Archive for the 'Journal' Category

First cause: the intuitive response

Sunday, April 23rd, 2017

“Every athlete, every musician practices every day. Why should it be different for artists?”
— Christoph Niemann
 

Creating a collage within constraints is one of the most enjoyable activities within the medium, because it is necessary to throw oneself upon the mercy of pure intuition. Last week I was in the middle of caring for my mother at our family farm, and I assigned myself this exercise:

Mombo (V E Dixon) with her son (J A Dixon) ~ Easter at the Blue Bank Farm, 2017Complete one full-page collage in my journal within the time of Mombo’s two-hour afternoon nap, using only ingredients found in the recycling bin.

Naturally, my journal is the perfect place to conduct such exercises. I take what I learn from the small format and bring it to larger artworks. What is it that I learn? That, too, is primarily a matter of fortifying one’s intuition. I hope to internalize the creative response that each experiment reveals and keep my collage process as subjective as possible. For me, nothing bogs down the making of a collage more than too much rational thinking, which is best reserved for aesthetic refinements, finishing touches, and creating titles.
 
Untitled (first cause) ~ a collage miniature by John Andrew Dixon, Danville, Kentucky

Untitled (first cause)
constrained collage exercise by J A Dixon
page from 11×14 Strathmore journal
not for sale

the necessity of journal experiments

Friday, October 14th, 2016

“You must train your intuition. You must trust the small voice inside which tells you exactly what to say, what to decide.”
— Ingrid Bergman

Believe it or not, collage-miniature experiments in my sketch journal have become less about visual results than they have about intuitive choices and conditioning my sequential responses. If one can internalize this process as a smooth, nonjudgmental flow, then it is possible to bring it to bear with more rational, formal concepts. This will help avoid bogging down in an undesirable, second-guessing mode. I hope that makes sense. If not, I promise that I will keep trying to articulate this important aspect of creativity.
 

a journal experiment by John Andrew Dixon, collage artist, Danville, Kentucky

Untitled (Oat Man Mountain)
a journal experiment by J A Dixon
5 x 4.5 inches

a journal experiment by John Andrew Dixon, collage artist, Danville, Kentucky

Untitled (Per Pound!)
a journal experiment by J A Dixon
7.75 x 8 inches

a journal experiment by John Andrew Dixon, collage artist, Danville, Kentucky

Untitled (pierced)
a journal experiment by J A Dixon
3 x 4 inches

a journal experiment by John Andrew Dixon, collage artist, Danville, Kentucky

Untitled (DBC)
a journal experiment by J A Dixon
9 x 5 inches

For Your Protection

Monday, September 7th, 2015

“Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after.”
– Henry David Thoreau

Another trip collage from my recent fishing retreat to the Les Cheneaux Islands of Lake Huron. Working within the constraint of limited scrap at hand is a worthwhile visual exercise in preparation for creating collage artworks at any scale.
 

Dixon_ForYourProtection

Untitled (For Your Protection)
journal experiment by J A Dixon
6 x 6 inches

another “trip collage” exercise

Monday, June 29th, 2015

“The absence of limitations is the enemy of art.”
– Orson Welles

Here is another journal experiment based on ingredient constraints. It has a more abstract emphasis, in contrast to the previous example. There are numerous ways to impose this instructive limitation. Some collage artists have been known to create a composition restricted to the random scraps found on their work surface. Others make it into collaborative play, swapping an envelope of ingredients within which to work. A speed requirement will reveal more aspects of creative decision making and give rise to other insights. Paradoxically, there is no limit to how limitations can unlock the freedom of artistic expression.
 

journal experiment ~ John Andrew Dixon

results of a “trip collage” exercise
journal experiment by J A Dixon
7.25 x 5.25 inches

It’s a trip collage, man . . .

Monday, June 22nd, 2015

“It is the limitation of means that determines style, gives rise to new forms and makes creativity possible.”
– Georges Braque

From the first decision an artist makes when confronting a blank format, available options are eliminated. As contradictory as it may sound, writers, designers, musicians, dancers, visual artists — all of us find fertile ground in restriction. Working within limitations, self-imposed or otherwise, is always at the heart of the creative process. One of my preferred journal experiments is a variation I call the “trip collage.” Mind you, this has absolutely nothing to do with psychotropic escapades. However, I do periodically “expand my consciousness” of the medium with an exercise based on limited ingredients. When on holiday or outside the studio, I produce a small collage only with the elements immediately available at hand. Litter, junk mail, discarded packaging, or the detritus of a particular environment will become the instruments of a miniature orchestration. Even within this constraint, choices about what to use and what to ignore will govern the approach, and the interesting relationship between spontaneity and intuitive judgment can be observed.
 

Journal experiment ~ John Andrew Dixon

results of a “trip collage” exercise
journal experiment by J A Dixon
5.5 x 6.75 inches

White space ain’t a negative thing.

Saturday, May 16th, 2015

“Life is trying things to see if they work.”
– Ray Bradbury

A familiar approach to collage makes use of elements positioned on a field, activating the “white space” with a typical figure/ground relationship. Often the working substrate is carefully selected for inherent visual interest or aesthetic qualities. Like a visage with character, a single piece of “ancient” stock can speak volumes on its own. There are many other ways for “negative space” to play a key part in collage artwork. For me, experimenting with small studies in my journal can suggest a different twist, with the potential for exploitation in a more finished composition.
 

Dixon_Untitled(IRA)

Untitled (IRA)
journal experiment by J A Dixon
4.375 x 4.25 inches

and another journal experiment . . .

Saturday, May 9th, 2015

 
another journal study by John A. Dixon — The Collage Miniaturist — Danville, Kentucky

Untitled (Equal)
collage experiment by J A Dixon
9.5 x 8.25 inches

Drawing out the unfulfilled possibility

Saturday, May 2nd, 2015

“I am a great believer in the primacy of drawing as a means of engaging the world and understanding what you’re looking at.”
– Milton Glaser

“Why do you make collage artwork when you can draw?” People who broach the subject rarely come at it quite so directly, but even if they did, the question would not be any easier to answer. To begin with, I do indeed draw, and have since the dawn of memory, and I bring that ability to my work as an illustrator, portrait artist, watercolorist, and wood engraver. My enthusiasm for collage is rooted in something else — an impulse not entirely clear to me. I am grateful for all my talents, but I was educated and trained as a designer, and the practice has done more than enable me to create a life as an independent creative professional. It has become embedded in my consciousness. Decades of visual decisions have informed my responsive intuition. Collage is part design experimentation, part painterly expression, part artisanship, and part meditation. It is always a probing beyond expectations, an exploration of potentials, a harnessing of associations in flux. It can be the result of self assignment, but the most exciting effects often grow out of ritual. For me, it is never disconnected from what is taking form in my current journal. Not true artist’s sketchbooks (much as I have always hope they would evolve toward), they inevitably become a record of verbal and visual thoughts or non-thoughts. Some of my journal experiments combine techniques and mediums in ways that have not yet found manifestation outside their covers. Perhaps some day the question will be: “Why do you also draw in your collage artwork?”
 

Untitled (necklace) ~ another journal experiment by J A Dixon

Untitled (necklace)
journal experiment by J A Dixon
9.5 x 6.25 inches

two more journal experiments . . .

Saturday, March 28th, 2015

 
a pair of journal studies by John Andrew Dixon, The Collage Miniaturist

a pair of journal studies
collage experiments by J A Dixon
4.25 x 4.25 inches each

A Most Happy Happy!

Thursday, January 1st, 2015

 

a New Year’s Day greeting from John Andrew Dixon

Untitled (thoughtform)
collage experiment by J A Dixon

All Things Collage: Year Two

Thursday, July 31st, 2014

“When we remember we are all mad, the mysteries disappear and life stands explained.”
— Mark Twain

“Take what you can,
All you can carry.
Take what you can,
And leave your thoughts behind.”
— Tom Petty

“If everything you do must be measured against the good opinion of everyone else, what happens to your good opinion of yourself?”
— Wayne W Dyer

Hmmm . . . just realized that my line-up of quotations above might seem odd to some of you. At any rate, they capture a bit of what is on my mind, as I begin to reflect on a couple years of remarks about collage at this blogsite.

Mombo_MotherOfTheArtistLike many others, I spend prayerful time caring for a parent with progressive dementia. The other day I was trying to explain to my mother, in terms she could appreciate, my burning desire to make collage artwork, and, touching on her prevailing sense of confusion, talked about my creative activity as a way to bring some kind of harmony out of the chaotic stream of disorder that dominates so much of current stimuli in our daily lives. It brought to my awareness the motivation at the center of what I love to do, but also fell short of the clarity for which I was reaching. Over the next year, I hope to find better words which get to the heart of that idea — how I take what I can carry into a process that leaves thoughts behind, a kind of sweet madness that offers explanations difficult for me to achieve any other way. Of course, this is not the only approach to the medium. I hope to profile more collage artists who use a different methodology than my own — the extraordinary minimalists, the dedicated aestheticians, and those who continue to harness a kind of thoughtful irrationality that keeps me in awe.

I just looked over my previous comments after a full year of blogging, and, as a result, I feel the need to temper my ambitions going into year three, but that is not my nature. There are too many interesting things to explore in the dynamic world of contemporary collage. One of them is the continued explosion of collaboration. Another is the influence of social networks. Nearly every day I see an artist defeat the purpose of the platform with overexposure, failing to keep the age-old quality-vs-quantity issue in balance. One of my goals for the coming year is to take a closer look at how the ease of internet sharing affects the challenge of striking an equilibrium between the imperative to follow one’s passion without regard for opinion and the practical aspects of seeking recognition and approval from others. As most of you already know, it is not an easy task to walk that tightrope.

And one more thing, dear visitor. Please let me know what I can do to make this site more interactive as a unique forum for discussion. Meanwhile, you can count on me to observe, write, and make more art. Stop back again!
 

Untitled (flutter)
collage experiment by J A Dixon
9 x 11 inches
not for sale