Face the Music

March 3rd, 2022

 

Face the Music
collage catharsis by J A Dixon
6 x 7.5 inches
private collection

Tenth Chapter: Painting from nature with paper

February 19th, 2022

“Follow the ways of natural creation, the becoming, the functioning of forms, then perhaps starting from nature you will achieve formations of your own, and one day you may even become like nature yourself and start creating.”
— Paul Klee
 

As I pushed toward the hanging date for Change of Seen last month, I pulled out an unfinished work. In 2020 it had been my hope to complete it as part of the Paint By Nature entry — an interpretation of an urban oak tree. Everything was done except for the tree itself, which I’d wanted to paste together in a burst of spontaneity. The “start” went into cold storage when I ran out of time for two submissions. Fast forward to January 2022. Now I had the ideal scenario. My tight deadline would not allow me to indulge any slowdown or second guess. Positive, unanticipated things often happen when I occasionally challenge myself to work under a severe constraint. The hesitant, rational mind is sidelined in favor of an intuitive response that is rooted in everything one has ever created. This can be the case with music, writing, or nearly any artistic format, but the phenomenon especially lends itself to painting.

Interestingly, I’ve always preferred watercolors to other paint mediums because of its unpredictability and the “happy accidents” that occur. I admire oils greatly, but they hold no attraction for me as I approach my 70s. I hadn’t expected to discover that “painting in papers” could captivate me so and knit a reverence for nature into my art. One of the primary appeals of collage is total flexibility. It’s almost impossible to make a blunder, if one stays “in the zone” without letting the intellect gain an upper hand. When others use words such as exacting or meticulous to describe what I do, it usually throws me, because I consider my approach as more instinctive. And yet, there is no denying the presence of “artisanship.” With any task at hand, craft is essential. It was drilled into me with rigor after I chose the path of applied design. (That the young are asked to dedicate themselves to a particular discipline and to ignore countless alternatives is a weird fact of life. Many of us spend decades unraveling it.) So, a certain precision is fused into my method, even when I’m racing the clock. One man’s chaos is another man’s perfectionism.

I’ve lived my adult life trying to spin creative gold in a studio of one sort or another. A supremacy of the natural world in my youth had been set aside as part of an itinerary toward the graphic arts profession. Reflecting on a long journey that leads to the ever-rolling “now,” I recognize that nature was always calling. It influenced my leaving big cities for a smaller community. It provided a firm foundation for my diet and a health-oriented lifestyle. It was an unfailing source for well-being when conditions seemed out of balance. Even so, an unsatisfied need remained elusive until I finally took paper and paste outdoors, where the potential for inspiration was out of arm’s reach. That I could respond with collage, and find it so rewarding, is something I hadn’t foreseen.

If you want to start with the first chapter, you can find that story here. It’s been almost five years of direct observation, and I’m itching to begin a new season of working en plein air. The broader point I’d like to make is how the experience also has invigorated the way I approach representational collage in the studio. It feels like it’s all been funneled into an evolving intuition. Working outside has transformed how I make visual decisions even when using photographic reference under pressure, as I did with Grand Chinkapin. After quickly preparing piles of printed scrap that seemed appropriate for tree foliage, I was able to explode those ingredients into place with a minimum of conscious thought — not unlike I try to do every time I take my collage kit on location. “Painting from nature with paper” has become a more integrated practice, inside or outside. Change of Seen shares this adventure with others.

 

Grand Chinkapin
collage with combined mediums by J A Dixon
0% / 100% — site to studio
11 x 7.75 inches + shadow-box frame
available for purchase

Watch my new artist bio by Fine Art Photographics!

February 3rd, 2022

   

 

   

Immense thanks to Brett Henson, John Hockensmith, and Kate Savage for bringing this video to fruition! For anyone who wants to discover a bit more about my plein-air approach to making collage landscapes.

Check out my guest appearance on Art Throb!

February 1st, 2022

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Sentinel

January 31st, 2022

With another year of plein air activity under my belt, I had one image stuck in my imagination that I needed to paste together without any direct reference to an actual place. This last artwork for 2021 is included in my solo display, “Change of Seen,” at the John G Irvin Gallery in Lexington. A snowy deep freeze in Kentucky has blunted turnout for the exhibition so far, but everybody can see all the work by following my previous links during this month. Here’s to a hoped for but yet unfulfilled public reception that will entice more people to the show itself.
 

Sentinel
collage landscape by J A Dixon
7.125 x 9 inches
available for purchase

January 26th, 2022

CHANGE OF SEEN
collage landscapes by John Andrew Dixon

curated by Kate Savage, Arts Connect
for the John G Irvin Gallery at
Central Bank, Lexington, Kentucky

Below are a pair of small skyscapes that I finished just before hanging “Change of Seen,” my collage exhibition curated by Arts Connect for a two-level bank gallery in downtown Lexington — 31 works total. A couple of studio miniatures seemed a fitting addition to what coalesced as my first all-landscape display and a retrospective of sorts for my five-year journey into representational collage. All during 2021, I couldn’t take my eyes off the changing sky, or stop thinking about how I might interpret it by pasting colored paper, tissue, and reclaimed tea bags. These two pieces are from imagination and memory. I kept layering torn ingredients until I was satisfied with the impression.

Kevin Nance wrote a brief review of the show that was perhaps too flattering. It’s been almost a week since the opening and my feet aren’t fully back on the ground yet. I cannot imagine a more able curator/impresario than the assiduous Kate Savage, a tireless catalyst for all things ART in our Bluegrass region. As just one of the multiple services she’s offering to help spread the word, her non-profit will sponsor a shopping page at the Arts Connect website during the run of my exhibition.

Please check it out!

 

Rose at Daybreak
collage miniature by J A Dixon
6 x 7 inches, framed 11 x 14
available for purchase

 

Summer Sundown
collage miniature by J A Dixon
6 x 7 inches, framed 11 x 14
available for purchase

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

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