Archive for the 'Landscape' Category

“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

Her Back Door

Wednesday, September 14th, 2022

“Don’t come a-knockin’ around my door
Don’t wanna see your shadow no more
Coloured lights can hypnotize
Sparkle someone else’s eyes.”
Burton Cummings
 

Here’s a recent plein air collage of mine that’s on display in the conference center exhibition presented by the Arts Commission of Danville / Boyle County at Constitution Square. I consider this in the category of “miniature house portraits,” which would pose challenges in any medium. Working with paper (particularly when outside) makes for a tricky process of interpreting perspective. It’s been suggested that I didn’t precisely nail the proper vanishing points with this one, even though I did my finished architectural treatments in the studio. In addition to that, I’ve intentionally introduced a contrast of crisp detail and soft ambiguity, with a debatable degree of success. I guess that the “eye of the beholder” has to take it from there.

 

Her Back Door
collage en plein air by J A Dixon
7.125 x 9 inches
50:50 site/studio
available for purchase

Our “En Plein Air” show in Danville

Monday, August 22nd, 2022

“And yet, standing at his appointed place, the trunk of the tree, he does nothing other than gather and pass on what comes to him from the depths. He neither serves nor rules — he transmits. His position is humble. And the beauty at the crown is not his own. He is merely a channel.”
— Paul Klee
 

Another anticipated En Plein Air annual exhibition has appeared and vanished, my sixth consecutive participation since I took up the challenge of “painting in papers” with the PAACK. My sincere thanks to Art Center of the Bluegrass for continuing to support our regional group!

The two miniatures that I included in the show are featured here. Completing both of them in the studio raised some concerns that I’d be able to retain my on-site impression as I made detailed additions too delicate for outdoor work. Did I manage to do it?

 

East End Survivor
collage miniature by J A Dixon
6 x 7.125 inches, framed 11 x 14
available for purchase

 

Gardener’s Nook
collage miniature by J A Dixon
6.25 x 7.25 inches, framed 11 x 14
available for purchase

A satisfying momentum . . .

Wednesday, June 15th, 2022

I’ve been out on location, painting in papers — to build a new series of collage landscapes that I shall talk more about soon!

 

 

PAACK kicks off 2022 season!

Thursday, April 14th, 2022

I really enjoyed PAACK’s chilly kickoff outing at the home of Mrs. Penn. As everyone began to focus on her exploding flower beds, I turned my attention in the other direction (for some odd reason). I couldn’t deny an interest in her staging nook near a teal fence (in the same way I was captivated by the back of Tillie’s garage last year). I’m completing the collage I started that day, and it will be a challenge to finish it for our summer show within the 50:50 limitation. I wouldn’t mind interpreting the gardening table, but I’ll need to omit that element to pull this off. I’d rather “move” the nearby bird feeder into my composition for a splash of complementary color, and also to find some way, within the remaining time, to “paint” the hay bales with paper ingredients.

Do I have to count the minutes I spend staring at my reference photo?
 
 
 

My 50:50 time constraint will necessitate simplification,
but inserting the colorful bird feeder is a given!

Gallery of Collage Landscapes

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2022

John Andrew Dixon ~ collage artist

Thanks for your interest in my collage landscapes. Click on each thumbnail to view a larger image. Click here to scroll the original blog posts.

Tenth Chapter: Painting from nature with paper

Saturday, 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!

Thursday, 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.

Sentinel

Monday, 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

Wednesday, 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

Sunday, January 16th, 2022

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