain. His interesting post and ensuing comments provoked many philosophical/artistic digressions, but I want to discuss the principal (and maybe mistaken) question it provoked in me:
Should I--should any artist--be striving for Perfection?

Suddenly that topic is jumping out at me at every turn; in books, in documentaries, in conversation.
As in most things--art-related and otherwise--there is no exclusive truth for everyone. And there is no true perfection. There is sublimity, but that doesn't always occur with compulsive re-polishing.

On the album Diamonds and Rust, the amazing voice of Joan Baez cracks at one point (during Medley: I Dream of Jeannie/Oh Danny Boy). It's the part of the song I wait for, and it is an essential imperfection--I am very glad she didn't do another take. (I'd never dismiss the hard and continuous work Baez must have done to be such a force in the music world--not talking about work here, I'm talking about the quest for perfection.)

Perfectionism has never been a compulsion for me, and usually a concentrated attempt at it ruins the product because it ruins the process. In my art-life, if the experience isn't interesting and satisfying, the end result is usually a stinker. So why is that?

Ray Harryhausen's Skeletons from Jason and the Argonauts

Steve Johnson, in the documentary Ray Harryhausen: Special Effects Titan, discusses Harryhausen's ability to do 98% of his filming with the first take. To paraphrase Johnson, that is part of what makes Harryhausen's art great. Johnson says,"If he had finessed it too much, the result wouldn't come from the heart. The more quickly you get your ideas out of your head and up on the screen, the more real."  Another commentator states, "Often, [this creates] artworks that resonate--because they are pure."

Medusa sketch. Ray Harryhausen

Can't help it--I completely agree with Johnson. When I create; over-thinking, fixing,
and re-drawing often disrupts the line from my heart and gut to the paper. If I think "make it perfect", it's nearly always because I've begun imagining a critic's response to the work, or my head is doing the comparison-thing http://tomsarmo.blogspot.com/2014/01/comparisons.html
Why does the process of picking away, tracing and re-tracing, result in a forced and lifeless work? Because all of a sudden I'm out to please people who, fundamentally, can never be pleased. That's a disservice to the vision heaving and rolling inside me.

Does this mean I don't work at being a better artist? Not at all--I am after that every minute of my life.  Does it mean I can't enjoy the works of more compulsive, perfection-driven artists? Not at all. I just don't see that particular quest as the only thing that separates great from mediocre.


David Hajdu, in Positively 4th Street, writes that Joan Baez once said "I have a primitive way of going about everything. I can't force myself to do something in which I'm not interested. Fundamentally, I'm lazy."
The words "primitive" and "lazy" are not usually in the vocabulary of a perfectionist, yet who would label Baez a mediocrity?

The great artist Ludek Tikovsky* wrote, "Sometimes I like more sketches than finished piece because of the spontaneity and--how to write it correctly--'airiness' of the lines..."
Me too, Ludek! I love to see spontaneous, real sketches--those done as thinking exercises and/or prelims. These are the things artists do when they are not consciously performing for an audience, or over-thinking some consummate product. (And by "real" I don't mean the newest trend in the art world--those suddenly ubiquitous "polished sketchbooks". Often wonderful, they are not true sketch books, as they are created as art pieces meant to be viewed as finished works.

http://tomsarmo.blogspot.com/
It just might be that they who strive for perfection are the ones who'll make the big bucks or the history books. I won't research it for proof, but that's got to be fine with me. Nonetheless, I know that when a work is transcendent--makes my heart pound--it is seldom spot-free and flawless.

 "I like to make mistakes when I'm painting."
-Clive Barker

*Check out Ludek Tikovsky's thoughtful, unusual blog at http://art-is-jokken.blogspot.com/

(and thanks for reading--your comments are always welcome.)




Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Animal Parameters at Valkarie Gallery!

http://www.tomsarmo.com
For the third year in a row, I'm excited to be part of a fall show at Valkarie Gallery!

Animal Parameters is coming soon, and my works will join the amazing art of

http://karrieyorkart.com/

http://www.mikiharderart.com/
Please click on their names for links to their sites and more of their art!

Here's a little preview of a few of my works which will be in the show:

http://www.tomsarmo.com
For folks who like fantastic creatures, here's a Lava Monster! A few illustrators and I were discussing how to create a stone creature who oozed lava from cracks in its hide, so I tried my hand at this fellow.

http://www.tomsarmo.com
I love owning sketches by artists, so I make many of mine available to collectors. And I gotta have a few Cranky Birds in every show.

http://www.tomsarmo.com
My animal works are most often images that spring from real animals but end up imaginary creatures.

http://www.tomsarmo.com
And dragons are animals, right?

http://www.tomsarmo.com
So I hope you will join us for Animal Parameters!
Here are the particulars:

 And be sure to check out Valkarie Gallery's current show Elements and Curiosities, featuring the works of Valerie Savarie and Sharon Eisley!

http://www.tomsarmo.com
Also, Innate Tapestries: The Endless Stage--a 96 page book full of my paintings and sketches--will be available for purchase at Animal Parameters. I hope you will grab a copy!

 Thanks for reading, and for supporting us artists!








Monday, September 4, 2017

Origins and Processes

 
http://www.tomsarmo.com
 A Meeting, detail crop. 
Toned paper, plus (in order of use) Verithin colored pencil, Pentel Brushpen, Uni-Ball Signo white pen, Maica Pilot Hi-TEC-C pen, transparent acrylic inks).

Visitors to my studio often ask from where my ideas come. They come from many sources; books I have read or am reading, past and current experiences, conversations with fellow illustrators, and dreams. This one definitely came from a faceless voice--in a otherwise forgotten dream--that exclaimed "We meet ourselves!" Kept hearing that in my head all the next day
 so I started sketching the alligator-like creature, and the rest of the drawing emerged. And yes, I know that the image is weird as all get-out.
http://www.tomsarmo.com
Didn't take the time to take many in-process shots, but you can see
 the red Verithin pencil under-drawing here. At that point I put the drawing away.

http://www.tomsarmo.com
Had a bunch of acrylic paint that I'd used for a previous painting. Not wanting to waste it, I sketched out a similar image onto a cradled hardboard using charcoal. Refined that using a brush and black acrylic, then painted this version (detail crop).
But the previous drawing kept calling to me, so I returned to it and finished it after a lot of cross-hatching :)
http://www.tomsarmo.com
Here are both artworks for comparison. Other than creating pieces based upon a dream-exclamation, I'd wanted to explore the effect of light shining from within. In this case it was coming from within the creature-tail. 
They're each 8" x 10", and will be among many works for of a three-person show at Valkarie Gallery this October! More about that soon.
Thanks for reading!






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