Note from Garett

People who like particular art pieces are sometimes interested in the inspirations, purposes and techniques of the artist who made them. Here are mine.

It seems to me that fine arts and crafts come from artists’ emotions, positive or negative, and are intended to produce a similar emotion in the viewer. I think that most artists, unless they are paid to do otherwise, make art that projects their personal emotions in a way similar to children at play. The range of human emotion in art and play is broad and complex, so art creation can range from exhausting total concentration to relaxed doodling.

Nevertheless, production of fine art is above all nonverbal and the result is very hard to describe in words. The viewer or reader may be disappointed by the artist’s failure to reveal in sentences the complex emotions that drove the art. Even academics who take on that job could more accurately use laughter, groans or sighs rather than wordy analysis. From the artist’s perspective that emotional message is the art.

My own messages come mainly from my delight in living in the world (but also regret that not everyone takes pleasure) while creating in that world. The “play” I am engaged in may be intriguing, demanding or pleasingly trivial, but the final product represents my own creative feelings and my intent to share them.

That is my purpose whether, on one hand, I am documenting in watercolor paint the essence of an old tree or a sidewalk café or, on the other hand, working on a printing plate to draw emotional power from an abstract design. In either case, my intent is to produce art which not only says “hey, look at this”, but also raises in the viewer a non-verbal burst of humor, warmth, curiosity, wistfulness, or merely recognition of an emotional truth.

Regarding my professional influences and techniques, I have sketched for decades and have experience in furniture design, art welding, and ceramic and concrete sculpture. But, since the mid-90s, I have stuck to two different branches of two dimensional art: 1) Outdoor watercolor painting anywhere when there is warm dry weather; 2) Winter studio-work in Seattle, with medieval to modern style equipment and techniques. There, I make one-of-a-kind (monotype) prints and glued assemblages of paper (collages). All my collages also contain some printed pigment, and both collages and monotypes are made on a big manual press with a vertical wheel six feet high.

In print and collage work, I take inspiration from: Traditional Japanese processes, materials and images (Hokusai and Hiroshige): European images from the 19th and 20th centuries (Matisse, Gaudi, Kandinsky); and American 20th century pigments, materials, and images (Calder, Johns, Graves, and Horiuchi). Living in the Caribbean and Central America, along with many visits to other tropical places, have left memories that enter my work from time to time.

The emotional play in the studio is largely spontaneous and from my memory or imagination. I use pigments and other materials to print or mask printing plates, without always knowing where the play will lead. If the inspiration doesn’t ignite quickly, however, I can fall back on another kind of inspiration, illustrating a poem—Japanese Haiku, for example. Each Haiku verse describes a scene.

Distinct from printing in a studio, out-door watercolor painting is more like fishing or hunting. It calls for more focused emotional play in an environment that is never under complete control. Distractions include wind, wasps, noise, bystanders, rattle snakes or too friendly dogs. Nor is just any scene worth painting. So, the search for painting inspiration is a physical search, finding a target that is inspiring, distinct from waiting for inspiration to appear in the studio.

The outdoor painter must pack his kit and plan his trip, keeping in mind the movement of shadows, the temperature (what to wear), and determine whether the distractions are tolerable. Rain can ruin a watercolor target hunt, and cold temperatures cramp hands. Finding the right scene, and the place from which to paint it with minimal distractions may take as long as the painting itself.

If I’ve found the right place and have taken out my brushes, paint and paper, I begin to preserve for the viewer not only the image, but a subtle enhancement of it coming from whatever emotion made me choose the scene. If I can’t find the right scene, I move on, around the block, down the trail or over to the next dock. In the back of my mind are the targets that my favorite painters found, the landscapes and seascapes of Winslow Homer and the urban scenes of Edward Hopper. The plein-aire part of my body of work is like a documentation of what I saw, whereas the print/collage collection records my memories and imaginings.

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