These pieces are a complete departure from the more accurate renderings in the water and plein air paintings. They were inspired by preschool children’s drawings. Many artists have attempted to mimic the imagery of the very young, and the “primitive”; to crack the code of the untainted mind which does not know the constrictions of training. This is my go at it and I love some of them. All are mixed processes and materials on panel.
My work has always cycled between obsessive rendering of natural, external objects (plein air, the water series) and, what is far more difficult and compelling for me, delving into the chaotic accumulation of internal material. In other words “not working from direct observation”. Of course all art making is an interpretation whether from direct observation or internal sources.
Our eyes take in information, pass it into the brain, it moves through myriad channels, is scrambled and dredged back out. Some artists have turned to the so called primitives for lessons in plumbing our inner depths. There’s nothing wrong with that, the flaw is in the labeling primitive. Those human forms produced by African, South Pacific, North and South American natives, etc are not configured the way they are because the artists were naive or untrained, those interpretations of the human figure are highly sophisticated. I firmly believe that if those tribal artists had desired to render realistically, they could and would have.
I became convinced that the art of pre-school children contained the lessons I was seeking. This was more honestly the raw material of innocent eyes absorbing new information, processing it and then re-assembling the parts as a drawing. It’s a case of “you couldn’t make this stuff up”, but the kids did. I borrowed several friends’ children’s drawings that had been squirreled away for decades and made notes, found startling differences as well as universal similarities. In the library I found psychological analyses of children’s art.
After looking at trees, animals and human figures drawn by small children, it felt to me that the artist had never seen these objects, but was told about them, then asked to draw. From these images I wanted to learn more about letting go of logic, perspective and proportion, yet use these elements in a way that allowed my experience with materials and design to achieve a finished piece that works as an “adult” composition. I wanted to bring what the children were showing me and merge it with what I have learned, in a much longer lifetime, about visual expression. There was dog who had a long snout attached to a human profile and the tree which is all trunk with a small puff of green on top and one horizontal branch to accommodate a swing.
The six weeks of sheer play which produced the Growing Up series was more nourishing than any art-making I’ve done in a long time. Each of the pieces was executed in a different way, using tools and procedures new to me because I wanted to remain fully engaged; every minute my mind was in the “on” position. The obsessive little drawings in the negative space are pretty much that. They create texture and are about the tangle of influences around and in us always. Some of those tiny characters found leading roles in later scenarios. Of all my work, right now, this series may be the most important to me in process and results.