Archive for the 'Constraints' Category

I finally help to “paint the town” of Lexington!

Friday, July 3rd, 2020

 
Paint the Town is an annual plein-air-oriented landscape exhibition in Lexington, Kentucky. The parameters of the traditional twelve-hour event are strict, and I’ve always had the notion of it as a flat-out competition — sort of a bass tournament for artists, if I may indulge a silly exaggeration.
 
 
With the current societal restrictions having caused so many art shows to be postponed or cancelled, it’s a distinct credit to ARTSconnect that a way was found to make the event happen at all in 2020. The Pam Miller Downtown Arts Center reopened to host the exhibition. Many of the more stringent guidelines (and, sadly, all the hospitality enhancements) were stripped out of this year’s version.

I’m willing to admit that the relaxed standards were enough to convince me to take part, not having participated in this kind of gig before. I was eager to gather what I’ve learned from my plein-air experience and “paint with paper” in the studio. The goal was to fuse the spontaneity of working outdoors with a more deliberate process that I’ve explored by using photo references to create a larger landscape on panel. I can’t be more pleased with the results. I continue to incorporate white tissue for desired cloud effects, and I’ve come to rely on reclaimed teabag material as a beneficial adjunct to colored papers. I work at not overdoing tinted sealants, but the added depth is worth a cautious, mixed-media enhancement (especially when I mix acrylic gel medium with a rare portion of walnut juice from Richard Taylor).

Please take a Virtual Tour of the show. My 90-second sound bite is included, or you can listen to the audio by clicking here. Of course, there’s a YouTube video of all the artwork, too. My two collage miniatures enjoy some great company, and it pleases me to point out that juror Bruce Neville designated Byway Corner with an Honorable Mention. Current gallery hours at the Pam Miller Downtown Arts Center are Wed/Thurs/Friday, noon to 5pm. The show lasts until August 3, 2020.
 
 

Byway Corner
collage landscape by J A Dixon
7 x 7.125 inches
available for purchase

 

Along Market
collage landscape by J A Dixon
7 x 7.125 inches
available for purchase

Februllage Extended for Worldwide Quarantines

Wednesday, July 1st, 2020

 
collage experiment (extended lockdown) by John Andrew Dixon for Februllage, a collage-a-day initiative by the Edinburgh Collage Collective and the Scandinavian Collage Museum

Superbounce
collage miniature by J A Dixon
7 x 7 inches
for Februllage 2020

 
collage experiment (extended lockdown) by John Andrew Dixon for Februllage, a collage-a-day initiative by the Edinburgh Collage Collective and the Scandinavian Collage Museum

Zig-Zag
collage miniature by J A Dixon
7 x 7 inches
for Februllage 2020

Strike a light!

Sunday, May 31st, 2020

“Edinburgh Collage Collective would like to send a huge thank you to all the participating collage artists from around the world who have joined us for this project. Our matchbox project has attracted over 1000 submissions. It’s been a great pleasure and inspiration to receive and share all the incredible work. We have certainly seen examples of artists thinking both inside and outside the box. The exploration of the medium has resulted in a wide variety of diverse approaches and interpretations. We have seen everything from 2d flattened boxes to full blown dioramas – all taking their inspiration from the humble matchbox.”
— Rhed Fawell, E C C
 

I was inspired to compose something different for the “STRIKE A LIGHT” Matchbox Project, an open call from Edinburgh Collage Collective, which invited international collage artists to make work incorporating the matchbox as a visual starting point. It was a fun submission for me, since I rarely explore 3D collage.

The two shuttle trucks by Tootsie Toy® are from 1967. The original Union Match box (with Vincent peeking out) is one I brought back from Brussels in 1974. The whole thing was sparked by finding a tree frog.

Better not ask me to explain how my mind works. I’m still as baffled by creativity as I was when I decided, as an adolescent, that there was no possible aspiration for me other than to become a visual artist.
 

Strike a Light
photo-collage by J A Dixon
created for the #strikealight2020 project

{th ink} OBJECTEXTION

Sunday, March 8th, 2020

“I intentionally left body parts out of the composition, because as collage artists we are so prone to use them on a regular basis. This call was to have you step out of your comfort zone and try something different.”
— Aaron Beebe
 

The past century of collage history has been a steady influence on my art practice, but I find additional inspiration from a body of contemporary practitioners. Aaron Beebe is among them. I was fortunate enough to have a piece reproduced as part of his first {th ink} publication. With my heart set on getting into issue #2, I confronted the unique submission guidelines: “Must be an analog collage that contains at least one object, NO faces or body parts, and must have some kind of text within the composition.” As I prepared four separate entries, I found myself in no small part attuned to Beebe’s recognizable approach. Paul Klee said, “We do not analyze works of art because we want to imitate them or because we distrust them.” Emulation for the sake of favor? I would surely hope not. L T Holmes articulated it best during her outstanding Under the Influence series of 2013. Lalo Schifrin, while shaping his individual voice as a musician and composer, absorbed the jazz vocabulary of Dizzy Gillespie (who had been influenced by Roy Eldridge). We can all learn much from our peers. Did you see something created this week that stimulated your desire to evolve as an artist? I did.
 

     

 

     
 

Four Submissions, 2020
collage miniatures by J A Dixon
6 x 9 inches each
submitted for possible inclusion
as part of {th ink} issue #2

Big night for tiny art

Saturday, February 29th, 2020

“Many artists struggle to make a profit each year, and although it might sound noble to give art away, sometimes it does the community of artists more harm than good. Fund raisers who ask numerous artists for outright donations devalue the worth of the art in that community. … The folks that put on these fundraisers are not malicious people. They just don’t understand how selling donated art at low prices hurts the art community.”
— Lori Woodward
 

Our local Art Center had another successful fundraiser last night, thanks to a massive number of minuscule donations from regional artists. Staff members had to rethink how the event was organized. The turnout was so insane last year that the fire marshal weighed in with concerns.

I contributed four playing card experiments a year ago, but this time around I decided to boost that to five collage miniatures that met the 6×6-inch constraint.

Much has been said and written about the expectation that artists will continuously supply the fruits of their creative labor without compensation in support of nonprofit fundraisers. My basic motto is, “Keep it small, and keep it infrequent.” I’ve gone into more detail about the issue at this blogsite more than once. I have respect for those who decline requests across the board. It’s a decision for each individual. It bugs me when people preach a universal approach. Pro-bono contributions are a time-honored activity in the professional world, but, as with nearly everything, there has to be balance. I recently took part in a fundraiser that split some of the proceeds with participating artists. Nothing wrong with a win-win like that. I hope the practice spreads to more worthy organizations.

It’s not a new idea. Maria Brophy, Lori Woodward, and others had pretty much thought this through ten years ago:

• mariabrophy.com / the problem with donating art and the solution

• fineartviews.com / fundraisers that do it right

Please share your observations with me. I shall always reply!
 

   

 

   

 


 
 
 

Five Tiny Donations
collage miniatures by J A Dixon
within a 6×6-inch size limit
“Tiny Art” fundraiser to benefit
Art Center of the Bluegrass

Februllage ~ day twenty-four

Monday, February 24th, 2020

 
collage experiment (day twenty-four) by John Andrew Dixon for Februllage, a collage-a-day initiative by the Edinburgh Collage Collective and the Scandinavian Collage Museum

Flight Plan
collage miniature by J A Dixon
7.125 x 9 inches
available for purchase
 
for Februllage 2020

Februllage ~ day ten

Monday, February 10th, 2020

 
collage experiment (day ten) by John Andrew Dixon for Februllage, a collage-a-day initiative by the Edinburgh Collage Collective and the Scandinavian Collage Museum

Personae
collage experiment by J A Dixon
5 x 6.25 inches
 
for Februllage 2020

Februllage ~ day nine

Sunday, February 9th, 2020

 
collage experiment (day nine) by John Andrew Dixon for Februllage, a collage-a-day initiative by the Edinburgh Collage Collective and the Scandinavian Collage Museum

Righteous Brutes
collage miniature by J A Dixon
6 x 5.875 inches
available for purchase
 
for Februllage 2020

Februllage returns . . .

Monday, February 3rd, 2020

“Find out what you want to do and spend the rest of your life getting better at it.”
— Jeff Daniels
 

Februllage, the month-long, international collage-a-day initiative playing out for a second year in a row, has been thought provoking for me on multiple levels. The remarkable worldwide participation indicates how extensive the mobile-device-connected community of collage makers has become — and to what degree that phenomenon has been driven by social-media platforms like Instagram. There is every indication that the 2020 version will be even bigger than what took place a year ago.

It wasn’t that long ago (at about the time I made my first entry here at TCM) when nothing resembling what is occurring had taken place. Collage collectives certainly existed, and many interactive collaborations were under way, but the rapid penetration and sheer scale of Februllage was unknown, at least to this observer. With no physical artifacts involved, such as mail art, altered books, or other “analog” joint ventures, this is a purely virtual activity, with no distinction being made between digital, conventional, or hybrid collage techniques.

I must admit to you all that there have been moments when I’ve questioned whether or not the exercise is a gimmicky distraction, with participants chasing after approval and exposure. But my perspective shifts, and then I marvel at how unprecedented it is, at the magnitude of the cross-pollination, at the obvious artistic excitement being generated. It defines a new kind of 21st-century classroom studio, where everyone is looking at what others are doing at the surrounding drawing boards, and earnestly working to bring “A-Game” execution to the collective project. And, like an academic critique, the opinions of the self-appointed people at the front of the room can seem arbitrary at times, when they choose whom to highlight and whom to ignore. But let’s face it — that’s the way it’s always been in the art world, and it’s not realistic to think anything will change in the emerging age of social networks. A natural competitiveness is at the heart of any human activity, even when we come together in a spirit of shared purpose, personal growth, and trans-cultural camaraderie. And the most worthwhile and rewarding competition is the ongoing one we have with ourselves, as each of us makes a daily effort to be a better collage artist than we were last week, last month, or last year.

Here’s to all the strivers!
 

Confound Thy Stubborn Face
collage miniature by J A Dixon
7 x 7 inches
(prompt = ‘box’ and ‘birds’)
available for purchase

Sisters of Sustenance

Friday, December 13th, 2019

“If a work of art does not live in the present, it does not live.”
— Pablo Picasso
 

I am not unlike most collage artists who find strong visual appeal in my stash of vintage scrap, but I cannot bring myself to limit the process to old ingredients. I have no intention of knocking the current practitioners who’ve mastered the use of antique material as a self-imposed constraint, but, for me, an artwork lacks contemporary vitality unless up-to-date components from our own time find a place to “belong” in a new piece.

Featured below is my response to a project by artist, designer, and educator Clive Knights, who recently introduced his “Corporeal Gestures” investigation to collage artists worldwide. It’s an extension of his long-term effort to re-identify “the nine muses as the cultivation of the orderliness of the human body” through shared necessities. I picked “nourishing” as a catalyst to explore the theme with both old and new paper elements, all of which had retained no intrinsic value and likely would have been recycled or ended up as more rubbish.

Collage will always have the potential to nourish our sensibilities by transforming apparently worthless but renewable paper into enduring artifacts with fresh symbolic power. Thank you, professor, for a most stimulating exercise.
 
 

Sisters of Sustenance
collage on book cover by J A Dixon
6.875 x 10.125 inches
for the Corporeal Gestures project

The Apprentice Merzologist

Sunday, November 17th, 2019

“For some time, we have been inspired by the work of mr.babies. He frequently uses large eyes and sweeping vistas. His work, while expressive and multicolored, also hints at the human longing for place. mr.babies is known for posting a series of images that integrate one shared element placed on a variety of backgrounds At the end of the series, the viewer often finds the completed piece. To us, this visually represents the (often lifelong) journey to find belonging.”
— Doug + Laurie Kanyer
 

Kindly take a look at my submission to the OPEN CALL opportunity by the Doug + Laurie Kanyer Art Collection on the theme of “finding a place of my own.” The Yakima-based couple are building a repository of contemporary collage and using Instagram, Facebook, and other devices to elevate their agenda in the art world.

My take on this idea is to turn inward on the medium of collage itself, with a veteran “Merzologist” mentoring his young protégé on the intricacies of the Kurt Schwitters legacy. I’ve explored placing the central element against different backgrounds from my previous compositions, according to the constraints of the project. A final pasted version integrates the same subject within an entirely new “terrain” of ingredients created specifically for the entry. It’s my first official salute to a hundred years of Merz — in all likelihood, the most pioneering concept in the history of collage.
 

   
 
   
 
As an artist, Merz means more to me than finding a place of my own. In the words of the great innovator, it is about “creating relationships, preferably between all things in the world.” I know that I’ve used the quotation a number of times at this site, but is it not as true today as it ever has been? Upwards of 500 works have been submitted to the Kanyer exercise from artists worldwide, another indication of how collage has exploded in the emerging era of social networks.
 

The Apprentice Merzologist
collage on book cover by J A Dixon
8.5 x 11 inches
part of the #findingaplaceofmyown project