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Friday, June 17, 2011

L.A. Painting: Sky High Over Skidrow! June 17, 2011

I'm always searching for a first time experience.

After skillfully detaching ourselves from the guttural dregs of Skidrow below, we ascended to get an, "above-it-all" perspective; and a
'birds eye view,' so to speak.

We had lofty ideas...

This photo shows one roof-top view from the Security building, where Erdy lives.

Erdy, (fresh out of Cal Arts), gained us access to the rooftop in order to paint a Nocturne overlooking downtown Los Angeles.
It was extraordinary; like something Edward Hopper might like to paint. Some of the rough heating and air conditioning apparatus, and solar cells would have been a perfect motif for the famed 20th Century photographer/artist, Charles Sheeler.

These Hotels/Apartments; situated in a cluster around Spring Street and 5th, were built over 1oo years ago. They were quite grand in their day. Now, they are slightly decrepit; looking forlorn, with missing globes, and bulbs on the edges of their terracotta cornices. No mind though, this is the 21st Century, and we were there to use them merely as viewing platforms, (and I don't mean as voyeurs). I felt like I was in the press box at the game of life, getting a view of the playing field.

All around us the constant sounds of city life echoing up between the buildings; sirens screaming, horns honking, clamoring and clanking construction work fractured any sound of silence.

It was just noisy.

We came; mindful to paint the Moonrise somewhere over in the gritty distance. Night time was falling, but not soon enough.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Painting for Compassion: the Sands of Time June 17, 2011

I entered into the gallery to see three of four monks resting on a bench. I immediately walked up to them; looked each one directly in the eye, shook their hand, and thanked them.

I was there to become their student, and learn detachment.

These Buddhist monks from the Sera Mahayana Buddhist Monastary,located in the Mysore District of Southern India, created a sand mandala in the Davidson Gallery at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art the week of, May 17th through May 21st. Four artist-monks made a stop in Santa Barbara as part of their 2011 World Peace Tour to create this mandala.

Mandala is the Sanskrit word for circle. The mandala was dedicated to the deity Chenrezig (Avalokiteshvara), who is the Bodhisattva of Compassion.

In the Hindu and Buddhist religions, sacred art of the tsera monastery tribe takes the shape of a mandala. A mandala is a structure which is used to invite a deity. The basic shape for most Hindu and Buddhist mandalas is a square with four gates containing a circle with a center point. Each gate is in the shape of a T.

Mandalas are a form of sandpainting which is not restricted just to India or Tibet. Native Americans, Australian Aborigines, and Latin Americans, on certain Christian holy days, create their own sandpaintings for their own holidays and ceremonies.

The Sera artist-monks sit cross-legged on pillows hunched a few inches from the blue square background, a mandalas basic shape. With a ribbed metal cone, the monks pour colored sand into the cone and then tilt the cones small end to the form. Scrapping or rubbing the cone with a wooden pick, they carefully control the flow of sand onto the design. Slight scrapping pours out a small amount of sand while more aggressive scrapping lets larger amounts of sand flow from the horn. This is how the most delicate lines of color are controlled by the creators of the mandala.

As you watch the monks work on the mandala all you will hear is the scrapping of the pick on the cone. At times the monks will use a larger piece of wood to create furrows in the sand before adding contrasting color. Think of this as a hand plow.

When the Mandala is completed, there is a closing celebration with prayers, chants etc. Afterwards the mandala is dismantled, (destroyed), and the sands returned to the sea.

question myself: what is my motivation for creating art? My answer: much like these monks, it is to teach and inspire. but alas, I am way more attached to the longevity of what I produce.

My ego must be huge. I realize that I have much more to learn about detachment.

Photo: T. Van Stein

L.A. Painting: Budda Abides on Skidrow June 16, 2011

There are so many layers to life. Some seen, some unseen. Some are subtle, some are not; and unless one is attentive, symbolic objects like this may go unnoticed, which is fine...

They say in the city, life is a razors edge and on this edge between civility and dregs, the artist produces, and panhandler begs. This ironic icon transcends, and straddles the illusive veil between the haves and have not.

It's... a Laughing Buddha; plumply posted, propped up on a pole, placed there on a pedestal munching an Orb-like apple. He serves to remind us that we only really need to know is... to,"let go", go with the flow", and detach ourselves from the ego. Cut the ties that bind, Judge not; pay anything and everything no mind. All truth will be revealed in time.

This, of course, is easier said, than done.

Now I, as an artist, desire to create. I manifest works of art which, "Stop the viewer's eye". So reading this symbol and sign, satirically sitting up on high, I realize, that I am stuck.

Now knowing that the average amount of time a viewer spends viewing a work of art in a museum or art show, is four seconds, I ponder my goal; do I strive to match this, or do I want my art to receive more attention than that? Do I care? Is my art really important? Does it what I produce, or that which I produce really matter?

To the Ego, "Yes."
To my higher self, "No."

In contemplating this dichotomy, if I want my art, ( i.e. my voice), to receive more attention, then I must strive to produce something more astounding, more attractive, more sublime, each and every time, especially if I want the viewer's eye to stop on a dime.

That's one tall order. (....but to be like the Buddha is no short order...)

Laughing at myself, I realize, I am no Buddha.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

L.A. Painting: Looney Los Angeles June 15, 2011

Traveled to the City of Angels for an evening of painting Nocturnes from the 14th floor of this "Security Building", built in 1909. We were off of 5th and Spring, lurking over the edge of the high rise, looking down on the dregs below.

Skidding down to Skidrow we happened upon a real Indian Alley. I've been to Jack Kerouac Alley with Robert Eringer where people come to honor the poets and writers of the Beat Generation like Ken Kesey, Alan Ginsberg, and Neal Cassady.

The slight difference between the two alleyways is that the Indian Alley was closed to customers, by a large security gate, adorned with Gold plated razor wire. Kerouac Alley was open for fulfillment and free flowing ideas.

Indian Alley was off limits and special. It even had a guardian angel Kachina doll as it's manity, welcoming the passing passers-by, and also waving them off; to keep moving on and beyond.

I climbed up the security gate to take a picture of the waving doll, only to arouse the suspicion and ire of two security guards who were shaking their "NO TRESPASSING" fingers at me. I smiled and waved; flicked my pic, skidded down the gate, and skedaddled down to Skidrow.

I'm not too sure the value or meaning behind this little piece of a twilight zone landscape; but it must be worth some wampum. It is a Surreal Mystery, waiting to be revealed, and there was irony to be found down there in that gutter. It is here; when looking up, the great Poet Laureate of Skidrow, Charles Bukowski, might have found fodder to ramble on about.

My imagination was sparked, in a gritty way.

Photos by Thomas Van Stein:

Indian Alley "Property of the People"

Kachina Princess and Razor Wire

Indian Alley: "No Man's Land?"

Monday, June 13, 2011

Nocturnes: Old Pump House Nocturne June 13, 2011

Traveling up to San Francisco in the Winter of 1997, near Greenfield California, I saw this old pump house by the side of the 101 freeway. I was determined to immortalize it, some day, in paint.

One year later I traveled up to the Bay Area once again, and stopped along side the frontage road to capture the chiaroscuro of the night.

This pump house seemed like something out of a Steinbeck novel: with the austerity of Edward Hopper, and melancholy of Francisco Goya.

One solitary light illuminated my motif, and but for the sound of the freeway traffic a hundred feet away, all was dead silent. I had one visitation from the Highway Patrol who were just checking on what it was I was doing out there at two o'clock in the morning. I welcomed them back, and requested that they keep checking in on me throughout the night. They never came back.

In 2001, they tore the old pump house down. This landmark is lost to the ages.

Scenes like this are getting fewer, and harder to find, but they are out there. When I see them, I feel like a seed has been planted, and it will germinate, and sometimes fester, until I capture it in paint. I guess this is part of the passion and obsession that comes with being an artist.

I am always a bit unfulfilled; questing to quench my insatiable desire to create.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Nocturnes: End of the Line June 12, 2011

The direction you're facing has much to do with your destination.

This was painted in the
same location, as yesterday's blog entry, but 180 degrees in the opposite direction from the Metrolink train--beast.

I was interested in the dramatic chiaroscuro, and the contrast of warm and cool light permeating the sky. If one looks closely, they will see a slight ghostlike figure of a man beneath the red signal light. This was my painter friend, Donn Longstreet, who accompanied me this evening.

My advisor, Bruce Everett, felt I should edit the figure out, so I did. Doing this made the painting more desolate and sad. This was, I agreed, a good critique. After all, the paintings needed to be unsellable, and I was committed to surrendering to the process for the duration of my Thesis.

Beneath the 101
16x30 oil/canvas 1998
Private Collection