Story – An Artist’s Journey

56coveLa Jolla Cove

There are two journeys that await everyone the physical one and the one of the mind.

As a kid, I grew up in a privileged, beautiful, and bitter place. La Jolla is and was one of the wealthier towns in the world. It was made up of designer homes, coves with sleeping seals, beaches, cerulean skies, tennis courts, eucalyptus trees with their dusty-sticky smell, and earth crystals one could dig out of the hillsides. And it was populated by sophisticated and rich business people, models, housewives, and BMW’s. Alcohol and divorces flowed a little too freely, and the sun shined after the morning fog.

My grandparents were made up of a German adventurer and a free-spirited Canadian, and a Hollywood flapper and a cigarette executive; both sets lived in Raymond Chandler’s Los Angeles. There are rumors of a touch of insanity in the family, something about the phantom uncle that died in an institution. Another story is that my German grandfather traveled from Argentina to Canada and courted my 18-year old grandmother, brought her down to Los Angeles and then married her. The same grandmother had the complete set of the Time-Life Library of Art books, the book on Delacroix was my favorite. I would spend hours looking at those books in their Mid-Wilshere bungalow with its streaming southern light casting rays of light highlighting tiny dust particles making them look like stars.

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Delacroix, Chopin

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La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club

Everyone in my family played some tennis. My parents thought it was a good way for the five kids to keep busy, tired, and off the streets. I had a knack for it being quick and strategic. Lester Stoffen, 3-time Wimbledon doubles champion was the local tennis pro gave me lessons once every two weeks which my grandparents paid for; he taught integrated fundamentals. And I liked art. In sixth grade, another kid forgot his math book and the teacher, Mrs. Bowden, allowed him to do his art project instead. That day on the way home from school I threw my math book under a tree. The next day I told the teacher I lost my book. For weeks I did my art project instead of math. Sadly another kid found the book, brought it to class and Mrs. Bowden looked at me with a puzzled expression. She pulled me aside and told me “you are going to float through life and I am afraid that you will not amount to anything.” I guess she didn’t think that being one of the best tennis players in my age group in Southern California (in its heyday) or my passion for art was work. For the next decade, tennis and art were my daily projects.

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After winning my first tournament, boy’s ten and under.

(Growing up and even today I wish I never had to attend school, rather, like in the Reniassance, I would have jumped at the option to be an artist’s apprentice.)

I was too young (11-years old) to understand, and may never know the causes when I locked myself in the bathroom for 3 hours, laid down on the tiled floor and pressed my hands to the sides of my head, hoping to push the voices out of my head. There was an incessant inner voice repeatedly screaming “evil, evil, evil, evil is here.” I asked the voice where it was? Was it something inside or outside of me? What did I do wrong? Was I bad? I looked inside and couldn’t find anything deserving of such a horrible dark feeling. Another voice said, “no, you are not bad, you are a good.” Continuing to rack my brain for hours I came to the conclusion that whatever this dark matter was it was outside of me. I didn’t know if it was a person, a thing, or something in the atmosphere, but I was relieved to feel it certainly wasn’t me. In the future, I would be on the lookout for it.

Awakening and My Grandmother

I loved my Canadian grandmother very much, she worked hard and appreciated sports and painting. She loved Los Angeles and I never once heard her bitch. She was so wise that if she were directing us kids, we never knew we were being corrected. I didn’t know but only subconsciously felt that she was giving me the green light to be an artist. She saw the seed bud and watered it as if it were the most natural thing in the world to do.

Once while walking with her down a sidewalk lined with shops, we stopped at a bookstore’s window. Time stopped. There was a huge book with a painted portrait of a woman on the cover. The woman’s eyes were so gentle, thoughtful, with a quiet intensity almost if she were to cry. The shadows made out of space seemed to caress and move around her neck and delicately touch her earlobe. The cover of the book was a portal to a universe that opened up and pulled me inside. I lost my real life bearings, and all could feel was the energy of this beautiful person; it was like being in a dream of light currents. I shook my head and realized where I was and looked for grandmother. Looking over to my left I saw that she was two windows further and she glanced at me with an expression saying “you go on and keep looking dear.” Which is what I did until I had had my full of looking at the portrait.

I was turning 12-years old, and my grandmother gave me a heavy package when I tore off the wrapping it was that book!  It was The Complete Works of Rembrandt.

 

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Rembrandt, Hendrickje Stoffels (This is the first work I fell in love with. The shadows clothe her in mysterious space, the empathy in her eyes is palatable – so truthful and amazing that paint can be organized to communicate psychological depth).

Continue reading “Story – An Artist’s Journey”

Icarus Landing

Icarus Landing
Icarus Landing

Flying high and higher, experiencing everything, yet instead of burning and crashing, as the legend tells us, he gains love and wisdom and gently comes home.

Icarus Landing was completed in 2001 in my beautiful Turkish home/studio in Rhodes, Greece. There is a saying about staying at a friends home, leave it better than when you arrived. Art is a little like that too. If you borrow from history, don’t just copy but add to it and hopefully making something better out of it.

I get the moral of the original Icarus legend is to help curb young people from adventurous excess. They will burn, crash, and die if they fly too high. That story and warnings from “wise” people never felt right to me. Isn’t death a bit harsh? Wouldn’t it be better to go after their dreams, learn from their mistakes, and enjoy the journey?

Having Icarus land safely for me was irresistible. In the early stages, his pose took on a Christ-on-the-cross-like image. With reflection, I realized that coming back to earth instead of dying worked equally well for Christ. Ironically, if one removes the cross from the sadistic crucifix imagery, what it left is an amazingly beautiful pose.  Continue reading “Icarus Landing”

Art and Ideals by David Kelley

Just published for the first time.

On October 6th, 2003 The Foundation for the Advancement of Art presented this conference at New York’s Pierre Hotel. David Kelley, a philosopher, gives the talk Art and Ideals.

0:05 Stephen Hicks introduces David Kelley
1:54 Chavet Cave, images, music. Why artistic artifacts? Some evolution theories.
7:00 Universality of Art, cognitive and emotional needs. Concept of abstraction; language, science. Foreknowledge.
10:27 Earliest narrative in written form, The Epic of Gilgamesh. Choice, normative concepts, good and bad.
12:39 Moral codes, emotions. Issues of life and death why through art? Concept of love. Homer, Shakespeare. Art gives the power of immediacy to our abstractions.
21:20 Modes of the ideal. Polyclitus, exemplars such as Christ through Michelangelo. Beethoven, Chopin, Delacroix. Hunger for ideals.

Innovation in Art by Michael Newberry

On October 6th, 2003 The Foundation for the Advancement of Art presented this conference at New York’s Pierre Hotel. Stephen Hicks gives the introduction to the conference and to Michael Newberry’s talk, Innovation in Art. Part 1

0:09 Stephen Hicks Introduction
3:03 Michael Newberry Innovations in Art
4:11 Zuburan, Mondrian, John Moore
6:05 Color and Light Theory, Vermeer, Monet, Rothko, Rutkowski
7:59 Illustration of Ideas, Bosch, Magritte, Larsen
10:48 Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Newberry
12:54 Form, Henry Moore, David Smith, Martine Vaugel
14:17 Sublime, Egyptian, Michelangelo, Stuart Mark Feldman

Michael Newberry is Artist-in-Residence at The Atlas Society. He has exhibited in New York, Los Angeles, Athens, and Rome. In the Fall of 2017, he has a solo show at the White Cloud Gallery in Washington D.C. Follow him on Instagram at @artnewberry.

Art and Judgment

Over three decades ago, in 1982, I booked a private telephone consultation with an Objectivist philosopher (associated now with the Ayn Rand Institute) on reading The Romantic Manifesto, Ayn Rand’s classic non-fiction work on aesthetics.

At 24, I was both an artist and an Objectivist.  A fine art major; I had taken several art history classes including contemporary art theory. At the time, I had just completed the painting Promethia, and even though it was a thematic work, I didn’t understand how one objectively identifies a theme of an artwork. With that in mind, I was excited to be mentored by an Objectivist philosopher.

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In our consultation, he pointed to Willem Kalf’s still life painting in the classic art history book, Gardner’s Art Through the Ages.

“How do I discover the theme?” I asked, genuinely.

“The theme of this painting is malevolent because of the dark background!” was the swift and vociferous response.

This was “obvious” — i.e. self-evident — he said.  No further reasoning or discussion was necessary.

I ended the session and never consulted him again.

Alas, I had yet to learn how themes work in painting. So I returned to what Ayn Rand herself had written.

Continue reading “Art and Judgment”

Energizing the Eye: Abiodun Olaku

“In the broad valley, far below him, in the first sunlight of early morning, he saw a town. Only it was not a town. Towns did not look like that. He had to suspend the possible for a while longer, to seek no questions or explanations, only to look.”

The above was Ayn Rand’s description of Howard Roark’s Monadnock Valley development in The Fountainhead. Rand is revered — and reviled — as a philosopher and novelist, but to me she was also an artist. She defined art as a recreation of reality according to an artist’s values, and in her work, she recreated an inspirational world of heroes, light, and flourishing.

labour

That is why The Atlas Society chose art as an arena for intellectual and spiritual engagement with Ayn Rand’s ideas.  The 25-year-old philosophical organization capped 2016 with winners of first annual Atlas Art Contest. Over 400 entries were narrowed down to 21 artists by a panel of four judges: Sabin Howard, sculptor; Judd Weiss, photographer; Agnieszka Pilat, painter: and myself. The public was then invited to vote, further spreading the engagement with the outstanding work of our finalists.

The winners were, from first to third place, Abiodun Olaku, Eric Armusik, and Danielle Dalechek. Given Ayn Rand’s aesthetics, it is rather fitting that Olaku won first prize with his clean style, perspective, and nuanced light.

Continue reading “Energizing the Eye: Abiodun Olaku”

Innovation, Substance, Vision – The Future of Art Conference in Art in NY, 2003

On October 6th, 2003, The Foundation for the Advancement of Art presented Innovation, Substance, Vision–The Future of Art at The Pierre Hotel in New York City. With a panel of philosophers, artists, and scientists, the conference addressed the importance and future of art. Continue reading “Innovation, Substance, Vision – The Future of Art Conference in Art in NY, 2003”

Creating Denouement

Creating Denouement by Michael Newberry

Newberry, Denouement, 1987, oil on linen, 54x78 inches.
Denouement, 1987, oil on linen, 54×78 inches.

Why this painting?

Painting Denouement was a chance to live inside glowing, colorful light and to express through art what love feels like to me.

Influences

Puccini, Polyclitus, Aristophanes, Beethoven, and Michelangelo rock my world. In their time, they were innovators with a love of beauty, humanity, and passion. Their art was a constant source of inspiration.
There were visual influences for Denouement. But most of the epic works were from “brown” painters, classic technique with a limited pallet in which dark things are brown and black hues. The French Impressionists had a fantastic sense of color harmonies in light and shadow. What I had in mind was to take the best of both and integrate them.

But there was no one work from these artists that I could use as a prototype for what I had envisioned, so I had to create a new path.

Rembrandt Danae
Rembrandt Danae
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Velazquez Las Meninas
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Nerdrum
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Dali
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Van Gogh
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Van Gogh
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Monet
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Monet

Concept

In 1984, I began studies on a moment of love shared. The first sketches were drawn from my imagination. In the images, you can see the glow from the light between them.

Newberry study Newberry study

Construction

Then I began to develop studies from live models for this composition.

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I modeled for the two left drawings, having rigged a couple of mirrors. All the studies for Denouement were from scratch – no photos.

To create glow, it would be important to backlight the guy. In hindsight, backlit objects are a bitch to draw because it is hard to see the dark stuff.

I began color studies in pastel.

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I didn’t like the gray colors. So I kept drawing pastel studies, changing the light sources, colored objects, and color of the paper.

With these pastels below, the color harmony clicked.

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Composition

I began to evaluate my overall composition: should the man be closer in size to the woman? Should they be closer together – more connected?

Changing the guy from standing to reclining solved both the size and connection problems.
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Newberry study

What turned out to be cool was that his new pose worked great with hers. The two of them now created a diagonal line through the composition, like the flight line of a jet taking off.

Having solved the imaging of the man and woman, the next problem was arranging all the stuff to fit naturally.

Newberry study

I relied on two-point perspective to get the perspective of the carpet right.

Newberry study

Each object had to be adjusted to fit the perspective and be the right size.
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Spatial Depth and Transparency, Integrating it All

Having drawn all of the information I needed, there was still the small matter of how all of this information was going to fit together. I needed to create spatial depth of about 20′, every object had to fit naturally in its space, and the overall lighting had to feel like it was from one source.

I needed to develop a theory of integrating the color, light, and space. I discuss this theory in my articles : Transparency: A Key to Spatial Depth in Painting, Part 1 and Part 2. To give you a sense of the problem here is a pastel study of the lamp, and final in the painting. They are quite different. Just transferring it exactly from study to painting doesn’t mean it will fit.

Newberry study Newberry study

What do lemon green, green, and cool magenta have in common? Cerulean blue. Her arm rests in a subtle shadow, by using cerulean blue as the common denominator I was able to push the color boundaries and softly place her in the right place. This was the way I saw the colors from life, but understanding the color theory helped bring out those color connections for all the other elements of the painting.

Newberry study

I hope you enjoyed this presentation.

Newberry, Denouement, 1987, oil on linen, 54x78 inches.

Michael Newberry