Anything can be used as a tool for oil painting. As a child I knew a man that painted with sharpened sticks and twigs and referred to himself as the twig painter. Each painting tool is a discipline to master. While working solely with the pallet knife I needed a larger surface to move paint, I chose to use a toaster for several composition paintings simply because was the tool that could get the results I was looking for. The concept that I was working on at the time dictated what tool I use, as I chose the toaster simply because I could only acquire the results I wanted from its large, flat, smooth surface. Iwanted a larger size so I used a freezer door as my tool, with the same intended purpose as the toaster and pallet knife. My personal experiments with unconventional tools did not end there and eventually lead me back to the brush. These experiences gave me separate voices of dramatic difference within my work that I someday may eventually unite into a single personality with a voice based on multiple techniques.
I once challenged an artist to paint with a wind up toy bear that’s arms would become animated in opposing directions, swinging in a swimming motion, and a small toilet plunger. Although the physical aesthetic of the work he produced was poor, if the artist would have continued to practice the discipline in oil painting with the toy bear and toilet plunger he would have eventually found a way to create what his intuitive mind was telling him in an aesthetically pleasing manner. The toy bear and a toilet plunger were experiments in teaching an understanding of what a tool is to the artist. The lesson was intended to remove the artists dependance on a conventional painting tool as the brush, and to teach the artist that all painting tools are simply a discipline within themselves to learn. My apprentice painted five works with the toy bear and toilet plunger. It was not until the fourth work did he begin to get a handle on the tools themselves, and not until the 5th did he start to see the lesson of tool as a discipline.
Prior to this experiment I attempted the same lesson with this artist, confining him to use one brush type per painting. The lesson, tool as discipline, is the same here as it was with the unconventional tools, but my apprentice couldn’t separate his mind from the brush as he used it even though he was only allowed to paint exclusively per brush type. His unimaginative approach to painting and painting tools that pointed me in the direction of removing his habits with the unconventional and witty toy wind up bear and toilet plunger. I had to remove the idea of tools as tools, making the action of painting absurd in order for him to see the ideas behind the lesson. Subsequently this artist should have been able to see this on his own, and as far as I know he no longer paints. together we did have a very good time painting, and Stefan was extremely talented in illustration, and I hope that he still works creatively today as he did yesterday.
I have never really liked Max Beckmann's work. I found it unskilled, childish, and uninventive. For years I would simply walk past this painting, paying it no mind. Working at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, I have found myself paying attention to works of art that I would have normally ignored. Subsequently, I have changed my perspective on many works of art; Beckmann's piece included.
Although I still do not like his poor use of composition, I find Beckmann's use of color enjoyable. The layers of color, dark over light over dark, is typical of the expressionists and still innovative today. Philosophically this work is a personal catharses and escape from World War II.
"Blind Mans Buff"
1945, oil on canvas
"I think only of objects: of a leg or an arm, of the wonderful sense of foreshortening, breaking through the plane, of the division of space, of the combination of straight lines in relation to curved ones."