Drawing With NO Figures is a Challenge
My art has deep roots in the world of whimsy and cartoons so drawing with no figures is a challenge! My hand has a natural tendency to draw an animal in this corner reaching towards another animal or flower just over there. But for the first thirty paintings and drawings of my new series I am not allowing myself to add any recognizable figures to the work.
Why would an artist limit themselves like this?
For me, there are a couple of reasons.
- I like a challenge because it stretches me creatively and that’s always a good thing. Discoveries happen and permeate all through the rest of my art and even my life!
- To allow my art to be more attractive to collectors who think my pop art is a slight bit juvenile. Too sweet or silly to hang in their homes. My pop art gets a lot of positive feedback through the various social media platforms I post it on, but sales could be stronger.
My art pal, Diane Varney (left) and I hopped on a first class bus to Mexico City. Destination: the annual art expo there. I wanted to immerse myself in the world of contemporary art, to spot trends, follow focus and see how other creatives were envisioning their messaging in the current time. ZonaMaco is Latin America’s leading art expo. There were a plethora of galleries there with an abundance of current and recent international contemporary artists. They’re working in all manner of media.
What stood out for me were the:
- bold statements that seemed careless or apparently incidental. Paintings with unfinished edges, crappy drawings given beautiful frames and plenty of white wall space. Assemblages that looked worn or, at best, unkempt.
- reverence given to recent local popular artists (Fernando Botero, Leonor Carrington, etc). These are artists whose work I can totally appreciate and find completely accessible. Both worked with drawing, painting and sculpture (lost wax bronzes)
- some of the obsessive work of younger artists (the giant scroll of inter-related drawing unrolled up a 12′ wall of Yanieb Fabre and the collaged paint chip assemblages of a young Guatemalan artist collected from decaying buildings and walls throughout his travels, whose name I can’t remember. NOTE: why, of why, did I not just ask him for his business card? I need to get a lot better at that again, lol.
But there were two other major events my partner in adventure and I scoped out as well. Material, another expo, held in a defunct sports stadium that was even more international than MACO. And finally there was ACME, held in a decaying, but styled, 200 year old apartment building and featured the works of truly emerging artists and galleries, again with an international flair.
The exquisite decay of the ACME venue was perfect for the art….
The three day adventure also allowed us to spend time at Mexico City’s fantastic Art Deco building, Museo del Palacio de Belles Artes. We took in some Diego Rivera murals. We also stopped in at his and Frida Kahlo’s co-joined houses where we got a feel for their lives as artists. Diego’s studio was wonderful but I was too cheap to pay the extra 30 pesos to be allowed to take photos, sorry.
This art adventure definitely covered the bases and helped kickstart my interest in taking a new approach with my own art. I did this sketch one morning in between the day’s major excursions. It is definitely different from my pop art! But there are familiar elements too.
I’m looking forward to seeing where this new work takes me!
Abstract instead of Pop Art
Absolutely ALL of my professional life as an artist has been in pursuit of creative representations, usually in a colorful, cartoony way of animals, landscapes and figures. I have enjoyed great success doing so. Not Keith Haring, Jean-Michael Basquiet or Romero Britto success by any means, but I have mostly been able to make my living with my art. (NOTE: as I googled some recent pop art artists NO FEMALES showed up in any of the top results or lists in articles and blogs…..booo! Something I may discuss at a later date, because believe me, there are a plethora of women making some kick-ass GREAT pop art)
What was I saying? Oh yeah. I’ve made a LOT of money selling my art and imagery on stuff like prints, leggings, cards, blah, blah, blah. But I have unwaveringly created my stuff using a light touch and a lot of animals and googly eyes. For years I have heard that my art is perfect for children’s projectss. And I’m glad people have thought so! But I have more to say.
Because of my light touch there has been a tendency for the public to not take my art seriously. Even my multi-media series that focused on the “natural history of a dream land” was largely dismissed as sweet. Here’s the trailer for that book:
Smart Pop Art
But with HapiLani, I was exploring, in a visual way, aspects of the potential for parallel universes from the standpoint of what string theorists and particle physicists were discovering and writing excitedly about. With that body of work, catalogued in this self-published book, I was positing alternates to how we as people might discourse about thoughts and dreams. I was demonstrating how we can potentially influence global outcome towards the positive by creating a shift in our internal dialogue. Then I offered all this proof through the pieces I made that represented those collected in my travels to this dream place. I explained its natural history and offered illustrations, artifacts, maps, life forms from there. I discussed my findings from having visited there myself. Anyway, this was a huge big deal to me. Still is. But almost no one but my most ardent followers took me terribly seriously. Why?
Too Smart? Too Light?
I think people had a difficult time connecting these deeply scientific and spiritual explorations with my pop art style. You know, because of my light touch and the fact that I like to draw smiles on things. Now, I happen to believe every single creature and object on the face of this earth (and beyond) has the potential to somehow be animate. It’s all how we position explanations in our own minds. I also think there is some fantastic and amazing ‘coincidences’ and ‘synchronicities’ between thoughts and dreams and how we place ourselves in this thing we call the ‘real world’. So I ponder these potentials and run them through my understandings of what people way smarter than me are discovering. Then I send it all through the “Marti filter” and out come these happy representations.
I could go on and on and have, to some extent, in the book.
I love happy colors and beautiful, hopeful thoughts. I use them to offset my own gloom and doom. I have figured that the world appreciates my work and wants me to help us all smile. But I want to make some deeper connections with more people right now.
I need more people to take what I do seriously. So I’m going to have to help them do that. I’m not certain what this is all going to look like with my paintings or drawings. But I think I need to remove some of the whimsy and dig deeper into how others process the world through artistic representation and meet them halfway if I can.
First Assignment with Abstract Instead of Pop Art
Now I’m creating my own program to help re-direct myself towards creating a new body of work that others find much easier to take seriously. My topics aren’t going to change. But the way I represent them is. What’s that going to look like? Well, fewer googly eyes. That’s for starters. I’m also thinking of creating 30 pieces – paintings, drawings – without any figures whatsoever to just break some habits within my own way of approaching the blank page.
So, abstract instead of pop art. Is it gonna work for me? Let’s find out together! You can follow my progress, and frustrations, failures, challenges and breakthroughs through the brand new Instagram account I set up this morning just for this new work. NONE of my old work is going away. I will still BE HappyArt. I have several ongoing illustration projects I’m working on there concurrent with this one. But if you decide to, you’ll be able to see me make my way through discovering some new ways to reach people with my art. I’m excited and full of dread all at the same time. What if no one likes what I make? What if I don’t like what I make? Aye yi yi! Well, it’s time to find out!
I’ll be posting on this Instagram account created to house this work. There’s almost nothing there yet. This is ALL NEW to me too!!