Archive for the ‘Constraints’ Category

Painting the town again. (With paper!)

Sunday, June 30th, 2024

“Yes, I hustle, I hustle to live with the intensity that only maturity can give.”
— Anthony Hopkins
 

The plein air tradition is alive and well in Central Kentucky. My thanks to Arts Connect for an outstanding “Paint the Town” event, with sincere appreciation to juror James Swanson for his recognition of collage as a plein air medium. A 2nd-place prize was quite unexpected, because it was everything I could do to meet their timetable in the extreme heat. All artwork had to be delivered framed and ready for immediate display by the 8am to 2pm deadline.
   

This event is always challenging for me, because I rarely need to paste as fast as I must for such a rigorous pace. Every time I go outside to create a collage landscape, adequate preparation is important, and then I try to be as spontaneous as I can with the materials that I bring. For this annual competition, the chosen scene is carefully scouted. I make more “prepared ingredients” ahead of time. That usually means additional printed-text gel transfers on a range of colored papers. You may have seen how I often include them for facade patterns, foregrounds, and foliage. Dana (my indispensable partner) dug out some of her mid-century carpet thread for my mobile stash, and I used it during the final minutes for utility wires.

The resulting exhibition is at the downtown branch of Lexington Public Library. For as long as it lasts, please view the artworks online to see a strong body of landscapes completed on that hot day. Buy one!

 

Ode to Grain
collage en plein air by J A Dixon
100% / 0% — site to studio
10 x 10 inches + handmade wood frame
available for purchase

•  Second Place Prize

Make Your Mark

Saturday, June 1st, 2024

 

Make Your Mark
collage on reclaimed canvas by J A Dixon
26.5 x 26.5 inches

Yes, it’s February already.

Thursday, February 1st, 2024

The worldwide collage phenomenon called Februllage is under way. Although I won’t be taking on the collage-a-day challenge this year, I invite you to take a look at the results of when I challenged myself with several prompts before the shock of “lockdown” in 2020. As always, I welcome your comments and constructive criticism!
 
 

a dry shoal and “Vacation Merz”

Wednesday, January 31st, 2024

Looking back to when I was in Upper Michigan last year… In addition to making collage landscapes outside, I exploited whatever paper fragments were at hand in the cabin. The result was this experiment in color, form, and counterpoint. Those familiar with the history of collage as a modern art will understand why I think of it as “Vacation Merz.”
 

Untitled (dry shoal)
collage experiment by J A Dixon
9.3125 x 11 inches
available for purchase

The Lived Life: Finality

Wednesday, March 1st, 2023

Three more solutions that use two Februllage prompts, plus a single-catalyst collage for the 20th and final piece, and the series is finished. I even tricked myself into creating a miniature self portrait. This project has provided a stimulating acceleration into March, traditionally one of my busiest studio months of the year. See you in April!
 

The Lived Life: Duplicity

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2023

I’ve stuck with doubling the Februllage prompts to close out this series. A few of them have pleased me conceptually from the point of completion. Many of the others still look a bit bizarre to my eye, even though they work from a distance as successful color-quantity abstractions.
 

The Lived Life: Adaptability

Monday, February 13th, 2023

In order to preserve more time for the completion of plein-air landscapes, it’s necessary to reduce the Februllage series, and so I’ve started “doubling up” on the catalyzing prompts. Apparently the impetus for Merz has been formulating for awhile. The classical methodology can dominate my workload if permitted. So far, this series has been a stimulating experiment with distinctly surreal tones. It’s interesting to notice a boost in manual dexterity when I increase the pace of intuitive assembly. Instead of getting “sloppier,” I tend to tighten up and attune to mechanical and compositional precision, even as the juxtapositions become more illogical. I never run out of steam with this medium.

Such a splendid blend of craft and psychological dynamics!

 

The Lived Life: Priority

Wednesday, February 8th, 2023

Daily collage miniatures at this level have a way of elbowing their way into a sense of one’s studio priorities. If I don’t accommodate a comprehensive intensity that includes appropriate progress on my landscapes, a February mid-course correction will be in order.
 

The Lived Life ~ a new series prompted by Februllage

Saturday, February 4th, 2023

My intention was to boost intensity in the studio, so I began a new series in the Merz tradition. Each piece is based on daily Februllage prompts. The hypothesis: by keeping myself even busier, I’ll get more achieved this month than the artwork directly related to the series ritual. View the first four pieces. Check back to see if my plan works.
 

“LITTER-ALLY KENTUCKY” takes shape . . .

Friday, September 30th, 2022

“The thing is to be attentively present. To sit and wait is as important as to move. Patience is as valuable as industry. What is to be known is always there. When it reveals itself to you, or when you come upon it, it is by chance. The only condition is your being there and being watchful.”
— Wendell Berry
 

At the close of 2021, based on my plein-air practice to date, I applied to the Kentucky Arts Council and received a KAR grant with funding from the National Endowment for the Arts. The goal of my project is an exhibition-worthy body of collage landscapes created from salvaged ingredients consisting of litter, trash, and recycled papers. The new works are en plein air interpretations of actual rural spots in Central Kentucky. The collection will be made available to partnering venues as a thematic exhibition that carries a call for greater awareness of how we interact with our environment. The traveling display will invite community engagement in the form of gallery talks, student opportunities, and online references — with a message for greater litter awareness and a cleaner countryside in the Commonwealth.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
To fulfill this grant-supported process, I am nearing the end of my creation phase. It’s been a period of acquiring paper litter, arranging visits to rural locations, engaging with property owners who accommodate my on-site sessions, starting the landscapes outside, and making follow-up studio refinements. Collage artworks will have been made at over a dozen locations in six contiguous Central Kentucky counties around Danville. I avoid exceeding my outside time when completing a landscape indoors, to stay within a 50:50 ratio. There are techniques for details that are best left to the end, when the breeze is not a factor, but my goal is to retain the fresh, intuitive quality of the initial impression.

It often seems like I’m behind schedule, until I remind myself that the entire process is not unlike the act of being present in nature. The way forward can be revealed as much by receptivity as by forced progression. I’ll spend the balance of the year with finishing touches, having the artwork professionally framed, preparing support materials and promotions for my sought-after series of shows, plus contacting venues suitable for the traveling display (which will be chosen in part based on the anticipated reach and exposure for optimum audiences, including youngsters).

An important part of this project has been my desire to interact with the public about a relatively recent area of concentration for me as an artist — representational collage. Until they observe more closely, many people think my landscapes are traditional paintings. It’s been rewarding to watch this sense of discovery, so similar to what I experience as I explore the potential of art made from paper. This connection with others fired my enthusiasm and prompted me to propose a way to engage audiences with another layer of meaning. By including a higher percentage of litter and trash, I hope to further a conversation about the ongoing problem of litter in Kentucky and the solid waste crisis in general. As I exhibit “painted” rural scenes that were created with by-products of our wasteful society, I’m optimistic that my art will promote a more conscious regard for stewardship of natural places.

 

Near Catnip Hill
collage en plein air by J A Dixon
50% / 50% — site to studio
8.375 x 8.625 inches, 2022

Training the trainers in Eastern Kentucky!

Tuesday, July 26th, 2022

“We make a living by what we get;
we make a life by what we give.”
— Winston Curchill
 

I’m still feeling a satisfying vibe from one of the most personally rewarding events ever! My hands-on collage workshop was part of the “Train the Trainer“ series in Paintsville, Kentucky for the Johnson County Extension Office. Participating artists intend to share this learning throughout their community in the coming months. My thanks to a fabulous group of creative individuals who were curious about “all things collage” and inspired to “pay it forward” among fellow citizens in their beautiful area of our Commonweath.

After an opening presentation with my whirlwind tour through over 200 years of collage history, a demonstration offered cutting tips, the basics of pasting technique, an overview of translucency and transfers, plus an emphasis on maintaining the flow of improvisational layering. (See my end-result demo piece below.) Throughout the day we stressed the fundamentals of visual aesthetics, while keeping our focus on intuitive spontaneity within an experimental process. Tables cluttered with potential ingredients were the norm, as participants tackled three time-based exercises and produced a collage miniature for each. Their well-crafted, colorful solutions were the take-home product, and we managed to fit in a closing discussion full of important observations. I was impressed with the group’s talent, curiosity, and spirit of creative adventure! It was an astonishing thing for me to observe how fluently they attuned to the vocabulary of collage expression, having no prior awareness of Hannah Höch, Joseph Cornell, or the Merz of Kurt Schwitters.

 
It’s been a while since I accepted the role of teacher. I was surprised and concerned to discover that it was no longer within my “comfort zone.” I faced a gauntlet of self-assurance to run before I felt prepared. The delightful, encouraging Brenda Cockerham, our project leader, provided vital support. As ever, Dana was an indispensable “partner in all things.” Why must I periodically be reminded that giving back is every bit as significant as anything I get from my artistic practice? I’m a fortunate man, because cutting and pasting offers a universal experience that is effortless to share with others — if I just get out of my own way. Collage at all levels presents an ideal opportunity for individual receptivity. It’s rewarding to watch this sense of discovery, similar to what I experience myself as I explore the wide potential of art made from paper that would otherwise be cast away. This connection with others fires my enthusiasm to compile additional collage insights and to continue passing them along. There is much to gain within a shared creative environment when we take discarded stuff and create value where none existed, and find wonder, meaning, and beauty where none had been expected.

 

Don’t Clown Around
collage experiment by J A Dixon
created during my workshop demonstration
6.5 x 8.5 inches