Everything is Intuitive

August 14, 2019

Everything is Intuitive

Welcome to my first blog post! I’ve finally begun to write about my paintings and how the seemingly random observations that spring from my brain eventually find their way on to canvas or paper.

I’m not in the habit of talking about my work very much. It’s easy to say that the paintings speak for themselves, and they do, whether completely or up to a point – that depends on the viewer. It’s fair of you to want to know where the inspiration is coming from, particularly with abstract work.

When it comes to the creative process, “Everything is Intuitive” that’s my motto. Intuition is an awareness that exists without deliberate reasoning or analysis. That’s not to say my artwork is created from a pure stream of consciousness. When I first began teaching painting, I told my students that the creative impulse begins in the mind and travels through the heart and then to the hand. Intuition is part of all three steps, but it truly defines the “heart.” Sometimes the impulse is quite literal, a landscape or any physical thing that one wants to replicate (more or less) using paint, canvas, paper, or whatever medium feels right. Many wonderful figurative paintings and sculptures are created from an image or an idea that initially gets filtered through the artist’s “heart,” only to emerge beyond a physical object or place that first served as the inspiration.

Over the years, I have studied a variety subjects, earned a couple of fancy degrees, but as an artist I am primarily self-taught. After spending about one year doing figure drawing and experimenting with oil paints, chalk pastels and watercolors, I became competent enough to draw, paint and create compositions strictly from memory. Around the same time, I noticed that I was drawn to patterns in nature and works of art, as well as on textiles and architecture. Initially I found it difficult to integrate any sort of regular motif into my art. In retrospect I believe I was overthinking. But one day, feeling frustrated, I allowed myself to give in to the process of painting with little regard for its outcome. I painted wide lines on a large sheet of dampened watercolor paper, just for the hell of it. Not surprisingly, loose patterns began to organically emerge as one stroke of color bled into another. The result, while not certainly great, but compelled me to keep me experimenting.

I regularly kept a mental log of patterns that I was drawn to. As I was living in NYC at the time, the patterns most often took grid-like forms - rectangles, squares and geometric shapes that defined my daily experience of walking through Manhattan. When I came to Southern California in 2016, these shapes began to change, becoming more organic and irregular, reflecting the plant life and mountains I see stepping out of my front door. These patterns make their way into my paintings on their own volition. This is where the intuition of the heart takes over. When I start to paint, I usually have a rough idea of what the final outcome will be. But quite often, colors and forms take on a life of their own.

The two images (one above, one below) illustrate what happens between the initial inspiration (photograph below taken at Lake Elsinore, CA, 3/29/2019)  and the final product. Even if I hadn’t taken photos, the wildflower superbloom would be permanently etched into my brain.  And it is represented in Beyond the Superbloom (top) as an impression of a memory. As beautiful as a literal interpretation of this landscape might be, I am usually not inclined to use any photographic reference. As my artistic process continues to evolve, I will keep you posted. I hope this first writing helps to clarify how I come up with my paintings.

Next week I’ll examine my approach to landscape painting via Bob Dylan’s views on nature - an unusual association for sure. Stay tuned! MJC