I found these two wonderful books at my local library. Actually, they were special requests from another library. Meaning, I knew I wanted to learn more about the artist Milton Avery, so I did some research and found what I was looking for. They are both gems. The reproductions of his work are simply stunning.
I sought to learn more about Milton Avery because what I know about him, is that he was a colorist (color was his primary focus in his work) and he was a minimalist (reducing a subject to its barest essentials.) I think in 2013 we have seen so much minimalism, that we forget where it came from and why. Milton Avery was one of those artists who grew up in a time where the world’s preferential aesthetic was realism, religious art, with a heavy European influence. Creating work in unconventional colors as well as reducing them to their absolute barest essential, quite frankly upset the masses. It took many years for the general public to appreciate such unconventional interpretations.
Of course stripping something down to a few lines is so darn easy right? It looks so easy doesn’t it?
It’s way harder than it looks. I am genuinely interested in creating more minimalistic art. I don’t like realism personally. We have cameras for that. minimalizing one’s work to me, is more about design, balance and strong composition. If I could get there, I would be in nirvana.
Today, I dusted off my old box of Color-aid paper:
When I say dusted off, I hate to admit, I bought this box 17 years ago for a college class. It was $50 almost twenty years ago and being a broke college kid, I used it for a color theory class and then I was to afraid to ever use it again. Thinking in my head, I would never spend that much money ever again for a box of 6×9 inch paper!
Oh wow. I forgot how amazing and true each color appears in this box. Artists, like Josef Albers, have been using this tool as a go-to for color for a century.
I decided to use it today to help me create a color palette for my painting before I began.
I lay the papers on the floor and leaf through them. I wait for a color to “speak” to me, I pull it, and then I begin to pull other colors out that I feel work for certain reasons. At first I simply create a color palette, but then I begin to think about where and how I am going to use the colors in my painting.
I had a photo I had taken on Block Island and it seemed simple enough structurally to reduce into a minimalist painting.
With all that I just mentioned, I sort of failed my objective. There is still WAY TOO MUCH DETAIL. Believe it or not, there was even more detail under this painting. There are about three layers of paint, and with each layer, I began to make each area a block of color and less about individual shapes, but for this painting to get there, I’d probably need ten more layers!
I learned this about Milton Avery. His work had many, many layers. Each layer would have pigments from previous layers shining through.
So, as I had mentioned, I am on my own full-time with my kids this week. Out of the last 213 days, this has been the most challenging week for time thus far. It has left me a little disoriented and frankly exhausted, but I am simply going to do what I can and not take it personally. Trying something new and at least creating something is better than creating nothing. God knows I did the “nothing” part for way too long. So for the next few days, I am going to keep at it. I am going to keep trying to reduce…and reduce…and reduce my subject matter until I feel like I have brought it to its barest essentials. Again, not my strong point…but I’m going to keep plugging away at it… Who knows, 20 canvases from now, I may just be onto something!