Unreal Nature

May 31, 2016

Wonderful Washes and Puddles

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:46 am

… I didn’t learn that in a watercolor class. I learned it from the porcelain plate.

This is from Realists at Work by John Arthur (1983). This is from the studio interview with Joseph Raffael:

[ … ]

Joseph Raffael: … My art is about how everything changes, moves from one state to another. People will read this and may quote me for years, but, in fact, this is simply the way I feel right now. I gave a talk in September 1982 in conjunction with the seminars that I’ve been giving. Afterwards, someone asked me if I were never to paint again, would that be OK? I said, “Absolutely.” At that moment it was true.

[line break added] The next day, however, I realized that more than anything else in the world I want to be an artist. What I like about Picasso’s work is that it shows the whole spectrum of his being. Some of it is junk, just as part of us is junk. We’re not always “tens.” Sometimes I’m not even on the scale, and sometimes I”m more than ten.

For me, art is a mercurial, ethereal, ever-changing miracle — and I love it.

Joseph Raffael, Matthew’s Branch, 1981

[ … ]

John Arthur: I haven’t seen more than two or three drawings by you.

J.R.: Uhmm. I have a note on my desk, “Make more drawings.” I never get around to it. What keeps me from drawing is that I like the volume of color. Drawing doesn’t give me that.

[ … ]

J.R.: … For me, doing the watercolors has been a way of letting go. I’ll want one to look a certain way, but it will dry the way it wants to, so I’ve really learned about letting go of preconceived ideas. It’s been very freeing. They end up as I could never have imagined.

J.A.: Did you study watercolor?

J.R.: No, I didn’t. I’ll tell you how I got into using watercolor this way. I used to have a white porcelain dish that I used as my palette. I’d squeeze out the watercolors on the dish to mix the colors or dilute them to get them to the right consistency. Then I’d do these very tight, tedious watercolors. But I’d look at the dish with those wonderful washes and puddles of color and they were incredible, so luminous and natural.

[line break added] That informed my painting. I built up my painting ground to almost a mirror-like surface to get it like the porcelain so the oil would stay on top. Then I started loosening up with the watercolors, too. I didn’t learn that in a watercolor class. I learned it from the porcelain plate.

[ … ]

J.A.: Does bouncing around from one thing to another distract you at all?

J.R.: Sometimes the less I have on my mind, the better the work goes. Like, when I’m on the phone I’ll be painting, and that may be when the most interesting things happen, when I’m not concentrating so hard. It’s like worrying about something and then waking up in the middle of the night to say, “Ah! That’s it!” It may just come when I let go.

[ … ]

J.R.: … an art opening is to me one of the most uncivilized and unfeeling events imaginable. Only recently have I been able to distinguish the difference between being an artist and being in the art world. Being an artist is very important to me, but I don’t enjoy being in the “art world.” It’s very far from my reason for being an artist.

The other day a high school student asked me what I wanted people to get from my art. My answer is simple: “Themselves.” I want them to remember themselves. That’s what I get from my favorite artists. They help me remember what I’ve forgotten.

Joseph Raffael, Friendship’s Forest, 2002

My previous post from Arthur’s book is here.




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