Monday, April 30, 2012

Another Blog Post about a Former Student

A few weeks ago, I wrote about a student from the Film and Video department at Columbia College Chicago, who attended a workshop that I gave there. A day later, I received an email from Ryan Hoyda, who took the Journal and Sketchbook class during a summer session in Prague back in 2005. In fact, I think that might have been the very first time that Patty and I taught this class.

My memories of Ryan from that class are overwhelmingly positive: a good writer, grappling with some difficult material, finding his way to his own voice. He became absorbed in the visual side of the class, and I remember his drawings to be fluid and expressive. I haven't heard from him for a long while until this recent email, in which he directed me to a website that has a lot of images of the oil paintings he has done in the last few years.

To my delight, Ryan's paintings turn out to be not only not bad: they turn out to be really very good. You can see the influences in his style (post-Impressionist painting, maybe Munch, maybe twentieth century early Expressionism), but they have a vibrancy and confidence which makes them very satisfying to look at:



A few years ago, Ryan drove around the entire United States with a friend, documenting everything he saw as he went. As he described it to me:
"Anyway, I’ve been painting now for almost 2 years and have begun to assemble an actual series based on a trip I took back in 2006. A friend and I drove over 10,000 miles in 34 days, camping at various national parks throughout the US eating from vintage Vietnam mess kits.  We took almost 3000 photos and captured about 17 hrs of video. The series, Across America, will be based on approximately 35 pieces from that trip.
I particularly like this painting of a New York City street scene:


I like everything about these paintings: the brushstrokes, the instinctive handling of high-keyed colours, the free-flowing mark-making, the sheer pleasure in making a picture with oils, that most expressive of media.

If you want to see more of Ryan's painting and keep up on his projects, follow the link from his name at the top of this post. I know that I, for one, will be following Ryan's work from now on (and hoping that maybe he will give me one of them, someday, perhaps, you never know .....)

UPDATE: After reading this post, Patty said witheringly: "He might be happier if you buy one."

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Journal & Sketchbook Class, 2012


Here are images of the wonderful students from the Journal and Sketchbook Class, taught by Patty and me jointly in the spring semesters at Columbia College Chicago. There are fourteen students, and they give their final presentations over the lat two weeks of the class. Seven of them presented last Thursday, the rest will go next Thursday. It's a writing class, mainly, with the sketchbook, drawing, and visual art activities intended as a different way of "seeing in the mind", as a way for the students to develop their writing in a different way to their normal process, but with an equally strong emphasis on fully written movements.

If I can get permission, I may post some of their writing. For now, what the pictures show are the visual pieces, and I hope you'll agree with me that one needs make very little allowance for the fact that they are produced by fiction writing students to appreciate their qualities of visual expressiveness. It's nice to glance over at Patty as the students are talking about their work and see a smile on her face. We know that we have a class of exceptionally talented, creative students in the class this year, who all seem to have gained something from this exploration of writing and drawing. I hope they feel that, too.

Six of the Best, Part 12

Part 12 of an interview series in which I invite artists to respond to six questions about art, process, and creativity (Part 1Part 2Part 3,Part 4Part 5Part 6Part 7Part 8Part 9Part 10, Part 11). Today's artist is Julia Schwartz, who is a practising psychoanalyst residing in California, and (but) also a maker of abstract paintings of a remarkable, instinctive shape-making and sense of touch.


ice XXV after the visit, 2011, oil on canvas 20x20 inches

Philip Hartigan: What medium/media do you chiefly use, and why?

Julia Schwartz: I paint with oil, mostly on canvas, although linen is a new luxury that may become more of a necessity. It makes the work different: when the surface is primed, the paint goes on easily and the paintings have been delicate and sensual; unprimed or roughly primed linen took the paint in a different direction, and I followed it. I use oil because it has begun to feel like home, like a part of me—not that I am master of it, but that we are extensions of each other in a way. It still can surprise and delight me, though. I love that.

Philip Hartigan: What piece are you currently working on?

Julia Schwartz: I work on several paintings at a time, currently several small works on linen. A recent studio visit inspired me to go back to larger canvases and a different series. This is typical of me: I am monogamous in relationships but fickle with surfaces, I move from one to the other quite easily! The studio visit was to select work for a group show in July. The other work is for two shows in August and September.

bride, 2012 oil on linen, 14x11 inches

Philip Hartigan: What creative surprises are happening in the current work?

Julia Schwartz: I am always surprised by paint and painting. I love what it does, what I can do, what I can't do. I feel relieved, surprised, humbled, exasperated. In 2011, after the Japan earthquake and tsunami, my work changed pretty dramatically: I stopped painting figures and started painting islands, and shapes which became abstracted. After my show The Hollow Sea in 2011 the figure came back a bit but in a much different way. That was a surprise.

Philip Hartigan: What other artistic medium (or non-artistic activity) feeds your creative process?

Julia Schwartz: I work in water color and gouache on paper and book pages and tiny canvases when I travel. Occasionally I'll take photographs. I think if I had more time I could explore other arenas, but oil painting is it for me right now.

I read a lot and that works into my painting, lines from books, poetry. Music and contact with the world (good and bad) also feed the work.

girl with red hair and blue dress, 2012 oil on linen 14x11 inches

Philip Hartigan: What's the first ever piece of art you remember making?

Julia Schwartz: When I was in kindergarten, I made a painting of a hand painting a duck. This remains memorable because my teacher, who was engaged to a pediatrician, took that painting to his office and then never returned it. So at five I experienced my first ever exhibition! When I was in seventh grade (non-US readers: twelve years old), however, a very inspiring teacher James Bassler used my contour drawing of a classmate as the cover of the Back to School night program and did give me credit. So, at twelve, I had my first work in print with a credit.  Both of these things were memorable and meaningful to me.

Philip Hartigan: Finally, and you can answer this in any way that's meaningful to you: why are you an artist?

Julia Schwartz: I started life as an artist and then took a long hiatus while pursuing another career. I get a great deal of satisfaction from the work I do as a psychoanalyst, but once I started painting, it became clear that there was no turning back. It became essential. I feel more alive. If I'm kept out of the studio or away from painting for too many days, I get out of sorts, disconnected from myself. So maybe the answer is that I'm a better person/analyst/human when I'm an artist than when I'm not.

If you liked this interview, and you'd like to keep up to date with the series, why not Subscribe, or sign-up via Google Connect, using one of the options over on the right? Thanks, and keep creating.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Calling all Writers and Printmakers (1)

(Reposting this from the Page listed above:) I will be teaching two workshops at Interlochen Arts Academy in northern Michigan in June 2012. Famous as an arts high school that turns out world-class musicians, Interlochen is now running summer classes for adults, and it is a beautiful place to spend a week learning new skills or refreshing your creative spirits.

Journal & Sketchbook

Offered as part of the Writers' Retreat, this class is designed for writers and artists of any level who want to see and record memories, observations, imaginings, stories, through writing and expressive mark-making. Co-taught with writer Patricia Ann McNair, Associate Professor in the Fiction Writing Department of Columbia College Chicago. These intimate workshops take place in Interlochen's beautiful writing house (shown at right).

Here is a slideshow of people at last year's workshop, with some of the work they produced in class:


Details: Class runs June 18-21; $475 non-member tuition. For full information, go to the Interlochen Writers' Retreat website.

Solar plate etching/reduction linocut


Participants of this workshop will have a chance to create prints using two printmaking techniques: solar plate etching and reduction linocut. This class is for beginners and experienced students alike.

Solar plate etching is a completely non-toxic innovation in printmaking that retains the rich range of intaglio mark making. Learn how to make traditional intaglio etchings without any acids or chemicals, using only the power of the sun. Reduction linocut, first developed by Picasso, involves successively cutting away portions of the linoleum block after you have printed from the block in each color (reducing the block after each stage).
The course covers selecting suitable imagery, transferring the image to the linoleum block, managing the cutting and proofing stages, and correct registration of paper and block to get accurately aligned prints.

Slideshow from past linocut classes that I taught at Interlochen:

Details: Class runs June 25-29; $450 per person. For full information, go to the Interlochen College of Creative Arts page.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Six of the Best, Part 11


Part 11 of an interview series in which I invite artists to respond to six questions about art, process, and creativity (Part 1Part 2Part 3,Part 4Part 5Part 6Part 7Part 8Part 9, Part 10). Today's artist is UK-based painter Jina Wallwork -- who, according to her Google Plus Profile, has exhibited her work alongside people like Jeff Koons, Yoko Ono, and Grayson Perry. You can see more of her visionary paintings here.

"A Soul Entering the Universe for the First Time," acrylic on canvas, 50" x 40"

Philip Hartigan: What medium/media do you chiefly use, and why?

Jina Wallwork: I mainly use paint or ink. Both contain great fluidity but can be controlled and structured. I enjoy finding a balance between control and release. There is a massive range of use in these materials and I discover more possibilities each day.

Philip Hartigan: What piece are you currently working on?

Jina Wallwork: I'm working on a series of drawings. It’s a very intuitive process.

Philip Hartigan: What creative surprises are happening in the current work?

Jina Wallwork: It is difficult to know where a piece is going. I find myself balancing shapes and structures. I don't have a picture in mind before I start, and I never know where a piece is headed. It is a path of constant surprises, but that is the nature of creativity. There isn't excessive analysis, just instinct and a feeling that permeates your work.


"Tree Loop," acrylic on canvas.


Philip Hartigan: What other artistic medium (or non-artistic activity) feeds your creative process?

Jina Wallwork: I also write. It is a part of the images I create. Creating art is like talking to your own soul. There is information within the painting that reveals aspects of who you are, and through writing I attempt to understand what each image reveals so easily as a visual. It’s an act of trying to translate your own visual language into a written language.

Philip Hartigan: What's the first ever piece of art you remember making?

Jina Wallwork: It was a drawing of a toy dog. As a child I had a tendency to draw my toys. There were some toys that I drew before I ever played with them—a strange process of studying them first, perhaps.


"Construction", mixed media


Philip Hartigan: Finally, and you can answer this in any way that's meaningful to you: why are you an artist?

Jina Wallwork: I don't know what it means to not be an artist.

If you liked this interview, and you'd like to keep up to date with the series, why not Subscribe, or sign-up via Google Connect, using one of the options over on the right? Thanks, and keep creating.

Monday, April 23, 2012

In Urbana, I: Final Photos

Here is a slideshow of photos from the Urbana Free Library last Saturday afternoon, at the final gathering for the IN URBANA, I public art project. There was a special cake (special in the sense that I hastily drew the words IN URBANA I on the top in blue icing), visits by some of the participants, and also Urbana public art co-ordinator Christina McLelland, and library director Deb Lissak, to both of whom I presented a copy of a small hardback book containing all the photos and phrases from the project:


If you're wondering which one is me, I'm the one with the lanyard that says "Philip". Patty and I also trotted out the whiteboard one more time, and got about twelve more people to complete the sentence and pose for a photo.

All in all, this was a successful project, which I will write about at more length soon.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Meditation on Francesco Clemente


After a bit of a break (it seems to be slowing down as I approach the stated goal of 100), here is number 99 in the series of short talks on works of art.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Six of the Best, Part 10


Part 10 of an interview series in which I invite artists to respond to six questions about art, process, and creativity (Part 1Part 2Part 3,Part 4Part 5Part 6Part 7Part 8, Part 9). Today's artist is Lena Levin, a painter living in the Bay Area of California.

"Chabot Park," oil on canvas panel, 20" x 16"

Philip Hartigan: What medium/media do you chiefly use, and why?

Lena Levin: Oil paints. My work is focused on colour, and oils feel more "native" to me than any other painting medium I've worked with (watercolour, tempera, gouache, acrylics, pastels). They offer just the right balance between freedom and constraints for me.

Philip Hartigan: What piece are you currently working on?

Lena Levin I am working on a series of 154 paintings, each corresponding to one of Shakespeare's sonnets. They aren't intended as illustrations in any usual sense, but rather as "translations": from each poem, I try to go the place where the difference between art forms disappears, and return with a painting, linked to the sonnet both semantically and formally. The idea of this series was originally inspired by Helen Vendler's book "The Art of Shakespeare Sonnets". This is a long project, three years at the very least -- I had been preparing myself for this work for a couple of years, but only started actual painting this January.

Philip Hartigan: What creative surprises are happening in the current work?

Lena LevinThe major surprise is how this work realigns for me the history of visual arts, from the Renaissance to our time, and shows it to me in new ways. Shakespeare was remarkably inventive in how his sonnets were done technically, and in how he brought in and juxtaposed to one another imagery and metaphors current in his time. My search for visual counterparts of these poetic inventions gives me unexpected insights into seemingly familiar paintings and painting styles, and confirms the basic premise of this series, the essential unity of all art forms.

"Self-Portrait after Gauguin," oil on canvas, 24" x 30"

Philip Hartigan: What other artistic medium (or non-artistic activity) feeds your creative process?

Lena LevinPoetry (hardly surprising by now). Not writing, but reading. I was introduced to poetry at a rather early age (with the voice of my father), and now I can read it in three languages (Russian, English, and German), so my head is filled with poems. More often than not, they replay themselves in my mind as I paint -- which was one of the major motivations for the sonnets project.

Philip Hartigan: What's the first ever piece of art you remember making?

Lena Levin I started drawing and painting before I can remember myself, so the drawing I'll tell you about was certainly not the first one I made, but it's the first one I recall very distinctly (reconstructing the   circumstances, I must have been about eight or nine years old at the time). It was a portrait of my mother. What I remember is looking at it and thinking that I haven't captured my mother at all -- rather, it's a generalized face of a "generic" woman, and the only thing she shares with my mother   is curly hair; I remember being rather disappointed in myself. It was probably the first conscious glimpse of what I really wanted to be doing. 

"Sunflower," oil on canvas, 24" x 20"

Philip Hartigan: Finally, and you can answer this in any way that's meaningful to you: why are you an artist?

Lena Levin I was not sure how I would answer this question until I read Mark Castator's version in the first interview of your series. He said that the sculpture class he attended almost by accident was the only one in his college experience where he knew all the answers and everything seemed obvious. It strikes me that my experience was completely opposite: my painting and drawing classes were the only one where there were no obvious answers, but infinite, never ending challenges. In every other class, I was quite happy to get my effortless top marks for simple and "correct" answers, almost never bothering to look beyond what the school had to offer. Painting, however, always tempted and compelled me to stretch my abilities, and skills, and knowledge, to the point where they weren't enough, and I had to seek more. It still does. 

If you liked this interview, and you'd like to keep up to date with the series, why not Subscribe, or sign-up via Google Connect, using one of the options over on the right? Thanks, and keep creating.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

A Student Writes ...

I am still relatively new to teaching -- this is only the fourth full college semester that I have (co-)taught the Journal and Sketchbook class at Columbia College. So it is still also a new experience for me to be contacted by a student and have a nice exchange about ideas coming out of a class I taught.

In this case, a student called Jonathan Leithold-Patt attended the J&S workshop that I gave in the Film and Video department last week. His was one of the pieces of in-class writing that I recalled from at the end, as I read back phrases that stuck out to me from the pieces that students read aloud. Jonathan followed up a few days later via email, and it turns out that he paints as well:

"Contact," acrylic on canvas, 14" x 11"
I asked him to say something about his pictures, and he wrote:
I don't exactly make movies outside of what I'm doing for school, as my interest in films is more in watching them and analyzing them than actually creating them, but I do see a connection in the films I love and the types of paintings I make. For instance, my favorite filmmaker is Ingmar Bergman, who made a career out of films dealing with the kind of intense, intimate alienation I'm fond of painting in my own work. I even made a piece directly as an homage to the director, incorporating his trademark compositions and even the actors he commonly used. If anything, I use film as inspiration for my paintings, drawing upon the images that I find most indelible, the ones that stick in my head and beg to be put down on a canvas.
"Recede," 24" x 30", oil on canvas
 What relation does he see between his Film and Video studies and these paintings, which were completed when he was in high school?
As far as the connection between my painting and my other activities, I'd just say it's a love of the image, as well as a desire to express my feelings through those images. These pieces were actually a part of a bigger series I did in high school, which was a study of personal and social alienation. Loneliness, and the consequent impressions it creates on the psyche, is something I find very fascinating and even beautiful, in a melancholy way. I wished to convey a sense of detachment, but at the same time portray the unusual catharsis and introspection that can also be achieved when you're alone, when you can't seem to connect to anything around you and you're left to your own devices.
 So there we are. Thanks to Jonathan for showing us his work, and for making a valuable addition to this blog's continuing preoccupation with and investigation into creativity in all its forms.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Every Photo from the Public Art Project

Here are all of the pictures from the public art project that I am about to complete, IN URBANA, I ...


If you are in Urbana, Illinois, on April 21st, come along to the Urbana Free Library to meet some of the participants and to celebrate the culmination of a year long project.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Meet Me in St. Louis

I've always wanted to go to St. Louis, but in the ten years I've lived in Chicago, just 300 miles up the road, I never went there until yesterday. Patty had to go to read at Left Bank Books, in the west end/Forest Park area of the city. She and her fellow Elephant Rock Books author, Stacy Bierlein, were doing a joint reading as part of their promotions for their books, "The Temple of Air" (Patty) and "A Vacation on the Island of Ex-Boyfriends" (Stacy), both of which were published by ERB in the last eight months.

Left Bank Books is at the corner of a street in a neighbourhood that looks astonishingly like parts of Vienna, or Prague, or the un-bombed bits of Berlin:


Not surprising given the massive German influx into the area in the late 1800s. Home of Budweiser, Anheuser-Busch, and all that. I understand that this area has been through several up and down cycles, and is currently enjoying one of its upswings, with cafes, bars, restaurants, boutiques, interior design shops, and art galleries working out of these elegant old Bohemian style buildings. It felt like a relaxed, low-key, hip but not precious area -- a great place to buy books, read books, and listen to authors read from books.

The reading started at 4 pm, and was attended by a princely, bushy cat called Spike, who is the bookshop presiding king, it seems. Here is a collage of the reading:


That's a bronze statue of T. S. Eliot outside the door -- the great poet was from this city. On the other two corners were statues of two other writers associated with St. Louis, Kate Chopin and Tennessee Williams.

After the reading, we were taken to dinner by Sheena and Dan, owners of the Shlafly Breweries in St. Louis,   at one of their places downtown:


It was an added delight to be hosted by two well-travelled, interesting, and generous people. Sheena is Scottish, which might (or might not) explain why we ended up talking about Curly-Wurly chocolate and Gary Glitter concerts.

Stacy's delightful 7 year old daughter, Elliott, also drew something in my sketchbook:


I know that I only caught a glimpse of one fairly well-heeled corner of St. Louis, but I came back from this 24 hour trip mightily impressed, and keen to go back and spend more time exploring its different neighourhoods.

UPDATE: And I also just found out that Newt Gingrich, who was in town for the NRA convention (grr!), visited the St. Louis zoo and was bitten by a penguin. I love this city!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Six of the Best, Part 9

Part 9 of an interview series in which I invite artists to respond to six questions about art, process, and creativity (Part 1Part 2Part 3,Part 4Part 5Part 6Part 7, Part 8). Today's artist is painter Abigail Markov, who lives in Florida.


"Release," oil on canvas, 24" x 12", 2012


Philip Hartigan: What medium/media do you chiefly use, and why?

Abigail Markov: I work predominantly oils. Sometimes I throw in oil pastels, charcoal and resin. I love the smell, the feel, the texture, the flexibility, the seemingly limitless possibility I find with oils. And, of course, the mouth-watering, intense, brilliant, century-withstanding color that is a hallmark of oils.


Philip Hartigan: What piece are you currently working on?

Abigail Markov: Actually, I'm almost always working on several, though in various stages. Granted, I have one that's my baby, one I am working on intently at any given time. As of right now, that baby would be the one I just finished a painting today: “It Was a Good Dream.” It turned out to be a significant (to me!) piece on a few levels and was an experiment with the power of the unfinished in representational work. This feeling forced to finish has been something I've struggled with and part of why I have, to date, hated painting representational work so much.


"It Was a Good Dream," oil and oil pastel on canvas, 12" x 24", 2012

Philip Hartigan: What creative surprises are happening in the current work?

Abigail Markov: Well, it was a great surprise to discover the extent of the effect of allowing myself to say done when I was no longer held in thrall by a painting. It was intimidating as hell to do it, to give myself permission to not finish, but I have found that I rather like giving myself permission, the freedom, to not finish a piece, to work on what holds my interest, while it holds my interest, and leave it be, pronounce it finished, once it hits the point where I am no longer interested. There is a joy in the work that has been waning for a while, and relief too; a return to the temporarily lost innocent enthusiasm that I had when I started, and when I start new ideas. There is a surprising renewal of my love and a deepening of my passion for my work as a result of cutting myself some slack on that front - a much needed thing! It's kinda like being given permission to eat only the things you like best on your plate and leave the stuff you don't want, or to just eat dessert. And when it comes to relief, that helps tremendously with creative flow, but I think it also comes from not forcing myself to see the world, things, in ways I don't naturally see them. Which reminds me of some of the best advice I have ever been given as an artist, from another artist (who also happens to be my mother, Helen H. Markow), about what constitutes good art, a good artist, the reason for creating, what you should strive for - which is, simply put, a unique, courageous, authentic voice of your own, and the only way you find that is to chase what holds your interest, what excites you, what you love. Chase what you love most to find your most authentic voice.

Philip Hartigan: What other artistic medium (or non-artistic activity) feeds your creative process?

Abigail Markov: Oh, MUSIC. I live and breathe music. What I listen to varies - it can be anything from heavy metal to boy bands to opera - but I'm rarely without my headphones, or the volume below 80%. Other than that, driving helps me reset, and clear out the cobwebs, and so does cleaning the studio.

Philip Hartigan: What's the first ever piece of art you remember making?

Abigail Markov: The first one I remember actually creating would be one my mother still has framed in red, hanging in her kitchen. It's oil pastels on something like newsprint, or a kid drawing pad most likely. The paper is yellow as anything now. I clearly remember at the time trying to draw a flower with a sun and grass and such, but my flower would not cooperate, and the petals were not all the same size and each time I tried to correct them, my hand would go too far one way or the other - it frustrated me to no end at the time. Eventually I up and turned it into a bunny. Strangely enough, it's a rather good abstract expressionist bunny, considering I was maybe five at the time.


"The Beginnings of Courage," oil on canvas, 24" x 12", 2012

Philip Hartigan: Finally, and you can answer this in any way that's meaningful to you: why are you an artist?

Abigail Markov: You know, there is only one major difference between being an artist and being a politician; both are trying to sell to those around them a world, a vision, an idea, a concept that exists only in their head, a world that only they can see. The difference between an artist and a politician is that the artist is not delusional enough to believe that this world does or should exist in reality for anyone else and is content with simply sharing it with those who want to know.

I am an artist because I am not a politician - because there is this world inside my head and heart that I want to share with others, but that I in no way believe or think exists in reality for anyone else.

That, and yeah, I'm not sure how not to be an artist.


If you liked this interview, and you'd like to keep up to date with the series, why not Subscribe, or sign-up via Google Connect, using one of the options over on the right? Thanks, and keep creating.

Friday, April 13, 2012

I hate Gerhard Richter's Paintings

I was at the Art Institute of Chicago yesterday, going around with some students and talking about the things that they responded to. After the class was over, I took a quick through the modern wing to see what's new. On the way to finding something that I didn't expect to like but did, I passed something I always thought I liked but realised I now don't:


As I said recently in a different context, Richter's reputation will easily survive my negative opinion about him.  But a sudden encounter with his work, particularly the squeegeed paintings like the one above, made me think how lazy, incomplete, underdone he is. There's no reason for this gesture to exist, not even as a 'let's drag the paint and maybe the results will be beautiful/unexpected/absorbing/failed in an interesting way." There's no sense of touch or feeling in it, and not in a cool "the absence of touch or feeling is the whole point" sort of way. If you want to defend the casual beauty of the random act, this Yves Klein is better:


So Klein daubs a few naked gals in oil paint and gets them to press themselves against the canvas. But that's after he's created a layered and smeared surface of ochreish pigment, which has a shimmering, alive quality to it that is missing in Richter's dead paint handling. The imprints of hands are often the sign of a master running out of ideas - Miro's late paintings are full of them, footprints, too, and they look like a sign of desperation. But in contrast to Richter, whose abstract paintings are meaningless and inert, Klein has a sensibility to go along with his pranks and his wit.

If I am wrong, in what lies the error?

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Six of the Best, Part 8

Part 8 of an interview series in which I invite artists to respond to six questions about art, process, and creativity (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7).Today's artist is Kari Cholnoky, currently doing her MFA at Cranbrook and already finding deserved recognition for her work, with upcoming exhibitions in New York and a forthcoming residency in Singapore.

"Twisted My Guts, "expanding insulation foam, spray paint, house paint, Sharpie and collage on drop cloth, 2011 

Philip Hartigan: What medium/media do you chiefly use, and why?

Kari Cholnoky: My media change according to my working limitations and my environment. Currently, they're mostly house paint, Sharpies, Krink marker, drop cloths, oil stick and collage elements, as well as the introduction of video as a collage element. And, to be clear, I make "paintings", but I'm not sure that the division of media is a thing anymore, and my paintings may not universally be viewed as paintings though I view myself to be a painter. 

Philip Hartigan: What piece are you currently working on? 

Kari Cholnoky: I make a lot of work, and I work all the time. So the piece I'm working on right now, which I'll finish in the next three hours, will be different from the piece I work on three hours from now, which will be different from the piece I will work on tomorrow. I make a lot of shit. Some of it's good, some of it's bad. But I believe it's important to make all of it. 

Mustard Cone, 2011, mustard and spray paint on snow, dimensions variable

Philip Hartigan: What creative surprises are happening in the current work? 

Kari Cholnoky: In the traditional sense, I haven't really made a painting in about five years. While I'm not REALLY making paintings, I have this feeling that I'm going to start painting things, instead of drawing them with paint. Additionally, the works' visual complication is only just starting to keep up to pace with the intellectual or conceptual complication. 

Philip Hartigan: What other artistic medium (or non-artistic activity) feeds your creative process? 

Kari Cholnoky: Music (the influence of dubstep has made some weird paintings), art-toys (Ferg, Shawnimal, Tokidoki, Mori Chak), my friends, irrational anxieties, and living in a closet. 

Philip Hartigan: What's the first ever piece of art you remember making? 

Kari Cholnoky: I can't honestly say that I remember that. I don't remember a time when I wasn't making things. I do remember that in second grade I wore a beret to school because I believed I was a French painter, and that I sold my grandfather's throw-away watercolor paintings for a mean profit in my portable classroom. Maybe that's a better story: my first hustle. 

Breakfast, 2011, collage and acrylic on paper, 28 X 40"

Philip Hartigan: Finally, and you can answer this in any way that's meaningful to you: why are you an artist?

Kari Cholnoky: don't really think I had a choice in the matter. Sometimes I feel self conscious about being involved in such a narcissistic pursuit, but then I think if I was a physicist I would be a physicist. I'm an artist because I'm an artist. If I was working in banking I'd still be an artist. I'd be really upset all the time and would hate everything, but I'd still be an artist. This is the hand I've been dealt, and it's pretty cool. I feel fortunate to be so fulfilled by my work, and to be excited to paint every day. That doesn't suck.

If you liked this interview, and you'd like to keep up to date with the series, why not Subscribe, or sign-up via Google Connect, using one of the options over on the right? Thanks, and keep creating.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Six of the Best, Part 7

Part 7 of an interview series in which I invite artists to respond to six questions about art, process, and creativity. Today's artist is John Murphy, who lives just outside Madrid in Spain.

"Heads," 2011


Philip Hartigan: What medium/media do you chiefly use, and why?

John Murphy: I spent many years making a kind of 'process painting' based on a very limited set of actions but now all my work created digitally.  Most of my pieces are composed of two parts. One part starts with paint on paper which then gets scanned into the computer and combined with vector/digital elements in photoshop and/or corel painter. I now work this way because the marriage of the hand made painted elements with the digital really excites me.

PH: What piece are you currently working on?

JM: I am working on some Illustrations for a festival in Cork, Ireland and I am also in the middle of a new series of silhouettes. 


"Silhouettes," 2012

PH: What creative surprises are happening in the current work?

JM: I am always looking for ways to reduce and refine my work to the essential and I regularly look for accidents and surprises in the work to lead me in new directions. I'm currently really excited by the possibilities of using just 2 elements the vector shape and the painted texture in my silhouettes series.

PH: What other artistic medium (or non-artistic activity) feeds your creative process?

JM: After living in various cities for 20 years or so we recently moved to the countryside. We now live in a small village in the mountains outside Madrid and there's nothing better than talking a walk in the country to get the creative juices flowing.

PH: What's the first ever piece of art you remember making?

JM: My earliest memory is in primary school we had an art prize where we had to make an image of an Knight. I was probably 9 or 10 years old.


Untitled, 2011

PH: Finally, and you can answer this in any way that's meaningful to you: why are you an artist?

JM: I have never really questioned why I make art I've just always done it. I don't delve any deeper.


If you liked this interview, and you'd like to keep up to date with the series, why not Subscribe, or sign-up via Google Connect, using one of the options over on the right? Thanks, and keep creating.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Urbana Public Art Project Installed

I am writing this from Urbana, IL, where I installed the luminary/lightbox for the public art project today, at the Urbana Free Library (built in 1874):


The official party is in 2 weeks' time, to coincide with a big arts weekend int he city. But as you can see, the installation was getting noticed within minutes of going up.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Six of the Best, Part 6

Part 6 of an interview series in which I invite artists to respond to six questions about art, process, and creativity. Today's artist is Canadian painter Donna Marsh, whose beautiful impasto paintings have been like a refreshing eye-rinse for me since I first saw her work on Google Plus. She was also the subject of one my short video Meditations on Art (link).


"Arrow Motors," oil on canvas, 24" x 24"


Philip Hartigan: What medium/media do you chiefly use, and why?

Donna Marsh: I use oil paint on canvas. I like the smell, and it will do anything I want. I like how I can vary the thickness, put colour on top of colour, cut into it to use colours that are underneath. I also watched my mother and sister paint when I was little. I wanted so much to be allowed to use it too. Oil paint was big girl stuff like high heels.

PH: What piece are you currently working on?

DM: I just lost the one I was working on, but that's okay. I saw some things while I was working the paint, and one or two of those things will find their way into a future painting when I need it. I will recognize when I need it because I have seen it. That's why I'm never afraid to waste materials.

Lately, I've been drawn to groups of buildings where a small shape of the sky is evident. And these skies have been thick. This summer, I hope to paint my river. I have biked both sides of the St-Lawrence as far as Quebec City and traveled it by boat as well. I bought a canoe last summer. Though I don't paddle far, I do get to see a big sky and feel held by the water.

Untitled work in progress, 20" x 24"

Sometimes there's a lot of material to work with, but it takes a long time to digest it. There is also great mystery in the suburbs at night. There is just enough light that gets in the trees, and there are beautiful, looming shapes. I would love to bottle some of that.

PH: What creative surprises are happening in the current work?

DM: The accidents are getting better and better because I'm thinking about them more.  I also rearranged my studio recently. Having more space to back up and move around did a lot more than I thought it would.

PH: What other artistic medium (or non-artistic activity) feeds your creative process?

DM: I have a sketchbook that travels with me. It's full of motel window views, palm trees when I'm lucky, some BC trees with the ghosts of raindrops sitting on the page. There's sand in some of the drawings.

There is nothing in that book I didn't have in front of my eyes when I drew it. It's like a proof of my existence. I also take a lot of pictures and read them for that quality of fleetingness I am trying to capture in my paintings.

It's hard to paint time.

"Cranes," oil on canvas, 30" x 36"

PH: What's the first ever piece of art you remember making?

DM: I remember a painting (poster paint on newsprint) I did in kindergarten because I had to defend it. The kid next to me said it wasn't a washing-machine, it was scribble. He pronounced it 'gribble'. I told him it was a washing machine because I said it was a washing-machine.

PH: Finally, and you can answer this in any way that's meaningful to you: why are you an artist?

DM: I was born that way. I've done a fair bit of writing over the years. I love literature. Someone once asked me why I couldn't write something 'nice' for a change. Though it was frustrating to have to explain, I told her that I didn't get to choose, it chose me. My job was to get it all down and hope I had enough talent to complete the work. That's the nervous part.

I tried very hard not to be an artist, but ever since I was a child, all I ever wanted was a masterpiece; just one, that would come into being by my own hands and light my world on fire. Nothing could compete with that, no matter how much I tried to convince myself it could.

If you liked this interview, and you'd like to keep up to date with the series, why not Subscribe, or sign-up via Google Connect, using one of the options over on the right? Thanks, and keep creating.

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