Gorilla House LIVE ART: September 19, 2012

I was in my early years of teaching when I came upon the books, Art Synectics and Design Synectics: Stimulating Creativity and Design by Nicholas Roukes and that is when my life as an arts educator really began to evolve.   In the second of these books, I first discovered words that described how I had been learning/thinking…to that point.  While we most often associate the word synectics with technology, in truth, our brains are wired this way (some more than others) and so we, as humans, are ‘synectic’ thinkers.

The most basic of explanations is to compare a stimuli/object/image/song to a pin ball.  Drawing back on the spring, the pin ball is shot forward, finding its way into the body of the machine.  At this point, it begins to boink off of various OTHER stimuli and the binging begins…the lights go off…the points are scored.

Finally, I was offered a description of how I thought and had always been thinking.  I was not a linear thinker.  It took me more time than others to describe my beliefs/ideas and feelings about things because there was, in fact, so much going on in my head at one time about pretty much every new idea/concept or visual stimuli.  That’s why I learned that writing and art gave me a way to archive my thoughts and reactions.  I was not the child in school who benefited from being asked to answer a question on the spot.  Instead, I sought to understand.

These last years I have learned a huge respect for a mathematics/drama teacher, Kelly, who uses strategies to engage such learners.  Students have time to make meaning while creating foldables.  Such methodology reaches into the creative side of students and gives them the time and the imagery to make sense of a concept.

Image from Open House Pizazz

Working 4 the Classroom Photo

Now…to the Gorilla House LIVE ART battles!

Creativity is the marvelous capacity to grasp mutually distinct realities and draw a spark from their juxtaposition – Max Ernst

The real poet studies the world as it is: lovely, terrible, sensible, grotesque; and would ask for no other in its place. Humor is the final sign and seal of seriousness for it is a proof that reality is held in honor and in love.  – Mark van Doren

Last evening’s concepts for the two hour art battle seemed, to me, disjointed…even more so than is typical and yes, somewhat dark.  1. hairless (Yes…that was the artist/audience reaction as well!) 2.  lessons from life and 3. self destruction.  While I’d have to agree that this piece is one of my ‘darker’ paintings at the Gorilla House, I tried to take a positive spin on the concept of self destruction.

Here’s what I was thinking…

We spend much of our time reacting.  Back to the pinball analogy!  In short, what I’ve noticed is that along the way, when I have felt things pulling apart within me, those are the times that I have re-created myself and grown into someone stronger, more evolved and generally, more interesting.  No one wishes for bad things to happen to anyone!  But let’s face it, _______ happens.  And when it does, we have basically been given an opportunity.

Photo by Terry Storey

The painting of the figure (androgynous and having no racial profile), without uniform or clothing…vulnerable…became key, but not key.  The figure contains the cosmos at its heart.  It finds itself in that moment of being ‘stripped’ of everything…and it is at this moment that the ‘spirit’ and the mind begins the process of reconstructing, re-energizing and becoming something else.

Why red?

For a zillion years I painted a ground of cadmium red medium as an underpinning for all of my ‘pretty’ landscapes.  There is a tradition, even among the Group of Seven, to activate a blank canvas by creating a ground.

In 1917, Thomson painted what is probably the most famous of all Canadian images, a pine tree, standing battered but strong against the elements. For many, the painting is the quintessential image of the Canadian spirit. The picture vibrates with colour. Presumably lakes and the sky are blue, but his picture is pink, violet, green. And to make the colours even more vibrant through complimentary contrast, he allowed spots of the red under-painting to show through.”  Written by Dale Smith and found here.

Having visited many of these paintings over time, I’d have to say that the under painting is a rich  yellow ochre.

Neil Patterson once explained and demonstrated in a painting workshop that he uses black.

In oils, I used red.  This created a real play between complementary colours and caused the eye to float through the small, sometimes unnoticed passages of red.  For me…red represented passion, pain and sadness, elation…all of it.  I patiently waited for my under paintings to dry and then generated epic landscapes on top.

Oldman at Maycroft Crossing

These days, the red has surfaced. During one of those times when I ‘fell apart’, I became far more outward looking and less inward in my thoughts.  I plugged into my faith…read scripture and also read about the demise of countless species.  I thought about my father and his gesture, saving a single pelican that had lost its wing as all of the other pelicans abandoned it on their southbound migration from a Montana river.

Then, inspired by Brian Skerry’s work and given his permission to use his photographs as references, I began to paint A Covenant Series.  The red continued to surface as I looked at the status of the beluga whale population on the St. Lawrence River and then watched the film, The Cove and learned about the struggle of the cetacean populations in various parts of the world.

I have recently learned that I only want to paint from a place of authenticity.  I want to be true to myself.  This has taken some time. The piece that I painted last night tells that story in visual terms.

Last night, Terry Storey, an awesome photographer, purchased my piece.  It is important to me that he saw something in this piece that spoke to him.  I am looking forward to working with Terry on some interesting projects.  It was another great night at the Gorilla House!

The post-battle chat was once again, inspiring.  Thanks to my friend-Gorillas.

Bruce, deep in thought.

2 thoughts on “Gorilla House LIVE ART: September 19, 2012

  1. Wonderful post and superb art – and what a waterfall of words – so much to contemplate here, I am swimming in your ideas and thoughts – and burning in the reds and power of your paintings. I was also inspired by Nicholas Roukes in my early years of teaching and his books still have a place of honour on my shelf…

  2. If you liked Nicholas Roukes…you would like Annie Smith…a beautiful person and arts educator who I knew personally. She passed away, too young, from cancer…but she fought the good fight and she created an entire generation of amazing arts educators who value the place of art history and art in the school system. Thanks for writing a comment, John.

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