10/5/14 great feedback results in changes to yesterday's collage / by Philip Tarlow

last night we had friends to dinner. it was a great evening, with many crestone stories, laughter & excellent food, wine & desert brought by judy.

once everyone had left, bill & judy stayed on. bill, a collector, asked for a tour of my new work. his observations and questions led me to re-evaluate yesterday's collage, yom kippur. something about seeing my work through his eyes...... this morning, even before i meditated, i launched straight into changes. below left: yesterday's version, right: today's changes. 

i may continue to work on this one after my meditation. i feel like it needs something.....more subtlety & layering.....it doesn't yet pass the glance test, which i've referred to in previous posts: when i walk away from it then suddenly cast a quick glance, it has to read as a coherent, balanced whole. it's almost there, but....

i've been studying picasso's guernica, and comparing it to the charnel house. more about this & how it relates to what i'm working on later....now i'm starting my meditation.

12:37:  eating my oatmeal & preparing to continue work on yom kippur.

1:30pm: below, the 3 stages of yom kippur.

by the way...the bit of green & red paper collaged onto the composition in the lower left is from a bit of paper i found while walking up north crestone trail with mikela a few days ago. on row 2, left is how it shows up in the final version of yom kippur. on row 2, right, is the whole fragment of paper, as i found it, which depicts a little cartoon mouse. i knew when i found it that it would become part of a collage. it's the only time in all our walks and all my plein air excursions that i've found a scrap of trash, albeit minute, on the ground. 

what i learned from these 2 masterpieces by picasso

the two paintings below were executed about 7-8 years apart, the charnel house being the latter. i have seen guernica in person, during the years it was at moma, before being returned to spain. my feeling is that picasso learned something compositionally following the initial explosion of energy emerging from his indignant rage at the atrocities committed by franco in his native spain. that explosion is the primary force behind the hundreds of drawings and paintings leading up to guernica.

if you look at the two critically, in terms of composition, guernica is jammed with action, with very little breathing space, whereas in the charnel house, picasso has created a space absent of black or grey in the upper third of the painting, where drawing rules. the drawing spills down into the main body of the composition on the right, allowing even more breathing room & space for the eye to rest, and again on the lower right, where a disembodied head, hand and foot enter the composition. in my opinion, this only strengthens the painting, and actually makes it a superior work than the far better known guernica.

returning to how these observations affected yom kippur, in the final state it breathes, and the space that opened up on the top third of the composition allows the eye to move from one major event to another without feeling rushed or cramped. you enjoy the pink stripe on the left more completely; your eye and mind make the green lines into one continuous sweep; the striking blue of the aegean map peeking through gains in significance; the rock-inspired shapes drawn in graphite are more apparent, and morph more easily into animal or body parts. if you click on stage 1 of yom kippur, in the first row of images above, it will become full screen. then click on the white right-arrow you see when you mouse over the image and progress to stages 2 and 3. as you progress, you'll notice how your eye moves more and more easily about the composition, as i describe above.

so i learned from picasso's charnel house, as compared with guernica, recognizing my own tendency to cram the space with shapes, and, as a result, progressively simplified yom kippur until, just a few moments ago, it passed my glance test, which i mention earlier in this post.

my final point in this post is that picasso, and indeed all great artists throughout history, are very much alive. we can connect with them as if they were in the room with us, and they unfailingly give us that exquisite pleasure always found in the results of the artistic process at it's finest.

in a half hour or so, mikela and i will once again set out for north crestone creek trail, pushing our time from 50 minutes to about an hour in preparation for our ascent, sometime in the nest few week, all the way up to north crestone lake, which we've never seen. that will be an all day affair, and should take about 3 hours each way. tomorrow, if this amazing weather holds, i'll go out to a new spot i found along the creek, to paint plein air.