It’s Complex, Man

October 26th, 2019

“Look, man, I’ve got certain information, all right? Certain things have come to light. And, you know, has it ever occurred to you, that, instead of, uh, you know, running around, uh, uh, blaming me, you know, given the nature of all this new shit, you know, I-I-I-I… this could be a-a-a-a lot more, uh, uh, uh, uh, uh, uh, complex, I mean, it’s not just, it might not be just such a simple… uh, you know?”
— The Dude (from The Big Lebowski)
 

I’m super pumped (in the, uh, parlance of the day), because tonight is The Big LeBOWLski Arty Party to benefit the arts in Lexington and Central Kentucky, and it’s a delight to be a part of it!

It’s Complex, Man is my contribution to the fundraising event. Ten regional creatives will have their bowling-pin art in the silent auction, and we’ll split the purchase price 50/50 with LexArts, the sponsoring organization. How many nonprofits offer that deal when artists are asked to donate their creative labor to a cause?

Crafting this piece was pure fun, with pleasant allusions to my Mrs. Bradshaw chair. There are ample references to the Coen Brothers picture, but it’s not only an homage. I revisit my practice of juxtaposing high literacy with the pulpy preferences that many of us harbor. If you’re weary of seeing that in collage art, “Yeah, well, you know, that’s just, like, your opinion, man.”

Rumor has it that The Dude will make an appearance. Let’s go bowling!

Simia Egg Macao

October 19th, 2019

 

Simia Egg Macao
collage on book cover by J A Dixon
6 x 8 inches
 
Purchase this artwork!

Fifth Chapter: Sparring with the breeze…

October 5th, 2019

“This idea of having something that isn’t quite in focus, something that isn’t quite understood, is interesting. I think details that are over-plentiful, details that are very dense, are lifelike. They exist in natural environments. Forests have a huge amount of details, because they are not built on a human level, so they are impossible to analyze at first glance, and I think we can only recreate what nature has done already, so I don’t think that the idea of simplifying something is a good thing.”
— Édouard Lock
 

August and September provided a stretch of exceptionally dry weather that was a disappointment for farmers in the Bluegrass, but valued by our intrepid PAACK of regional artists who work out of doors. I was able to create three more satisfying landscape miniatures.

Those who have followed this sequence of descriptions realize it hasn’t been that long since I met the challenge of doing collage en plein air. It has evolved as a gradient progression of discoveries. I’ve learned to think of my application of paper ingredients as a density of “brushstrokes” rather than the placement of simple design elements into a composition. The two-year process has brought my artwork from a crafted illustration with cleanly pasted elements to a more layered, painterly effect. I’m tending to work wet-on-wet, using sandpaper and blades to score and feather edges. The thickness of papers is torn into “veneers” with areas that can achieve a blended translucency, and I’m more routinely taking advantage of recycled tea-bag “skins” to add warmth, texture, or visual softness. I continue to use three different liquid adhesives — wheat paste, white glue, and polymer gel — which offer contrasting levels of stickiness and drying time. I saturate the paper for manipulations not available with dry material and then flatten the surface with a cloth or burnisher, depending on a desired level of dimensionality. Bits of printed text continue to appear as part of my treatment, providing subtle highlights or more overt suggestions of pattern. This growing vocabulary of techniques has given me more confidence to tackle scenes that might have looked too difficult not so long ago. Attempting to “paint” a pond fountain or a rocky outcrop with only paper would have seemed more daunting when I first started to do this.

None of it would be possible without the generosity of those who host our outings. With a spirit of hospitality, the diversity of two farms and a wonderful view of the Dix River were each made available to us for a day. I rely on a square viewing card to select my composition and the all-important place to sit.
 

A point of self-criticism: my plein-air “collage rig” had gradually crept into the forbidden zone of overkill, so I made an effort to lighten my load before the next PAACK venture.

My goal has been a self-imposed limitation of studio follow-through, equal to or less than the amount of time I spend at the original site. I was able to meet that comfortably with August Afternoon, for a 50/50 allocation. When completing Fountain and Shadow, I had to suspend my detailed labor on the central tree. I’d prefer to invest less time indoors and was able to do that with Reflection on an Outcrop (a more desirable 60/40 ratio). Having been studio oriented in my art practice, I always need to guard against allowing the concluding phase to upstage a vital plein-air impression. I’ll rely on memory as much as I do an iPhone photo taken on location. It’s also important to remind myself that, as much as I enjoy my “maximalist” propensity, the objective should be a creative interpretation instead of a literal rendering. It is, after all, a collage artwork.

Collage Madness, my joint exhibition with Connie Beale, is currently on display here in Danville, Kentucky at the Mahan Gallery of Boyle County Public Library. It has provided the first ideal opportunity to showcase my approach to plein air collage and I’ll explain my process to visitors at a Gallery Talk on Saturday afternoon, October 19th. I’ve covered a number of bases as an artist and designer, but I have to say that this has been one of the most personally rewarding projects I’ve begun. Perhaps many of you can be there to hear my remarks.
 
 
August Afternoon ~ plein air collage miniature by J A Dixon

August Afternoon
plein air collage miniature by J A Dixon
7.25 x 7.125 inches
available for purchase

 
Fountain and Shadow ~ plein air collage miniature by J A Dixon

Fountain and Shadow
plein air collage miniature by J A Dixon
6 x 6.375 inches
available for purchase

 
Reflection on an Outcrop ~ plein air collage miniature by J A Dixon

Reflection on an Outcrop
plein air collage miniature by J A Dixon
6.375 x 6.625 inches
available for purchase

Peachy Cloaked Amydon

September 28th, 2019

 

Peachy Cloaked Amydon
collage on book cover by J A Dixon
8 x 11.5 inches
 
Purchase this artwork!

Descending Node ChaCha

September 21st, 2019

 

Descending Node ChaCha
collage on book cover by J A Dixon
8 x 11.5 inches
 
Purchase this artwork!

the coming madness . . .

September 14th, 2019

 
Collage Madness

Various and Sundry Scraps ~ No.4

September 7th, 2019

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Scottish National Gallery: Challenging the customary timeline of collage.

Sabine Remy’s talk about her collage-a-day residency in Georgia.

Teri Dryden’s art is rooted in collage and never left it behind.

Investigate this open submission collage competition.

And now, for only the most hopeless of Schwitters devotees.

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

Zur Beachtung!

August 31st, 2019

 

Zur Beachtung!
collage miniature by J A Dixon
6.375 x 7.25 inches
 
Purchase this artwork.

Vanaprastha

August 27th, 2019

“What’s important is striving to detach progressively from the most obvious earthly rewards — power, fame and status, money — even if you continue to work or advance a career. The real trick is walking into the next stage of life, Vanaprastha, to conduct the study and training that prepare us for fulfillment in life’s final stage.”
— Arthur C Brooks

Having recently read this widely circulated admonition of Brooks, I honestly have not looked into what Vanaprastha is. Nevertheless, conditioning oneself to be increasing less concerned with external reinforcement makes perfect sense, especially if youth is a distant image in the side mirror (or even if it’s closer than it appears). Visual artists (not bloggers) probably are more equipped to handle this than people who have spent the bulk of a lifetime overly attached to outer compensations. Those of us driven by a creative impulse typically don’t expect power as a byproduct of accomplishing goals, or high-status recognition. Most of us would still pursue our passion, even if money never became a meaningful part of the equation. But the pitfalls are there, regardless. Let’s challenge ourselves to make art as if nobody will ever see it, or buy it, or bestow upon it yet another jot of devalued online praise. It might get interesting.

One’s Own Priesthood
collage on book cover by J A Dixon
6.125 x 8.25 inches
(I’m trying not to care what you think.)
 
I’ll buy it anyway.

another prescribed catharsis . . .

August 20th, 2019

 

Flatulent Earth
collage catharsis by J A Dixon
5.5 x 8.5 inches
part of the disrupt climate disruption activity
 
Purchase this artwork.

Fourth Chapter: Wasn’t this spot in the shade?

August 13th, 2019

“I go to nature every day for inspiration in the day’s work.”
— Frank Lloyd Wright
 

After much too long a hiatus, I finally got back on location with the PAACK to resume my project to create collage en plein air. Setting out in the morning seemed like a “forced march,” including unwarranted worries that I’d forgotten something essential, but as soon as I got to the nearby Scott estate, I was at home scouting for a place to sit. The environment and hospitality were both exceptional. With the grounds in ideal shape, our hosts had offered many inviting points of view. Relying on my card with a square cutout, I fixated on a cluster of three outbuildings that would provide some desired depth (which I then proceeded to compress in space). I also was looking for a good opportunity to continue developing my technique for trees. I made a conscious effort to back off from a previous “fastidious” style and to evolve a looser method of “painting with paper.” I resisted concerns about the end result whenever I discerned a now-familiar tendency to tighten up. It was a solid, productive outing during the hottest chunk of a fine summer day.

An enjoyable discussion with the owner revealed the detail I would need for a fitting title. It was quite possible that the old, white-washed brick structure central to my composition had been the storehouse for a tannery in early Danville, one of the original pioneer settlements in Kentucky. The small piece turned out to be a 50%-50% location-to-studio allocation. This same time formula (which still allows for a legitimate plein-air designation) was applied to another miniature that I finished next, a scene that overlooked a spot on Main Street (here in downtown Danville). The artwork was something I’d commenced before a knee injury sidelined my plein-air activity last year. After a double session in the open, I’d always intended the piece to be a hundred-percent outside solution. I surrendered that idea and decided to pull it out of storage for a studio conclusion, in order to make the deadline for our annual group exhibition. In a future entry, I’ll delve into additional aspects of what I’m discovering about this process and a few of the helpful techniques that I’ve learned.

The 2019 En Plein Air show is currently on display until the end of August. An opening reception this Saturday evening coincides with a festive name-change event for the local arts venue — now to be identified as Art Center of the Bluegrass. The prominent facility in a former federal post office has always felt like a “home stadium” to me, ever since my first solo collage exhibition was held there, not long after the building was acquired and restored as a focal point for the arts. Long-time followers of this humble blogsite will know that it has surfaced regularly in the yearly roster. My best to everyone on deck at this institution, as you chart new waters for a valuable community resource.
 
 

Perhaps a Tannery
plein air collage miniature by J A Dixon
7 x 7.25 inches

•  S O L D

 

Across Main
plein air collage miniature by J A Dixon
7.875 x 9.125 inches

•  S O L D