then and now; some thoughts on mark making / by Philip Tarlow

8:39 AM: BELOW: on the left, a plein air painting in oil on canvas, 16x16” dated 10/11/12. and on the right, roiling, 36x36”, mixed media on canvas, completed just a few days ago.

DETAIL: monastiraki, 2010 oil on canvas

my plein air paintings, both in gouache on paper and oil on canvas, have been the inspiration for my recent motion and meta-motion series of larger studio paintings, most of which are mixed media on canvas, either 36x36”, 38x38” or 36x38.” in the case of plein air, they are always spontaneous and in the moment, with no changes being made after the initial session of 30-60 minutes. my relationship to the rocks, water & branches in that moment is all there is, and i am guided as much by sound and smell as i am by the visual.

in the larger paintings made in my studio, i use crayon, colored pencil & oil pastel in the beginning, working from the plein air paintings themselves as well as photographes of the creek i’ve taken and printed out on large sheets of paper. i frequently step back 20, 30 feet, sometimes the fulll length of my studio: 60 feet, to evaluate what i’ve done & where i’m headed. the marks, as a friend from santa fe observed recently, are the same in both cases. they are the same marks you will find in this detail of a 2010 painting titled monastiraki.

but it’s easier for most people to relate to monastiraki. who can’t relate to this subject matter: a woman walking her dogs; a man selling tiropites (cheese pies); a pigeon on the pavement? the work i’m creating currently challenges the viewer of engage more deeply, i think. you are not handed a familiar subject to look at. you are invited to explore and enjoy mark making in a more essential, perhaps pure form. as far as i can see, that’s the real difference. the marks an artist makes are his or her signature and usually don’t change all that much over time; they constitute his or her self portrait. they carry and convery the entire life history of the artist as well as his or her spirit & energy.

if you play10 seconds of pablo casals on cello, playing bach, you know, just from listening to those 10 seconds, that it’s him. his signature sound is evident at any point. likewise, if you isolate 6 square inches of any matisse painting or drawing, you instantly recognize his marks.