Posts Tagged ‘Hans Hofmann’

Inspiration Surging during a Sun-splashed Morning

February 19, 2021
Brightly-lit snowy neighborhood through the windows of Studio Eidolons

Hofmann would hold up before his students a sheet of plain-as-plain-can-be paper and announce that “within its confines is the complete creative message.”

Jed Perl, New Art City: Manhattan at Mid-Century

My recent readings during mornings-over-coffee have come from New Art City. This morning I was aroused as I read of Hans Hofmann’s influence around Greenwich Village and in Provincetown while the Abstract Expressionists were taking hold of New York City in the 1940s-50s. The above quote, for me, was reminiscent of several other divines. So much has been expressed about the process of creativity. Aristotle, for one, argued that the oak tree was already inside the acorn, and simply had to emerge. Robert Motherwell defined the process of drawing as the “dividing of a plane surface.” In the book I’m reading, Jed Perl points out that “what Hofmann was saying was than when you drew a line on a piece of paper, you were creating a world.” Statements like that keep me going. I have frequently written and taught that the artist, created in God’s image, possesses the inborn desire to create. The two-dimensional artist approaches a rectangle, and immediately begins dividing up the interior until a world emerges.

Beginning a new one

While painting the Fort Worth Tower 55 composition on 8 x 10″ paper, I frequently felt the desire to try this again on a slightly larger scale. Since the painting sold so quickly, I’ve decided to push on ahead with a 12 x 16″ surface of 90# cold-pressed D’Arches paper stretched on canvas stretchers. The Hank story that corresponds to this picture has stretched my imagination further and I want to explore more aggressively the possibilities of a foggy atmosphere in watercolor. A part of me thinks of the inspiration of Claude Monet to paint impressionistically the Gare Saint-Lazare railway station in Paris. Another part of me wishes to connect a pair of Hank stories linking the bison herd he saw in the mists of Utah with the collection of diesel locomotives snorting in the dawn mist of the Fort Worth railyards.

Hank gazed across the ranchland at the distant bison herd gathered beside a stock tank with derelict windmill. He felt a shudder as he watched the sun rippling across the backs of the behemoths. Slowly they grazed among the tall grasses, some of them ambling down into the waters to drink. Adjusting his easel and quickly sketching the forms of a cow and calf standing closest to him, he splashed the water across the sketched body of the cow. Quickly dipping his brush into the Winsor Violet and Transparent Yellow, he touched with the tip of his brush the new mixture of warm brown, and as the pigment quickly billowed into the water on the paper, Hank tilted the easel just a bit to encourage more movement and watched the color quickly fill the contours of the mother beast.

He recalled the words of Abstract Expressionist painter Robert Motherwell in a recent interview. The artist had driven his car across France toward Spain, arriving at Alta Mira around sundown just as the guard was closing the gate to the cave with the famous prehistoric paintings inside. Motherwell offered the guard a fistful of paper currency, and with a nod, the employee swung the gate back open and let him inside the cave. Finding the ceiling to be low, Motherwell had to lie on his back on an upraised plateau to gaze up at the wounded bison, lit by a single electric bulb. Finding the viewing unsatisfactory, the artist was suddenly handed a lighted candle by the guard who then turned out the electric light. In the flicker of the candle, Motherwell suddenly noticed the impression of the bison moving, shuddering, and he was filled with an emotion never created by the viewing of the photographs in art history books.

Recalling this, Hank looked at the herd of bison and his sketch with renewed fascination. The single watercolor sketch of the cow would do for the time being. But one day he would focus on a composition of a bison herd emerging from a dim, misty landscape.

Once again this morning, I have been visited by so many new ideas and images to paint. I am not sure if I am expressing this clearly, but much of my recent creative eros could be attributed to being snow-bound all week, along with the enthusiasm I am feeling from The Twelve who will join me next month when we hold our new reception at The Gallery at Redlands in Palestine. In my daily imaginings, I “see” the other artists in their studios, thinking out and creating new works for the public soon to see. I can’t wait for this weather to break so I can begin visiting with some of these surging artistic spirits.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.


Wrestling with Hofmann’s “Push-Pull” in Painting

January 14, 2014

Slow, tedious work on the flatiron

Slow, tedious work on the flatiron

Creative expression is . . . the spiritual translation of inner concepts into form, resulting from the fusion of these intuitions with artistic means of expression in a unity of spirit and form. . . . Imitation of objective reality is therefore not creation but dilettantism, or else a purely intellectual performance, scientific and sterile.

Hans Hofmann

What a gift this evening provided–I managed to dust off tomorrow’s class preparations late this afternoon, and am now finishing a deliciously quiet evening of watercoloring and studying.  It’s been frustrating lately, working late into the nights doing school stuff and having little-to-no quality time to paint.  I managed to insert quite a few more details into the crown of this Fort Worth flatiron as the evening progressed, then stopped abruptly awhile ago, realizing that I was falling into my paint-by-number syndrome.  When my mind starts ranging about in extraneous ideas while only my eye responds to details on the watercolor, I feel suddenly that I am on auto-pilot, and am merely whipping out another watercolor for the trade.  At this age, I am more hungry to learn, to experiment, to push the boundaries, and not repeat what I’ve done before.


Nice Quiet Evening in the Claustrum

Abstract Expressionist painter Hans Hofmann found his way to the United States in 1934, the same year as Paul Tillich.  Both men fled World War II Europe, set up shop in New York City, and began changing our world by bringing European avant-garde thought to our early twentieth century.  Both men had an engaging way of applying dialectic to their disciplinary homes.  Paul Tillich was fascinated with the “boundaries” separating disparate realms, and Hans Hofmann alike spoke of that energy emerging from the “push-pull.”  Among Hofmann’s discussions of “push-pull”, I have decided to play with contrasts in color, both warm vs. cool and complementary pairs as well.  As I worked in the shadows of the cornice of this flatiron building, I continually balanced my Transparent Yellows with my Winsor Violets, and juxtaposed my Winsor Reds with mixtures of Transparent Yellow and Winsor Blue (Green Shade).  My photography is quite primitive, and I hate it that my blog cannot really put the painting before my reader’s eyes in the same way that this raw watercolor gazes back at me.  But I’m loving what I see with these colliding pairs of colors placed side-by-side.  My shadows are showing much more dynamism than they did in the days when I relied on Payne’s Gray for cool effects or Sepia for warmth.  There is so much more going on now, in the shadows, plenty of push-pull.

I’m glad I stopped earlier this evening.  The theories I’m reading from Hofmann and Paul Cezanne regarding complementary colors and warm vs. cool colors are giving me fresher ideas that I intend to apply to this experimental painting.  Just before stopping for the evening, I looked at the work and began to realize that it was becoming academic and tight.  I’ve done more than enough of that throughout my life.  I want to discover new worlds in watercolor, and wish to learn something new from every painting excursion.  I fear that art will become boring to me if it ever reaches a point where I am cranking out product.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to learn.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remember that I am not alone.