Becoming the Student #8: Joel T Dugan

Joel T Dugan is an amazing painter and educator who works as a professor at Fort Hays State University in Kansas. A few weeks ago my family had the honor of hosting him for a few days and the time we spent together in the studio were some of the best drawing hours I can remember. Our conversation ranged wide. We spoke of everything from “ignorant faithfulness” to the “chase” aspect of painting. Especially beneficial to me was sharing our experiences in teaching. It was an epic evening.

IMG_0023Portrait of Joel T Dugan, Digital drawing, Dimensions variable. 2014. Created with an Adonit Jot Touch 4 in Sketchbook Pro on an iPad Air.

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On Reality and the Ignorantly Faithful

“In terms of reality… I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the notion of individuality and that how we perceive worth can be so saturated with our own assertions we might experience certain things as so much more impactful than anyone else could.

What do we know? What do we expect? What do we allow to resonate? In my life, so many things have happened – circumstances have aligned themselves, so many nuances have taken place – that you almost wonder if there’s a Suspect at work, something that we might call fate.

But the very notion of fate is so saturated with the hoax-y, with… the ignorantly faithful, those who… allow themselves to… view things in terms of a Divine Plan or Divine Timing while not… taking responsibility for their own choices and motivations. That’s also about not being willing to accept any of the obvious cues that something might not be what we think it is. It’s often a cover up for really not wanting to engage with deep concerns. “

On Perception and Ignorance

“I wonder about perception. I wonder a lot about what truly is valuable. But then you just completely get lost in the kids and it’s always a great release to see that pure innocence and awe. I fear for my kids, that they’ll lose that wonder.”

We’re all subjected to selective ignorance. We utilize that state by default without even knowing it. We’re creatures of comfort in the sense that we love to feel like we’re right. It makes us feel like our efforts are fulfilling, that our existence is poignant.”

On Painting as Existential Chase

“I question myself about the impact of the things that I do, questioning what is the true exchange that takes place when creating art. Being able to share, or even just include, the viewer in the mystique of the work, of that chase… that very much is a kind of lustful relationship. And I just keep thinking to myself that if I could get closer to that same feeling of epiphany, of surprise and recollection that takes place when you struggle with doubts and failures – even after absolute trust and immense security – and you think to yourself ‘I’m a fool. Today is not the day’ so you turn away, put on your coat to leave…. But then you glance back. And you think, ‘That’s not too bad. You know what, with ten more minutes that could really be something.’ And after all the rest of that time it’s almost like you stole it. Almost like you took something that was just a failure and you ripped it from the hands of mediocrity and re-purposed it. If that moment could be shared with everyone you would never have doubt that it was worth it. But how the hell do you do that without just saturating it with your own judgment?”

 On Teaching

“One of the hardest things about teaching is asking people to be both more accepting of judgment and more confrontational with opinion. I just love seeing the light bulb turn on in their heads. You lay the cheese in front of them and they think they found it themselves; that’s when learning how to learn takes place.”

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If you ever get a chance to spend time with Joel, do it. He’s a man of faith, family, and joy. My daughters really fell in love with him and he gave them such positive attention and care. Our youngest, CaiQun, asked, “Can Mr Joel could be a part of our family forever??”

IMG_0521Mr Joel and CaiQun working with the Sensu Brush in ArtRage on Joel’s iPad.

  IMG_0560Joel breaking down one of Eric Norby’s paintings.

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On the Drawing I Made of Him:

“I’m glad you love my head.”

I was blessed to get to hang out with Joel for a few days – everyone is better for a few hours with the guy. Thank you, sir!

Working with the Adonit Jot Touch 4 and Sketchbook Pro

I recently began working with the Adonit Jot Touch 4 stylus. It’s a really phenomenal tool. As an artist who has been learning, working, and teaching in analog painting and drawing for almost 25 years, I have a really high standard for the feel of the art making tools I use. The Jot Touch 4 has been great to work with.

photo 3Interior of a Church, Digital Sketch created with Adonit Jot Touch 4 in Sketchbook Pro on iPad Air, 2014. 45 minutes.

Pros:

* The Jot Touch really does have analog level pressure sensitivity. It’s not really like drawing with a pencil or moving a brush, but it’s close enough to allow for the intuitive knowledge I have of those traditional approaches to apply.

* Excellent feel – the Jot Touch has the weight and surface quality of a fine ball pen. Holding and moving it feels natural and I soon forgot that I was using it. The mark of a good tool is that it feels both necessary and melds seamlessly with the nature of the task. The Jot Touch does this for me.

* Effectiveness. Particularly when paired with a nice application – I use Autodesk’s Sketchbook Pro on an iPad Air and a Kindle Fire – I find the Jot Touch 4 to be exactly as advertised. I have always been frustrated with different stylus options I’ve tried in the past but this thing does basically everything I need.

Cons:

* Price. The Jot Touch 4 is not something most people can just buy on a whim. It was recommended to me by a friend in the iPad app development field; I expected that it was a quality item. In exploring the device I could see how superior it was to basically every other stylus out there (except the Sensu brush, which I’ll talk about in a later post). The Touch 4 is expensive, but it’s worth it for graphic designers and artists. It just feels so much more natural than Wacom tablets or lesser stylus options.

* The palm rejection isn’t sufficient. I tend not to use it since I almost never simply rest my palm on a surface while I’m drawing. I view drawing as an action that originates in the body, especially in the shoulder. Even when sketching in a seated position I tend to keep my hand off the surface. It’s not writing essays, it’s making a drawing. That said, I think that a broader, more robust palm rejection area could be useful. I have tried it out a few times and just don’t feel that it’s effective at this point.

photo 1My Daughter Painting, Digital Sketch created with Adonit Jot Touch 4 in Sketchbook Pro on iPad Air, 2014. 20 minutes.

In the month since I started using the Jot Touch 4 I’ve made dozens of drawings, but a few really highlight how I use the device. Below are three movies that show a process of building a drawing. These are the prototypes for more developed demos that I will create for an online Beginning Drawing course at The University of Missouri next fall. The first two – portraits of friends – show the development of pieces made for my Becoming the Student series. Watch out for the posts about these two portraits coming up soon!

Digital painting of my friend Kevin Stark. Two hours.

Digital painting of my friend Michael Winters. One Hour 45 minutes.

Still Life Demo. One Hour 30 minutes.

All in all I’m really pleased with the Jot Touch 4 as it works within Sketchbook Pro. I have used the Sketchbook series of drawing apps for about a year and a half and have enjoyed them. The Pro is the best yet, and for the $5 price it’s completely worth it. Even without a stylus Sketchbook Pro is glorious.

Below: Red French Press, Digital Sketch created with Adonit Jot Touch 4 in Sketchbook Pro on iPad Air, 2014. 3 minutes.

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The Fine Arts Building Has Never Seemed So Mysterious

My current crop of Beginning Drawing students at Mizzou are doing some great work. Below are just a few of their Interior Space drawings – these works are their first attempts at realizing accurate perspective and accumulation of value. I think this group of (mostly) non Art Majors is doing nicely.

IMG_0381Cailin Carter

IMG_0386Jane Grossman

IMG_0387Libby McKown

IMG_0389Tayler Newcomer

IMG_0392Jordan Giljum

IMG_0390Mandy Lupardus

IMG_0388Blessing Ikoro

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It’s shaping up to be a great semester!

Becoming The Student, #1: Shalonda Farrow

Starting this month I will be periodically posting a new series of portraits, beginning with the one below. The title of this series, Becoming the Student, is based on my desire to be quieter and learn from others rather than be entirely bound up in my identity as an educator. In Becoming the Student, I hope to present thoughtful, dignified portraits and use the time while creating the works as an opportunity to learn from the people who sit for me. With each post I will include some observation, quote, or other tidbit of glory that the subject shared with me.

The one below was created in 3 hours or so at a portrait workshop I conducted at The Columbia Art League yesterday. Pictured is my friend (and fellow CAL instructor) Shalonda Farrow. I was struck by how often she used the word “love” (as in: “Thank you, love” or “Do you need any of this, love?”) during the session. In speaking to her friends, she’s always intentional about communicating care and awareness. Shalonda seemed like a perfect initial entry into the Becoming the Student series. Here’s to many more. And thanks to Shalonda and the ladies at CAL!

20131208-155201.jpgShalonda, 13 by 11 inches, pastel on paper. 2013.

The Best Way To Do A Q&A

I gave a couple of talks last week, one for the community at large and one for the teaching symposium held here a few days ago.

Perhaps my favorite part of giving talks/lectures is the Q&A time afterward. I get into it. Here’s an example:

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That’s me in 2008, answering a question at the Glen Arbor Art Association. There I am, totally sun-burned, wine in hand, and in my element.

But I think the best way to answer questions is after my daughters run up to the front of the room and want to be with their dad while he talks:

MCTalk-DadGirls1smallThanks to Shalonda for capturing this image.

Wow. That’s a lot of life lived between the first image and the second.

For the record, Miranda asked a question herself while there in my arms. After looking at the image of one of my paintings up on the screen at the time, she asked, “Dad, don’t you think we should draw more back into that painting?”

No, babe, I think it’s done :)

New Homes

2012 was a good year for selling my work. Many pieces that we’ve lived with for many years are now gone. They live new lives with others. They will, in tandem with these fresh viewers, take on different resonances, build more meanings. Three recent sales in particular are significant to me. What’s interesting to me as an artist is that these works don’t necessarily represent the height of my prowess as a painter or draftsperson (Though I do count Four Pale Bricks as among the most significant paintings I’ve ever made). Nor are these works the end of a particular line of thought or closed, singular achievement. Each was, in some sense, a reaction to different pressures and concerns. They were attempts to understand influences, necessities, desires. They were stepping stones.

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Untitled Landscape (#1), Acrylic on canvas, 36 x 46 inches, 2000. Private collection, MO. Click to view larger.

They are all about different times in my life. The colorful Untitled Landscape (#1) above was made when I was a junior at SAIC. It wasn’t meant to be my own personal expression. I was trying to understand Diebenkorn and integrate his approach to composition and structure. In spite of the derivative quality (something that’s unavoidable for any artist and something that, when embraced, can spark true development) the work displays my growing sense of color and use of mark and mass.

As I packed it up for delivery to its new owners, I was so pleased with the craftsmanship: the bars are still square; the canvas stretched and primed beautifully; the corners wrapped flat and tight. It was that follow-through with the love for the materials at all levels that, I think, made me develop as an artist. I wasn’t just winging it. I was being thoughtfully engaged all the way through. I’m not saying this just to toot my own horn… I’m just proud of the fact that, in spite of myself, I got something about materials, process, and focus that still rings true and gives the work quality.

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Four Pale Bricks, Oil on canvas on panel, 14 by 22 inches, 2006. Private collection, MO. Click to view larger.

The second piece, above, really shows (to me) how my grasp of composition and visual dynamics was affected by combining my early love for Diebenkorn with my research, via Frank Stella’s Working Space, into the formal concerns of the Renaissance. Four Pale Bricks was painted very soon after my return from Italy, a trip that greatly supplemented what I thought I’d learned from Working Space. My encounters there with alchemical pictorial formulas, various numerological/metaphysical theories a la sacred geometry, and the intense formal constructions of everyone from Giotto to Pontormo were extremely influential. In many ways this work was the beginning of my current explorations into two-dimensional shape and angle dynamics as they manifest in illusions of space, air, and light.

ballou18-tinfoilcoal

Still Life With Tinfoil, Coal, and Plywood, Graphite on paper, 18 by 24 inches, 2007. Private collection, MO. Click to view larger.

This last work – something I shipped out to its new owner just this morning – is all about my having become a teacher. One of the things I believe in most strongly as an educator is that I must model the skills, ideas, and values that I teach. I will never make any impression at all if I merely vomit out vague data; I’ve got to believe it and practice it. This work came about as a challenge from my students, who did not believe the processes I was teaching them would yield positive results. As I drew this work, I took photos and from them produced a short video to demonstrate how it all worked. I have used this example every semester since. The piece is very sentimental to me because of how it embodies my own practice of teaching. I was willing to live out the things I talked about, and that made my students trust me.

Having these three works – and all of the others recently sold – go into the hands of people who appreciate them is wonderful for me. It’s also a reminder that gratification (and appreciation) is often very much delayed. I do work today that may only become appreciated decades from now. That is something that is hard for all artists – we are a notoriously insecure and touchy lot, aren’t we? – but having these works go out into the world is special.

It’s all the more special for me because every dollar from every sale I’ve made over the last year has gone directly into bringing Madeleine Cai Qun home. Now when I think of these artworks, I won’t only consider what they were for me or how they have gone to new homes, but I’ll be able to see in them how they gave my daughter a new home.

That’s a value that is transcendent. I’m thankful that my work as an artist can be a part of that even greater work of manifesting love and peace into the world.

There’s still a few more weeks before we head to China. If you’d like to help out in the final stretch by bringing one of my works into your home, check out my etsy site here.

 

 

Matt Ballou: RANGE – Reception at William Woods University

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My exhibition – Matt Ballou: RANGE – is still up at William Woods University until December 16, 2012. I hope you can go see it if you haven’t yet. Below are some photos of the space, both after the installation and during the reception. I want to thank everyone who came out – friends, students (graduate and undergrad, current and former), and colleagues – and especially Jennifer Sain for her help in making the exhibition happen. Special thanks to Jane Mudd for encouraging William Woods to host this show.

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Installation, back on November 12, 2012.

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Three panoramas of the installed work.

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Two of my all-time favorite works… Locus #77 and #78

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Beautiful angles and shapes during the reception…

At the reception I gave a brief impromptu talk that led into some interesting questions from the audience and my own musing on the work.

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Me during my talk – Photo by Kevin Larson.

Click here to download the talk and Q+A session (42 MB MP3 format, 50 minutes long).

Some notes about the talk:

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Photo of me at the talk – Photo by Eric Norby.

My First Classroom

Click to see a larger view.

Here it is.

My first REAL classroom. I’d done a bit here and there. I’d done some substitution work. I’d done some minor short term stuff. But this was my first place of my own. Room 175 in the The Henry Radford Hope School of Fine Arts at Indiana University Bloomington. I taught some amazing students there. I cut my teeth, tested my strength, felt out the pace and scope and sequence of teaching. It was good to go back to that room recently – more than 8 years after – and spend time in that space. Snap a picture. Sense the light. Remember the slide of charcoal, the scratch of graphite, and the laughter of willing students.

Sometimes it’s hard to remember why this path I’ve taken is important. In the silent witness of this room there is proof of what I – what so many of us – have tried to express about awareness and presence.

I’m still seeking to be worthy of that task.

Color Drawing, Fall 2012

We’re halfway through another great semester of Color Drawing. Below are just a few examples of some of the standout work from this year. Click for higher res!

Danielle Wallace, Chalk pastel of reflections.

Emily Brewer, Oil pastel study of colored and fluid filled glass.

Emily Brewer, Oil pastel large arrangement of reflective and glass objects.

Jessica Bremehr, Colored pencil study of a lamp.

Jessica Bremehr, Oil pastel large arrangement of reflective and glass objects.

Jessica Bremehr, Chalk Pastel study of reflective surface.

Ginny Algier, Oil pastel large arrangement of reflective and glass objects.

Kevin Moreland, Chalk Pastel self portrait in a reflective surface.

Julie Bennett, Oil pastel large arrangement of reflective and glass objects.

Click HERE to see more of my posts on my Color Drawing class glory!