Showing posts with label Art and artists. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Art and artists. Show all posts

Sunday, April 24, 2016


Pablo Picasso (Spanish, 25 October 1881 – 8 April 1973) was a phenomenal creator. The public recognized his genius and followed along adoringly. He went through stylistic phases such as a Blue Period with sad, gaunt people in gloomy settings, and then circus and harlequin subjects. The predominant color is a melancholy blue. A Rose Period with romantic, delicately treated subjects in pale pink. Cubism where natural forms were changed to geometric-like shapes. Distortion and multi-view figures in mainly dull colours. Neo-Classicism with heavily-built sculpturesque Grecian women. Surrealism and dream-world compositions and more, including sculpture, ceramic art, constructions, printmaking, drawing and even poetry.

Most artists do not change styles frequently. They find a niche and stay there. If they are successful, they are afraid of repercussions if they change and their new work is not favored. In marketing language, this is called “branding”.

I have been aware for many years that my greatest success has been as a landscape artist. Yet, all along, I have done other work more or less simultaneously. And I have appreciated all kinds of art and music. I have resisted branding and yet have been able to make a living as an artist.

Now my work is changing again. I am constructing my artwork as much as painting it. Gone are the landscape paintings. The subjects are figures and dreamworlds. So as not to confuse people, I have considered taking a pseudonym and making a clean break from the past. Perhaps I should not take another name and simply walk in Picasso's shoes.
Steven Boone, 18 x 24 inches, mixed-media

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Passion And Enthusiasm

12 x 12 inch square abstract that transformed into a piece of the work below
 Society likes definitions, to better categorize and compartmentalize facts into groups and classes. Professions are built upon specific training that produces skilled workers who are given diplomas in arts and sciences. Usually, a class of professionals, such as physicians, has subclasses, i.e. internist, ophthalmologist, gastroenterologist, etc. In art, the categories are fewer, but there are sculptors, painters, performance artists, installation artists, and more. It is generally accepted that an artist finds his passion, develops his skill and becomes known for his excellence within his class of discipline. When the public becomes accustomed to the pleasure of his work, they eagerly anticipate new productions that recall past accomplishments. The more famous the artist, the more public taste demands a recognizable product.

Creativity and commerce can be a difficult marriage. For instance, Norman Rockwell (February 3, 1894 – November 8, 1978) became a beloved American artist because he so deftly and expertly conveyed in his paintings homespun American values and warmth—and the images were reproduced frequently in magazines and posters. But imagine the outcry if he were suddenly to abandon his former path and take up another, say, abstract expressionism.  For the most part, society is about favor and taste, not creativity. That is why so many artists have endured hardship—pursuing visions that often take years before society accepts.

When the impressionists first produced their remarkable paintings in France, they were snubbed and spent years in poverty, because public taste was for academic realism with a historical narrative bias. By passion and enthusiasm, they persevered, until gradually their work was accepted and praised. In art history, this theme of misunderstood art has been a common one.

Occasionally, an artist becomes famous as much for his creative personality as his art. Pablo Picasso (25 October 1881 – 8 April 1973) for instance, could pursue many different styles and tangents, and the public followed along with his “genius.”

The problem for many artists is that it takes years to develop a mature style, and would take more years to change. I have been restless explorer from the start, and have not been willing to follow the commercial advice to find a personal style and make a niche market. I can’t live in a niche. I try many approaches, knowing that I must investigate the unknown. For the most part, I am known for my landscape paintings, but I also explore photography, mixed media, portraiture, drawing, and abstract art.

This week, I made an abstract painting (seen above at top of page), which then became part of an assemblage of three other paintings and transformed into one 24 x 24 inch artwork. Each piece can stand on its own as an abstract, and together, all the pieces make a whole.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

The Tightrope Walker

Being an artist is like being a tightrope walker, trying to keep balanced between creativity and staying in public favor. To lose either is to fall, but losing creativity is death, whereas public favor is capricious, not essential for life. Most artists depend upon public sanction and approval in order to provide for themselves and family. Everyone knows the tragic story of Vincent van Gogh (30 March 1853 – 29 July 1890). He passionately gave his talents to the world, but the public did not receive his gifts. Thus he was impoverished and depended upon the charity of his brother to survive. At the tender age of 37, he killed himself, and then some years later when public taste shifted, his work gained favor. Now, van Gogh is an icon and his work is among the most sought after in the world. And what if he had acknowledged and followed advice? We all would be poorer if he had conformed to the taste required by society and painted academic paintings with subdued tones and little flair or personality. Then, his unique and wondrous gift of authenticity would have been diminished and blighted and his greatest work would not have been achieved.

In contrast, Pablo Picasso (25 October 1881 – 8 April 1973) set the world on fire and after a brief initial struggle getting established, had the public eating out of his hand. Much of his work could not be understood, but perhaps because society was hungry for change and he was the man of the hour and capable of fantastic feats of creativity, his bold advances were met enthusiastically and he became very rich. His art is also among the most sought after in the world.

Common advice for an artist is to create a niche and be identified much as commercial brands are recognized. Then, grow the brand.  Most artists do this.  Norman Rockwell, Andrew Wyeth, or even Jackson Pollock, are painters who settled upon a technique and then harvested results. This practice extends to other art forms, such as poetry and writing, where some are haiku writers or fiction novelists, but not both. Very few are like Leonardo daVinci, a painter, inventor, sculptor, poet and scientist.

I admit that the public sometimes factors into my thoughts when I am in my studio. I have had success as a landscape painter, but other work has met with less enthusiasm. Some of my paintings, like the Hangup series, (faces hanging from clothespins on a line), have met with delight and wonder, but also revulsion and hatred. When I made the first, I was responding to a quirky inner vision, not public taste. I had decided to follow through with an odd momentary vision, and eventually produced thirty-five paintings. At one point I stopped painting, since I felt I was coming unglued, but now count the Hangup paintings as among my most important work. To prove the point, one of them, Van Gogh, All Hung Up is part of the permanent collection of the Foundation Vincent Van Gogh, in Arles, France, among paintings by luminaries of contemporary art.

Writing, photography, painting, drawing, making books, graphic design, public speaking, traveling, meditation, philosophy . . . the main thing is to follow the thread of the heart.

Visit the Steven Boone website.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Art Mirrors Life

Art mirrors life, and, in the words of the great British sculptor Henry Moore, “enlarges existence into something more significant than everyday life, giving some importance to it, a monumentality and grandeur.”

I love being in the company of artists, and these days I have been blessed spending time with an artist friend from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, who is visiting Santa Fe. Sarah and I have spent hours together going to galleries, discussing philosophy, writing poetry, painting and drawing, and last night attending a world premiere of an opera, called Life Is A Dream, by Lewis Spratlan at The Santa Fe Opera.
Sarah is a painter, so I invited her to work with me in my studio. We decided to make a still life painting. First we needed objects to paint. I suggested a pretty green vase and an arrangement of fruit. The vase was already in my studio and I cut some flowers from my yard to go in it. Next we went together to a grocery store to select vegetables or fruit. I am always interested in green or red peppers because they can grow in fantastic shapes and have bright, pure color. Eggplant is dazzling to look at for its burnished purple hues. At last we settled on apples and cherries.

In the studio, we arranged the objects. I enjoyed how easily Sarah and I came to a quick and deft solution to a pleasing arrangement—it only took minutes and without fuss. I lent her supplies and an easel, turned on music, and then we began. Our efforts took two days and we had great fun together amidst laughter and tears.

The painting process has correlation to life and meaning, so here is the story: The beginning is concept, to get a mental picture of something, even vague, that is the intention to pursue. Once I had created my intention, I made the still life arrangement that would be my inspiration to work from. I knew that I wanted to honor the objects with a realistic portrayal, and not something abstract. Standing a few feet away from the tableau, I thought of the proportions and carefully made a drawing. The foundation of art is important, because everything that happens afterward is affected. After I was satisfied with the foundation, I began laying in the oil color, using my palette knife to apply the paint directly. Most artists paint with brushes and only use the palette knife to mix paints, but I have developed a technique using the palette knife. It is very pleasurable to gaze at pure oil colors on a palette, and then mix them to get more colors. It is an art in itself and some artists, such as Pierre Bonnard, Claude Monet, and Mark Rothko, are known for their great sense of color, while other artists, like Michelangelo, Paul Cezanne, and Andrew Wyeth, are famous for being superb draftsmen.
The trick in painting is to create a visual symphony that uses just the right structure, tonality and timbre to produce the greatest effect. Of course colors affect our emotions, so the artist uses color to great affect. The important thing is clarity, so that the original inspiration speaks eloquently. So much can go wrong. Colors can become muddied, the drawing might be bad, proportions look awkward . . .  in short it takes great practice and a good helping of talent to accomplish art. Only a few make it to the professional level.

As I worked on my still life, I became frustrated with the background, so at one point, scraped it out and tried something new. This is an important lesson: if something is not going well, even if you have invested in it, be prepared to change course to get to something better. When I destroyed the dark background I had painted and began laying in lighter tones, the whole painting seemed to breathe a sigh of relief and speak to me, saying, this is better and now I am happy. And this is what art is about—adaptability, creative pursuit and change.

Any great work of art... revives and re-adapts time and space, and the measure of its success is the extent to which it makes you an inhabitant of that world - the extent to which it invites you in and lets you breathe its strange, special air.  ~Leonard Bernstein, What Makes Opera Grand?

Sunday, May 02, 2010


Does the moon follow you when you walk outside at night? It depends on what you believe. If you imagine so, and push that imagination into the forefront of your mind and then invest the thought with a determination that it is true not based on logic but simple belief based on feeling, then this fantasy can be hard to shake.

Religious attitudes can be especially strong, particularly if individuals base their salvation upon belief and have been trained to trust in the “higher minds” found in their religious order. For instance, this may lead to a conviction that God came to earth in the form of a man. Or that to kill unbelievers will gain you favor with Allah and a seat in heaven.

In the first example, if we apply logic and understand that God is illimitable, then He does not go up or down, but extends through all space and time, so it is quite impossible that He would fit Himself neatly into a tiny cavity of flesh to work miracles from this place. What would happen throughout infinite space if He were to only be in this tiny cell? The universe would collapse.

In the second example, why would anyone think that they have to kill in order to gain favor with God? God could easily do this Himself if He wanted everyone to be the same and only believe. No, He enjoys diversity and wants people to come to Him of free will, and that is why He is patient and merciful, and all manner of people exist on earth.

I have been exercising my imagination in doing new artwork. Using photographs from my world travels and also studio shots, I then print them onto canvas, mount them on board, and then paint over and apply encaustic (hot wax and resin mixture) to give added dimension and nuance.
For years, I have gained my livelihood for the most part through my landscape paintings, and some artists are content to continue in the comfort zone of success achieved by the formula that is feeding them. But imagination is an artist’s foremost calling, and for me, this must be my path, although it might be fraught with peril . . . I would call it sublime fear.

Does the moon follow me at night? I can imagine so, but not necessarily believe it.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Pleasurable Dance of the Senses

A novice appeared recently at the Wednesday night drawing group I have attended for many years, and in a fit of peculiar frustration and perhaps bewilderment, asked the group why they draw from a nude model. I must say that this group I attend is very relaxed and usually a stream-of-consciousness conversation ensues the entire three hours of drawing.

My eyes were focused intensely on the model in front of me when Fabio asked and nobody answered, perhaps because the question seemed so odd at the time. I was the first to answer and replied, “Because it is creative, and artists have always studied the human form.” The group generally agreed figure drawing is an exacting artistic discipline. The model, a young woman reclining on a short platform pushed against a wall just a few feet in front of the artists said, “And this is why I like to model; because I participate in the creativity and enjoy it so much.”

Over the years, I have seen many models, male and female, young and old. A person does not have to be beautiful, but has to be comfortable in their body. A good artist model knows intuitively to strike poses that are interesting to the eye. When they simply withdraw into themselves and take yoga poses, for me at least, I become less inspired and feel the mundane invoked. The best models enjoy the sensuality of the moments while eyes are looking intently at their nakedness, and participate in a give and take that is a pleasurable dance of the senses.

To see more of my figure drawings, go to the Steven Boone website and click on the drawings link.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Madness Of Muses

"Men have called me mad, but the question is not yet settled, whether madness is or is not the loftiest intelligence--whether much that is glorious--whether all that is profound--does not spring from disease of thought--from moods of mind exalted at the expense of the general intellect. Those who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night"- Edgar Allen Poe (1809 - 1849)

"Imagination is more important than knowledge" 
- Albert Einstein (1879 - 1955)

For many years, I struggled with my eccentricity and regarded myself with suspicion, fearing that perhaps I was not “normal”, and would not fit in society. This suspicion against myself killed my creativity, diminished life and even forced me into a mental institution for brief time when I was twenty-three.
Now, I do not even try to “fit in.” I thrive on surprise and élan. The more I have been able to embrace the fullness of my being—including the fact that I am off-center, whacky, exuberant, and mysterious—the more I have been able to embrace life and bring my artistic gifts to the stage.

Now that I am an adult with years of experience and wisdom gained, I often think of the words of Jesus, “Unless ye become as little children, ye shall not know the kingdom of heaven.” This saying brings back my earliest memories of life. My family was poor and lived on the south side of Chicago, in a brownstone tenement building on a crowded street. In the winter, coal was shoveled into a furnace in the basement and heated the apartments. Outwardly, our life was one of poverty; my mother stayed home to rear the growing brood of children and my father worked three jobs to support the family. But for me, in the earliest stages of my life, I could not compare my existence to any other, and only loved being alive without prejudice. I remember my first school experience was a neighborhood day school that equally served all the local children and their families. In the concrete playground was a stagecoach, and every day, during recess the children ran about, playing with gleeful shouts and full hearts. My very first friend that I loved was a boy named Darnell. We laughed and played together with all our might, running everywhere within the boundaries of the schoolyard. I noticed that Darnell was black, and it made no difference to me because I had no judgment about color. I only knew that I loved to play with him and he loved me too—we were attracted in Spirit. I think that this was what Jesus meant when he spoke of knowing heaven. Because in heaven, only Spirit and the truth of Spirit matters.

"If a man comes to the door of poetry untouched by the madness of the muses, believing that technique alone will make him a good poet, he and his sane compositions never reach perfection, but are utterly eclipsed by the inspired madman". Socrates 469 BC - 399 BC

Sunday, September 20, 2009


I love psychology, especially studying the mental and emotional factors governing a situation or activity. Over the years, I have done significant introspection and also been in psychoanalysis. I like myself and want to know who I am. As an artist, I must be open to new ideas and have the strength to express myself from the deepest places. Psychology can help. For instance, many people are in conflict with themselves and the outer world, so they cannot express creatively without fear and anger. Society itself contributes to neurosis, turning people against themselves and others.
When I was in my late teens, I became flooded with emotions and thoughts that at times left me fearful of being overwhelmed and insane. I made a choice to simply experience the powerful emotions openly and without judgment. But quickly I discovered anger, distrust, and disdain were mixed in the equation, along with other negativities, and guessed that I might be anti-social. I decided it was too much to continue without a buffer. So I adopted an ideal to strive toward, and did not accept the emotions and feelings that I had which were not “saintly.” Unfortunately, without wisdom, eventually, I came to despise myself and be very unhappy because I could never reach the goal of happy sainthood. My “wild” side stayed—however much I tried to marginalize it and shut it away from sight. All this led to a breakdown that took years to recover from.
Now, I embrace myself fully and relish knowing all that is inside—however it appears. No longer do I climb up a tall ladder of idealism from which to look down on myself. Rather I dwell in the matrix of life, where creation and death always are together. I do not judge, but experience life compassionately and lovingly. From here, I have deep well to draw my creativity.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Lovingly Present

Today is the tenth anniversary of Naomi’s death when she was nineteen years old. She is a touchstone for my life. Her spirit inspires me to live to the fullest with joy, and care for all living beings. At the cemetery, her mother, step-mother, uncle, a friend and I all gathered and laid roses on her grave, remembering her, and read passages from her journals. She had such remarkable strength and devotion, and was precocious as a child, starting her first diary when only eleven years old. Later, as she was struggling for her life, she wrote: Show up and be lovingly present, no matter what it looks like out there or inside of yourself. Always speak the truth of your heart. To read more of Naomi’s writings about life and death, go to:
I am leaving for Thailand this Tuesday, July 7. I will be there for about two weeks, then go to Vietnam for another two weeks. I have friends in both countries, and I am considering moving to one or the other because the cost of living is low and quality of life is high. Here in the USA I am not earning enough as an artist because of a soured economy, and my cost of living is high, so that I am spending my savings. I am not worried, but neither am I stuck in a rut. I enjoy flux and trust that I can be homeless and happy . . . I can live where the wind takes me. I can be creative anywhere.
I recently finished a new art piece. It is a mixed media diptych on canvas attached to board. I used encaustic (hot wax) as a medium, and enjoy the process, although it is difficult getting a handle on it. The wax must be hot in order to be fluid, and as soon as it cools, which is immediately, it hardens and is impossible to work with. So I have to use a heat gun and hotplate to keep the process flowing. After I return from Asia, I will continue producing new work in this fashion and make a collection.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Strange Scenario

This past week I traveled a road that I have never been on before. I printed one of my photographs on top of an abstract monoprint. (A monoprint is a painting that is made on plexiglass and then sent through a printing press. The pressure transfers the ink from the hard glass to the absorbent paper.) I then experimented with coatings and sent the print through my wide format ink jet printer and came up with something interesting that I can continue to work with.
Meanwhile, the economy is in such a slump that I have no income these days. My paintings, which usually sell briskly, are not selling, and my items brought back to the United States from abroad are only selling on the very low end; not enough to cover my expenses. I am in THE DREAM, and now it is presenting me with a strange scenario where I produce work but it goes unsold.
Another strange scenario is the plight of seven Baha’ís in Iran. They were arrested a year ago just for being Baha’ís, and have been imprisoned ever since. In the past, similar arrests have led to execution. There is so much that is dreadfully unfair about this. The seven have not been allowed to see lawyers and not been charged with any crime. An international protest is gaining momentum that certainly will eventually lead to changes for the betterment of Iran and the safeguarding of human rights everywhere else as well.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Sublime And Complicated

“Computers are useless. They can only give you answers.” This is something a madman might say, or, maybe an artist. Actually, Pablo Picasso, Spanish, 1881 – 1973, said it, and I will share a few more of his sayings. Love him or hate him, Picasso changed the course of art history and became one of the most famous people of all time. He also said, “Everything you can imagine is real. And, “I am always doing that which I can not do, in order that I may learn how to do it.”
I share Picasso’s passion for pursuing imagination, and trying to do that which I cannot. It is what led me to give up my home and journey around the world for a year. Now that I have returned to Santa Fe, I am exploring what I can do with some of the over 10,000 photographs I took. I bought a large inkjet printer for my studio and can make prints up to 44 inches wide and any length. It prints on paper or canvas, and furthermore, the color and sharpness can be strikingly good. Recently, I made a painting of a sunset that I then photographed and printed on canvas the same size as the original. Then I stretched it on stretcher bars, coated and painted on it until it became as vibrant and impressive as the original. Now it can be sold as a semi-original piece of art, at a fraction of the cost.(See:
It is such pleasure to draw from the naked human form. I have been doing this for thirty years and never tire of it. Now that I am settled in one place again, I have rejoined a group of artists that gather once a week and draw a nude model. It is so sensuous and invigorating to look intently over every square inch of a naked person, and consciously trace their form onto paper. Some artists are better than others at this, and everyone has their own style, although techniques can be the same. It is quite difficult to arrive at a successful outcome that warrants attention. Serious artists spend considerable time studying anatomy. I took artistic anatomy in college, and learned how bones and muscle give contour to the human form underneath skin. And then, proportions are important, and the angle from which a figure is viewed directly influences proportion. (Click to see Steven Boone figure drawings.)
Some artist models are better than others. For me, the best are those who have something of the artist in themselves. They are comfortable being gazed at while they are naked, and intuitively strike poses that are challenging and enticing. Models that are self-conscious sometimes just get into yoga poses, and often it is boring to the eye and not particularly fun to draw.
It is amazing how prominently the human form figures in art history. Check it out—look through an art history book sometime and notice how artists through the ages have focused on the most sublime and complicated feature of our existence: the human form.

“There are painters who transform the sun to a yellow spot, but there are others who with the help of their art and their intelligence, transform a yellow spot into the sun.” Picasso

“There is no abstract art. You must always start with something. Afterward you can remove all traces of reality.” Picasso

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Giving To Others

Last week, I wrote of my perceptions returning to the United States after a year of travel, of my sale of objects that I brought back with me, and the shift that has been occurring in my consciousness toward a feeling of complete safety and thankfulness. An anonymous person left a comment; “...and what do you give to others?” I was taken aback, and felt the comment was an accusation . . . or maybe an exhortation to form a soup kitchen for the homeless in these hard economic times.
Since my blog is a public discourse, I feel it is unseemly to tell the world all that I do for others . . . it is better simply to do good for the sake of doing good, rather than public acclaim.
I am an artist, and if we ask the question, “what do artists give to others?” we must think of Mozart, Beethoven, Michelangelo, Picasso, Leo Tolstoy, James Dean, Claude Monet, the Beatles, and many more. Life without art and artists would be impossibly dreary and uninspired, almost not worth living. We could also ask, what do philosophers do for others . . . yet where would mankind be without St. Augustine, Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, and the rest?
During my traveling, I opened completely to the unfolding moments, and there were many occasions to “give to others.” Often it was simple things that seemed natural. During my visit to Egypt, I was in Luxor, along the Nile River. One day I met a man working on his felucca, a traditional sailing boat. He used his boat to take tourists for boat rides, and this is how he supported his wife and four children. He spoke a bit of English, and had just repainted his boat and needed to give it a name and write the word in English on the prow—but he could not spell or write in English. Typically, captains on the Nile River name their boats after their youngest daughters, so he wanted to name his vessel Amira. Since I am an artist, I offered to help, and when I finished, he was overjoyed and took me home with him. Another time, I was in Kashmir and had made friends who invited me to a wedding celebration. It was evening when the groom arrived to meet his bride. Guests were joyous and singing, food was plentiful and the wedding couple were actors playing out their roles from an ancient script. Amazingly, I was the only one there with a camera. Somehow, I was escorted into the private room where women helping to dress and decorate her surrounded the bride, and I took photos. Then I did the same in the room where the groom was sitting with the men. Before I left Kashmir, I had the photos enlarged and delivered to the newlyweds. Simple acts that made a positive difference for people, and along the way of my journey these opportunities arrived frequently. As far as my spending money on things—the local economies where I left my savings benefited greatly. These are communities where small amounts of money, let alone the thousands I spent, go a long way to support families.
In the end, I feel if I live my life fully and authentically, not wasting my talents but instead enthusiastically embracing them to share with the world, then I am also giving to others.