Initially, it was my intuition that art would have to compete with other eye-catching visual mediums such as movies and TV. So, I painted bright. I started two branches of painting: abstract, but still representative, and decorative. Later, I added a third branch, that of realism, which was beyond my initial skills. One of my biggest struggles has been to make up for the lack of spontaneity. When I paint a picture, it is planned. Water-based tempera does not lend itself to spontaneity. However, I paint with zeal and strive to express a sense of emotion in most of my paintings. I want them to have a soul. In some of my paintings, such as "The Tip of Pi in Your Eye", I try to tickle the viewer's brain. In my decorative paintings, I simply try to tickle the viewer's eye.
It is impossible to cheat at art. There is no method that is "illegal", no technique that is "outlawed". It is possible to be fraudulent, such as attributing one's art to someone else, but that is a legal matter, not an artistic one. There is no right or wrong, no right color, no correct medium, no right technique, and no right composition. Nothing is against the rules. As an example, certain artists in the tenth through the eighteenth century may have used a device called a camera obscura. For me, this was of scientific interest, but completely irrelevant when it came to judging the art that was produced.
Words in Art:
Despite my certainty that nothing is "illegal" in art, I believe that the use of words in art limits the art. The most that words can be is decorative art, if the words are, in deed, decorative. I do not believe that art should rely on language, that is what poetry is for. I believe that art should be able to be appreciated by individuals of different cultures and languages, because the message is the image, much as music can be appreciated cross-culturally without the need to understand a language. However, one must on occasion make minor compromises. One cannot ignore the desire of humans to have things named. I have surrendered to this human condition and have named many of my paintings. The actual truth is that what I think a painting is about is irrelevant to the viewer who is re-creating the painting in his or her mind. Also, if the truth be known, I change the names on a regular basis.
A few years ago I was in the Philadelphia Museum of Art where there is an entire gallery dedicated to the work of Cy Twombly. To my esthetic, the images are nothing more than crayon scribbling with occasional numbers written in pencil. There was a man studying the numbers, evidently trying to figure out what they meant. I painted three paintings to demonstrate the proper way to use words in art. They are named; "Rant", "Love Poem", and "Sugar People". In a tip of my hat to the young man in Philadelphia, it is possible to convert the decoration into words. The alphabet is encoded in the boundary. I wouldn't advise trying to decode it. I think I misspelled a word somewhere in "Rant".
The Future of Two-dimensional Art:
Two-dimensional art has passed a threshold in which there has been a paradigm change. Prior to perhaps 1960, artists had stretched the possibilities from minimalism to photorealism, from cerebral conceptual art to emotional abstract expressionism. In other words, former artists have established the "legitimacy" of the complete range of artist expression. In fact, I believe there is no longer an avant-garde in two-dimensional art. This has resulted in a problem that I perceive every time I visit a contemporary art museum; the curators don't have a clue. The issue is that collectors must now chose the "best" work in a particular genre as opposed to a genre in general.
In art museums there are wonderful pieces of art and there are poor pieces of art. When I say poor, I am using my own taste as a reference even though I realize that there is a legitimate disagreement among those who appreciate art as to what is wonderful and what is not. Nonetheless, art museums would rather display a mediocre piece by a famous artist than a superb piece by an unknown artist. To some extent, museums have become little more than autograph collectors, collecting for rarity rather than intrinsic value, much as stamp or coin collectors behave. I have experienced the same mind set when I have discussed art with some individuals. I have been told that great artists always paint great pictures. Balderdash! There is not an artist, past or present, who has not painted failed pictures. Some famous artists may have destroyed them, while others did not and museums have latched onto them for the signature.
We have the great fortune of living in a time like no other. I believe that there are currently more great artists alive and producing than in the entire history of mankind combined. There are so many great artists that superior art is the expected product and therefore not valued as something really special.
As a result of what I am convinced is a change in the paradigm of art, a paradigm in which there are a great number of superb artists painting in all categories of art, it is time to judge each work on its own merits, a much more challenging task than simply judging a piece by the signature attached to it. To do this requires an educated public. The education can be formal or informal. This education allows a person to judge a picture and have confidence in one's own opinion. I am not convinced this will occur because the vast majority of people are not interested. Only governmental support of art education (including music, performance art and all other forms of artistic expression) can make a difference. However, in the United States, a decision has been made on some generalized level, possibly both political and cultural, that art is not important, perhaps because it is not clear how it relates to the "bottom line", the ultimate measure of "success".
Where does art come from? We are all born with the ability to express ourselves with images. This is the reason that there is so much wonderful art done by young children, but then something happens. What happens is that authority figures begin to influence us in subtle ways so that we no longer feel the freedom to do as we please, with no rules. Over time, we forget how to be free; we no longer have the courage to do as we please and accept it as "good". I believe that art is not made, it is allowed. The challenge is to let it become, not to force it to become. In my case, I occasionally find images that are meaningful for me in dreams, but a more common source is daydreaming. Daydreaming may be the single most underrated activity in which humans can participate.
Any one who appreciates art is creating art. The artifact is nothing more than a reflection of different wavelengths of electromagnetic energy until it is perceived. Each time a viewer consciously sees a piece of art, they are re-creating it, much as a singer or a musician re-creates a piece of music. It is possible for a viewer to spend enough creative energy in re-creating a piece that it becomes more than the artist was capable of producing. Sometimes I believe that the more an artist puts into a picture (not necessarily simply more detail), the less effort is required by the viewer to re-create it.
The days of our lives can become repetitious cycles so that one day becomes the same as the last and the same as the next, but art allows one to step out of that mundane cycle and experience something different, something that brings new life to the day. I think of art as a way to communicate with the future as well as the present. Even though I paint with tempera on paper, if cared for and valued, it will last hundreds of years. However, in the cosmologic scope of time, hundreds of years are nothing. The oldest substantial art I am aware of is from about 3000 BC from the Minoan culture (if one ignores cave paintings). Even this is but a blink in time. There can be no doubt that nothing is permanent; everything is ephemeral, including the Earth itself.