1984

1984

1984     mixed medium     30″ x 28″ x 13″     2016     $1602

NOW FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT.

So, I’ve been cranking out these new radically different — from my drawings — pieces, and having a lot of fun in the process. One fortuitous thing that has happened with this work is that not using the human figure has freed me up somewhat. I no longer have the pressure of representing such an historically important and very beautiful subject. I’ve discovered that manipulating found, and for my purposes, largely “abstract” objects, has allowed me to work very spontaneously and intuitively. I really feel like I’m in “the undiscovered country” when making these, and I love this. Above are three of my favorite so far. Happy to say the one on the right has already sold, so I’m off to a good start!
I’m enthusiastically working toward a solo of these at the Spinning Plate Gallery in June of 2017. I think it will be a very interesting show. Along with the mid-sized assemblage pieces there will also be some small collages, small paintings that are a sort of offshoot of the other work, as well as a few large, reworked foam sculptures (for which I’m most known).

Recent Contemporary Figurative Drawings Going Well

I’m pretty happy with how my recent figurative/abstract drawings are going. I have been for the large part spontaneous, allowing my subconscious to take a major roll in my process.  Most of this is due to my setting a tough goal which is forcing me to work very fast and not over-think decisions. Below are a few of the new ones of which I am proud.

No.6Number 6, 55″ x 40″, charcoal and ink on paper, 2015 (please visit “works on paper” section to purchase and for more information)   I’ve been interested in the future of human evolution through new technologies for some time, and that is what this piece is about. Genetic engineering in this case. The figure is morphing into a dolphin. I’m pleased with the combination of charcoal and color in it.

 

No.5Number 5, 55″ x 40″, charcoal on paper, 2015 (please visit “works on paper” section to purchase and for more information)  I enjoy the passion of this one. The abstract gesture coming from the figures chest is for me emblematic of some intense desire and determination.

 

No.9Number 9, 55″ x 40″, charcoal and ink on paper, 2015 (please visit “works on paper” section to purchase and for more information)   A sort of female Prometheus — as the creator. The abstract gesture is inspiration coming up from the earth, the world, passing into the figure where it is translated into her own unique creation.

 

Number 10Number 10, 55″ x 40″, charcoal and ink on paper, 2015 (please visit “works on paper” section to purchase and for more information)   Just finished. One of the most interesting in terms of the relation of the shading of figure and the abstract gesture.

Mrytille Henrion Picco

I weekly search galleries online all over the country attempting to find some that would be interested in showing my stuff, and I frequently come upon artists to whom I relate. Myrtille Henrion Picco delights in life and I find this very refreshing. She delights in nature, in the beautiful human form, and in lovely, natural, unmuted color. Her portraits are gentle and loving.

http://myrtille-henrion-picco.blogspot.com/

Nous+l'Appellerons+H,+130+x+97+cm,+2010,+Myrtille+Henrion+PiccoNous L’Appelerons H (Version II) (2011)

With so much current figurative art focused on weirdness (it seems to me frequently solely for the sake of weirdness), or the horror of current life (though admittedly there is a surfeit of this), it is a wonderful treat to come upon an artist who focuses on the positive. One of the first pieces that grabbed me is Fées Nées Buleuses, Ou Vagues which translates to something like Blue Fairies or Waves (though frankly I’m not very sure).
1 Fées+nées+buleuses,+ou+vagues,+comme+on+veut,+Myrtille+Henrion-Picco+100x100Fées Nées Buleuses, Ou Vagues

Of all the work of Ms Picco I’ve seen this one relates the most to what I do. Though their forms are still visible, the sort of blue body suits the fairies are wearing give them a type of abstraction. Also their headgear, especially of the front Fairy, subtly blends into the background. The piece has a wonderful Joie De Vivre, as does much of Picco’s work, and I love how they are just subtly floating in over the waves. However, though they are delightful, this painting is rare in Picco’s work in that, with their fantastic quality and their dark blue color, especially around their faces, they are a tad sinister, and remind me a bit of the three witches from Macbeth.

Scherzo Ma Non Troppo, O/C, (2009) 55” x 35”, is an example of the way Picco allows pure, free association fantasy to come through her work. This type of piece could be adolescent if not for the maturity of Picco’s expressive means.
2 Scherzo+Ma+Non+Troppo+(2009),+130+x+89+cm,+Myrtille+Henrion-PiccoScherzo Ma Non Troppo (2009) O/C

In their lush, pastel pallet, their simple floral patterning several, focus on the female figure and in their joy several of Picco’s paintings put me in mind of Gaugin. A good example of this is Songe d’Un Chat Rouge, A Dream of a Cat, O/C (1991). This piece also features figures in dance-like poses which relate to my stuff, as well as an area in the skirt of the right figure with its abstract pattern flowing off it into the background.
3 Songe d'un chat rouge, Myrtille Henrion-Picco 130x97 GauginishSonge d’Un Chat Rouge — A Dream of a Cat, O/C (1991)

The beautiful Portrait De Ma Petite Soeur Pascale, Portrait of My Little Sister Pascale is another that relates strongly to Gaugin.
4 Portrait+de+ma+petite+soeur+Pascale+(1991),+Myrtille+Henrion-Picco,+65x54 GauginPortrait De Ma Petite Soeur Pascale – Portrait of My Little Sister, (1991) O/C

I like this piece for the fluidity of the gestural forms flowing around the figure and also because of the unusual element in a Picco of the hand on the sister’s shoulder. This more direct element differs from the removed fantasy quality of most of her work and adds a narrative aspect. I might have interpreted this as her deceased mother’s hand before I translated the title. Clearly it is the hand of her big sister.

In her use of lush areas of patterning and sense of fantasy, Gustav Klimt is another artist to which some of her paintings strongly relate. Though I haven’t read this as there is little on the web to read about Picco, I strongly suspect she was influenced by Klimt.
5 De nos jours les humeurs vagues abondent 2007, Myrtille Henrion-Picco 89X89 cm PNGPortrait Bulle (1996)

Born in 1952, Picco began her artistic career as a photographer. But she came to believe that this art form was too cool and analytical for her so she turned to painting. In 1978 on a trip to St. Tropez she met her husband the artist Henri Picco. Their long conversations on art had a profound effect on her influencing her artistic direction for the rest of her life. Since 1990 she has lived and worked in Ardèche, France.

Had to include this last piece. It is a pastell.

6 Portrait bulle (1996), 60x42cm, myrtille henrion piccoPortrait Bulle (1996), 60x42cm

My Process to Create Contemporary, Figurative, Charcoal, Mixed Medium Drawings

I thought it possible that some people might be interested in the process I go through in creating one of my contemporary, figurative, charcoal drawings or mixed medium works of art. This piece, simply title NO.1, is the first in a new series of mixed media pieces I am doing for my next solo show which will take place in August at the Spinning Plate Gallery in Pittsburgh.

NO.1NO.1   55″ x 44″   charcoal and ink on paper   2015

The starting point of all my compositions is the human figure. In this case it was a beautiful photo of a female figure in a dynamic pose.

W GIRL

I then simply sit in front of a thumbnail rectangle of the same proportions as will be the finished drawing and visualize something I would like to see that derives from the chosen figure. Of course what I imagine isn’t completely unrestricted as I can imagine an almost limitless number of pieces. So for the sake of keeping a coherent body of work the focus for me right now is the realistic or renaissancesque human figure combined with Abstract Expressionist gestures with the addition of fields of more or less geometric shapes of bright color.

SKETCH NO

5.5″ x4″

Once I have the overall structure of the piece I then sketch the figure where I want it on the page. In this phase the proportions and pose of the figure, it’s placement and size relative to the surrounding area are all paramount. So at first I sketch very lightly and gradually feel my way to the right balance. It’s not surprising that this process can sometimes take several hours, though sometimes you get lucky and it goes fairly quickly.

NO.1 PA

My usual next step is to shade the figure in a simple way just focusing on the major plane breaks. Being very perfectionistic it was difficult for me to learn to not get into the details of the figure at this stage. Like Gollum from The Lord of the Rings, I don’t want the figure to become too beautiful and therefore too precious to me at this stage thereby making it more difficult to destroy part of it with gesture later.

No1 Prog 1

On all pieces I already know generally the shape and flow of the gesture I intend to add. I look at the piece and visualize it until I have it well set in my mind – maybe one minute. The actual gestural mark making then goes fairly quickly though I almost always make several more additions before a piece is finished, sometimes with the charcoal and sometimes rubbing with a cloth. This time it was quite quick, perhaps just 5 minutes, and very unusual in that what I got from my initial pass was very much what I was looking for. Aside from tweaking a few details, I only made one pass.

No1 Prog 2

From my original conception for the piece I knew I wanted a red triangle coming in from the left side and at this point I realized I could use this area to give the piece a bit more meaning. I have for some time been interested in the future of human evolution through technology. (Someday I will do a whole show on this subject.) So I decided to have under a red glaze images of the interior of computers.

Untitled

This I then linked to the figure through long lines of what computers “think” in, binary code – ones and zeros. The idea being that the figure has had a computer chip implanted in her brain making her a new sort of being. In the gesture area I have many strings of ones and zeros signifying this alteration. And springing from the center of the woman’s forehead more strings of binary which relates to her altered mental abilities and the new thoughts, inventions and creations she is now capable of.

NO.1

INKA ESSENHIGH

Inka Essinhigh is a painter I like very much and strongly relate to. Given that the human figure is her main subject and she often fuses it with swirling, very fluid gestures it is easy to see why I like her.

http://www.inka-essenhigh.com/

essenhigh-500-023 001Gene monotype

Characterized as Pop Surrealism her work relates strongly to both Salvador Dali and Francis Bacon with a cartoon element derived from the early animation of Looney Tunes.

DAILY SERVINGDaily Serving O/C

Frequently her figures have a similar squeezed-out-of-a-tube quality like Dali’s, and many of the secondary elements have a melting look similar to those Dali is famous for.

essenhigh-500-026 001Two Girls monotype

And some of her paintings from the 90s have both the sparseness of background of Bacon, along with strange biomorphic objects similar to some of Bacon’s.

BEAUTY AND SUBWAYBeauty Contest,      Subway,      both O/C

 

The Looney Tunes element in her work gives a manic humor to some of the paintings which are at times hilarious.

Aquarious and Dance partyAge of Aquarius, and Dance Party, both O/C
Although much of her work is visually appealing with frequently lyrical, though strange, fantasy themes as in, “Stubborn Tree Spirit”, 2012, and dynamic figure studies ala the monotype, “Gene”, 2011, it is also often disturbing.

Stuborn Tree SpiritStubborn Tree Spirit O/C

In her paintings that are more drawings (thereby relating to Bacon), in that they employ flat colors in tightly delineated shapes, some of the stories she tells are frankly creepy. Reconstruction seems to be some sort of  violent nightmare, perhaps an abortion or surgery gone horribly wrong. Reconstruction

Reconstruction O/C

And the pain of other pieces such as “Bathroom”, 1999, make them difficult to look at for long.

bathroom 1999, inka essenhigh
Born in 1969 in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania, Inka Essenhigh lives and works in New York and is represented by Victoria Miro Gallery in London. Essenhigh’s work attracted attention as one of a generation of young painters in New York in the late 1990s, including Cecily Brown, Damien Loeb and Will Cotton. She is married to the artist Steve Mumford.

SETTING A DIFFICULT GOAL IS A GREAT WAY TO RELEASE ONES CREATIVITY AND ACHIEVE ARTISTIC GROWTH

Growth it seems to me is the biggest payoff for making art. When you are growing as an artist there is a wonderful sense of excitement and adventure. Your imagination is set free and you are constantly exploring the magical land of “the undiscovered country”. It also gives one the deepest sense of satisfaction which is its greatest reward. Of course it is great to be paid for your work and all of the figurative/abstract charcoal drawings on this site are for sale, but nothing can compete with the joy of accomplishment. I first experienced artistic growth when, in 1972 as a college sophomore, I took a printmaking course for double credits thereby setting a very tough goal for myself. The deep satisfaction I experienced from this was like nothing I’d ever felt before. Below are four pieces I did then – I’d never done anything remotely as successful before.

E22EClockwise from the upper left: Self Portrait; Fantasy Football; Prometheus; Minotaur, Maiden and Theusus

Not to get too personal but I have a very obsessive compulsive type of personality (not OCD, but a more generalized thing). So I have a strong compulsion to ruminate and attempt to be perfect, and spent a big chunk of time with a psychiatrist working on this and similar difficulties. My definition of rumination would be analysis beyond the point where one is coming to conclusions/making decisions. So perhaps my perspective about over-thinking one’s art is a bit skewed. However I do know other artists who do this as well and I think that it is in fact a common problem. Below is and example of an etching I tried to “perfect” and hence made it too dark and overworked.

RITE 1Etching, Rite 1, 2005

It seems to me that growing as an artist or in any endeavor that is hands on is maybe 90% doing, and only 10% thinking about what you are doing, with much of this coming after the fact. Lately I’ve been spending way too much time thinking about what direction I should take with my art and what I want to do for each upcoming show, and I realize that all of this rumination wasn’t very helpful to my growth as an artist. So for my next show I decided that its main focus would be growth itself. As an aid for this I set the goal of finishing 30 drawings all 55” x 40” in the next 30 weeks for my next show at the Spinning Plate Gallery this coming August. In order to reach such a difficult goal I can only spend the minimum amount of time needed thinking about and doing sketches for each piece. So far just 2 weeks into it the results are quite promising.

3 1NO. 1 (This piece has to do with the future of human evolution.)

NO. 3 PROGNO. 3 (Still in progress.)

But far from producing sloppy, banal work because of this, I find I generally produce my best work in this sort of circumstance. I found long ago that the working fast combined with perfectionism was a very powerful syntheses. There are loads of presidents for the efficacy of working fast. I just heard not long ago that Leonard Bernstein once said, “All that is needed for greatness is a good plan and not quite enough time to accomplish it.” Francis Bacon once said that he got his best results when he was “unconscious”, by which I think he meant that he was working from the subconscious, (obviously one can do nothing when unconscious) and this is what is activated when one is working very fast. And Handle wrote the masterpiece, “The Messiah”, in about 17 days. And there are many more examples.In my work the piece below for example went very quickly yet is among my recent best.

UntitledUntitled, 2012

I’m particularly happy with the tight and fluid integration of the figure and the abstract gesture here.

 

Great Time at the Westmoreland Museum

Happy holidays all!!
Well my lifestyle has changed somewhat so I’ve had much less time to keep in touch. I’ve taken a part time job making jewelry, but hope to get back to full-time art making in the near future.

The opening for my first museum was the past Friday at the Westmoreland Museum of American at in Greensburg, Pa. It was a wonderful night for myself and my the artist showing with me Mona Wiely.

SELF +From the right: Self Portrait, Disengaging From God and Descent

A total of 230 people attended and everyone seemed to have a great time. I reconnected with some old friends and made some new ones, and a few who had serious in purchasing some work. The exhibition will be up till January 4th, 2015, and the museum is located at: 4764 State Route 30, Greensburg, PA 15601. (724) 837-1500

PRISON AND FRAGMENTATIONThe Prison of My Youth and Fragmentation
I’m pleased with how my show looked. I feel it contains some of my most intense drawings, and the addition of my sculpture, “The Prison of My Youth” makes the show even stronger. I’m particular proud of my compressed charcoal self-portrait and the diptych, “Agony” and, “Ecstasy”. All three express both the pain and passion I have felt in a life predicated on a tough childhood.

AG & ECAgony, left and Ecstasy
Hope you can enjoy the show in person, but if not I will also be posting all of the work on my website: www.richardclaraval.com

PREPARING FOR MY FIRST MUSEUM SHOW

Well, for the first time in my life, I will have a show at a museum. As part of their series of pop up exhibitions I will be having an exhibition at the Westmoreland Museum of American Art’ shttp://www.wmuseumaa.org/ temporary location, sharing the interesting spaces with the painter Mona Wiley. Since the show is not until December of this year, I have a good amount of time to prepare and have been taking advantage of this by doing more planning and studies than usual. I will still be doing my large drawings that fuse the human figure with Abstract Expressionist gesture, and have been doing a fairly large number of preparatory sketches. But for this show I have definitely decided to add color and am experimenting with a variety of other new possibilities. Color has admittedly never been my strong point so I’m a little anxious about this; however excitement is far more the feeling I’m having. So far the experiments, though fairly simple, have been enlightening as well as lots of fun.

Mephistophele & FAUSTUSMephistopheles and Faustus

I spent a good deal of time just thinking about Westmoreland show’s basic organization. Although only a temporary site in a large old furniture store, the space I am using is actually quite interesting. Unlike the white box of most museum galleries, this has walls of varying sizes and is more open allowing viewers to walk through.

altered floor planFloor plan with my portion highlighted.

So as it’s my first shot at a Museum, I’d like to make a big splash. One idea that came to me early on was to do one large drawing to fill each of the spaces. Some of these are fairly large, so this would mean doing my biggest drawings so far. At this point however I am leaning more toward doing somewhat smaller drawings simply so they will fit into my car, and also because these would perhaps be more salable. I will be mounting the drawings on fiberboard painted black and other colors. In some cases there will be torn and cut areas in the drawings allowing the black  “borders” to integrate even more with the drawings.
EveEve
I’ve been taking two directions in getting ready for the show. Working with the schematic of the spaces I have done numerous small studies already for this show usually starting with the figure placed and posed as I envision it and then add the gesture.

sm ex 3 sm ex 2
Then also to keep myself working in a loose spontaneous manner I have been doing fairly large totally improvised abstract gestural drawings on less expensive paper. (abstracts) I will also probably also use the small sketches in a scrapbook of sorts along with photos of the larger drawings in the exhibition. I think this will prove interesting to viewers of the show as they will get a peek behind the curtain so to speak, and get some insight into my working process and how the show was organized.
Even though a goal in all of my shows, in this show more than any before I want to create work that is visually very exciting and passionate, while at the same time having depth and nuance. Though there is much great work being done, I must say that I am bored with a lot of art I see these days: especially conceptual; cutesy, cartoonish painting; new style genre painting and other trends. So in my small sketches I have been I have been culling poses of figures from a variety of sources in order to find those that have the kind of dynamism and emotion that excites me. These include the large number of photos of models I have taken for both my past sculptural work, sketches of poses for various sculpture projects both realized and not, live model studies and images of dancers from the internet. (photos and sketches, and sketches for the show)

A Simple Way to Extend the Life of Drawing Pencils

All of us who’s main medium is drawing, buy tons of drawing pencils — charcoal, graphite, colored etc. I don’t know where this came from (I have a bit of engineering flair), but recently I came up with a simple way to extend these expensive drawing pencils physically, thereby extending their life.

2EXTEND2

Using a small file I indent the end of the pencil to slightly larger than the diameter of a plastic ball point pen body.

INDENT

Then I cut of a piece off the pen and push it on tho the pencil. If the indentation is the right size it fits very snugly giving you something to hold on to. It works great and you can use the pencil down to a tiny nud and save a few bucks. I know that I and all my friends who draw a lot use tons of expensive pencils. Hope this is helpful! Let me know what you think.

2EXTEND

Jazz/Flamenco Music and Dance

Multi-talented musician Andrew Wleklinski who plays Jazz Sax and Clarinet, as well as Flamenco Guitar will be doing a little of all this in a performance at the Spinning Plate Gallery, where my current group show, Contemporary Figurative Drawing, is.

GD3

He will be joined by dancers Will Matthews and Briana Albright in several improvisational performances, as well as one, perhaps not choreographed by me, but certainly outlined. My fledgling attempt in this medium!  The rehearsals went great and it should be a very entertaining night. Hope you can join us!!

Spinning Plate Gallery, 5821 Baum Blvd, Pittsburgh 15206

Sat, July 26 from 7 to 10 Pm

Beer, Wine and snacks served.

Info:   rclaraval@gmail.com

2 SteveStephen Tuomala, two drawings from the Self Immolation series

2 TimTim Fabian, Untitled

Twenty First Century AphroditeRichard Claraval, Twenty-first Century Aphrodite