Once You Learn.

Once You Learn, the Green Man Points, airbrush, watercolor, crayon, collage, 38″ x 27″ 1992
I fish for minnows in the lake
The big ones having never been caught
don't come back to warn the others—Su Tung P'o 11th century China.

I was trying to learn how I learn, and how I learn best is by doing. A friend once said, if you want to learn how to sail a boat, you can do one of three things: 1) Take a class; find someone who knows how and learn how they do it. 2) You can read a book about it. 3) You can get in a boat and try it out. Probably the best way is a bit of all three. My way has been mostly, get in the boat. So this picture is me getting in the boat and sailing out. I wanted to learn the way of picture making, what makes a picture? How many ways can color be applied? How do you get the stuff of the world to bend to your wishes? In the case of this picture it’s a lot like cooking. I’m an adequate cook and seem to please my wife (which is my prime directive in the kitchen), but the way I cook is a lot like making pictures. So, at the market, or gleaning what’s growing in the garden, I’m imagining how flavors might swarm into something tasty. Bitter/sweet, spicy/mild, alcohol for darkness, citrus for brightness, umami über alles. Fungus is always additive. With picture making I have developed a tool-kit that is similar in range. How to make all those visual “flavors” and combine them into something tasty.

In this writing of late I’ve taken pleasure in saying how a particular image was realized, the steps of its making. It’s one of my attempts to paint a picture of a picture, to make a picture of Art. My impossible dream. In this image the crinkley texture came first. Pretty much invented by my son Noah who was fooling around with crinkled-up paper and using a can of spray paint shot at an angle. It was a neat effect, how the paper was transformed to a landscape. In the above example, I took a sheet of paper I’d printed as a split-fountain roll-up. I balled up that sheet (carefully) and hit it with an airbrush whoosh of pale maroon. Then, I ironed the whole sheet flat. It looked almost too good to mess around with any further.

A split fountain roll-up on the press.

Next, I drew the body walking, pointing and cut it out of the crinkle background. I did a lot of life drawing in school and taught it as well. I like drawing bodies in motion, doing something. I then slipped in that green swirly business behind which is a monoprint. The shell-like structure is made with an airbrush, sprayed onto a colored piece of paper that the been folded fan-like, and again ironed flat. The fish is a Moorish Idol I saw scuba diving and painted him in watercolor with last minute additions of oil pastel. The double silhouette was from another drawing seeming to point the way, shaped like a speech bubble in a cartoon. The two circles of color come from my habit of shaking off my brush when painting watercolor—I always have a sheet off paper to flick off the excess color—and waste not, want not. The rest are little scraps I collect from cutting out other images. That yellow swirl is from a monoprint cut-out. The whole thing is a kind of bricolage, using what is at hand, in a mini-sustainability effort.

So that stride into world filled with ways of depiction is maybe enough by way of saying what it means? Is it? Does this picture have anything more to say beyond its colorful presence? Beyond its nature as a “sampler?” The mystery of it begins to unfold when you identify it as masculine. As that fish thrusting forward out of mid-body, as the figure is pointing, as those two silhouette faces are male. And come to think about it, at this very moment, I think of those twinned female figures in red from the post called “Do the Next Thing”. And, as I recollect the red dancing figures were made in the same time period as the figure in this post, probably within days of one another. Cool. Ladies and Gentlemen, you so genante Party People (so called), I think we got ourselves a hitchen’. Señor Once You Learn is about to meet Die Genädege Frau of Do the Next Thing. I had no intension of ending up here in some Marcel Duchamp redux of The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, but the mystery of it all abounds. Duchamp’s masterwork of that name figured greatly in my Art-school days. You can’t copy a piece like that or even directly reference it too closely. You must be patient, and in this case, a good forty years of patience. I wish I could just sit around and think all this stuff up beforehand, but it simply seems to come by Doing the Next Thing. Just keep at it.

The red dancer of Do the Next Thing pencil, watercolor, rocks, sticks 1992-2022

I have to say, the conjunction of the green man with the red woman filled me with the excitement of a completed task after all these years. It’s about time. Exactly about time. To top it all off, just last night, 9/15/22, the dream was in a lab with a cadre of folks in white lab coats. I was giving them the low-down on Merleau-Ponty’s The Phenomenology of Perception and talking about the psychology of Carl Jung’s theories of alchemy, it was almost as if I had dialed up a dream, pressed play on the psychic jukebox, seeded some dream clouds, to give me the high-ho—that I seem to be onto something.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s