Thursday, June 05, 2008

making the rules

Regarding rules and structure when planning future paintings or series of paintings, I've always liked a phrase Robert Genn often uses, "I play better tennis because there's a court". While reflecting on this post I started planning a series of work and decided to approach it a little differently this time by breaking it into 'need to please' categories. That meant deciding (a) who this work would be for and (b) what they want. Hopefully this would dictate how I would deliver it.

On my indispensable post-it note pad, where all my ideas start (and then end up in the weirdest places), I decided that the work 'needs to please' (a) the gallery who would present it, (b) the (so-called) buying public and (c) me. Memememe. I'm no fool and I knew that, in the end, I am the neediest of the hungry mouths, in spite of my pragmatic approach. So as not to overburden the process I limited myself to two criteria for each.

This is what I came up with:
(a) The gallery wants my distinctive drawings-on-black and the theme of the show is 'seasons'. There was more but I needed to be a rules Nazi and not completely limit myself.
(b) People want accessible subject matter and I see a real move towards a desire for simplicity these days.
(c) I don't want to do landscapes. Landscapes are the eternal thorn in my side as everyone appears to like them but I only like to create them occasionally. I wanted to stick with my always-strong desire to use symbolism and spirituality. I also wanted to use natural

After setting myself limits it was surprisingly easy to proceed. I stumbled upon the Celtic lunar tree calendar and decided to impose my style on each of the 'tree months' with their associated symbolism to do symmetrically simple drawings. Here is the first month, the Birch tree, which includes the white stag and the sun:

Framed in a large, simple shadow box frame, the result is about 21" x 21" x 2".

"Robert Graves' interpretation of an ancient poem,
The Song of Amergin, appears to be the basis for this calendar". He relies more on the poetic than the archaeological ~ w
hich suits me just fine!


Blogger Caroline said...

Gorgeous work. I've always been amazed at how adding appropriate constraints frees up everything else. And its especially good to make you own rules as they can be broken if needed.

But how odd that the calendar you link to should be attempting to put fixed solar calendar dates to a 13 month calendar - those are usually lunar and wander!

5/6/08 12:55 p.m.  
Blogger Leah said...

totally love this piece. and what a fabulous idea to follow the theme of the celtic calendar!

5/6/08 1:42 p.m.  
Blogger Ellen said...

It's like you're your own art director (and that's the best kind to have). I like the idea of giving yourself specific, rich narratives beyond the theme you have to adhere to. Too many options can paralyze you I'm discovering. Rule making may seem initially stifling but really it's freeing. Nice work!

5/6/08 2:06 p.m.  
Blogger tlc illustration said...

I've used the Celtic tree calender as a basis for a number of pieces too. I'm always surprised (although, I'm not sure why I am - it really is to be expected, I suppose) at how wildly the source material for such things differs..

Looking forward to seeing how you continue to interpret it.

5/6/08 2:35 p.m.  
Blogger dinahmow said...

Ah, the rules thing! Last week, I was delighted to have been able to "drop" the suggested theme for our big September show. But, now that it's free choice, I'm hearing a few "what should I do?" voices!

I loved the small picture on the other site, but the framing really lifts this.

5/6/08 2:42 p.m.  
Blogger Angela Rockett said...


5/6/08 4:12 p.m.  
Blogger Janvangogh said...

When you figure out how to mass produce the organization thing, bottle it and send it my way. :-)

Great picture as always.

5/6/08 7:49 p.m.  
Blogger Toni said...

I've always loved your drawings on black. and your symbols and spirituality.

5/6/08 8:07 p.m.  
Blogger Hayden said...

Love it!

5/6/08 9:13 p.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I really like this piece! The black really captures and sets the piece. I'm going to have to follow up on the Celtic calendar. I'd forgotten about it. As far as rules go, I've been telling myself I need to learn them so I know how to break them or maybe that should be flex them :D

6/6/08 5:23 a.m.  
Blogger nadine said...

ditto ditto ditto
So glad you shared your thought process. (You are still a teacher!)
I have always loved your very colourful work, but this one really catches my eye and attention. Can't wait to see the rest.

6/6/08 6:16 a.m.  
Blogger Donn said...

I love that piece..really beautiful and uber cool..tranquil.

My rules on rules;
You can choose to ignore them,
bend them,
or break them.

It really depends on who made them and if they are designed to protect everyone from themselves (like traffic regulations)..

if I made the rules, then I feel more comfortable, no let's say adamant, about bending and breaking them to dovetail with my situational ethics.

I thrive on kvetching about really stupid, inconsequential, rules that some freakin' idiot dreamed up just for something to do...
being passive aggressive prevents me from breaking most of them but man am I going to love whining about it...that'll show them!

6/6/08 8:34 a.m.  
Blogger andrea said...

Caro: Thanks. There's more about it here:

Leah: It was amazing that it just dropped in my lap the way it did. I was lucky.

Ellen: Yes! Choice is not freedom at all, especially for people like me who have a hell of a time making decisions.

Tara: I guess, when you throw in the creative human factor and the need to tell stories and own things, these things are bound to happen. Not so great for historical fact but awesome for legend, myth, fiction, etc! :)

Dinah: Once again, I saw the frame first and then did the drawing to fit. Talk about tennis courts, eh?

Angela, Jan, Toni & Hayden: Thanks!

Vickie: I tend to be a rules scoffer, though I only break them if I see no other way.

Nadine: More today I hope! I think you're right about the teacher thig -- this blog allows me the outlet.

Donn: My favourite phrase about rules: It's always been done this way! (So how did the human race ever advance to its current state? OK, let me rephrase that... :) I'm like you: question everything, complain a lot, but only break the rules if the rules are just too stupid to exist in the first place.

6/6/08 9:21 a.m.  
Blogger Peter said...

Ah, you've gotta love the Birch tree!!!!!

6/6/08 11:19 a.m.  
Blogger Caroline said...

Have you been looking at the corresponding (possibly) runes as well?

6/6/08 1:24 p.m.  
Blogger Cestandrea said...

Very very beautiful painting, and the framing is wonderful for it! Very interesting, the symbolism, the lunar calendar...

I ove the simplicity yet complexity of it. Andrea

6/6/08 2:09 p.m.  
Blogger Melody said...

This piece is fabulous. I love that you only do landscapes occasionally. Your symbolic work really speaks to me.

8/6/08 12:18 p.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tree months! I love that. And I cn tell I'm going to enjoy this series.

8/6/08 2:46 p.m.  
Blogger Within Without said...

Beautiful work, as usual.

But your narrative leading up to it -- who you have to please and how, meaning you most of all as the hungriest of mouths -- is fascinating and enlightening.

And the staying within the rules and the need to be disciplined...creativity still shines through, under the most harsh of circumstances.

9/6/08 5:56 a.m.  
Blogger Katherine Tyrrell said...

Thanks for explaining your approach.

The finished calendar is wonderful!

29/9/08 8:24 a.m.  

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