Archive for the 'Priorities' Category

do the things that we discussed . . .

Sunday, February 12th, 2017

“I don’t want to go home tonight
I wanna turn loose my lust
I want you to squeeze me tight
Do the things that we discussed”
—Bruce Cockburn

When you have a talk with yourself about your to-do list, does it ever seem like you’re having a conversation with another person entirely? You know intellectually that once the ice is broken, a work lingering on the agenda will be a joyful immersion, a natural high, or perhaps a creative ecstasy, but the emotional preliminaries can be too much like a peculiar seduction.

What? This has never happened to any of you? Well, in that case, I can’t believe I just hit the “Publish” button.
 
Sordid Whims ~ a collage miniature by John Andrew Dixon, Danville, Kentucky

Sordid Whims
collage miniature by J A Dixon
4.5 x 6.5 inches
available for purchase

That dreaded Artist Tongue

Friday, December 2nd, 2016

“Somehow the language used for describing and discussing art has a reputation for unusual opacity, even sadism.”
– Robert Atkins

Someone recently remarked that my description of collage as an intuitive phenomenon sounds like “artspeak.” I know what she meant — confusing, overblown prose that tends to alienate the “uninitiated.” She may have had a point, although I would hope that there is a difference between jargon meant to exclude those who don’t speak the often-elitist language of contemporary art, and an honest attempt to write about something that is difficult to articulate (because, in essense, it is a non-verbal, non-rational process). If I fall prey to obscuring that distinction at The Collage Miniaturist, please call me on it. I can take it.

dixon_untitledindustry

Untitled (INDUSTRY)
collage experiment by J A Dixon
8 x 12 inches
not for sale

Various and Sundry — Four Years and Counting . . .

Friday, July 29th, 2016

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.”
— Flannery O’Connor

It looks as though I’m stepping into my fifth year writing about collage at this blogsite, and I hope that you’ve been with me for part of that enjoyable ride.

When I look back at my wish list for Year Four, I realize, not with any surprise, that my appetite for creating collage artwork has eclipsed a sometimes equally strong desire to delve verbally into the many interesting aspects of the medium. I would like to think that I met a few of the writing goals I set for myself last summer, and, of course, my ambitions to add to that list here in this post will be dutifully curbed. At any rate, I think that the best thing to do is to break this entry into a few parts that cover various and sundry topics on my mind.

The Social Network of Collage Artists
• For at least a couple of years I have wanted to write more about the influence of social media. Nearly every day I see a collage artist defeat the potential of a sharing platform with overexposure. Some may disagree and say, “the more, the merrier.” That is not a point I care to debate, because there may be something else to highlight more important than whether or not the quality-vs-quantity consideration can fall to the wayside — the vital role of networking among artists. I am more convinced than ever that the cross-pollination and mutual support of online networks has been of significant benefit to those of us working in the medium. Crystal Neubauer has one of the more interesting blogsites by a collage artist. She touched on the topic of creative communities so well that I direct you to her short essay at ClothPaperScissors.com. Another collage artist I admire who has recently made an impression as a strong blogger is Melinda Tidwell. I like her process-oriented posts. Although more of a mixed-media artist rather than a conventional collage practitioner, the versatile Kathleen O‘Brien maintains a steady flow of what I consider “must-read” entries at her studio blogsite. Create your own list of frequent art-blog destinations and branch out to new sharing platforms (I just learned about some new artist blogs from Caterina Giglio and opened a new account at Instagram.). As the entire evolving array of networking sites weeds out the fads, imitators and clunky interfaces (finding it difficult to tolerate LinkedIn as a user), you will settle into a community of online cohorts who reinforce your daily challenges as a creative person. When you come to know that someone else is on “the same wavelength,” reach out and make contact as an authentic being behind the profile. There are rewards to be discovered!

Cheap Collage Tricks
• Collage artist Allan Bealy seems to be everywhere, but, trust me, he is no gadfly. He recently raised a topic that struck a nerve with many. There are a lot of cheap tricks appearing in the medium, and most of them are harmless, if unimaginative, but the temptation to exploit visual ingredients readily available in our culture to “objectify women” is perhaps the most repugnant. Those of us who believe we are above that sort of thing need to think more deeply about how and why we use nudes in a collage. This suggests another potential self-assignment for my coming year — a “DON’T DO THIS” post illustrating the most prevalent cheap tricks in collage. (Not that there’s anything wrong with replacing a man’s head with a vulture to carry the banner of Dada during the art movement’s centennial year.) To be honest, I have nothing against a cliche, if it “works.” Isn’t that the reason something becomes a cliche in the first place? I say go for the cheap trick if you can score in the highest percentile (anyone who thinks that’s an easy thing to is wrong). I hope to post a follow-up look at the endurance of the surreal face in collage, so stay tuned. But let’s get back to Allan’s remonstrance. The woman as sex object can be traced back to long before the rise of Madison Avenue and Larry Flynt. Don’t bite the lure, folks. Everything one needs to dabble in this unworthy stunt abounds. Nevertheless, I long have been fascinated with the exemplars of erotic minimalism and their work in contemporary collage — those who transcend the cheap tricks to achieve a fine-art impression. Add another one to my wish list for Year Five of The Collage Miniaturist.

Priorities Get the Last Word
• My wife, Dana, and I managed to get two tickets to The Seer (a new documentary portrait of Kentuckian Wendell Berry, re-titled “Look & See” for Sundance Institute) before the Lexington screening sold out last night. It is a significant film that will become more widely available into next year, and it has my highest recommendation. Does it have anything to do with collage? Nothing at all, except for everything under the sun. If you haven’t discovered the poet, novelist, essayist, and farmer-philosopher, I have accomplished one meaningful thing with this site by inviting your interest. It was fitting that I got out of the studio and spent time at our farm. It was very hot work up on the shed roof, but pleasant to be away from all the noise (traffic, sirens, and incessant political jousting). Connecting with our rural place offered an opportunity, as it always does, to put priorities back into alignment. There is a place in the documentary when Laura Dunn (the filmmaker in voice-over) explains to Berry her motivation and how she looks “to places where there is still a remnant of togetherness, or unity, or community, of connection to the land, and I study those, because I don’t come from a place — I come from divorce …”
      “We all come from divorce!” her subject interrupts. “This is an age of divorce. Things that belong together have been taken apart. And you can’t put it all back together again. What you can do, is the only thing that you can do. You take two things that ought to be together and you put them together. Two things! Not all things.” It is his metaphor for the creative life, and a tremendously healing admonition to those of us with a tendency to become overwhelmed by the enormity of the world’s chaotic disintegration. Collage artists put things together to make something new, and often we are the ones who have taken apart discarded things to do it, but there is always a much larger phenomenon at work — one of discord vs harmony, wastefulness vs thrift, cynicism vs affection. When I return to the studio from a natural place that has responded to my care, I am in a better condition to ask myself, “To which side of the big equation are you making your contribution as an artist?”
 

Crystal Neubauer
Her blogging often touches on the complexity of a creative life.

Melinda Tidwell
Perhaps you will admire her solid abstractions as much as I do.

Kathleen O’Brien
Her art always nudges one toward a deeper sense of balance and wholeness.

Robert Hugh Hunt
Stay tuned for a continuation of my review of “the surreal face.”

Bene Rohlmann
Look ahead to my first discussion of erotic minimalism in collage.

March Exercise  |  Experiment Fifteen

Tuesday, March 15th, 2016

“Habit seems to be a much stronger force than either willpower or inspiration. Consequently there must be some little quality of fierceness until the habit pattern of a certain number of words is established. There is no possibility, in me at least, of saying, ‘I’ll do it if I feel like it.’ One never feels like awaking day after day. In fact, given the smallest excuse, one will not work at all. The rest is nonsense. Perhaps there are people who can work that way, but I cannot. I must get my words down every day whether they are any good or not.”
– John Steinbeck

Great writers are not the only artists who know how to show up for work, but much can be learned from their sense of discipline. As I come to the halfway point of my 31-day exercise, I must keep compelling myself to “conduct an experiment” each day, instead of resorting to a proven approach. I find it periodically necessary to disrupt that part of my creative mind which seeks comfort in “marketability.” If I prime the pump of imagination, spontaneity, and intuition with this kind of authentic ritual, and also maintain a habit of work, surely everything else in the studio will take care of itself.

Untitled (...en win je tienduizend!) ~ John Andrew Dixon, collage artist, blogger on all things collage

Untitled (…en win je tienduizend!)
collage experiment on paper by J A Dixon
4 x 5 inches
 
Purchase this experiment.

Posting too much, too often.

Wednesday, October 14th, 2015

Oftentimes on the internet, it’s more a culture of ‘Look at me! Look at me! My thing! My thing!’ and it’s competitive.”
— Joseph Gordon-Levitt

“There is no design without discipline.”
— Massimo Vignelli
 

Perhaps it is disingenuous for a blogger to bring up the subject of routine self-exposure, but I cannot help myself today. The level of unbridled disclosure on the Web is out of hand, and there is no sign of moderation on the horizon. Out of respect for your time and consideration, it would make sense for me to stay on the subject of collage. You have your reasons for visiting this site, and I doubt that they have anything to do with my general opinion of social media.

Let me be blunt: Too many people who create collage are posting too much, too often. This viewpoint is coming from someone who is a big fan of the positive influence and cross-pollination in our medium. I can see no benefit from working in a vacuum. On the other hand, there is something to be said for a bit of restraint, and we all have a need for greater discernment before deciding whether or not our most recent composition is worthy of public display.

So, now I have to come up with a suitable image (or unsuitable, depending on one’s perspective) to illustrate this rant. Here we go:
 

rejected collage
(for educational purposes only)

All Things Collage: Year Three

Monday, July 27th, 2015

Jamie Wyeth said, “You have to love a medium to work in it.” I have developed such an enthusiasm for collage that I also have been writing about it for three years at this blogsite. Miniatures are at the heart of what I enjoy doing most. The remarks accumulating here center on my recognition that what I can bring to the practice evolves from an ongoing investigation of the small format. When I do create larger pieces, I would hope that they are informed by my study of tiny, intimate visual relationships. Increasingly, I am embedding the miniature collage into these sized-up artworks, exploring the contrasts of scale and persuading the observer to step in very close — to interact with the ingredients at the artist’s viewing distance.

Over the coming year, I plan to profile other collage artists who exalt the small, and to highlight some of the “categories” of collage that recently have sparked my interest.

What’s in store?
• Merz-meisters: the dedicated aestheticians
• Endurance of the surreal face in collage
• The exemplars of erotic minimalism
• Die-hard collaborators gone wild
And, of course, much more . . .

When I used to put too much on my plate at meal time, my “Mombo” would say, “Your eyes are bigger than your stomach.” Perhaps there is an analogy to piling up my wish list for future entries, and I probably have made a few promises to readers that so far I have not kept. I shall do my best, and remind myself during year four that it’s not what one says about art that matters most.
 

Nancy Gene Armstrong
Who else recalls that nostalgia can be so surreal?

Laura Tringali Holmes
A diversity of approach — her singular sensibility.

Allan Bealy
This provocative soloist is a relentless collaborator.

Katrien De Blauwer
If you ever figure out how she does it, let me know.

Matthew Rose
He seriously does not take himself seriously. Seriously.

Another donation request?

Monday, May 25th, 2015

“As artists, we have to lead from the heart.”
— Lee Harvey Osmond (aka Tom Wilson)

Previously, I have remarked about artists continually being pestered to donate their work to “worthy causes.” Personally unable to categorically refuse, as some do in principle, I have kept my contributions infrequent, close to home, and relatively small in scale. I know artists who can get dogmatic about this subject, not only steadfastly rebuffing all solicitations, but also insisting that others follow their lead. To be honest, I cannot say that they have failed to rationally argue their position. Even so, I think that artists, not unlike other professionals, should be able to find the proper place for occasional pro bono work, and each individual should be free to follow one’s heart. In addition, people who administer charitable, educational, and other nonprofit organizations might make a better effort to understand the issue from an artist’s point of view and to consider more carefully how their knee-jerk requests for free product serve to devalue creative labor.

And now for the anecdote: Once every two years, I create a collage for An Art-full Affair, our biennial effort to raise money for local arts scholarships. Each donation of artwork or creative service is matched by a ticket sale, admitting the buyer and her guest to a double-evening of festivities — a preview party and a gala drawing. The first name drawn gets to pick from every available donation on display, until there is only one ticket holder and one artwork remaining. Each item is guaranteed to be worth at least twice the value of the ticket price. For the artist, it is always suspenseful to see how early one’s piece is selected. For the supporter, there is the duel satisfaction of taking home a bargain while also helping deserving youngsters who would not be able otherwise experience art, music, drama, and dance. Nobody offers me more encouragement than my sister, Joan. Two years ago, her name was not drawn early enough for her to pick my offering, but this time luck favored her wish list, and, when her name was announced, she selected my artwork. I was especially pleased. With this kind of thoughtfully organized event, everyone wins!
 

Contemplation Ajar ~ John Andrew Dixon ~ collage artist ~ Danville, Kentucky

Contemplation Ajar
collage on structured panel by J A Dixon
20 x 15.75 inches
collection of J Wood

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

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

Many Waters Under Heaven

Friday, June 13th, 2014

“Put stardom and success aside and just go out and do it. It’s like painting. Don’t talk about it. Or, like writing. Put it down.”
— Jonathan Winters

“Don’t think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it’s good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art.”
— Andy Warhol

After learning about a call for entries on the theme of “water,” at the new First Southern Community Arts Center in nearby Stanford, Kentucky, I leaped at the theme with a minimum of thought or calculation. I was overdue for the opportunity to create a larger piece, and it was good for me to push aside all the internal questions and mental gyrations which too often intrude on the genesis of a new work or new point of public contact. I mixed a batch of wheat paste, added a stabilizing measure of white glue plus acrylic medium, and dug into my stash of nature images. Hand manipulation of the surface with wet, rectilinear ingredients became an almost papier-mâché-like process that soon involved shapes of pure color. A sort of “low-tech pixelization” began to suggest the gentle clash of primeval and present — a Garden of Eden sweeping forward to the modern digital world.

When I delivered my artwork to the gallery and was assisted by a local artist and volunteer, Roni Gilpin, I could not have been treated better. Chasing my passion for collage, meeting pleasant people, and breaking into a new venue — I must remind myself from time to time that this is what it’s all about. I am excited about today’s artist reception, 4 to 7 pm (in downtown Stanford, adjacent to the superb Bluebird Cafe). Family is visiting from Davis, California, and everything is shaping up for an exceptional evening!
 

 

Many Waters Under Heaven
mixed-media collage
by J A Dixon
33 x 11.25 x 1.5 inches
(currently on consignment)
 
Purchase this artwork!

Roni “Sister” Gilpin
volunteering at
First Southern
Community Arts
Center

On collage derivations . . .

Sunday, November 17th, 2013

“I believe that it is better to be receptive to correction than to be satisfied with one’s own imperfection, and to think that one is oh so original!”
— Piet Mondrian

As I mentioned in a welcome statement from over a year ago (and perhaps more recently), I have nothing against digital collage, although I do maintain a bias in favor of conventional (so-called analogue) techniques, especially at this site, but don’t expect me to become “all blogmatic” about the topic, since I have been known to gratefully accept commissions for digital montage and affirm my respect for those who do collage illustration at a high level. The point I want to make today is that, so far, I have not generated much enthusiasm for manipulating or reproducing my “tear and glue” artworks as digital prints or “art merchandise.” Someone recently asked if I sold note-card versions of my miniatures, and I had to admit that “I have never quite gotten around to that.”

There are many reasons, both good and bad, to produce derivations of one’s own work for the marketplace. There are also many reasons, both good and bad, to restrain oneself. I would hope to be open-minded about the subject. Not everyone who enjoys collage can afford to collect originals. In addition, I often get ideas about how to combine separate works into a composite digital design, exploring in the process a distinctive aesthetic resonance that might not be discovered in other ways. I occasionally imagine how one of my miniatures would look as a super-enlargement, or I envision an exhibition of large canvases created from Giclée blow-ups of small works. No doubt, there is an appropriate place for digital technology in the medium, whether on the front- or back-end of the process. The digital image is, of course, the stock in trade of any artist with an active presence on the Interet. That comes with its own set of issues that I plan to cover in my next discussion. Meanwhile, I hope to preserve my emphasis on a traditional methodology and observe how other collage practitioners adopt emerging technology to enhance their fine-art investigations.
 

Microcosmic Moments
compilation of nine miniatures by J A Dixon
proposed digital concept, variable in dimensions

Modular Zowee
composite of collage details by J A Dixon
proposed digital concept, variable in dimensions

Mystery Solved (detail)
super-enlargement of collage detail by J A Dixon
proposed digital concept, variable in dimensions

Mystery Solved (set of four cards)
merchandise with collage details by J A Dixon
proposed digital reproductions, 5.75 x 4.5 inches

Broadband Access
digital montage by J A Dixon
editorial illustration for ACUTA Journal