Complex vs Simple

Complexity and my art

My current work plays with the struggle between simple vs complex, and easy vs hard.

I just read the book, “Love People Use Things” by The Minimalists, Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus. In the following quote, they provide the origin of the words “complex” and “simple” and it blew me away.

According to the book:

“The Latin root of the word ‘complex’ is complect, which means ‘To interweave two or more things together.”

This applies perfectly to my artwork as it deals with the interwoven complexities of life.

Lately, I’ve been trying to simplify my art to the essence of what it is without losing what makes it unique and special. What began as an exploration of color has now become an exploration of form.

An in-progress shot of my piece, ‘Simple complexity pt 2’, 2o21, 38″x46″

By contrast, according to the book:

“The word ‘simple’ shares a Latin root with the word simplex, which means ‘having only one part’.”

I am exploring the intersection between the two, where simple and complex meet.

Letting it be Easy

I am struggling with the concept of letting things be easy right now, especially in my art. The reason why is that I’m at a point in my art where I am starting to like what I make and not hate it. I’m working on a series of pieces for the MARN Salon show and it seems like the concept is too simple, too easy to execute.

I’m creating two large-scale (for me) canvases that are 3′ x 4′ and I’m intimidated by them. I have never worked so large scale before and I don’t know how they’ll turn out. I’m used to creating complicated and complex designs. I created two smaller sample pieces and accidentally came across a new technique that is easier to do and looks good.

Sample paintings 8″ x 10″ 2021

If it is easy, it doesn’t feel as valuable to me, for some weird reason. The value of art is not the effort put into a painting but the way it looks when it is done, or at least that what’s I’m trying to think.

There is a story (probably apocryphal) about Picasso on a train. Someone asked him to make a drawing for them, and it took him around 3 seconds to draw it on a napkin, he handed the drawing to the person and said that will be $100,000 (or something like that). The person who wanted the painting said, “That only took you 3 seconds to make, why are you charging so much for it?” Picasso said, “No it took me a lifetime to be able to draw it in 3 seconds.”

This story illustrates how the effort in building skills should not be devalued. Yes, painting has become “easier” to me, but that is after I’ve put time into learning it.

As they say, “The simplicity on the other side of complexity is priceless.” It feels a little like cheating to slap paint on a canvas and then draw my design over it, but I really like the results.

Challenge is one thing, but making things hard and complex for the sake of it is not a virtue. I need to embrace ease and flow. I am often told I’m too hard on myself, so letting good enough be good enough is hard.

How about you? Do you struggle with similar issues? If so, how do you deal with it?

UPDATE:

7/26/21

I seem to run across this sentiment of letting things be easy everywhere I look, I recently came across this quote while reading, “How to Become a Successful Artist” by Magnus Resch:

If something (a style, a technique) comes easily to you and you enjoy doing it, then don’t stop. You may feel that it is effortless, but other people may struggle to do what you find so easy, so don’t make things harder for yourself by setting yourself unnecessary challenges. Above all, have confidence in yourself and your vision; few people will believe you if you do not believe in yourself.

Marilyn Minter

I found this quote after publishing the original post and thought it went so perfectly with it that I dedcided to incorporate it.

The evolution of a painting

I recently started a new painting and I wanted to show you a little behind the scenes sneak peek. I started off painting the background with a pallet knife with the color yellow (I don’t have a photo of the initial stages)

I sketched the outline of the design I wanted to paint and painted in the red in a first layer.

Then painted in the purple going out as a gradient. To the inner circle I added a lighter shade to make it pop more.

Lastly I expanded the variations of color going out to all three layers of purple. 

The painting is almost finished, all I need to do is to add more dimension to the red ribbon. What do you think of this painting? Am I headed in the right direction?

The missing piece

Earlier I wrote a blog post about the definition of art. Thinking about it more I realized that the idea was not complete, I left out a key piece of the puzzle that is art. What I left out is that art has human intention behind it, the human being the artist.

A natural rock formation is not art, but a painting of it is, as is a sculpture of it, a picture of it, etc. What these things have in common is that they have human intention behind them. The role of art is to remind us of our humanity through works created by an artist.

There also has to be creativity, artistry, that indefinable spark, involved in the process. The role of the artist is is to remind us of our humanity and bring the past the present moment by tapping into their intuition and creating something with intention. That’s it.

Art and artists are bound together, they are meshed together, interwoven, the definition of one tangled within the definition of the other.

My definition of art

I have thought a lot lately about what art is. I have yet to find a good definition of art that works for me. There are so many things that are art, it seems like a giant puzzle to me and I’m still trying to fit the pieces together in my mind. I wanted to get my thoughts out there, thinking it might be interesting for you to see my perspective.

In reflection, I have found that the past is a fundamentally different thing from the present moment, in that it no longer exists, except for in our minds. There is the paradox, How can we ensure that the present moment is remembered and lives on when it keeps disappearing into the past? That is where art comes in. Art is a way to communicate over time and space. Marks left on a page, something from the past brought to the present moment. Whether written word or image on canvas, art is the collision of two worlds. But that is just one piece of the puzzle that is art.

As I was listening to the soundtrack to the Hamilton musical I was moved to tears. I wondered why, and that’s when it hit me that’s the place for art, to remind us of the fact that we are human. It moves us emotionally and touches us in ways that cannot be explained. That’s how you know something is art – when it moves you. It’s tricky because what moves one person won’t move someone else. So much of art depends on cultural context – as they say, “art is in the eye of the beholder.” Cultures change over time and art changes too.

So, as I said before, art is a way for the past to communicate with the present. The fact that art evokes an emotional response is another piece of the art-puzzle. Humans are not machines; there is so much more to the human experience than our current scientific and popular view of the world holds. I believe that the goal of art is to remind us of our humanity.

By this definition of art, I’m not sure if what I make is art. I don’t know if I can know because the definition I came up with is from the audience’s point of view. It is in the interaction between the piece and the person viewing it that art exists, the past brought to the present moment evoking an emotional reaction that reminds the viewer of their humanity. This definition is not complete yet, but I feel as though I’m headed in the right direction, what do you think?

Here is a piece I just finished:

Untitled #1 Acrylic on canvas 8"x10"
Untitled #1
Acrylic on canvas
8″x10″

 

Please leave a comment below and let me know what you think about my post. Does this definition of art ring true for you? Why or why not? What is your definition of art? Did you enjoy this post? Do you want me to write more like it in the future? Thank you so much for taking the time to read it!

UPDATE:

I have written a part two to this blog post, you can read it here.

Painting

Over the summer I taught myself to paint. I am planning on writing a post later on about why I started painting and show some behind the scenes looks at my work and my progress, but until then, I wanted to share this with you.

here is a video of one of works in progress:

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Newest Pieces

I have been playing around in Adobe Illustrator a lot lately and I wanted to share my latest work with you. Here are the pieces I made with their original drawings next to them for comparison.

I’m not sure what to do with these pictures, maybe make some prints. Please let me know what you think and if you have any ideas for me, please comment below.