Trying to find a good version of Chopin’s Nocturne Op.9 on iTunes I find myself going through some strange feelings while listening to the different versions by different artists. In most cases, I feel this strong irritations at those who are doing it “wrong”. They slow down in sentimental parts too much, making it sound artificial, or they play around with the notes trying to sound fancy, or they space the notes in such a way that makes it sound “sophisticated” but completely loses touch with the emotional content.
I think to myself: It is just like those dancers who have perfected the moves of the dance so much that they seem to be a caricature of expressing feelings instead of expressing them through dance. Or in the second case, the artist is trying to make it about themselves rather than the music by trying to play it in a fancy way. Arrrggg.
Finally I came across a version that seemed sincere. It’s funny one should use such a word about performing music, but that’s the best suited word I can think of, and, somehow, it feels even more important that music be sincere than regular sentences. I think it irritates me even more in music. I tell the artist (in my head) something like: “Either you devote yourself to the music, connect with it and adore it, or don’t play at all. But don’t try to make something that would seem impressive to the world and abandon the truth of the melody”.
It’s also a lesson about my own art. To keep it sincere means… to keep it inspiring for ME.
I have a lot going on right now. I’m about to finish a painting and start 2 new huge ones: One working from a live model and the other from photo references, and the concept is entirely my own.
I noticed that the evolution of a painting, for me, takes on a strange form, which I suspect requires some psychotherapy to unravel… First I think of an idea, I love it, I get excited about it. Then, I spend a lot of time working on other things, slowly collecting references, sketches and ideas to build up that idea and then after a while, when I’m about to start working on it, I suddenly don’t feel as inspired any more. It is the darnest thing…
Then as I get into it, I rediscover that inspiration here and there.
I have this untested feeling of certainty that had I just started working on the painting for which I had the idea right away, the inspiration would accompany it throughout.
It is almost like a relationship that starts long distance for a while and then becomes close vs. one that starts without the inhibition of being apart and is allowed to develop at a natural pace.
Of course in real life, preparation is always required. The mere matter of the size of the canvas is extremely important and also must be carefully thought out before the painting starts. It’s not something the artist can just jump into. The reason for that is that the last thing you want is to work and create all these magnificent and essential parts of your painting only to discover at the end that you’re missing a foot long canvas to get the feeling you were after. Ouchie. Big Ouchi.
Different artists approached their work differently. Two artists I admire greatly are William Adolf Bouguereau and Frank Frazetta. I find it fascinating that the different work methods they employed seem to be a clear reflection of their personalities, which are also reflected in the difference in their themes.
Frazetta shows human beings, particularly women as very wild, with sexuality being an intuitive and normal part of their nature, while Bouguereau sees and presents them as very gentle and child-like.
Frazetta’s painting style, while very skilled, is much more whimsical, while Bouguereau’s is very very disciplined, patient, sensitive and precise.
Frazetta used to develop his art right on the canvas or paper, working and reworking it until he was happy with it. Bouguereau did many studies and preparations before getting started on the actual piece.
Here are samples of their work. I chose them to show the contrast I was talking about as much as possible (in terms of theme I like other paintings by Bouguereau much better).
Left: Bouguereau, Right: Frazetta.
One important thing to say, though, is that every artist must go through a time of studying visual reality carefully and attentively. No one can start happily inventing without first studying what they see.
When I ask myself, who am I? which style is more “me”, I sadly answer to myself that I am more of a Frazetta person at heart (though I don’t act on it). For whatever reasons from my childhood or not, discipline and patience against an emotional blockade are not primary virtues for me. But when I can invent something – my motivation is abundant.
On one hand I admire the careful construction in Bouguereau’s work. On the other, I enjoy the whimsical attention in Frazetta’s work. I know I am jumping the gun by asking myself these questions, as what is actually required is just to get some work done and discover what I’m like over time. But I couldn’t help introspecting this question.
I currently have a lot of projects going, with one painting at its finishing stages and other 2 starting up. Pictures soon.