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This & That

January 26th, 2011

Last week my friend, Katharine Cartwright, wrote a great post titled Chasing rabbits and losing direction. In a nutshell, it’s about the artistic process of creating a cohesive series and her process of – and concers with – changing from one series to the next. This really got me to thinking about where I am right now in my artistic pursuit and I left the following comment:

For years I painted masks just because I loved them. I painted them for me with no thought of them being a series. I was just trolling along with no thought of direction or specific style. Then a couple of years ago I accelerated into uncharted waters and now I find several series are lying in my wake. They weren’t planned as series, they were just experiments that arose from ‘what ifs’. Recently I slowed the boat down to survey what’s floating behind me as I try to chart my next course. Then I suddenly found myself dead-in-the-water with my motor flooded with too many thoughts. Now I think it’s time for me to get out the oars and just start paddling…

In the past year alone I started 3 totally different series of works which had been unified by the subject matter of masks. Specifically, I created my 3D series, my Over the Under-Schmeerings series, and my Palette Knife on Mini Canvasses series. Late last year I decided it was time to start exploring subject matter other than just masks. That was when my motor became flooded with too many thoughts. Before, if I had something specific that I wanted to say, I’d say it with a mask. If I didn’t have something specific to say, I’d just paint a mask. It was easy. I realize now that I was hiding behind these masks on more levels than I should probably admit. So, what did I do when I suddenly found myself dead-in-the-water? I picked up something familiar and started paddling. And, guess what? I’m back behind the masks…

©2011, Don Michael, Jr.

If you think looking at a blank canvas is scary, you should try looking at a blank canvas that’s looking back at you. I’m still deciding what my next step will be on this, but it feels good to at least be creating again. You may recognize a couple of these masks from my experiments from last spring that I wrote about here. Below is a closeup showing them attached, textured, and ready for some color…

©2011, Don Michael, Jr.

As these were drying I grabbed another of my experiments from last spring and attached it to a smaller canvas. I decided to center this one on a square canvas, which is much more bi-symmetrical than I am usually ready to deal with.

©2011, Don Michael, Jr.

To give an idea of his depth, I also shot him from a higher angle.

©2011, Don Michael, Jr.

For this one I decided to explore the idea of incorporating my Over the Under-Schmeerings style into it. Here’s what I have now…

©2011, Don Michael, Jr.

I have no idea what I’m going to do next to either of these canvasses. They are both very much works-in-progress.

But, at least I’m paddling again… maybe a sympathetic current will grab me soon.

Happy Creating!

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11 Comments for 'This & That'

  1. Kathy Said:

    Hi Don, thanks for the nod. I think we’re on parallel paths and questioning the charted map is important from time to time. Sometimes there’s a good reason to change course, but there may also be great rewards by staying on course and completing the long journey. One of the reasons I produce different series simultaneously is so I can satisfy my intellect and expand my repertoire both technically and aesthetically. Some artists are inspired by a single muse throughout their careers. Think about how many times Wyeth painted Helga over the years (once he even painted her as a black woman), or the number times Renoir painted is wife, and so on. Maybe, like me with the eggshells, you’ll always have something to say through your masks. In any case, I love seeing what you produce and learning about your process!!

  2. Robin Samiljan Said:

    Karma it’s called… I am feeling the same way about my art lately, too … and unsure what direction I should be going in (I blogged about it 2 minutes ago!). Your 3 dimensional mask paintings are so unique and alive to me, I absolutely love the way you created motion in the top and bottom masks pictured in the first piece above. Not knowing what to path you are on is the path you are on (Pam told me something like that recently). It’s comforting to hear Kathy’s response too, and this is a wonderful, supportive place for all of us to share and grow, thanks for sharing.

  3. Stan Said:

    Don just keep paddling! I’m intrigued by the two masks/faces in the upper right of the first canvas and how they will relate to the mask in the bottom right. You may be without current, but something is going on there.

  4. Jody Spence Said:

    Hi Don, I admire your courage to keep creating…I have always loved your theme of masks. We all put on different mask to tackle all of lifes different challenges. We are both parents and that requires many masks…I look forward to seeing you and your work again at first friday and I would still love to come to one of your classes. Thank you for your inspiration.

  5. PAMO Said:

    Don- I’m really struggling to find words lately but I read your post and I hear you. I admire you and your artistic search and always admire your work.
    I’m sorry I don’t have the words today- but my heart is here.

  6. hallie Said:

    As someone who has found it impossible to even pick a china pattern (for 48 years) I don’t worry about series. I go with Elmer Fudd and follow every wabbit who wuns by. I’m no help–I like your masks, I like your portraits, and I like your flowers. Just keep painting.

  7. Dan Kent Said:

    I can totally understand going back to the “default” when you are not sure where you are headed. But I see that you are still moving forward after all. I like the way you are combining your “over the underschmearing” with the masks on the last canvas. These look really interesting – I am amazed how you do this (always have been), and interested to see where this ends up. I like the sense of movement with the top two masks, and the luau-type idol at the bottom.

  8. Peggy Stermer-Cox Said:

    Hi Don, I liked your centered mask; the paint swirls add movement. Sometimes a symmetrical object in the middle works. Funny, something must be in the air; I’m feeling a bit disjointed. Maybe just working through it is the path to take. My dad use to say something like “the subject is just an excuse to paint”; and he loved slathering on the paint with his palette knives!

  9. Celeste Said:

    oh I don’t know if you should take a break from masks…exactly why should you, I am just not sure. You’re awfully good at them..and no two were ever a like. I vote you paint masks primarily and then throw in something else as it strikes you. You never seemed stuck to me ever–so shows you what I know!

  10. Suzanne Berry Said:

    stuck?? you stuck? i think not. hiding behind the masks? i thought it was all part of your narrative, you speaking through them, not hiding behind them. however, i hear you and can so relate. my boat is often taking on water so i know that you feel what you feel. however, as you’ve so often told me, don’t doubt yourself. keep going, your boat just needed some more gas is all. you are a creative well that never runs dry and you always travel in the direction your course has set for you. keep going, i’m hooked!

  11. Don Michael, Jr. Said:

    Thank you all for your supportive comments. I have finally gotten past my little artistic existential crisis and am back on track. The oars are back in their box and the motor is puttering along smoothly again. I even found the current which had never really left me – I was just fighting it.

    Happy Creating!

    -Don

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