By on June 4th, 2012

They’re poles apart yet somehow kindred.  Eyvind Earle and Charles Burchfield both created landscapes that could speak philosophy.  Earle’s serigraphs speak of the still-point, the intoned om.  Burchfield’s vibratory watercolors crave to paint the pulse of life — not the particulars, not the trees, the sunflowers, but the very life inside them.

Seaside Pasture by Eyvind Earle (copyright Eyvind Earle Publishing LLC)         via the Eyvind Earle website

Alamo Pintado by Eyvind Earle (copyright Eyvind Earle Publishing LLC)    via the Eyvind Earle website

Cattle Country by Eyvind Earle (copyright Eyvind Earle Publishing LLC)         via the Eyvind Earle website

Let’s start with the serigraphs (a term to distinguish fine art use of the technology that also prints T-shirts, silkscreen).  The reason to start here is that this work swamps me with homesickness for my native California.  Art as can-opener for the soul.  Trust Earle on how the land slopes and how elongated shadows stretch down the hills.  If you travel between San Francisco and LA (50? 100? times for me) you know the nearly treeless hills that shape the light.   And the mountainous northern coastline, cove after cove of rocks and precipitous drops.

In Earle’s autobiographical video he says “art is an attempt… to pick one detail out of the infinitude of infinities and make it clear…”

He uses the video to make a point that makes the point that…  You know how a fractal scaled up or down reshapes itself as itself?


I hear no sound in Earle’s works, we watch from a mountaintop.  Fog hangs in the lowlands, hillside sun bakes in color like enamels in a kiln.  In Alamo Pintado we have the crest-line leaves back-lit, the dark masses of late day, the sun ladled on in a perfect rendering of its density.  Serigraph can render timelessness in slow color sheets.

Eyvind Earle worked in many mediums.  He was a color stylist at Disney, gave Snow White its broody forest.  We addressed the serigraphs here.  Go to his website to view the variety.


The Insect Chorus by Charles Burchfield        via imprint

Now, the still-point vs the jugular pulse.

Compare Charles Burchfield’s rendering of foliage here with Earle’s trees just above. Both works are highly stylized takes on vegetal realities. Vegetal, yet we see in Earle the wisdom of a meditative mudra-handed pose — and in Burchfield the abandoned release of a Dionysian dance.  Classic poles of human nature. Messages told in plants.

I see in both artists aliveness to plants, and to air, atmosphere.  Both dismiss animal life with a squib.  Both are disinclined to portraits, vases of tulips, realisms.

A note on the Burchfield images here.  I couldn’t find any that were as big or glorious as the Earles and they suffer by looking punier.  They’re not puny.  Let your imagination be your zoom.

Fireflies and Lightning by Charles Burchfield             via Traditional Fine Arts Organization

Golden Dream by Charles Burchfield             via Isola di Rifiuti

Burchfield painted his ecstatic watercolors as a young man, veered with the Depression into grim industrial and housing images, then returned at his 50th birthday midlife crisis to painting nature as it throbbed.  Remember Equus?

  • “Look…
  • “life is only comprehensible through a thousand…
  • “local gods.
  • “Not just the old, dead gods,
  • with names like Zeus… ”                      
                    via Drew's Script-O-Rama

In Burchfield’s voluminous journals he wrote of the tinny pin-point cleeking of crickets, of air that became musical with the quaverings of bluebirds.  He sought to paint sounds along with the hollyhocks.  And more, his tumultuous feelings were a vital part of his subject matter.  Hard to pry apart what he sensed inside vs out.  But what he distilled into his work was the clanging fandango of life-force, the leaf pores breathing alongside the crickets.  His urgent need to render that in paint.

I  would love to see Earle and Burchfield in one show where they could each irrefutably make the opposite point.  I  believe them.


go further:

Eyvind Earle

Charles Burchfield

By on May 24th, 2012


Man Alone with Someone Else’s Thoughts, video and still (click link to activate in new window)

by Sloan Nota  2011

 I hit on a new way of making art: combining videos with stills.  The trick was to make a composition from them that worked on its own.  You could frame it.  Then one part of it loops and another stays still.   Here the totem-stack whirls and the head is a still.  It’d be a very different artwork if the stack sat frozen and the head was animated.  Maybe it would turn, look at you, meet your gaze., turn away.  Maybe it would slowly scan up and down the column, checking it out.

Each possibility creates its own meaning.  If it’s got another meaning it’s a different piece of art.

Think about it.  Say I recolored Man Alone, made it all daffodil hued.  If the the feeling you get from it is essentially the same, then it’s a colorized version.  Fabric designers for years have offered designs in varying colorways.  You like that rose and grapes motif?  In  pale green and deep blue?  Or lilac and burgundy?  And it’s unlikely that a pattern with roses in pale green or lilac will come in a third version where roses go midnight blue.  Part of the colorway is a scheme of light and dark values.   Same if I turn Man Alone a sunshiny hue, the disconnect — if it works for you — between the man’s gaze and the dancing forms will hold the meaning of the piece.

If you paint, if you sculpt, if you do versions they’re sketches, maquettes.  Pixel-based art lets you do color versions that have equal polish.  They’re quick, can be individually saved.  Colorways.  I’ll be happy to argue the emotive power of color in another place.  That doesn’t make this incorrect.  We’re addressing what versions mean in a new medium, where facile variations can be a norm.

I make art out of pixels.  My sensibilities were formed by artists who use paint.  Or marble, clay.  I revere Goya and Picasso, Rodin and Van Gogh.  Neo Rauch, Frank Stella, total nutsos like Peter Saul.  And I’ve lived decades spellbound by how computers can manipulate images.  Balancing those two things is the bulk of my art.

We were talking about fabric design.  Part of a homeware designer’s job is to create objects that have null emotional meaning.  Politics, fright, rage, war don’t belong on the tablecloth.  When you’re an artist your job includes choosing from all human emotions.  You can’t make art with giraffe emotions, or even your sister’s.  You can choose to explore pain or you can choose to explore triangles.  If it’s real it comes from your experience of pain, your fascination with three-sided shapes.  If it doesn’t you’re doing someone else’s art.  Good luck.

Artists are linguists from the right-side of the brain.  An artist discovers a visual something that communicates well for them.  If they’re fired up by it they’ll try many versions.  The something they discovered grows into a language they improve at.  Mondriaan’s one example, Monet, Francis Bacon.  Each version is a new question they’re asking.  In paint, in poetry, on the saxophone, the artist stays interested enough to try new gambits.  Or they’re stale and they copy themselves.

Pursuing versions in pixel-based art can turn you into a drone.  This filter, that filter, try it in pink?  Because versions are easy you can pretend you’re attempting something.  You’re doodling.  Your guts are busy digesting, your curiosity’s flatlined.  The real versions we need to recognize in pixel-based art have to transcend the tools.  A filter’s a tool.

I couldn’t have made Man Alone with Someone Else’s Thoughts on a canvas.  It requires pixels, changing states.  And it’s a picture.  My choice in art is to communicate some emotion, to have you feel something you hadn’t a moment before.  Designers are expected to avoid stirring you up, that’s one reason they’re not fine artists.  They don’t have the freedom.

And the duty, to my mind.  If our three-sided-shape person is a real artist you’ll catch their enthusiasm, zeal, seriousness.  None of these are thoughts, they’re emotions.

If you create pixel-based art your job is to draw a line between easy versions and versions.