Empress of Wings ~ details

February 5th, 2017

“Talking about my music traps me in a vicious circle and it’s very seldom that I manage to escape it. If I’m writing a new piece then I mustn’t talk about it because if I do then I have no impulse to write it any more. Once it’s written, then there is nothing left to say. That’s very apparent to me. It’s a matter of thinking in music, and I hope my music finds a direct way to the listener without any further explanation.”
— Arvo Pärt
 

Allow me to dive deeply into the context of my most prominent large-scale collage artwork to date. Some of you may dismiss my analytical subtext as obscure artspeak, or others might think that I have lost myself in an esoteric miasma. But to those of you who are kind enough to offer the benefit of the doubt, or who also conduct the same kind of “post-mortem” (heaven help us), this is the kind of thing that people with a visual design background have a tendency to do. Nevertheless, a collage artwork should stand on its own without a preliminary explanation or a closing summation (just so you know where I stand on that). For those of you who are still with me, let’s jump in…
 

detail from ‘Empress of Wings’ by John Andrew Dixon, Danville, Kentucky ~ internationally known as The Collage Miniaturist

My goal was to create an illusion of depth with an abstract layering of value and
color contrasts, culminating with the “title character,” a Queen Alexandria Birdwing —
nature’s largest butterfly (which corresponds to this being the largest collage on
canvas that I have created so far).

detail from ‘Empress of Wings’ by John Andrew Dixon, Danville, Kentucky ~ internationally known as The Collage Miniaturist

My development as an artist has been rooted in the small format, taking what I have
learned from that into the realm of a larger scale. It is not surprising that I find myself
embedding actual collage miniatures into bigger works, as I have done here.

detail from ‘Empress of Wings’ by John Andrew Dixon, Danville, Kentucky ~ internationally known as The Collage Miniaturist

In addition to my preference for ingredients that represent the culture of language
and symbolic communication, I lean toward a “maximalist” approach, in this case
the clustering of dense material to contrast with bolder shapes and color-quantities.

detail from ‘Empress of Wings’ by John Andrew Dixon, Danville, Kentucky ~ internationally known as The Collage Miniaturist

The counterpoise of angled polygons and strong diagonals forms the basis for a
dynamic visual tension, allowing for more nuanced details to serve as focal points, spatial anchors, and color accents.

detail from ‘Empress of Wings’ by John Andrew Dixon, Danville, Kentucky ~ internationally known as The Collage Miniaturist

Although I have inserted into this artwork many details for literal association and
observational reverie, it is essentially a “collage painting,” with attention to the
artistic surface, an activation of visual space, and the overall viewing impression.

Thanks for visiting! Please register and comment here to let me know what you think. Criticism is permitted here. I promise to respond.

Diamonds endure

January 29th, 2017

I am honored and pleased that my Diamonds in the Rough was a part of the largest show ever mounted at Eastern Kentucky University’s Giles Gallery. Order and Chaos is this year’s Chautauqua Series theme, Diamonds in the Rough ~ J A Dixon ~ collage artist in Danville, Kentuckyand the juror for their exhibition was the distinguished Robert L. Croker of Philadelphia, who chose award winners in eight media. He wrote, “I winnowed the field from over 400 entries to 73. I weighed, to a greater or lesser extent, the following characteristics: inventiveness, originality, and technical skill in employing materials and techniques. The level of technical skill in all the entries was gratifyingly high. There were few entries that I thought addressed the issue of Chaos in any cogent manner. This may be because it’s an impossible task, the principle of ordered experience being the linchpin of visual art.” Croker’s perspective goes to the heart of my own continued aesthetic pursuit. The collage construction is another of my abstract studies which seeks to bring a harmonious resolution out of apparent disorder. The ongoing investigation goes back to a 2007 solo show that I called KOSMOS. It continues with my recent collage on canvas, Empress of Wings, the largest I have created so far. As I have done before, I shall follow up and share some compositional crops of this new artwork, exploring the design relationships that make these efforts so rewarding for me.
 
detail from ‘Diamonds in the Rough’ ~ a collage construction by John Andrew Dixon, Danville, Kentucky

Diamonds in the Rough (detail)
collage construction by J A Dixon
total size: 36 x 36 inches
available for purchase

Another worthy collaborative alliance

January 22nd, 2017

“Behold, how good and pleasant it is when
brothers dwell in unity!”
— Psalms 133:1
 

Collage collaboration is thriving in the Bluegrass. Robert Hugh Hunt and I began to think about a new project earlier last year, to follow our double-piece venture of 2015 (unveiled at the Kentucky Artisan Center’s It Takes Two show, featured at JUXTAPOSED, and also recognized in the state capitol rotunda as part of the 2016 Governor’s Derby Exhibit). Based on a thumbnail sketch in my journal that suggested a pair of interlocking shapes, we each took a 16×20 canvas-on-wood construction and worked independently on a solution to our “puzzle.” As we shared images online, a color scheme evolved as visual ideas echoed. Out of the gate, a found drawing of lupine eyes would demand a lower face with grinning mouth. Before long, we had exchanged a digital simulation of how the pieces would configure. Robert responded with a television element after I pasted the face of Fidel into a vintage TV set. (Strangely enough, this was a few weeks before the dictator’s demise.) When my partner, known for his mixed-media roosters, drew a chicken head, I added a corresponding game fowl to further the red-black theme. Did my fragment of a playing card spark his array of floating club symbols? His hand-drawn kissers certainly inspired my pencil and acrylic rendering of the “photo-booth” Kennedys.
   
   

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Finishing touches were made after we had shared our final interim images. When our halves converged for the culminating “intercourse,” we thought it desirable for me to install a clamping device, so that the components might stand alone in the future. I explored possibilities and tried some ideas at my workbench, but, alas, I have never been an engineer. Fortunately, my kind collaborator was comfortable with a decision to join them permanently and declare victory.

‘Dreams Aligned’ (a collaborative collage construction by John Andrew Dixon and Robert Hugh Hunt) at the 2017 NEW YEAR NEW ART exhibition ~ Community Arts Center, Danville, KentuckyAll in all, I found our creative teamwork to be an immensely satisfying collaboration. The result was selected to be part of the local NEW YEAR NEW ART winter exhibition. Even though the interlocking feature of the artwork is probably more discernible when viewing it in person, it makes for a provocative online impression, and we were pleased that it was designated as the promotional poster for the show. the 2017 NEW YEAR NEW ART exhibition ~ Community Arts Center, Danville, KentuckyAfter I had sorted through dozens of potential titles with a lack of conviction, Robert coined the phrase that stuck. He wrote this to me when he summed up our experimental process:

“Well, this collaboration was unlike any I had done. Most art collaborations have multiple artists working one at a time on a single piece until it is finished. As the artist, you are either ‘starting’ the collaborative piece or ‘finishing’ it, and, in cases with more than two collaborators, you could be working the ‘middle’ of the piece. But with Dreams Aligned, we took a different approach — creating two pieces, which I felt should stand on their own, and merging the two into one piece that not only worked as a whole, but made a stronger piece than the two works alone. And the fact that we had worked together successfully before, and understood each other’s artistic language, and that we kept a visual dialogue ongoing, showing each other the progress on their ‘half,’ following each other’s visual cues on medium, color, composition, etc. — in this way we were able to create a collaboration with two distinct artistic halves. It wasn’t a merging as much as an alignment of our artistic styles and languages, hence the title.”
 
Dreams Aligned ~ a collaborative collage construction ~ Kentucky artists John Andrew Dixon and Robert Hugh Hunt

Dreams Aligned
a collage collaboration by J A Dixon and R H Hunt
mixed-media construction, 26.75 x 26.5 inches
(left component by Dixon, right component by Hunt)
available for purchase

Empress of Wings — When is the flight over?

January 15th, 2017

“I tell you what gets harder over the years, it’s coming to grips with ‘is it finished yet or do I want to make one more change?’”
– Burton Cummings

Being invited by our Community Arts Center to participate in the annual winter invitational of regional artists never fails to jump-start my burst of year-end activity. Submissions to the January-to-February show are required to have been completed after August. The request comes in late October, but, instead of selecting from completed works, I’ll typically commence a work specific to the exhibition in early November. I set a goal this time to produce my largest collage ever and to shoot some in-progress photos.

The first image below indicates how I blocked out the early composition with mostly larger elements. The second represents how the color-quantity contrasts and spatial manipulations resolved themselves. The last image is the finished work with final layering and a few closing refinements.

It is a challenge to maintain a high degree of spontaneity when creating so large a work (for me, the dedicated miniaturist). It helps to carry a momentum of small-scale experimentation into the process, plus there are things I do to boost an “organic” flow. For example, if there are aspects of the color scheme I want to enhance, rather than acquire and position new elements one by one and invite too much preoccupation with each, I will quickly prepare a batch of ingredients and place them into the composition as rapidly and as intuitively as possible, responding to my impression of the evolving totality. Instead of pondering two-dimensional locations, the eye or hand moves first, and one learns to trust whether something “belongs” or not. Also, it can be difficult to know when the winding down to conclusion should start. At a certain point, I become conscious of a natural progression toward closing refinements (more logical considerations for balancing and harmonizing the overall effect). Noticing an escalation of rational deliberation can be the reliable signal that a piece may nearly be done — almost time to “pull the plug and sign it.”

We are unlikely to hear any collage artist say that completing a work is an exact science. Personally, if I walk away from something that I suspect is finished, it is less probable that I will continue to monkey with it when I come back. It is beneficial to have an objective consultant — in my case, a trusted partner willing to instruct, “Don’t touch it!”

I also should note that the exhibition is an opportunity for Robert Hugh Hunt and me to unveil another major collaboration (more to say about that next time). Creating the interlocking mixed-media construction was an interesting process. The result is something unconventional, and we’re pleased that it was selected as the promotional image for the show.
 

 
 
an early and a late
stage of my largest
collage painting to date
 
(click each for larger view)

 
 
 

Empress of Wings ~ John Andrew Dixon

Empress of Wings
collage on canvas by J A Dixon
42.25 x 30.375 inches
available for purchase

that compelling beat . . .

January 8th, 2017

“Rhythm is one of the most powerful of pleasures, and when we feel a pleasurable rhythm we hope it will continue,”
– Mary Oliver

Not long ago I thought this series had run its course, but now I realize that it contains a rhythm which I hope will never stop. Originally inspired by the lost bibelots of George Headley, it has taken on its own continuity as a collage exercise that calls me back. I might spy a particular color, a certain fragment of printed typography, a shiny ingredient, a scrap of this or that — the next thing I know, a new miniature has cracked its shell, and it is unmistakably a “bibelot.”

It will not portend the fruitful struggle of demanding art. Rather, it is a favorite tune sung again, a pleasing walk taken more than once before, a quiet gift to oneself. And, just perhaps, a new mystery will be revealed — something worth investigating later — when simple delight must give way to challenge.
 
Churn (Bibelot 151) ~ a collage miniature by John Andrew Dixon, Danville, Kentucky

Churn (Bibelot 151)
collage miniature by J A Dixon
6.625 x 7.75 inches
 
Purchase this artwork.

Transfigured

January 1st, 2017

“Art has to be something that makes you scratch your head.”
—Edward Ruscha

I think it is good to start a fresh cycle with something that perplexes me. Will anyone else think that this is art? Does the irrepressible creative urge need to take matters into its own hands now and then? Or am I merely illustrating an untold story from my rambunctious imagination?

Happy New Year!
 
Transfigured ~ a collage miniature on book cover by John Andrew Dixon, Danville, Kentucky

Transfigured
collage miniature on book cover by J A Dixon
7.25 x 9.5 inches
 
Purchase this artwork.

Robykana

December 28th, 2016

“Art is worthless unless it plants a measure of
splendor in people’s hearts.”
—Taha Muhammad Ali

There are few creative pastimes more fulfilling than directing one’s practice into a personal gift of art. Robykana, a collage on panel, is a housewarming present for two of our most hospitable of friends. Its title derives from the name of their new dwelling, perched upon a Kentucky River overlook with, at best, only a handful of rivals in the Bluegrass. It is the kind of sanctuary many would keep to themselves, but our friends take quite the opposite approach. My grateful response can only be to create a composition packed with private references, symbolic meanings, and secret allusions. Needless to say, a collage artist will use the process as an opportunity for intuitive spontaneity and the working out of ongoing aesthetic considerations. Without fail, this kind of intimate enterprise gives rise to ideas for new investigations, and, happily, it becomes a gift to myself as well.

Robykana ~ J A Dixon

Robykana
collage on panel by J A Dixon
23 x 17 inches
collection of S & R Hempel

Christmas Collage Experiments

December 25th, 2016

“Time is so sneaky…don’t let it fool you into saying silly things. Your time here is yours…treasure it and enjoy it. It doesn’t ‘move’…it merely ‘exists’…period.”
—Burton Cummings

I was thinking that the holiday season had gotten away from me, and that I had not had enough time to make the many hand-crafted things that usually capture my interest and comprise my gift giving. And then I saw a Christmas Eve comment from the incomparable Burton, who has a superlative knack for putting universal thoughts into words. The whole “ain’t got no time” notion dissolved and I realized, once again, that there’s always enough time for what’s important.

Wishing the joy of Christmas to all . . .
 

collage experiment by John Andrew Dixon

Untitled (nativity with serpent)
a Christmas collage experiment by J A Dixon
collection of C D Darst

collage experiment by John Andrew Dixon

Untitled (nativity with thorns)
a Christmas collage experiment by J A Dixon
collection of P B Seitz

collage experiment by John Andrew Dixon

Untitled (nativity with cherubim)
a Christmas collage experiment by J A Dixon
collection of K Simpson

Continuing a series . . .

December 23rd, 2016

“It is by logic that we prove, but by intuition that we discover.”
— Henri Poincaré

December is the time of year for making hand-crafted holiday cards. By and by, I return to variations on the theme of a Christmas tree. Perhaps some of the collage miniatures are more “successful” than others, but the point of this ritual (other than sharing joy with dear ones, of course) is granting free rein to an intuitive response. Exercising this capacity is at the heart of collage as a medium. How important it is to give the imagination a blank check and invest no concern in the lack of a preconceived approach! Choosing a simple pictorial theme conveniently jump-starts an experimental process. What follows is pure discovery.
 

29 collage greeting
cards by J A Dixon

variations on a
Christmas theme
2001 – 2016

Vertical note cards now available

December 16th, 2016

At our studio gallery, a surreal lady is my most popular note card, and now you can purchase cards with Pulcinella’s Secret as a packet of five or as part of a set of assorted cards. A set of five vertical note cards contains one each of five cards, with Pulcinella’s Secret, plus details from Structural Integrity, Fallen Body, Mystery Solved, and Pearallelograms. A set of four vertical note cards without Pulcinella’s Secret is also available.

Larger than a typical note card, each blank card is 5.125 x 7.75 inches and is folded along the left edge. Envelopes are included.

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!

 

Pulcinella’s Secret cards ~ 5 cards, 5 each of 1 ~ $30

Assorted vertical-format cards ~ 5 cards, 1 each of 5 ~ $30
includes Pulcinella’s Secret

Assorted vertical-format cards ~ 4 cards, 1 each of 4 ~ $24
does not include Pulcinella’s Secret

 

 

Preview each distinctive collage note card —





Horizontal note cards now available

December 15th, 2016

Everything I create is rooted in my investigations of the small format, and now you can purchase note cards derived from some of these collage artworks. A set of four horizontal note cards contains one each of four assorted cards, with details from Structural Integrity, Selective Fusion, Contemplation Ajar, and Mystery Solved. A set of eight cards is also available.

Larger than a typical note card, each blank card is 7.75 x 5.125 inches and is folded along the top edge. Envelopes are included.

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 horizontal-format cards ~ 4 cards, 1 each of 4 ~ $24

Assorted horizontal-format cards ~ 8 cards, 2 each of 4 ~ $44

 

 
 

Preview each distinctive collage note card —