Atelier Stark: Pinning down the moment, ever fleeting

Ami in Dress, ink on paper, 12×9 inches, ©️ Stark 2020
Ami in Dress, ink on paper, 12×9 inches, ©️ Stark 2020

One of my favorite Olympic sports to watch in childhood was figure skating. The catchy music, whirling dancers in glistening costumes… gliding gracefully across the icy glass. It was not until I was older that I more deeply appreciated the art of figure skating. The repetitive practice to get to a point where all of it comes together in a single stroke of seemingly effortless perfection. To capture the ephemeral exhilaration in permanence from honing a skill to be able to perform it over and over again as if it was more natural than breathing.

Ami as a Bird - ©️ Stark 2020
Ami as a Bird, ink on paper, 9×12 inches, ©️ Stark 2020

I contemplate this in my art. Many times the process is a struggle. As I tackle larger, more ambitious work I am trying to master the conflicting forces of the spontaneity of a plein air session or a rapid fire gesture drawing set with methodical planning and editing of decisions around composition, color and style. While I believe in happy accidents, the combination of every move in art creation to serendipitously fall in perfect place is rare and the permutations of possible (poor) decisions are infinite. Thus methodical planning and process is a necessity.

This past week I have tried to tackle this in my studio through both planning the composition of a larger piece and staying loose with rapid 3 to 25 minute ink drawings that demand certainty in stroke as there is no undo, no eraser, no painting over. What I have been striving to do is build an armature of planning and thinking, while also developing muscle memory and intuition in my hands for rapid gestures and painting techniques. Then when I am ready to execute a large work, I’m trying to do it with the spontaneity of the smaller faster pieces, but with the foundation built in terms of decisions on color, value and composition. Like a figure skating routine where the music, choreography and timing has been methodically planned and practiced so that in the moment of execution it all comes together effortlessly and expressively. That, at least, is my aspiration.

Canary - Copyright Stark 2020
Preparatory Sketch, graphite on toned paper, 9.5×7.5 inches, ©️ Stark 2020

This process of painting is why it is funny when the question is sometimes asked on how long it takes to create a painting. It would be equivalent to asking a figure skater or pianist on how long it takes to perform or play a piece. For the time it takes to create a painting is the culmination of everything it took to get to that point where each stroke tries to pin down the moment, ever fleeting.

Ami with Hat, ink on paper, 12×9 inches, ©️ Stark 2020
Ami with Hat, ink on paper, 12×9 inches, ©️ Stark 2020

You can follow my work @lonistark.