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Years ago I took a pastel painting trip of a lifetime, for three months I traveled from Athens, Greece to many islands, eventually to Istanbul, and slowly back again to Athens. My first island was Tinos, from the harbor I rented a scooter, booked a tiny house outside of town for 15 dollars a night. The porch had a sloping view over gray-green olive groves down to the dark and brilliant ultramarine blue Mediterranean, about 300 ft to the left was a small, room-sized luminous white-plastered Byzantine church.
My first day I loaded my backpack with my 200 piece pastel set, and packed several sheets of full-size pastel paper in my large portfolio bag, swung the bulky bags over my shoulder. Weighed down, I then swung my right leg over the scooter and the momentum carried me, the bags, and the scooter to crash to pavement. Laying painfully on my side, the pastels scattered on the ground, and with the scooter pinning me down I couldn’t get up. An elderly Greek woman dressed in black tending the church next door witnessed it all. And she kindly helped me get up through my blushing burn of embarrassment. Once I was upright she helped me collect the pastels. Not speaking any English, she took my arm to follow her to her favorite view of the church, and through hand gestures suggested that I draw it.
I hope everyone is doing okay in these early stages of quarantining. Heartbreaking. Around the start of it I came up with the concept to write this book on aesthetics. I am dividing my time painting, writing the book, and, it seems, washing dishes.
I am writing my first book: Evolution Through Art. I have written the Introduction, and the first two chapters, about 4,000 words. Good early reports back from my copy editor who is a rhetorician! It is a story of how art plays the leading role in our evolution. It is a journey of profound respect and gratitude to the evolutionary artists that had the minds, substance, and courage to follow their truth. Often they fought against tremendous opposition from practical reality, their own arguments, peer pressure, philosophies, religions, and psychologically-impotent sadistic authorities!
In Melbourne, I met Peter Schipperheyn, creator of the magnificent Thus Spake Zarathustra. The monumental piece is at the McClelland Sculpture Park near Mornington. The tension running through Zarathustra’s bowed body as he reaches and affirms his decision is powerful.
I studied with Michael Newberry for a year, and twenty five years later still use at least one thing which he taught me—about color theory, massing of shadow, the ranking of lights and darks, and sketching the figure, finding the lyrical line—every single day in my studio. He is a skilled communicator, a passionate artist and instructor, and my year studying with him was one of the best investments of my career. I would recommend Michael’s instruction one hundred percent.
Michael will help you evolve no matter where the level of your skill might be. He will guide you and help you with good techniques but at the same time, he respects the integrity of your personal artistic skill by allowing you the freedom to be yourself within your own art. I enjoy his mentorship. Within 6 months under his guidance and personal attention to my artistic needs, I am painting like there is no tomorrow, after each session, I could see how much I’ve learned and continue to evolve, it’s a life changing experience for me!!!
I worked till 6 am getting these ready to be signed. So far this week the series has 12 little paintings, the recent 7 here. The Animal Lifted Embargo Series has significantly changed my opinion about including animals in my paintings. They really help set off the scale and atmosphere of the landscapes. I am surprised that just two tiny marks, in the case of the sandpipers, can reset the landscapes dramatically.
If you click on the images in will take you to each painting’s page on my archive including the pricing. If you love one of them be sure to let me know and we can make owning it happen.
With this Animal Lifted Embargo Series, I am refining my hierarchy of subject values. Humanity is at the top, consequently, I paint/draw individuals filling the universe of the canvas or paper space. Animals are a far distant second place, recently insignificant, but I am now enjoying placing them in landscapes as minor players. It makes me feel peaceful and the experience of painting them feels a bit magical. If I made them the same size as humans (allowing perspective truth etc) I would be extremely uncomfortable with that.
Just signed, 2nd in my Animal Lifted Embargo Series
hahah, I am enjoying the animal lifted embargo. I can’t stand painting little people in landscapes, makes my skin crawl when I see other painters do it. I love plein air painting being outdoors in a beautiful place just painting what I see, it feels like channeling the universe’s energy. But all landscapes have abundant life seen and unseen. For instance, while painting this there was behind me a pelican ferociously nose-diving into the water to pinch fish. Its only this last week I lifted the embargo on painting animals–I kept thinking of those horrible paintings of animals dressed as humans playing billiards or smoking cigars around the poker table. Can you imagine the psychology of the person that sees themselves that way? “Don’t mind me I am just a pug dressed as a human.”
There is an exciting tension in placing an animal just right, it seems to set off the landscape and definitely twerks the composition, like a zigzag incorporating the direction of the light, the bird’s flight path, the feeling of “lift,” setting off the formal composition of the water and land masses. Delightfully fun.
I have been thinking about writing an art book filled with stories, anecdotes, speculation on prehistorical art, real life experiences, and the knowledge of what is it is like to strive for the sublime. Today I started with the title and listing chapter headings.
Psychological Aesthetics and the Exciting Fight to Evolve: Beyond Obstacles, Malevolence, and Ignorance
Leaving One’s Mark: Taming Powerful Animals Through Capturing Them In Art
Imagining the Next Step: Willendorf Venus or I Will See You Later Tonight
Safety in Group Think, Their Fear of the Unknown and the Extent They Will Go Eradicate Evolutionary Nudges
Wisdom, Truth, and Courage Within: Calibrating Perception, Evaluation, and Emotion
To Be or Not To Be? To Break Free or to Conform?
Tears, Love, and Visibility: The Alternate Universe
The Art Instinct: What Makes Humans Unique Animals?
Art is the Power That Religion Wants: Control the Artists you Control the Mass Psyche
Art Transcends Agendas By Touching Individual Souls
Power Without Wisdom Corrupts Completely: Michelangelo in the Quarry; Postmodernist Malevolence
Just finished this. Taking a little one week break, perhaps two, from painting on Model in the Studio, I am revisiting some small plein air paintings. A departure for me is that I painted in this dog into the landscape. Artistically I love what it did to the composition, creating a “<” axis from the highlighted glimmer to the dog, then to the bottom right corner. I also love the mood of it. In the past I have rejected doing animals because humanity is at the forefront of my mind. I love my dog, Frida, and she loves me, but she doesn’t even glance at my art. :(
Some very interesting aesthetic problems with philosophical implications are the size of the subject in relation to the canvas and what that subject is. I know this sounds highbrow but bear with me, or at least indulge me to share the kind of thing I think about when painting. Most of my definitive works feature humans and their size dominates the canvas–they feature prominently in the painting’s universe. Landscapes serve well as a back drop for human activity, or when it is just a landscape there is an implication that we as humans are looking at it through a window of our beautiful home, or a view from a hike, or day at the beach. Though, if you take a naked landscape literally, with no humans present, it could imply that humankind does not exist–a very interesting rabbit hole to go down. There are also the cases of massive landscapes with tiny itty-bitty people implying that humanity is insignificant to the awesomeness of the universe. But seriously, if there are no humans or aliens, the concept of a caring or meaningful existence simply wouldn’t exist. My conclusion is that humans are top dogs when it comes to the humanities and to our psychology.
Many friends have asked me if I have painted Frida, which so far is a “no.” I just can’t bring myself to do a dog portrait (though I did one as an 18-year old for a fraternity brother as a fine art major). It feels like I would be elevating them above humanity. But with this new mini series with smally painted animals accenting the comparatively larger landscapes, it definitely feels like a massive “YES!” It makes sense to me that animals figure in our universe but do not rise up to the stature of humanities uniqueness, which art, philosophy, language, politics, and spirituality matter. So it is official!–I have lifted the animal embargo and now feel free to paint animals as long as they are tiny enough not to upsurge humanity.
Michael Newberry, Idyllwild, 3/1/2020
Please feel free to share your thoughts on this, you must have some interesting ones.