Today my piece Postmodern vs. Evolutionary Art is published. Last week I gave a joint presentation with world renown philosopher and friend Stephen Hicks to the first Atlas Summit in Malibu. My part of the presentation I contrasted Louise Bourgeois vs. Martine Vaugel , Martin Creed vs. Abiodun Olaku , Paul McCarthy vs. Tanya Ragir , and Marcel Duchamp vs. Newberry. It was an honor to be invited by the The Atlas Society and present to a great group of young, respectful, smart, passionate adults that enthusiastically engaged with us. #aesthetics #art #aynrand #stephenhicks
Lovely new painting from one of my ex star students
Today Chan sent me her newest work finished today. I wrote back to her, “It is has mystery, and it seems the petals form from chaos, beautiful use of the white and darks, and very elegant composition, a masterwork.”
Chan Luu is a fashion designer icon, yet 10 years ago she came to mentor with me and to learn everything she could about painting, drawing, and pastels. About a year ago she stopped studying with me but continued painting on her own, I am so proud of her ability to make such powerful and delicate works. I am always excited when students gain the knowledge to create whatever they want and have acquired the skill set that gives them that freedom. Yay to Chan and all my ex-students who have matured so beautifully as artists.
I took an extra week in France after my pastel workshop to draw for myself. I spent a day on the grounds of Van Gogh’s Asylum in St Remy. Then I was profoundly happy to be there and just drew without thinking; just experiencing. But today, I looked over these and added a little light. And I uploaded them to the studio collection of pastels on my archive.
Find the Shadows and Bring Out the Light a Few Examples from Our Provence Art Experience Workshop
St. Paul Asylum in St. Remy
Our first morning was a bright windy day as we drove to St. Remy guided by Mathieu to visit and draw at the St. Paul Asylum where Van Gogh was a patient around 1888-9. It was also the period when he did many wonderful works. Incidentally, I did my final art history paper on Van Gogh’s painting of the asylum. We saw the VG bedroom and then we started with our first pastel drawing lesson directly underneath its window.
The students under the shadow of Van Gogh’s ghost and unfamiliar with plein air painting/drawing and with each other, and jet lagged they bravely listened to their first instructions. The concern on their faces was apparent.
A Visit with My Friends/Collectors in their Palatial Home
Visiting Beziers and Making Amends
About 6 years ago I flew in and out of France to give a workshop. When my European/American friend Bonnie found out that I’d been there, she was terribly disappointed that I didn’t visit. This year I gave Bonnie and her husband Robin notice that I had 3 extra days before my art workshop would begin in Provence. To my great delight, both of them managed to come from London (main residence) and Germany (work) so that I could stay with them at their Beziers home!
Artworks Are Like Puppies
It was an opportunity to catch up with dear friends, to get updates on their adult kids –who I knew before they were born – and revisit some of my works and those of some of my past students. People say paintings are like the artist’s children, but that is hyperbole. Perhaps a better analogy is that an artist is like the head of a dog shelter and the pups are under his care until he finds loving homes for them.
Last night I went to bed early after a long day of painting edits, only some of which were successful. While painting I had been streaming movies and TV episodes in the background. One scene in particular caught my eye. It was of a couple kissing, joining lips in classic Hollywood fashion. The scene was stuck in my head when I went to bed around 9 p.m. I woke up at 9:30 p.m., only a half hour later, with that image still in my mind, and I thought, “Why don’t I paint a kiss?”
Right then I messaged my favorite female muse, who lives in Hollywood, and asked her about the project. Then we discussed who would be the right guy for it. The face had to be stone-like in structure, a big nose (I like painting big noses), and masculine. I remembered a male model that posed for some of my other projects a few years ago, and he, I believed, lived in Hollywood. I messaged him about the project, and he told me that he was leaving Hollywood in the morning (today!) for good. He gave the actor’s dream everything he had, and he was also going to be a dad, and he and his mate were heading to a cabin in the woods in Michigan. I searched his FB page and saw pictures of a vibrant, beautiful woman. I asked: “Are you already packed? Would you, could you, pose with your mate tonight for the “Kiss” painting?” He said: “Yes!” My muse loved that I decided to do the project with them, but she also thought I was crazy for doing such a spontaneous thing.
My friend Karl died last year and his husband Mark Coel sent me an image of a pendant he had made honoring their relationship. At first look, the pendant is of a male angel with wings, but then I recognized the outstretched arms and realized the figure was based on my painting Icarus Landing. Mark wrote that the wings were owl wings, an endearment they shared, and that Icarus Landing was Karl’s favorite painting. The pendant was fashioned from their wedding rings.
My brother committed suicide and this is a memorial drawing.
A Reddit commentator gave condolences and then wrote “I love the grain of the table magnified by the water in the glass.” That names so well the visual.
The Problem with Glass
Michelangelo paints and draws humans not so much how he sees them but what his hands would feel massaging their bodies. Bone stands out and soft spots become indented. Glass is tricky because we literally see through it but if you draw it that way it doesn’t feel tactically real. See if you can observe that the patterns inside the glass float up to the front side of the glass; as if you could reach out and tap the glass.
One of the most rewarding studies of painting and drawing is discovering how a thought, perception, or emotion is transformed into a purely visual medium. Michelangelo’s drawings serve as examples of translating the perception of touch to sight. In other words, his drawings convey to our sight not what we would see but what we would touch.
For many people, the sexy, entitled lifestyle of living on the luxurious mile-long stretch of Pacific coastline in La Jolla, California in the 1960s was the height of success. For me as a kid it was exhilarating to build up a salty sunburned sweat, leap into the air, and be able to execute a brutal backhand overhead smash on the tennis court. (Later I ended up playing pro tennis to pay for my art education in Holland). Afterwards, to cool off, I’d ditch my shoes and socks and run a few hundred feet from the tennis court and plunge underneath the perfect wave crests made famous by the Beach Boys, All Over La Jolla … Surfin’ USA! The feeling of freedom was omnipresent; no rules, no school if you didn’t feel like going; no homework; and no curfew. It was as if kids had a built in automatic path, their destiny awaiting them, meanwhile they could do anything. There was also stuff you couldn’t talk about … which was way too complex for a kid to cope with. And later shushed because it involved people still alive. I lived in a world of physical fun with an ominous feeling that not all was well when you scratched the surface.
In real life the daylight sky is bright, much brighter than the landscape’s trees, vegetation, mountains, and water. Think of it as a large lamp. But when you paint a landscape truthfully the effect backfires, the sky will be bright but the earth part will be dull and muddy. Light on the green trees, stone buildings, and red flowers can’t complete with the sky’s light. Even though you are seeing a sun filled landscape, your painting won’t feel that way, but you’ll feel disappointed with your skills.
Mediocre artists, forever disappointed that they don’t match up, have a hard time acknowledging history’s great artists. Michelangelo, Monet, Vermeer, and Rembrandt are hard mentors. One way second-rate artists work around this is to change the rules of aesthetics. The most extreme case is postmodern aesthetics, which obliterates the importance of mastery of the medium, or using any medium at all, and believes shock concepts are the essence of art requiring no skill.
The illusionist exhibition at Studio Channel Islands in Camarillo, CA. April 6- May 21, 2019
Oh god, the exhibition is a living nightmare. I prefer the worst/best of postmodernism, at least Duchamp cleverly matched ends and means. But, with only a few exceptions, this show is about classical technique with creepy content. You can see the show online on critic Joseph Bravo’s Facebook page.
It would be horrific if we saw a woman opening her chest to let birds fly out or the dancing skeletons of a pair of baby conjoined twins! But the technique is so bland and plastic-like that it leaves us feeling nothing about Yagi’s subject matter.
I was a happy kid. One of my earliest memories was listening to Al Hirt’s Java on my toy-like portable record player. I couldn’t get enough of it, and I would dance as I listened to it over and over again. Then shit happened: school compulsion and family discord. Both of which I hated. They cut into my joy and my sense of freedom. Painting soon replaced dancing and a different kind of music replaced upbeat jazz.
I discovered pop music with classical components like the bands Chicago, Electric Light Orchestra, the Beatles, and Elton John. But they missed something. After art school my paintings began to take on more depth, time, and themes. I was going crazy listening to pop radio stations. They kept repeating the same hot songs. Out of frustration I turned to the classical music station, not so much because I loved it, but at least it was complex and varied.
Cutting to the chase a painting that is flat is more like a cereal box than like a Rembrandt. What makes painting interesting is transforming forms, depth, and light from the real world to a canvas. It is a very complex visual language that conceptualizes how we see, and it triggers suspension of disbelief, rewarding us with the perception of movement and light. A painter cannot just cut and paste reality to the canvas, the transition deals with how we perceive, how light bounces off forms and textures, painting techniques, and oddly, even how well our studios are calibrated for light.
Some years ago I was having trouble painting. I would stand back and see a mistake and try to paint a correction, but when I got up close to the painting I just couldn’t capture the nuance I was hoping for. I was getting near 60 years old and I decided to totally re-educate myself about painting (even though I already had four decades of painting behind me). The project was to paint a sandstone orb that has personal significance to me. My studio has the greatest daylight from 11 am to noon, and I like to paint into the night, so figuring out the artificial light was essential. I painted each orb under different artificial lighting conditions. I also used every painting technique I knew, from thin liquid applications to scumbling to super thick blobs of paint. This series of nine alla prima paintings, all in private collections, were the result of these explorations.
I have noticed lots of artists including myself are drawn into drawing abandoned places, scruffy landscapes, weathered shacks, and stone ruins. While a manicured lawn or polished mahogany conference table inspire a blau reaction. There is something visually exciting about the chaos of ruins but what is it that is triggering our vision? And why are paintings or drawings so boring when they are of pristine subjects? Vision scientists Jan Koenderink and Andrea van Doorn (a link to their abstract on pictorial space) talked with me over beers in Glasgow pub about how the eye goes blind if it cannot move about and compare and contrast tones and hues. Using my artist’s logic it makes sense that on the opposite end of the spectrum the eye becomes excited when each hue and tone is varied. My pastel of a rickety courtyard gate in Rhodes, Greece illustrates this.
Notice the gate is drawn with all kinds of unrepeated colors. The plastered gold side of the wall has countless hues ochre, and medieval stones are equally varied with its shifts between brown and gray. It seems like a lot to try to do in a 50-minute drawing, but I was helped along by all the setting’s details were all extremely varied. If you are an artist looking for something interesting to draw look for differences in everything. That will keep your eye busy and excited and the viewers’ too.
There is a smoky quality to dark pastel paper that has a depth and softness of the infinite. I am surprised that some conceptual artist hasn’t done a show using store bought pastel paper with nothing drawn on them. Nonetheless the paper calls for light, and I try to leave much of the original paper to give a depth and mystery to the shadows. The bowl’s cast shadow on the left and background right are almost pure paper. If I draw careful gradations of light from a smidgen lighter than the paper to the brightest lemon-white I create a hierarchy of tones which in turn is a part of giving the feeling of light. An equally important but overlooked part of drawing/painting light is to place the marks through space, like stepping stones from beneath our feet that extend off in the horizon. Combining the dusky shadows, light, and depth transforms flat paper into an alternative reality. This bridge is what I find magical about art.
Death touched my life when three people near me, in the same year, died. The horrible result was that I felt nothing.
One of them was a Dutch woman I didn’t know very well, but we were related in a sense. I knew she had been ill for some time with breast cancer. She had a husband and four children, the oldest being eleven or twelve years old. I was told that she was ready to die, and I was also told that she would like to meet with me the next day. Continue reading “Rend”
First they came for black and removed it from our spectrum. Next to go were the colors of light and shadow. They said that color was a power in its own right, not to be used as a slave to luminosity. The real, they said, was freedom from restrictions.
They came for form, claiming that the canvas was flat. Next to go were proportion and spatial depth. They said that painting projected the outside world, like looking through a window was a lie. The real, they said, was that paint was paint and it shouldn’t look like something it is not. Continue reading “First They Came for Black”
Jon Wos, congratulations on the portrait. The pose is thoughtful, the proportions elegant, and you make great use of “Bouguereau” silver lining lighting. I like the texture and lighting of the dress, particularly the brilliant curve of light at the hemline that merges imperceptibly into shadow. And congratulations on being a romantic, though it can be tough because romanticism can trigger bullies, especially ones who can’t do better. I think my favorite painting of yours is the self-portrait with the lamp. I love it. The lighting, colors, forms, and the mysterious story are exceptionally well-integrated. The little dog sheltered underneath the wheelchair is very touching. The lamp lighting the scene is masterful; I prefer yours to some of the famous De La Tour paintings. I can’t put my finger on the mystery of what you (in the painting) are looking for, but the optimism of the colors, the brilliant clean light, and the frank expression makes me think that you have already found it. Perhaps it was something in you all along?
You can check out Jon’s work and poignant story here.
Title change from Man Moving Out of Oblivion to Transcending Oblivion
I have been living with the Man Moving Out of Oblivion for about ten years. The concept is one of a man stepping out of a black void into a ray of light with his hand leading the way. The painting has been through countless edits–everything from life drawings to pastel color studies. I had problems with his arm and hand gesture from the beginning, and it was a lengthy but fun and challenging problem to solve: the hand and arm went from being slightly sideways to ending forward and foreshortened.
The transparency of the clothes over a muscular body reminded me of super heroes, which complimented the idea that it takes a lot of strength to keep going when all around you is dark. There was a narrow spot light on his face meaning that his gestured hand had already past through the light and would be dimmed. The painting had thousands of tones of black, which was very tricky to place through space. Recently, I thought I could tweak it and take it to another level. There had been no collector interest in the painting, so I thought “why not?” Continue reading “Transcending Oblivion”
Anonymous art Prankster Bansky adds another twist to the shredded Girl with Balloons by officially titling it Love is in the Bin. As some comedians are great with wordplay Bansky is great with art history play: creating a new work while it was sold at auction; a new way to destroy art; jesting Duchamp while simultaneously making a great anti-art piece; a new variation on trash as art; appealing to greedy capitalists while simultaneously trashing the artifact and doubling its financial value; and poking fun at serious art. You could say Bansky’s cleverness wins, or does it?
Left to Right: Dr. Gary Geier, Eva Newberry, me, Emily Newberry
For decades now I have been living the romantic version of the isolated artist’s life: too passionate to be a sell out, smart enough to own every second of my time, and calculated enough to always have a functioning art studio. The big winners from this have been the artworks–they are just what they need to be. The negative has been that I have blocked out friends, family, events, and issues that appear to have no resolutions.
The art has been going very well. I am continuously extending my boundaries, trying new emotions, playing with imagination, and always refining. The threat of homelessness has been greatly reduced, and I have been experiencing a gentle open space. All of a sudden I saw that there were these wonderful people watching me from the wings applauding. Continue reading “Down Under and Back”
In 1998, the year of the above self-portrait, I was living in my rented two-story Turkish house/studio in the Old Town of Rhodes, Greece, which overlooked the Mediterranean and the town’s minarets and domes. Two decades before, as a 20-year-old American, I had started my focused art journey in The Hague, Holland. Between Holland and Greece I moved every few years seeking inspiration from a different culture, a beautiful place, or from a big city’s energy. Everywhere I lived I produced my own pop-up shows, selling enough to keep painting. I tried both New York and Los Angeles a few times, knocking on their art scene doors, but my aesthetic was incompatible with contemporary art institutions. I was a romanticist aiming for my definitive works to have the feeling of a Puccini opera. Meanwhile postmodernists were rejecting art’s evolutionary developments and seriously trying to create from a preoperational cognitive state of mind like Louise Bourgeois. Others like Duchamp, Creed, and Christo sought to be radically original by using shocking, unlikely, and unrepeatable mediums for visual art. Continue reading “Facing the Postmodern Art World”
Today we’d like to introduce you to Michael Newberry.
Please tell us about your art.
Painting and everything associated with it is my ecstasy. It has given me so much joy, and I have learned so much about myself and humanity while painting. Two years ago I had a brush with death, and I was a little shocked at how peaceful I felt. My art had everything to do with that, not having any regrets. But I am very happy now to think of all the projects I get to paint.
But the incredible feelings I get painting are not the only reason I paint. Art communicates. And I try to make the world a better place by sharing meaningful feelings or showing something special and new to see. There are so many artists that have given me new insights into my soul — I hope I can return that experience, one person at a time. Read more with pics here
In the last decade of the 18th century Beethoven composed his 1st and 2nd piano concertos, Goya etched the series Los Caprichos, Jacques-Louis David painted The Death of Marat, and Mozart composed the Requiem in D Minor and the great Jupiter Symphony. These works coincided with the French Revolution, and together they guided European culture away from the extravagant art of Rococo exemplified by the sweetly-colored paintings of Boucher and Tiepolo, with their floating florid nymphs, cupids, silks, and princesses.
Jacques-Louis David, Death of Marat, 1793. The period of the French Revolution marked a new period of art with more gravitas.
This was a paradigm shift from the superficial to gut wrenching passion, as if Western art was going back to its roots in the dramas of Aeschylus and Euripides; answering the big questions of what is the good and what is important while at the same time elevating the creative process by innovation and superlative skill. This wasn’t for the faint of heart. The artists would have to face inner turmoil and outer rejection as they attempted to get patrons to sponsor wildly dramatic depictions of death, war, and executions, which didn’t lend themselves to the decorative palace dining room. Risking their livelihoods the artists bore down in this new direction. With this revolutionary spirit we can see the need for a new aesthetic to champion and reflect an Age of Enlightenment.
The Sublime the Absolutely Great
The year 1790, when Beethoven was 20, also marked the publication of Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Judgment. It famously compares and contrasts the aesthetic values of Beauty with that of the Sublime. The treatise identifies Beauty representing the lighter more sensual pleasing side and the Sublime addressing what is the “absolutely great beyond all comparison.” Kant wanted to free the Sublime from the constraints of art and launch it into the world of the mind unfettered by perception, form, or realization. Continue reading “Making Sense of Kant’s Senseless Sublime”
Note: Ted Keer pass away last month, he had a wonderful curious mind, and it was an honor that he wrote something about a few of my works including the review below:
Michael Newberry’s “Ascension Day” is one of my favorite of his non-traditional paintings. I believe that the essence of my enjoyment is the fully worked out form which simultaneously presents both symmetry and asymmetry, beauty and tension, action and self-centeredness.
When I visited his studio, Michael and I discussed his axiomatic concepts of figurative painting which he designates as form, space and light. I don’t wish to comment at length on his theory, but those who wish to know what he has to say should visit his website and read his statements. I did not discuss this specific painting with Michael, and have intentionally not sought his remarks on it, so that I might comment without bias.
Over the last two years I have developed a friendship with sculptor Tanya Ragir, a well-known artist in Southern California. Recently, I visited her in her art compound. She is a contemporary romanticist and she honors human nature through her drawings, reliefs, and free-standing figures. A feeling I get from many of her works is a delicious ache of how tender and beautiful our humanity is. Her high-ceilinged, rectangular studio is separate from her home and neatly (for an artist) loaded with tools, molds, studies, and ongoing works. Her current series is fragmented female figures, with pieces of real wood branches piercing or growing out of the figures’ fissures. We talked until early morning and at the high point, in a rich mezzo voice, she read to me a quote by Rumi, “The wound is the place where the light enters you.” Followthis link to the full article at Cultural Weekly: Read more …
oil on linen, 82 x 66 inches, studio inventory.
Laying down in a closed, dark, tiled space, too young to understand, too inexperienced to sort through feelings, and in too much pain to be aware of the world around him, the ten year old had no choice but to examine everything–or face oblivion. Deep inside him surfaced a feeling of goodness. That feeling would ultimately anchor him to life and earth.
Counterpose: Chaos, the Bringer of Equilibrium, oil on linen, 36 x 42 inches, studio inventory
Chaos was depressed. No matter how hard she tried she couldn’t manage to cope with all of the contradictory forces within her: darkness, burning lights, forms, demons, angels, and bright colors. No single element was the answer to the meaning of existence. It was as if a hundred opinionated voices were speaking all at once, forcefully demanding their spot at the top of the heap. There was nothing tangible to fight, and there was no place to flee. She said: “What an unbearable life.”
There was one tiny, microscopic Sublime atom in the chaotic flux that wasn’t fighting, yelling, or competing. It softly mused: “This is all so silly because there is beauty in everything and everything has its nature. I know there is sense to all of this, we only need to discover the key.”
“The Collector”, oil on canvas, 60 x 50 inches, private collection
“Life is made up of compromises,” said his teacher. “You will learn that the world doesn’t work that way,” said his other teacher. “Yes, I know I said ‘always be aggressive when you are ahead,’ but make this an exception and be safe,” said his desperate coach. Only once did he discount his inner voice and follow advice that didn’t compute; it ended in a colossal failure. The problem wasn’t so much that their advice was bad, but it didn’t resonate with him.
The experience of the sublime is to be looked for in art. Art integrates senses, emotions, and thought. The sublime in art elevates our sensory experience, heightens and taps our emotional potential, and furthers our knowledge. The sublime in art can give us a moral to the story, a stance towards living. At its best, the sublime in art inspires awe in our human potential and gives us a path to evolve as a whole being and as a species.