Bailin Studio

He left a paper trail…
Stacks Image 6

Observations on art and art process. Your comments are welcome and encouraged.

Bugs Bunny and Fra Angelica

A Bit of History

As a child I saw a Bugs Bunny cartoon in which Bugs, dressed in an artist smock and beret, and dipping a large brush into a bucket of paint, paints the Mona Lisa in two passes of his hand. This was an amazing thing to watch. I could never figure out how he did that. Every time I lifted a brush it appeared to be so limited. But later I realized what that joke really meant for the artist: create the greatest amount of significance with the least amount of effort. You see it in masterful work. It only seems like the piece just appeared fully formed and effortless.

While studying art history in Italy, I visited a monastery. Walking into a dark cell from a long sun drenched corridor, it took a while for my eyes to just and I noticed that I could only make out parts of a fresco. As I waited for the image to fully appear I made out a crown of thorns, and then a stick, and a bloody gash. And then to my astonishment, I realized that there was no complete image. The artist had created a painting that every monk could complete in his own way. This unknown artist had produced the most devotional piece of art I have ever seen.

Both of those experiences came to define my approach to art. For me, that meant finding out what was extraneous to image making, discovering how far could I go towards developing a story without losing an image. And that meant no color, no printmaking process, no chemical/digital processes at all…. Simple mark making.

The mark is fundamental to human communication – forming letters into words, into sentences, and into symbols, into images. In fact for me, the most important part of my drawings isn’t the final image but all the pentimenti – the traces of the under drawings, the wipe outs, the erasures, the revisions. Those pentimenti are closer to ideas than fully formed drawings. Recently I’ve taken to photographing those traces. Someday I may feel courageous enough to create a body of work just of pentimenti.
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