Back at the nest: more stretching

January 21st, 2019

Here’s a quick journal collage using only a small pile of junk mail at the home of Mombo, before it went into her recyclables. Not everything is performance. Athletes call it training. Musicians call it practicing. I’m not sure what most visual artists typically call it — sketching? exercising? At any rate, whatever the medium, we all need to do it regularly, too!

Untitled (host nest)
journal collage by J A Dixon
7 x 9 inches

the uncanny path . . .

January 14th, 2019

“What more can we ask than to never know what to expect?”
— Paul Violi
 

The opening reception for the annual New Year New Art exhibition at our Community Arts Center was a massive success. Collage artist Connie Beale had a superb artwork on display, but she managed to slip out before we could include her in a group picture. So, we asked the ever-helpful Kate Snyder to grab a shot of “three collage dudes,” back in the corner where Robert Hugh Hunt was showing a new addition to his “20th Century Icons” series — President Jimmy Carter. I was delighted to see included within the mixed-media portrait a collection of Jimmy heads that I’d surrendered to Robert earlier in the year. Strategic Quake ~ collage on stretched fabric by J A DixonStrangely enough, the envelope had been lurking in my stash for decades, after the faces were clipped from newspapers during the Carter presidency. It can take a while for certain elements to find their destination, on the uncanny path toward a collage outcome.

My Harmonic Squall was hanging nearby. As these things often play out, I was a bit more pleased with the piece each time I saw it. The residual sense of heightened criticism was continuing to wear off. One certainly doesn’t want the effect to move in an opposite progression. It makes me think of the companion artwork that just as easily could have been part of the exhibition — an extreme vertical that I called Strategic Quake. Both were the result of an evolved process that I touched on in last week’s entry. I’ve been meaning to post the one that wasn’t selected, too (above), along with an image detail (below, for a zoomed-in look). “Spatial manipulation, a unified color scheme, and compositional balance” might be a good way to describe the goals I’ve set for a collage abstraction. It needs to look strong from a distance, with the ingredients becoming the “brushstrokes” that provide visual interest at a closer viewing distance.
 


 

Strategic Quake (detail) ~ collage on stretched fabric by J A Dixon

Strategic Quake (detail)
collage on fabric by J A Dixon
12.5 x 28.25 inches
available for purchase

new year, new art, new approach

January 7th, 2019

“The most interesting paradox of creativity: in order to be habitually creative, you have to know how to prepare to be creative, but good planning alone won’t make your efforts successful; it’s only after you let go of your plans that you can breathe life into your efforts.”
— Twyla Tharp

“You take what you know, you take things you are comfortable with, and you throw them into a situation of new things, of things you are uncomfortable with, and, all of a sudden, new connections happen. And then your goal as a creative must be: of having the skill to carry it home without breaking it.”
— Christoph Niemann
 

Brandon Long is making a name for himself as an assemblage artist in Kentucky. He manages to juggle this with being a blogger, an active volunteer, and his full-time role as an outstanding family man. On top of that, he holds down a challenging, “multi-hat” position at our local Community Arts Center. This past autumn, his request to exhibit at their annual winter invitational arrived like clockwork: show the public an entirely new work, no jury evaluation, just put something at the leading edge of your creativity on display. There can’t be a single regional artist receiving that call who doesn’t value it as a rare opportunity.

I’d been thinking for much of last year about another immersion into larger works — not always a comfort zone for a self-described “miniaturist.” Add to that several months of recovery from a knee injury which limited my standing time. I reckoned I was overdue for a boost in the scale of my studio work. When it came time to plunge in, I realized it also was the perfect chance to reassess my current methodology. I wanted to explore a way of developing an abstract composition that was different for me. Could I combine and balance both a rational and non-rational process? By now, I had more than a decent foundation in each, but had never fused them in as mindful a manner as I considered possible. It didn’t turn out to be complicated at all, and yet it was a new approach for me, after more than twelve years as a dedicated collage practitioner.

Deciding to make three works at horizontal, vertical, and square proportions, I began with thumbnail concepts in my journal, moving from tiny doodles, to color sketches, and from there to rough collage miniatures. The activity was deliberate, but I tried to hold it at an intuitive level. After that, I moved to the typical task of preparing the “stretchers,” although nothing would be fabricated from scratch. I found a nearly fifty-year-old, unpainted canvas in remarkable shape. I stretched Pellon® fabric over a discarded picture frame. I paid almost nothing at a flea market for a castoff “student-esque” painting that needed some reinforcement, its canvas re-stretched, plus lots of primer. After sorting categories of available paper scrap into flat boxes, I was ready to explode into routine sessions of Merz assembly, with an occasional reference back to my preliminary ideas. When probing to the heart of intuition like this, a collage artist stumbles upon strange dynamics. For instance, there are times when you’ll ignore an emotion that says “this doesn’t belong,” only to press on and discover that it totally “works” with the next layering of ingredients. Perhaps this is more characteristic of collage maximalism than collage minimalism. I would accept that fully, but it’s fascinating to remain aware of the “joust” between whether to trust feelings or trust pure impulse, and to discern the difference. Finally, there came a point when I introduced the hard evaluation of a visual critique, before finishing with intentional refinements — and even that final stage allows for spontaneity.

It’s not always easy to know when a piece is done, and maybe it never really is. Eventually, an artist has to claim victory and sign the damn thing. I ended up delivering two works to the Center for the “New Year New Art” show, and let Brandon pick one that fit best. It was the square, the one I called Harmonic Squall.

Please give these four details your scrutiny. Let me know what you think, and, if you find yourself in the area, attend our opening reception this Friday evening. It’s always the first good party after New Year’s Eve!
 

Harmonic Squall (detail) ~ collage on canvas by J A Dixon     Harmonic Squall (detail) ~ collage on canvas by J A Dixon

Harmonic Squall (detail) ~ collage on canvas by J A Dixon     Harmonic Squall (detail) ~ collage on canvas by J A Dixon

four
details
from
Harmonic
Squall

Harmonic Squall ~ collage on recycled canvas by J A Dixon

Harmonic Squall
collage on recycled canvas by J A Dixon
26 x 26 inches
available for purchase

a timely ‘Cup of Kindness’ to all . . .

December 31st, 2018

 

Keeps On Slippin
collage artwork by J A Dixon
10 x 13.5 inches
available for purchase

Various and Sundry Scraps ~ No.3

December 27th, 2018

Litch’s ‘Manifesto” — good, unpretentious stuff from a working artist.
Save this link to keep an eye on Plastikcomb, or to submit content.
Everything one could want to know about Merzbau.

Fascinating, even if you don’t understand German. Pay particular attention
to the correct pronunciation of Schwitters and Merzbild.

Appreciating KS as a hero of the mind.

My thanks to everyone responsible for the outstanding content at these links.

A Very Merry Merry!

December 25th, 2018

 

Nine Christmas Minis
collage artwork by J A Dixon
each in private collections

Cut & Post

December 22nd, 2018

The Edinburgh Collage Collective has made a splash in the international collage scene over the past couple years, and it closed out 2018 with its Cut & Post project. The Collective and collage artist Mark Murphy, along with guest jurists, collaborated to select a group of finalists from postcard-based collage artworks submitted from around the world in order to produce a limited edition set of collector cards. Organizers told Kolaj Magazine that they “featured a wide range of submitted works on social media and showcased as many postcard collages as possible, demonstrating the diverse visual responses and interpretations.” According to the publication, “the project joins a list of strategies collage artists are using to curate and disperse collage outside of the gallery exhibition format.” With over 1400 individual pieces of work electronically submitted, the project sponsors admit to being “completely overwhelmed by the response.” There is talk of exploiting the body of accumulated images beyond the original scope of the open submission.

Below are five experimental pieces that I created for the submission. I also included two previous collage artworks with postcard ingredients among the total seven image files that I sent to Edinburgh for consideration, but none of them made the project’s “first cut.” I shall keep my fingers crossed and look ahead to new initiatives from a city shaping up to be a world center for the medium. (More about that next year!)
 

   
 

   
 


 
 
 

Five experimental post cards that I submitted to the ‘Cut & Post’ project that was based in Edinburgh, Scotland

 

Modern Use

December 17th, 2018

“As long as movements require our attention they are kata (form), when the kata become spontaneous they become waza (technique). As long as we persist in viewing kata superficially, we will begin to think that they are of special importance.”
— Yushio Kuroiwa
 

When explaining aikido, the late martial artist Yushio Kuroiwa taught the practice of rational movement, so that one could spontaneously execute a natural movement as a result. For me, this idea has a distinct parallel to the art of collage, which is based on repetitive experimentation. With study and discernment, the collage artist can discriminate the difference between a superficial composition that was contrived with too much self attention, and an intuitive composition that developed more naturally — an expression of synchronicity — that grew from understanding the essence of creativity.

Kuroiwa encouraged his students to not blindly follow masterful forerunners, but to observe and discover their “causes, effects, and processes of things, and their similarities and differences through experience.” He pointed out that “someone with poor handwriting cannot write beautifully, even when using a good pen. A skilled calligrapher, however, can write beautifully even when using an inexpensive pen. It is not that the pen is good, but rather that the writer’s ability, as a result of long experience, is excellent.”

It is beneficial to keep in mind that even though we are “working artists,” much of our “work” is not significant in and of itself as an artistic product, especially if it is merely a conscious application of formulae largely exhausted decades ago during the formative years of our medium as a modern art. Instead, maintain your drill, your ritual of formation, not to yield marketable artifacts, but to internalize an “organic” process that leads to a rewarding sense — that we have freely expressed the natural ability to create something with real spontaneity.

Thanks for visiting. Now, let’s go make more art . . .
 
Modern Use ~ collage miniature by John Andrew Dixon ~ Danville, Kentucky ~ Kentucky Crafted Mixed Media Artist

Modern Use
collage experiment in monochrome by J A Dixon
8.375 x 11 inches
available for purchase

Happy Birthday, Clara!

December 10th, 2018

There are times when one is reminded of the profound privilege of sharing artistic abilities. Recently I was humbled when friends asked me to create collage artwork for a fine lady on her 90th birthday. Clara was a teen when American soldiers and Allied forces liberated her homeland of Italy during the Second World War. The medium of collage offers the most creatively efficient capacity to embed a dozen or more images and symbolic elements that have personal meaning for an individual recipient. We honored Clara’s love of America and her lifelong gratitude to those who heroically sacrificed on her behalf — men such as Garlin Conner and John Squires, and so many others, including former U.S. Senators Daniel Inouye and Bob Dole. And, without a time-consuming process, I could at the same time recognize her particular appreciation of opera, the visual and literary arts, education, flowers, movies, wine, dogs, and a fondness for Mickey Mouse (who also turned 90 this year).

As an artist, I always find what I do rewarding, but it just doesn’t get any better than “the art of the gift.”
 

   

My friend Bill presents a birthday gift to Clara —
a collage miniature that I created with her in mind.

 

New note cards for the season!

December 5th, 2018

If you send hand-written messages during the year-end season, you may want some new note cards that feature collage artworks from my series of Christmas-tree greetings. Each large, blank card is 5.125 x 7.75 inches and is folded along the left vertical edge. Matching envelopes are included, of course.

Click below to buy with your PayPal account or a credit card.
No extra charge for shipping, handling, or state taxes within the USA.
International customers, please contact me directly.

Thank you!

 
 
Assorted vertical-format cards ~ 5 cards, 1 each of 5 ~ $27.50
     larger note cards that feature collage artworks from
     my series of handmade Christmas-tree greetings

 

 




 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Preview each distinctive
seasonal note card

Second Peoples

November 28th, 2018

 

Second Peoples
collage on book cover by J A Dixon
9 x 11.5 inches
available for purchase