Early on, deciding how I wanted to define myself as an artist was a loaded question. It left me unable to begin painting years before I succumbed to the call and allowed myself the permission to enter this unchartered territory, a limitless land full of possibility.
With a new interest and focus I transitioned from a career as a Graphic Designer who worked at Estee Lauder, Merrill Lynch and a large NYC advertising agency, into fine art. During my professional career there were parameters given to me that supported the criteria for campaigns. There were purpose driven goals. But, with my personal work as an artist, I could work in any medium, in any way I saw fit. That meant all options were open for me to explore. Sure, great news, but I quickly realized there was no safety value. I was looking to narrow the margins and had to search artists who had come before me for a glimpse into their mind, and for clues into how to begin this solitary journey. I naturally gravitated toward paint. And then that nagging question. But?!…what would I paint, and why?
Then during 2009, I learned a Francis Bacon retrospective would be at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the excitement about understanding the back story work on his work immediately heightened my interest. Not only would there be an abundance of triptychs, but it was also advertised that there would be on display, sketchbooks, photographs, and more. Those were the elements that were likely the gears that fueled his paintbrush.
Knowing a sketchbook is personal and sacred to the artist and most times not displayed amongst the larger 2D and 3D works typically shown within a gallery or museum setting, I knew there would be much to take in and learn from. Given the nature of the sketchbook, this item must be stored more carefully and was such that crowds would not be able to directly finger through its content. As I would expect, this documentation was displayed within a glass case under dim lighting. It was here I made the connection; the sketchbook was a glimpse into the mind of the creator and something I needed to include as part of my personal art practice! Finally, a glimpse into the pathology, Bacon’s system ology on the how to of planting a seed and establishing the beginnings of an idea.
Early on, I had learned enough to know that within my painting, the general mission was to combine the spirit and energy of the Abstract Expressionists, the composition and emotive figurative forms of the Bay Area artists, and the rawness of Francis Bacon.
The randomness of nonobjective art was something I was aware of, but it was that of conceptual painting and style of visual language that I gravitated to which left me satiated. Capturing isolated elements within the figure or painting the entirety of a human was the element I felt I needed most to explore. Not in the literal sense or in a formal traditional way, in the way a student may study anatomy to then become aware of every sinewy fiber to build a form upon or the precise way a surgeon is capable of constructing and/or deconstructing the figure, but in a manner of which was my own.
During my observations at the museum, clues became visible within the pages of Bacon's book! On display were the pages from Eadweard Muybridge books, ink sketch’s, found papers…Ideas do not come from nothingness. They are built upon history, art history, anatomy…This did not narrow the margins, but it explained to me that certain images and experiences seen by an artist instill impressions and perspectives to which drive the formula.
So, in the way an author builds their characters, I researched further and learned that many genres of artists who had come before and after Francis Bacon had kept journals. Call it what you will; sketchbook, journal, visual diary, or any other name you desire. Craft it in a way that speaks your language but keep one. Over time you will see what piques your interest, what content drives your soul, what colors become your rainbow.
As a Professor of Art, I instruct workshops that include all media appropriate to use within the pages of your sketchbook. Please contact me if I can answer your questions, or if you are looking to create an onsite event at a location of your choice, I can bring the sketchbook workshop to you!