Sketchbook

Gallery

This gallery contains 1 photo.

  By default we think of drawing, both noun and verb, as dragging pencil across paper or the evidence of that action. That is not untrue. If we also consider drawing as anything that works in parallel to, or in preparation for, an artist’s primary practice, then these collages are also drawings. Using cut paper, […]

Continue reading

ARTSD 2016, booth 401

Contemporary art, drawing painting and sculpture by Lee Puffer at ART SAN DIEGO 2016

A view into ART SAN DIEGO 2016 booth 401 featuring work by Lee Puffer. Seen here, Puffer’s three “Brainstorm” sculptures (purple, blue, and yellow) five sets of white porcelain and gold hand sculptures (below, foreground), and two large framed “Brainstorm” drawings (on wall, behind sculpture). All work is for sale.

I am please to be represented at ART SAN DIEGO 2016 again this year. Booth 401 is a joint project by some of San Diego’s most interesting arts organizations; the Mesa College Museum Studies Program, The San Diego Art Prize, San Diego Art Institute, and San Diego Visual Arts Network. The collaboration between these organizations is rooted in a mutual interest to promote artists, exhibit their work, and network with the San Diego community.
The booth features artwork by San Diego Art Institute members who have been past years’ nominees for the San Diego Art Prize, and highlights the artists that have made the transition from their studios to solid representation in the San Diego art scene. My work was nominated for the Art Prize in 2011.
There is a range of affordable artwork available, including drawing, painting, sculpture, textiles and ceramics. Other participating artists include Claudia Cano, Andrea Chung, Beliz Iristay, Bhavna Mehta, Margaret Noble, PANCA, Sasha Koozel Reibstein, Aren Skalman, Anna Stump and Joe Yorty.
It a pleasure to be in such good company. Joe Yorty and Sasha Koozel Reibstein  were two of my favorites from the group.

On Originality, Part 2

Contemporary painting by Lee Puffer

Neon Yellow, by Lee Puffer. 2016. Watercolor on paper.

Recently I wrote about the urge to be original, observing that young artists are especially  concerned with making something absolutely “new”. I believe that research and study is an integral part of art-making. When artists have done thourough research,  they almost always find artists who have made work similar to what they are making.

Indeed the point of research is to find the other artists, either historical or contemporary, whose work shares qualities with our own work. There are several reasons why this matters:

Most importantly, other artists will inspire us. We call this inspiration “influence”. We will see how other artists approached issues, materials, and expression and learn from their progress.

We are required to know who our influences are. Our first influences are usually our teachers, parents, or peers. As we develop the practice of research, our influences will grow and change. This is a valuable, even critical, part of artistic identity. We are all members of a continuum, it is important to remember that.
Also, from other artists with whom we share certain qualities, we will find out where our markets might be, who our audience is, and which galleries may like our work.

Ideally, when we connect with these artists we will find friendship and camaraderie. Trade secrets will be shared. We will know what to call our style or movement. Importantly, we will be able to put our practice into context.

Just as a singer needs to have musical knowledge, an artist must study art.  Knowledge should be both broad and specific. A broad art historical education includes at least a basic knowledge of all major art movements in human history. Ideally this would include art from all continents and cultures on earth. Along the way, specific movements and genres intrugue us more than others and we naturally develop a deeper knowledge and affinity for those.

Contemporary painting by Lee Puffer

Neon Red, by Lee Puffer 2016. Watercolor on paper.

Regardless of our personal preference, it is also important to be aware of art hierarchies even if we choose to disregard them, which many contemporary practitioners do. We must familiarize ourselves with the arguments surrounding Art versus Craft, for instance. It is valuable to be able to differentiate between High Art and Popular Art, for example. These distinctions are becoming less and less relevant to artists, but the philosophies that form the basis of those arguments still effect us.

Fortunately there are many channels through which we can acquire this knowledge if we are motivated. While Art History courses at a college or university may be useful and enjoyable, they can be prohibitively expensive and time-consuming. With a little effort we can educate ourself with books and essays easily obtainable through libraries and reputable internet sources.

Art is an Open Country

 

Red Brainstorm by Lee Puffer 2016. Mixed media on paper.

Red Brainstorm by Lee Puffer 2016. Mixed media on paper.

Art is an open country. Everyone can stay. In a creative environment where everyone is welcome, there are bound to be differences of opinion, differences in modes of expression, and delivery systems.

Sometimes there is chaos in my classroom. I see it as controlled chaos, but some may see it as out of control. I am aware of that. It is ok. Some may think that I am lazy and that is why I do not take control of my class. Or perhaps I am inexperienced and lack the ability to deal with the disorder. It may be that I don’t notice it.

I assure you, none of those things is true. I see who gets annoyed, who sighs and judges and shakes their heads. I see you. I value your comfort, I do. But I value the chaos more. No one is getting hurt. No one feels threatened either physically or emotionally. It’s all ok.

Blue Brainstorm by Lee Puffer, 2016. Mixed media on paper.

Blue Brainstorm by Lee Puffer, 2016. Mixed media on paper.

Art is an open country. Everyone can stay.

Even the noisy ones. Even the ones who mutter to themselves. Even the ones who ask the same question over and over again. Even the ones who need a ton of extra help just to get through the day.

All opinions are valid. You get to have yours, I get to have mine. That guy who is going to vote for Donald Trump gets to have his. We all get to express ourselves in art class. That is why we are here. We may not love the chaos. We may prefer a more serene environment in which to practice our art. Sometimes I prefer that too.

If you want silence, go to a library. If you want an open forum for self-expression, come to my art class.

Blonde Brainstorm by Lee Puffer, 2016. Mixed media on paper.

Blonde Brainstorm by Lee Puffer, 2016. Mixed media on paper.

Music, theatre, literature, and visual art can all represent the highest form of human expression. In fact, entire ancient cultures are evaluated based solely on their artistic output. Perhaps art is not valued so much these days, but that’s a topic for another time. Art matters and always will, despite current fashion.

Human expression needs an open forum to grow. An open forum can, at times, be chaotic. Controlling that chaos could limit the potential for human expression to grow. I’m not willing to risk that.

Green Brainstorm by Lee Puffer, 2016. Mixed media on paper.

So what if we are uncomfortable? Art thrives in discomfort. If it doesn’t, it should. Sustaining an artistic practice demands we be resilient. There will be many things in life that to try to distract us form our practice. Partners, kids, and jobs come to mind.

If we can learn to create within the chaos, we will be better artists. If we can accept and appreciate a variety of opinions, diverse manners of expression and different temperaments, we will be better spokespersons for our culture.

Brown Brainstorm by Lee Puffer, 2016. Mixed media on paper.

Gallery D

Tonight is the closing reception for It Takes an Artist: A Show About Mentorship at Gallery D in Barro Logan.

Gallery View with sclpture and drawings by Lee Puffer.

Gallery View with sclpture and drawings by Lee Puffer.

Gallery D is an exciting newgallery for contemporary art in San Diego. Yhe gallery is located at 1878 Main Street, Unit D, San Diego, CA 92113. The reception is from 4-10PM tonight.

Faculty Exhibition at Boehm Gallery

Residue

As artists we are always making manifest our ideas, literally making stuff, physical objects. Some are good. Some are bad.

Some of us throw out the old or unsuccessful (we think) objects. The others we display or place in boxes in storage. After years theses objects accumulate, as residue of our lives. Looking back we can see the objects and remember what we were thinking, feeling and struggling with during the time the pieces were made.

Residue, by Lee Puffer. Collage on watercolor.

Residue, by Lee Puffer. Collage on watercolor.

If we are making life meaningful through making artwork it is because the process itself feels important, the results are mostly satisfying, and/or we benefit in some other way, by making sales or having exhibitions. What we also do is leave a legacy behind. Our personal histories are in those boxes and digital files. We leave this history behind, a record of us. Adding to the history of the era of our lifetime. Art becomes a record of our own existence as well as part of human history.

On the personal level, something more substantial than the trail of breadcrumbs that Hansel and Gretel left behind happens when we leave a path back to our former selves through our art. As artists with many years of practice and production under our belts, we are able to clearly see the arc of our development, to see how far we’ve come. Looking back through the old work is important not just for the historical aspect but for our current work as well. We change as we go through life but some fundamental aspect of who we are remains. It is fascinating to find the thread of imagery or issues that persist in the work throughout the years. It can also be helpful to be reminded of topics, materials and ways of working that once interested us. There was a reason we made these things. They are the seeds of our current practice.

I’m sure someone famous once said, “Work from your work”. This means that we start where we left off. If we’ve been out of the studio for a while, we start again by making what we were making before we left. It is ok to repeat ourselves; in fact, making things in series is a useful and legitimate way to make progress. Van Gogh painted the same bridge over and over; Monet painted the same pond again and again. There’s something about repetition that brings us ever closer to the essential truth about a subject.

Having access to our own historical body of work can be a valuable resource when we are stuck or stagnant, or having a hard time getting started after and absence from the studio. There are the dominant themes that we remember, but there will also be many other things in the old work that we will have inevitably forgotten about. These little surprises can awaken a dormant interest we once had. Don’t throw away old, seemingly unsuccessful work before completing a thorough documentation, it may turn out to be a future source of inspiration.

Anything Goes

 

Anything Goes, by Lee Puffer. Watercolor and collage on paper. 10" x 12"

Anything Goes, by Lee Puffer. Watercolor and collage on paper. 10″ x 12″

Style, if there is such a thing, develops over time. Each artist is an individual and in the course of a lifelong practice natural propensities begin to emerge regardless of the material, subject matter or techniques deployed. No matter what they do, if artists are earnest, thoughtful, and true to themselves, the art that results will always look and feel like their work. The look and feel of an artists work can be called their Style. Developing a style takes a while, and is very personal.

Young artists often think that they should develop a style and, once established, they should not deviate from that style. This is a somewhat antiquated notion. In the post-postmodernism era, anything goes. Artists are free to use any material, subject matter, and technique they want. Artists are free to change all of that at any time.

Style is not a preconceived thing. The artist doesn’t sit down one day, perhaps at the beginning of freshman year of college and decide “this is going to be my style!” and commit to it for life. On the contrary, as artists continue to make and research their art, and to learn skills and experience life, the look and feel of their art becomes more discernably their own. Eventually, art made from any material, technique or subject matter will yield results unique to that artist.

Critique vs Coaching

At its very best, an art critique is a very high-level and personal conversation with professional(s) who care about your work and development as an artist. As an artist and an educator I have been present at many critiques, both as participant and facilitator. In a traditional art critique the goal is to more deeply understand the artwork in question. This deeper understanding helps art instructors evaluate the artwork, often for a grade. Critiques in art departments are frequently scheduled in advance and serve as a deadline for the completion, or near completion, of an artwork or series. Participants include the artist and the instructor. There may also be other professors, invited guests, and other artists in the class or program. Usually, everyone present at the critique is invited to ask questions and contribute to the conversation.

Ideally the artist presenting work at the critique will come away satisfied that he/she was able to adequately explain the artwork and that it was evaluated fairly. Even if this is true, critique seldom gives an artist the kind of feedback useful in improving and moving forward with a body of work. It is not the goal of academic critique to help an artist to overcome obstacles, find meaning, or to hone ideas for future work. The formal critique process ends when formal schooling ends.

Hoarder, by Lee Puffer. Ceramic and mixed media.

Hoarder, by Lee Puffer. Ceramic and mixed media.

Traditionally a coach helps an individual player and/or a team to succeed at a sport. Coaches work to improve the performance of athletes and push athletes to achieve at high levels. There is more of a focus on developing the athlete and preparing for and maintaining a productive career. Artists could benefit from the sports coaching paradigm. Here’s what I envision a coaching-based critique to do. Since coaching discovers useful and meaningful strategies for improving output, sustaining production, overcoming obstacles, and growing as a human being, and critiques evaluate the work,

I propose combining elements of critique with insightful coaching to better serve the artist. The word critique is useful, and lends an air of academic legitimacy to the conversation so I suggest we continue to use the word critique moving forward.

We could now define critique as a thoughtful analysis of an artwork or series with the goal of improving understanding of the artwork and encouraging artists towards their best, most authentic and mature work. As artistic practice is a continuum, regularly scheduled critique keeps artists going and growing, while providing benchmarks and deadlines along the way.