Art - Recent Work

The Cultivation of Enlightenment

 

⊛  The Cultivation of Enlightenment    
⊛  cut paper + washi + chiyogami / wood  
⊛  6 x 4 in • 150 x 100 cm

 

You would be forgiven for thinking that a person who suffers from severe pollen-based nasal distress would have a more negative take on the theme of flowers and gardens.  The truth is that I have fond memories of the gardens on the family farm.  Admittedly my fondness comes more from scarfing down the tomatoes than from tilling and fertilizing, but still.

The Cultivation of Enlightenment came into being as a commission for a long-time collector - actually, she always comes up with such inspiring themes that she's more of a collaborator.  She mentioned that she's been spending time in the garden recently, and my art mind took off at a sprint.

Based on the idea of the garden as an organic font of wisdom,  this piece ties nicely into my regular themes of enlightenment from chaos, and the concept that thoughts and wisdom can be contagious and passed around - and not always from person to person.

After a bit of research, I found some funky, weirdly beautiful flowers that I fell in love with called Bladder Campions. Not the prettiest name in the world, to be sure. Apparently they can be found in both Europe and the US (where they are considered weeds), but I really responded to the shape, the oddness, and how interesting they would be to cut.

Our protagonist - the recipient of this (super?)natural sagacity,  is a reflection of the shapes and colors of the flower.

Speaking of colors, I was looking for a paper that seemed to represent the idea of a garden without being a literal representation of one. I think the paper I picked does the job nicely, implying nature and colors, perhaps just out of focus.

 
 

Sakura Blossom Season

 

⊛  Sakura Blossom Season  
⊛  cut and torn washi and chiyogami paper on wood panel  
⊛  9 x 6.2 in / 227 x 158 mm  
⊛  private collection / commission

 

Delicacy and power are not two words which are often associated with each other. The blossoms of the cherry tree [桜の木 / sakura no ki] for example, bring to mind fragility and impermanence. Dragons, on the other hand, are all fire and claws, shimmering scales rippling over sinewy muscle, terrible in their magnificence.

Still, there is a subtle and quiet power to the blossom which, having come untethered from its branch, glides slowly on the wind, inevitably and inexorably to the dirt below. It is nature's gentlest way of showing us that all beauty must whither, all life must end, all things shall eventually fade.

The dragon's roar may be muffled by the whisper of a blossom touching earth.

detail: teeth, scales, and hair

sketch: the shape of a dragon

sketch: a cherry tree

Portrait of Lady in Green

 

⊛  Portrait of Lady in Green  
⊛  cut + torn washi + chiyogami paper / wood  
⊛  13.8 x 10.6 in / 350 x 270 mm  
⊛  private collection

 

I've often been asked why most of the artwork I create features weird and quirky creatures, spirits, or animals rather than, say, people. There are really a couple reasons for this.

The most basic is that I don't actually sit down with the intention of drawing (when I sketch) beasts. In my mind I'm drawing a feeling or a complicated amalgamation of things that have been bouncing around inside my skull. In the act of translation from abstract idea to concrete paper, these odd shapes are born.

The second reason is more intentional. Our eyes are trained, through experience and genetics, to see anthropomorphic shapes and people everywhere. When we do see these "people", we often empathize with them and want to feel a more personal connection. The first question on our lips is "Who is this, and what is their name?". In much the same way that it can be difficult to see past a real person's face to their interior motives, it can also be challenging to move past the painted portrait to recognize the concept underneath.

Recently, I've come to embrace this challenge and dabble with "portraiture" a bit more. The quotation marks are there because, at least so far, these have not been portraits of actual "people". Like the non-homo sapiens in my work, these are more representations of natural forces, ideas, and emotions.

The Lady in Green, for example, is a woman, certainly. A woman who is growing in self-confidence and recognition of her own power. This growth manifests botanically, organically spreading, rising, and flowering. Even the paper used in her clothing is shot through with actual plants creating that beautiful play of light and dark greens.

The face and hands are from two layers of chiyogami paper. The top is a sakura blossom pattern - another call out to the natural world. Under that is a layer of gold - which, admittedly, I was afraid to commit to at first (fear is often a good sign when making art). Now, the way the light shifts and the face transforms as one walks past the piece is one of my favorite aspects.

Here are some details from the work (which in itself is one of my most detailed works):

Detail: face

Detail: collar

Detail: hands

Work-in-progress: white collar

 Portrait of Lady in Green, framed

Portrait of Lady in Green, framed

Through the Pines

 

⊛  Through the Pines  
⊛  cut washi + chiyogami paper / board  
⊛  10 x 8 in / 254 x 203 mm  

 

Happy New Year! あけましておめでとうございます!

There are times when familiarity can work against us; when deep and specific knowledge of a subject can render it more difficult to delve to the core. As many of you know, I grew up on a farm. On that farm we had horses. Horses, in turn, have personalities. Very distinct and strong personalities. Even though I've forgotten many of their names I remember their characters. In my head, they're similar to the dwarves in Snow White, or Smurfs, recalled only by a group of traits. My horse was young, untrained, exuberant and uncontrollable - not a great pairing for a newbie rider, admittedly. My father's first horse was clever and spiteful - and hated my mother something fierce. My brother's pinto was calm and steady. Another was dumb as a fence post.

The point being that it's tough for me to boil down all of these unique horses into that one iconic animal The Horse.

In the end, this obsidian equine emerged; more a bold and powerful stallion than a dreamy unicorn.

2014 is the year of the wood [木/甲] horse [午], which fits nicely with the Japanese New Year's symbology of the pine. The pine [松] is long-lived, steadfast, and brings good fortune - things which I wish for all of you in the coming year. As with all of my zodiac pieces, the animal, it's spirit, and nature are one. The horse is the evergreen out of which sprouts the horse.

I was surprised to realize that this was the first time I've cut a Japanese-style pine tree. Weird, considering my penchant for twisted and curvy shapes. The billion-and-one pine needles might have had something to do with it. I'm sure it won't be my last time, though.

It would be a dreadful bit of absent-mindedness if I didn't mention that this horse features prominently on the January page of the 2014 Cut Paper Art Calendar, which is available in the shop now.

 Original sketch - note the ambiguous pine

Original sketch - note the ambiguous pine

 detail - the mane, the pines & a bit of horsey kanji [午]

detail - the mane, the pines & a bit of horsey kanji [午]

 detail - hooves

detail - hooves