January 16th, 2022

 
CHANGE OF SEEN — Collage Landscapes by John Andrew Dixon — Lexington, Kentucky

December 24th, 2021

Holiday therapy, aesthetic exercise, creative ritual, intuitive workout, craft drill, thematic meditation — call it whatever we want. It’s that season to make and send tree miniatures to those we treasure.

Have a Merry-Merry, everybody!
 

Four Tree Miniatures for Christmas
collage greeting cards by J A Dixon

Collage as catharsis . . .

December 12th, 2021

“Collage is a fantastic tool to modulate the strain of life and associated feelings.”
— Laurie Kanyer
 

This one was started some time ago, in response to the Paradise conflagration, but I had no determination to finish it until after a deadly storm front came through our region last Saturday.
If you can, please reach out to help.
 

Ticket to Trauma
collage catharsis by J A Dixon
8.25 x 10.625 inches
available for purchase

Happy Turkey Day!

November 25th, 2021

The national symbol of the eagle is so iconic I often forget that Benjamin Franklin was opposed to its adoption and favored the turkey. (Some things need no further elaboration.)
 

If You Turkeys Can Keep It
collage catharsis by J A Dixon
8 x 10 inches
available for purchase

Cave Spring | 2019-2021

October 29th, 2021

“The most important thing
a painter can do is find
a good place to sit.”
— J.E.H. MacDonald
 

I started this miniature on location in 2019, deep into a hollow that reveals a natural site which offered the only large amount of “refrigeration” available to Kentucky pioneers in the region. My vision for a final look required more indoor time than could ever meet a qualification for en plein air. Paper can be a stern schoolmaster in the studio at times, and I’ve been known to get prickly under his tutelage, but Mother Nature smiles when I “return home.”
 
 
 

(above, left) A collage ‘start’ in the woods taking shape on my clipboard.

(above, right) The completed location work fell short of a finished landscape.

 
 

Cave Spring
collage miniature by J A Dixon
started on location / finished indoors
7.25 x 7.5 inches
available to collectors

Still Life with Peony Tulips

October 11th, 2021

“We think of the things we own and use as defining us in some way, but that can only be true if we first describe the things. Describing is a remarkable human act. It connects our inner and outer experience: as we observe and record the material world, we respond and reflect. We enter the realm where the material world meets the imagination. That’s the fertile ground of art.”
– Sheldon Tapley
 

I created this artwork for The Object Seen: Contemporary Still Life, current exhibition at Art Center of the Bluegrass in Danville. The juror was Sheldon Tapley, masterful painter, draftsman, and Stodghill Professor of Art at Centre College. I received a 2nd-place ribbon and cash prize. The honor came as a surprise, since I don’t consider myself a practitioner or student of still life as an art form. I have, however, looked deeply at artwork made by Sheldon and those who are. The arms-length quality of modern still life has compelled my close scrutiny for many years. Given that influence, I brought to the genre what I’ve discovered by “painting with paper” from direct observation (the long sweep of art history hovering somewhere outside my conscious awareness, with its rich tradition of artists tackling visual cornacopias of objects and edible fare). I decided to interpret a tabletop group of objects from raw material, rather than assemble a conventional collage composition from found images.

Please view a video clip of the juror’s remarks about my artwork.

The peony tulip blossoms were created en plein air in a local flower garden. The small “still life within a still life” was commenced and partially finished from a setup of actual objects. I relied on photo reference for the rest. Ingredients include colored paper (printed and unprinted), wallpaper, ruined book parts, tissue, reclaimed tea bags, string, and a dried leaf, plus minimal use of walnut juice, burnt coffee, tinted paste, and marker-ink edging. Adhesives include wheat paste, acrylic matte medium, and white glue.

 

Still Life with Peony Tulips
collage on salvaged canvas
18 x 23.75 inches

•  Second Place Prize

Ninth Chapter: Taking in a last view from her ridge . . .

September 22nd, 2021

“I always have to watch out for falling into copying what I see accurately, but somehow losing the poetry of expressively applied paint in the process. Accuracy with expressiveness is the key! Remembering this saying from David Leffel… ‘The beauty of the painting always comes first; accuracy always a dismal last.’”
— Bill Fletcher
 

As I prepare for my first solo exhibition of collage landscapes, I reflect on an exceptional season of working outside with the PAACK and how much I appreciate everybody who helped kick off 2021 with a return to Kelley Ridge last April, especially my “big sis.” I have six marvelous siblings, but only my sister Joan arrived before me. She is my oldest friend, confidante, and role model. Joan inherited a wild place and a half-built dwelling through one of the worst tragedies that a woman can experience, but — with faith and perseverance — she endured an unimaginable grief and transformed the shell of a house into a home. It’s a remarkable abode. The previous year I’d created a collage portrait of it when Joan hosted the first Art Out on her ridge. When I learned that she planned to put the farmstead on the market sometime in 2021, I knew I had to turn my attention outward from “Cardinal Haven” and challenge myself to capture one of its spectacular views with torn paper.
 
     
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

I have fond memories of that event, because I met the affable Roger Snell that day, and we chose a similar viewscape on which to focus. Snell was “freshly retired” as one of the architects of the Kentucky Proud initiative for state economic development, and he was clearly thrilled to be entering his new life as a full time painter.

After a decent start, I worked through the afternoon and came away with a piece that I thought was close to having been finished on location. “Just a few finishing touches to go,” I told myself, but the more I looked at it in the studio, the more I wanted to continue adding contrasting layers for more depth and complexity. Doing that without sacrificing an impression of intuitive choices was not an easy process. I had to stay “in the zone.” By the time I was satisfied, it had became one of those studio-invested pieces that will never be classified as a plein-air artwork. So be it.

I still feel like I’m just scratching the surface with this particular approach to collage landscape. The distinction between direct observation, photographic influence, and pure imagination is becoming blurred. The outside/indoor time ratio is often taking a backseat to my achieving a certain end, with a desirable balance of improvisational spontaneity and pictorial authenticity leading the way.

 

From Her Ridge
collage miniature by J A Dixon
8 x 9 inches
private collection

Eighth Chapter: Annual PAACK show opens . . .

August 27th, 2021

En Plein Air
an exhibition of recent
work by the Plein Air
Artists of Central Kentucky

It’s been an exceptional season for making art outdoors, and our local Art Center of the Bluegrass is currently presenting many of the resulting creations. I have six collage miniatures on display as part of the show. Enjoy the exhibit in-person or browse the virtual gallery until 9/11.

One of the highlights of the spring was our gathering at the backyard of Lee and David Simpson, with its quiet explosion of white and pink dogwood trees. They were certainly calling attention to themselves here and all over Danville. What a perfect day to be outside with the PAACK and “painting with paper,” thanks to my mobile collage kit. After some initial work, I gradually became convinced the scene was taking shape. As location coordinator for the day, I’d gotten off to an awkward start. I eventually came away from the pleasurable day with a solid interim stage, but as I began to finish the trees in the studio, it was clear that the piece needed more than details to improve it. When I decided that the foreground was too deep, I impetuously peeled off the base and moved it up an inch or so — after all, this is collage. That one modification helped everything about the look. The rest of the process became obvious. If I reinforced the sun-activated colors and spent a bit more time with the fence area on the right side, I could declare it finished, as long as I stayed within an overall time allocation that was legitimately en plein air. I was pleased to achieve a 70%/30% solution.

Whenever I gather under the sky with traditional landscape painters, their impressive work challenges me to “do my thing” with paper. With each outing, it’s feeling more like I’m painting, too! This was true in May, when we spread out to interpret the country home site of Paula and Ken Scott. A particular view of their wrap-around porch and surrounding garden captured my eye. I wanted to combine some hard-edge cutting with my evolving “brushstroke” technique. As is often the case, I pushed the finishing touches back in the studio to the 50/50 limit, matching my location time with more detailed refinements indoors. I’m still trying to solve how to bring something closer to a level of interesting density while still outside. Perhaps I’ll find that, by necessity, a totally site-based collage needs to be simpler in expression and more decisive in composition. A milestone in June and the subsequent Paint the Town experience would drive home the point, and also emphasize the importance of having a supply of “prepared papers” on hand to boost speed and expand my available vocabulary of effects.

I like to work outside because I like to be outside. When I formerly thought of myself as an amateur triathlete, I’d cross-train right through the hottest days of the summer. It doesn’t bother me to extend an Art Out into the late afternoon. Sometimes the morning shade has long since abandoned me. If I’m well into the groove, I can barely notice. Before I get totally off the subject here, I should state that I actually rely on direct sunlight to promote the drying of my collage surface, since I’m usually working wet-on-wet. A good example of this was the day PAACK gathered in the nearby Forkland community. I don’t fault others for finding a shady spot to paint. I set up not far away in the open sun.

In the decades since this Ohioan adopted Central Kentucky as my permanent home, I’ve developed an affection for the distinct topography and knobby woodlands of our area. Sure, the famous horse farms and limestone palisades are always handy, but I’ll never get enough of the unique contours of a “gumdrop horizon.” The Forkland community, which straddles three adjacent counties, was a destination that fit my attachment to “The Knobs”. The result was On the North Rolling Fork, one of my favorite landscape miniatures of the year.

 

Dogwood Day
collage miniature by J A Dixon
70% / 30% — site to studio
8 x 7.75 inches
available for purchase

 

Country Porch
collage miniature by J A Dixon
50% / 50% — site to studio
7.75 x 7.75 inches
available for purchase

 

On the North Rolling Fork
collage miniature by J A Dixon
50% / 50% — site to studio
8 x 7.75 inches
available for purchase

July 16th, 2021

Gwen Heffner, master artisan of Kentucky

Gwen Heffner
1 9 5 2 – 2 0 2 1

master artisan of pottery
major force in the Kentucky arts
my pal from our first encounter
R
I
P

Tillie’s unpainted facade

July 13th, 2021

“What happens if we like a piece of art or hate a piece of art? Nothing. The art is still the same; it hasn’t changed. If we can realize that our judgments are not the truth, but a way to keep from telling the truth, then we begin the process of discovering what our truth is and putting that on the page.”
— Fonda Clark Haight
 

I started this miniature in a friend’s yard three weeks ago and cut myself off in the studio yesterday when the indoor work equaled the time expended on location. I wanted to keep the ratio to 50%/50%, a standard limitation we use for our annual En Plein Air exhibition. I’m fond of this piece, even though it will always look unfinished to me. I could’ve continued to refine it with more texture and details, but I had to keep in mind that it was more about the process than an end result. I learned something that day at Tillie’s about responding with paper to what I observed before me, in preparation for the “Paint the Town” time crunch. There was too much character in that old garage to fully capture anyway. Our fellow PAACK member has left the rear of that particular structure unpainted and speckled with antique tools — all for the benefit of local artists. Not a big mystery for anyone who knows Tillie!

 

Weathered Backside
collage miniature by J A Dixon
50% / 50% — site to studio
7.75 x 7.75 inches
available for purchase

Paint the town. (With paper!)

July 3rd, 2021

“If everything seems under control, you’re just not going fast enough.”
— Mario Andretti
 

One week ago, I spent a windy Saturday in frantic competition with the clock, and managed to get an outdoor collage artwork framed and delivered for Lexington’s annual Paint the Town plein air event. At the opening reception that same evening, I was stunned to get a prompt sale and 2nd-place prize. It was one of the most exhilarating twelve hours I’ve experienced in quite a while.

Oh, the dubious lengths some of us will go to chase artistic intensity — even the temporary madness of extreme deadline pressure — all in the pursuit of rapt spontaneity. Heaven help me!

It doesn’t seem so long ago when I first took my collage obsession out of doors, and this kind of open challenge was a goal too absurd to contemplate. I had scouted the location and spent a couple days in preparation. By the time I’d registered a blank canvas, raced to my site and set up, one of the precious six hours had evaporated. I began to battle the breeze (nothing new there). Nor were the other 40 artists involved my foes. It was clear that the only towering opponent I faced was a daunting imperative to speed up my process. I’ve never pasted paper so fast in my life!

The judge said this about my piece: “I was very interested in the way this artist managed to create such an evocative landscape using collaged paper — and on a windy day! Places and buildings often hold so many memories and meanings, and the use of text on the siding of the buildings — with the words appearing in reverse, so they become texture and tone — adds another level of meaning.”

It’s gratifying, and profoundly reinforcing, to have a knowledgeable evaluator find significance in aspects that have evolved gradually to become a natural part of my plein air method. I appreciate her remarks, the organizing effort of all those with Arts Connect, the camaraderie of the participating artists, the buyers (Scott and Paul), the indispensable support of my dearest partner — and you, reader, for visiting here and for reading all of this!

Onward to the next challenge!

 

Off Upper
plein air collage on canvas by J A Dixon
12 x 12 inches

•  Second Place Prize / S O L D