“Shoot the Artist at the Right Moment”

There’s some saying I heard once somewhere about how to create a masterpiece:
“Shoot the artist at the right moment.”

Basically, what that’s saying is that artists tend to overwork, never know when to quit, and in the process of going after perfection, end up fucking things up.

I was in the studio yesterday for the first time in what seems like ages (drawing table having been taken over by sewing materials, as it were), and after a couple of minutes, I stopped working, and this is what I saw:

water pastel 300416a

And  I had to work hard – really hard – to stop there.

I actually felt guilty that I could have finished a drawing so quickly. I felt like I was cheating if I didn’t keep going. A mix of Jewish guilt and Protestant work ethic and the sense that I was somehow getting away with something.

Luckily, I managed to overcome all this. Because this is one of my favorite water pastels of all the ones I’ve done so far (series – A4 paper – check out earlier posts if you like).

I’m not sure if I managed to maintain the same sense of spontaneity in this one:

 

water pastel 300416b

Luckily, I had to go cook dinner….

 

 

 

 

A Photographic Interlude

A Photographic Interlude

It was when Mel was in Istanbul being a poet that we were able to take over the house in Foça. In addition to some watercolors of the coastline, I managed to take some photos of some beautiful waterfalls inland, up towards Manisa.

Getting there was an adventure in itself (let’s just say that anytime you’re follow the directions of someone who’s kicking himself in the head because he didn’t Google it first, you really ought to Google it first) – and I’m really not someone who can sit down and start drawing or painting a place I’ve never been to before, anyway – I like to get the feel of a place by walking around and exploring before I can really get into examining it in detail from only one place – so I decided I would take photographs instead (as well as some video, because who knows?, it might come in handy some day).

I figured out a long time ago I was not going to be a professional photographer, and also that I don’t like to carry around a big, heavy camera, so I found myself a great Nikon that might not have all the options of a big ‘SLR’ – but that fits in my front pocket. It’s got a whole lot of gadgets on its ‘menu’, but it won’t let me play with apertures and focal lengths like I’d like to… so I’m sort of limited to ‘one-step-above-point-and-shoot’. Still, it gives me a record of where we’ve been to (and trust me, in this case, we’re not likely to find ourselves there again), keep some ‘digital sketches’ for whatever they might come in handy for, and occasionally act like I’m a ‘real’ photographer…

So, here is my photographic interlude:

pool at bottom of fallsShot Number 1: The Waterfall (because this is where we went)

 

harun at bottom of fallsShot Number 2: The Waterfall with Harun (because this is who I went with)

 

selfie waterfallShot Number 3: The Waterfall with Me and Harun (because a selfie is obligatory)

 

treesShot Number 4: Trees and Moss and Rocks (because I was trying to play with the focus on an auto-focus camera)

 

sepia treesShot Number 5: Trees and Moss and Rocks (because I was trying to be romantic with the sepia setting on the ‘menu’)

 

very cool waterfall poolShot Number 6: Water Falling in a Pool (because I was still trying to play with the focus on an auto-focus camera)

 

high waterfallShot Number 7: Waterfall (because it was a pretty tall waterfall after all)

 

dripsShot Number 8: Drips (because I like to crop things)

 

obliteratedxShot Number 9: Obliterated (because I like to crop things and I like Photoshop)

 

sudsShot Number 10: Suds  (because I really like to crop things and I really like Photoshop)

I hope you enjoyed this photographic interlude.
Now, get back to work!

 

 

 

Heads Above Water

I think that’s going to be the title for my most recent oil pastel drawing in my series of water drawings.

Water Pastel 010416

When I was finishing this drawing, part of me wanted to paint out the white ‘waves’ so that the drawing would be just 2 disembodied heads in a field of blue.
But I kind of like that there is some consistency in how I’ve drawn water over the years.
Consider this drawing of a Bodrum landscape from a few years ago…

Pembe Sis

And then again, I thought of how the video that was part of my ‘Homesickness’ installation was also basically an image of somewhat disembodied people in the water…

inst13

Maybe it’s time to make some more videos…

 

 

Take me to the river, drop me in the water

Water Pastel 040316

Well, not the river but the sea, and I am feeling immersed in it, even though I am presently sitting well above the high-water mark inside a cafe overlooking the sea and Kos. The waves appear to be coming from the west – a reverse-migration? You might not believe me, but the lit-up waves are looking to me just as they do in this picture.

I believe this is a picture of a father and son, son inside a little plastic blow-up tube, probably hasn’t quite learned how to swim yet. The swimming lesson may have been interrupted by something they’ve seen…

Water Pastel 050316

The drawing above started out as two girls talking to each other as they crouched down in the shallow water. Somehow it morphed into two men holding onto a sinking rubber boat, waiting to be rescued…

I was getting a little depressed finding that all my swimmers were morping into drowners; so, I decided to draw a kayaker. She appears to be doing okay, although heading towards a rocky shore…

Water Pastel 090316

I got a message the other day that there the Citizens’ Advisory Council (“Kent Konseyi”) is organizing an exhibit of Bodrum artists; we all get to have 2 pieces in the show. That makes me happy, because I won’t have to choose between swimmers and drowners. I can have both. Bodrum. Just like I pictured it.

Valentine’s Day Open Studio

little wc books 3 f

So, a friend of mine mentioned an artist she read about who was trying to survive on donations she was soliciting as a means of support for her art-making. I’m guessing that if she’s doing this through a crowdfunding web site, she’s “giving away” pieces of artwork as “gifts” to the folks making these donations. I suppose that was what I was doing when I put the Ottoman Princess fundraising campaing on Indiegogo. It allowed me basically to pay the costs of making an installation piece that is not “saleable” by getting support from people who were ostensibly “buying in” to the concept/aim of the Princess Piece.

For Valentine’s Day, I thought I’d just go the route of crash commercialism – in the spirit of the holiday – and open up my studio for people who might want to browse… and shop.
And maybe get a glass of pink wine as well. (In Marxian terms, I suppose a glass of pink wine and a little notebook could be considered equal in exchange value.

little wc books 1 f

Or is it use value? I never was a very good Marxist.

On the other hand, I’m pretty good at telling fortunes, which I found to be a very good way to get people to look carefully at art.

dur

And so I’ll be doing that at the Open Studio this Saturday as well. No charge.

I suppose I could take a line from one of those fake gypsys in their below-the-sidewalk lairs and announce, “I see a beautiful work of art entering your house to make you very happy…”

And then invite someone to look at this marvelous wardrobe, handpainted with an image from one of our favorite beach retreats, and announce that I do commissioned furniture pieces as well…

DEBORAH_DOLAP_2

But mainly, the Valentine’s Day Open Studio is just a way to catch up with old friends

Deborah 2a

and get better acquainted with some new ones

Water Pastel 090216

Happy Valentine’s Day!

(For directions to the studio, just leave a comment, and I’ll get back to you.)

Swimming in the Same Waters

Swimming in the Same Waters

I was taking a break from whatever it is I was taking a break from by having a look at one of my few ‘favorite’ web sites, hyperallergic.com, when what to my surprise should appear before my eyes but a paintng by Katherine Bradford, Surfer, from 2015:

Katherine-Bradford-Surfer-2015-Acrylic-on-canvas-72-x-55-inches-182.88-x-139.70-cm

“Hey,” I thought, I coulda done that!” It reminded me a lot of the lastest series of oil pastels I have been working on, the latest of the latest being:

Water Pastel 220116_a

As I discussed in my recent blog post, I was just titling these for convenience as “Water Pastel date“,  which would make this one “Water Pastel 220116_a”, until I started experimenting with alternative titles for the same pieces. For example, maybe this could be “3 Bathers’, or “Not to be parted from cell phone”, or something else that might lead viewers in various different directions… (Feel free to share your own title suggestion as a “comment”)

When I discovered Katherine Bradford’s paintings on hyperallergic.com, I jokingly mentioned to a friend that apparently I was too late, and that the “little-swimmers-in-a-big-pool niche” had already been take. My friend kindly reminded me that there was room in the pool for everyone.

Katherine-Bradford-Blue-Swimmers-2015-Acrylic-on-canvas-60-x-48-inches-152.40-x-121.92-cm

Interestingly, the review of Bradford’s most recent exhibition in NYC mentioned how she had been compared to David Parks, a California painter who once-upon-a-time had a huge influence on me.

David-park-swimmers

Specifically, way back during my first year of graduate school at the Maryland Institute, I went to a show at the Whitney Museum of Art with a friend from San Francisco (at the time, and in fact still today, Parks, who died way to young, was/is not very well-known outside of California). I stood for about 30 minutes in front of the first painting in the exhibition. From the moment I laid eyes on that painting, I understood that I was not going to keep doing what I had been doing any more, because whatever it was I had been trying to do was something someone else (Parks) had already figured out how to do – and to do way better than I ever imagined it could have been done.

In the intervening 25 years, I swam around the world, only to end up in the same water where I started. But of course, as every philosopher knows, now the water itself is different.

 

 

Titles, a Thought Experiment.

Water Pastel 150116_bSwimming in the Aegean

Today I thought I’d post some more drawings. I’ve been really enjoying working with oil pastels again. I’ve been able to do that thanks to a big piece of turquoise fake fur that I’ve turned into a curtain to keep the cold air out of the studo. Its almost like looking out into the turquoise-blue Aegean… ok, not really…

But from the pictures here it should be clear that we are looking out at the sea – or at least at water: you wouldn’t know it was the Aegean (or any sea, for that matter) unless I did something like title the painting ‘Swimming in the Aegean’, or something similar.

In fact, I hadn’t thought about titles for these drawings until I went to save the digital photos on the computer, which prompted me to ‘Save as.’

So I saved them as Water Pastel (date, a-z).

And I got thinking about the problem of titles again.

I’ve always hated when paintings are ‘titled’ Untitled. It seems to me such a breach of responsibility. One could argue, on the other hand, that a title gives to much ‘direction’ to the viewer, instructing them on exactly how to look at the work. In fact, I vaguley remember there having been times when I have used the strategy of not titling a piece because I wanted to let people find their own way into a work. Most of the time, however, I like to give some kind of instruction – althogh maybe ‘instruction’ isn’t the right word – maybe a title is more like identifying a field – like in charades, when you say (or sign) ‘film’, or ‘book’, or ‘whatever’ to let the other members of your team at least know what ballpark you’re playing in…

In other words, instead of just calling the drawing up above Water Pastel 15.01_b, I could have given it the title, Swimming in the Aegean.

Would that have changed how you looked at the piece?

I think it would have. Although I hate people who go to an exhibit and go straight to the little title card hanging next to a piecce before they look at the piece itself, titles can be very helpful in providing information that can bring a new or different understanding to how you see the work. Sometimes in very surprising ways.

So, let’s try a little experiment:
Here are some of my new oil pastel drawings, with some new titles…

Water Pastel 150116_b
Swimming in the Aegean

 

Water Pastel 150116_a
First Swim of the Season

 

 

Water Pastel 170116_a
Surfs Up

 

Water Pastel 170116_b
Making Waves

 

Water Pastel 150116_b
Look Before Crossing

 

Water Pastel 170116_b
One Down…

 

Water Pastel 170116_a
Drowning Migrant

 

Water Pastel 150116_a
Lonesome 

 

As always, your feedback is appreciated.

 

The Sea in January

Last summer I managed to fit in one boat trip, but that’s all. While the primary goal was to chill out in some  very clean blue water in the company of some very fine women, the secondary goal was to take photos that I could use as sketches for some more water paintings.

Boat Trip

Which I did.
Take the photographs, that is.

But then time passed, and, well, you know how it goes…
By the time I actually got around to feeling up to some more water paintings the solstice had flipped, the proverbial mercury had dropped, and the studio was no longer an advisable location for this flu-prone puppy…

So, instead, as part of the creative process – or the procrastination process, if you prefer – I decided to do a little computer sketching, since that’s something I can do in the warmth of the living room.

Then the weather warmed up a bit, the flu-genies appeared to be cutting me some slack, and I figured out that I could tack up a big turquoise fake fur in front of the studio door like a curtain wall to keep out some of the cold. So I went from these digital sketches

Sketch Just Water 1

Sketch Just Water 2

to some oil pastel drawings

Water Pastel 130116_a

Water Pastel 130116_b

Water Pastel 130116_c

Water Pastel 130116_d

and I think I’ll keep going until I’m all out of blue Sennelier’s.

It’s a challenge to keep my head clear this January…

Predictions, Predictions

Since I came back from New York in October, I’ve maintained the policy of turning on the news as infrequently as possible. Regardless, it is getting to be that time of year when the tv news shows are full of prognosticators called in to reveal what we should all be expecting for the coming year.

Last year, I decided to get into the prediction game myself, with ‘Art Fortunes’. This involved taking 52 collages I had made that were all the same size (each about as big as a postcard) and ‘transforming’ them into a fortunetelling deck.

It was pretty easy to do, because it involved – ta-daaa- absolutely nothing! Nothing, that is, except telling people I could tell their fortune by looking at the cards. As I explained, ‘Art Fortunetelling is based on two premises.

  1. All the world is energy, all life is interconnected, and time is not necessarily linear.
  2. Artworks speak to us because they contain layers of meaning that we can uncover by truly looking.

Just telling (reminding) people that art has meaning was nice for me – and because I was telling people’s own individual fortunes they tended to look a whole lot harder for the meaning in the cards they were picking.

Which was nice.

As an artist, it’s always nice to have people looking at your work.

While some people were happy just to sit back and let me tell them what I saw in the cards, others ran out ahead of me to interpret their own cards. Which made my life as a mystic a lot easier.

———————————————

Below are 2 new cards I made last week. These are the first collaged ‘cards’ I made after having decided to use the collages in fortunetelling, and I found out something very interesting while I was making them.

Nature out of Balance

Forbidden Fruit

What I found out was that… as I was making them, I caught myself consciously trying to interpret them, and everytime I caught myself, I had to stop working. Before, I had had thoughts like, ‘oh, that’s interesting’ and ‘that makes sort of sense there’, but I had never had thoughts like ‘oh, if this is here, then that could mean this.’

Of course, all those possible meanings were there in the previous collages – and when I looked at them after they were finished, I could draw that meaning out – but once I started trying to fix the meaning at the very moment I was working, everything collapsed. My conclusion is:

  1. There are different ways of thinking and different ways of knowing things.
  2. Not all the ways of thinking and knowing work for every task.

I’m fairly sure there’s a philosopher or two out there who has put this much more eloquently and much more clearly. This was all I could manage on my own.

———————————–

To demonstrate the process of how Art Fortunes work, I tried to read my own fortune.

Deck of Fal

After holding onto the deck of cards until I felt as if I had transferred enough of my own energy to them, I spread out the cards face down and picked one without looking. I turned it over, and it turned out to be this one:

Turtle Dreams.jpg I called it Turtle Dreams.

Then, I turned the cards over so I could see all the images, and I looked through them, trying to pick the one card that I felt ‘looked right’ with Turtle Dreams. I looked at all of them and narrowed them down to four possibilities, then out of those four, I picked this one:

Pointy Objects.jpgPointy Objects.

Then, I turned the cards over once again so I couldn’t see the images, and I picked out a third card ‘just by feel’, and without turning it over, I placed it face-down on my black ‘reading cloth’, like this:

Fal reading

Then I started the reading.

The card I picked by looking, Pointy Objects,  is the ‘present consciousness’ card. It’s how you see your current situation – or how you would like to see your current situation. It represents your awareness of what’s going on in your life. In this case, there appears to be a lot of chaos, a lot of violence, and an attempt to flee. Interestingly, Pointy Objects has often been selected by people I’ve done readings for as their ‘present consicousness’ card. I think it is a sign that there is a lot of shit going on in the world. I think you would probably agree.

Turtle Dreams, which is the card I picked without looking, represents the subconscious. It’s what’s going on even if you’re not paying attention. Compared to Pointy Objects, Turtle Dreams still represents an atmosphere fraught with danger, but there is a much greater sense of caution – moving slowly to avoid the danger, rather than running quickly away from it. Unfortunately, it is hard to tell if the turtle is crawling away from the danger zone, or slowly but surely heading right into it. The only way to find out is to look into the future- in this case, the final card, which, when turned over, revealed this:

Floating on PedestalsFloating on Pedestals

Normally, I would have a lot to say about what this card means; in other words, what one can expect to look forward to (or not) in the future. However, when I turned this card over, I found I was without any words, without any interpretive powers at all.

I think what I found out was that you just can’t predict your own future.

————————————————-

Regardless, I wish everyone the best for 2016 – may it be better than 2015 – and may I remain,

Yours truly,

Deborah Semel Demirtaş

Decisions, Decisions…

 

 

One of the things I’ve been wondering about lately is how we make decisions.

Actually, one of the big questions for me is how we decide what we’re going to believe, but that’s way too big for me to take up here.

The much smaller, but still very interesting, question I’ve been thinking about when I’m in the studio is how we – make that ‘I’ – make decisions in a piece of art. So here I’ll try to go through the decision-making process for what I’ve been working on lately, which are collages.

I refer to these as ‘water collages’ – because they’re about water, and they’re collages. Simple enough.

The reasons I decided to start making them are:

  1. I like making collages, and I like water.
  2. I have a small indoor studio space and I like to make small art and collages are not very messy and the weather has gotten cold so I’m not using the space outside these days.
  3. I had a lot of extra paper lying around that I wanted to use up for reasons of ecology and obsessive-compulsivity.
  4. One day while I was making some collages I must have gotten tired of concentrating on juxtaposing images and also probably noticed I had a lot of blue paper, so I thought I could use up the extra paper faster if I just concentrated on making blue collages – and hence water.

Like this:

Water Colalge 3Water Collage No.3 (25x25cm – about 10″)

And this:

 

Water Collage - weird landscape

Water Collage No.4 (25x25cm – about 10″)

And this:

 

 

Water Collage - Island Landscape

Water Collage No.5 (25x25cm – about 10″)

OK, so that explains why the ‘water collages’ in general, but what about the process of making decisions for each collage? That’s a much tougher question – deciding what should go where. I suppose the first reason is:

Because it looks good. That means ‘composition’. I’m paying attention to how the image is balanced – which directions lines are moving, where the darks and lights are – stuff like that – and then if it’s not just abstract color and shape, but a more defined image (looks like an island, looks like a tree, for example), then the ‘meaning’ that comes out of the relationships between the objects (tree on island, tree floating over island, etc.). Sometimes, in fact, it comes down to expediency – i.e., laziness (‘Got a big piece of blue paper cluttering up the worktable? ‘Glue it down!’)

But as far as all that goes, there’s always more than one possibility – always ‘more than one right answer’ – so this really hasn’t explained anything – why decide on one thing from all among all the other possibilities?. Thinking about this reminded me of my favorite art writer – who in fact happens to be a sociologist.

Howard ‘Howie’ Becker, author of ‘Art Worlds’, is one of the editors of ‘Art From Start to Finish’, a lovely book filled with essays about things that get made by artists.

Basically, a lot of decisions just comes down to ‘what feels right’. But why they feel right is a whole ‘nother question…

(By the way, pictures of the Water Collages 1 and 2 are in an earlier post here)