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!

Classic Studio Shot – Camden, NY

casspainting2

As a freshman and sophomore art student I often made my paintings on the wall of my bedroom in Camden, NY. In this classic studio shot, my niece Cassilyn and I were painting away on an abstracted scene of Wolcott Hill Road.

It’s a great memory. Now that Cassi is a freshman in college herself, I figured it was time to share the joy. Love you, Cass! Here’s hoping your education and college adventures are as valuable and productive as mine were! :)

My God, It’s Full Of Stars

2013-06-06 10.42.44

I’ve been trying to find the right words to talk about the opportunity and honor I had to be involved with the wedding of my friend Keith and his bride, Amanda, last week. I’ve been speechless about it, and maybe that’s for the best. Instead, for now, please click on the image above. This is a dodecahedron lamp that Keith and Amanda got for me. I finished putting it together today. Just now I put it in my pitch black studio and took this image. For a few minutes my studio was full of stars.

Thank you, Keith and Amanda.

Surrounded by the Hours

I’m moving into a new studio. One of the best things about this new space is that I can see so much of my work at once. Today, as I unloaded my work and began the process of organizing things, I was struck by all of the hours that surrounded me. Hours painting, thinking, trying, failing, moving down one path, trying another, etc, etc… So many works have left me, but I’ve got this amazing representative sample around me right now. I’m thankful to have spent that time. It’s been worth it.

The Ox-Bow Studio

“Image-making in this place seemed axiomatic. You live to make. Or, at least, in living you make. Let us take the ninety-degree turn twice and go back to where we once were, shall we? It was fun, challenging, and worthy; the most worthy and real thing I did that summer. It is the most abiding thing I did, even now. Alas, all the rest is dust, chaff, and stubble – ‘which are burnt and which the wind drives away’ – though it all was so beautiful while strewn on the ash pile there. And we, like the old pagans, went down to color it and cover our nakedness with it.” – from A Mnemonic of Longing, an unpublished essay, 2002-2009.

Above: the studio I used during the Summer of 2001 while at Ox-Bow on a Fellowship Residency. Click for larger view.

Below: a sign one of my fellow Fellows left for me one day. I’ve saved it all these years. I have a feeling who left it on my chair that night, but was never sure. Click for larger view.

Studio Visit From Keith

The talented and dinosaur-loving Keith Montgomery visited my studio last week to shoot some video and take some still images. Keith is a good friend and a former student of mine who has made tremendous strides in his photography over the last couple years. You can see a bunch of his work here, but also click on the images below for larger versions (there are also a number of other shots). You can also see our collaboration piece in The Larry Show, up at the University of Missouri’s George Caleb Bingham Gallery through August.

The Grand Studio

At Work…

Looks like I’ve got some new “at work” shots for my website, eh? Thanks, Keith!

The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Ten Years On

I graduated from SAIC nearly 10 years ago, and I’ve got a lot of memories from there. At first, right after I graduated, I was pretty negative about my experience. I felt as if they’d denied me some aspect of my education necessary to my future, that they’d tried to indoctrinate me, that they’d treated me like a number, not an artist.

In ways I was right, but in a lot of ways I was wrong. I’ve since gotten over it and look back with fondness, thankful that I grew so much during those years. One of the ways in which I grew was in my attention to the things that drew my eye. I began to document heavily, shooting thousands of photographs in the last couple years of my undergraduate career. Below I’ve posted some of those images. These are all from SAIC hallways and environs circa 1999/2000. I was obsessed with the angles, passages of light, and transitioning spaces in the places I saw every day.

Above, looking through the peep hole of my dorm door, 112 South Michigan Ave, 9th floor. This space no longer exists. Below, the elevator I took so many times.

Dead birds (they constantly flew headlong into the bank of windows on that facade, then fell, in droves, into the water below), dead leaves, and my shadow in a pool outside the lake side of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Two stairwell views on the way to the Advanced Painting studios (above and below).

Another stairwell view, light on the landing.

Glass and light, looking up toward the Advanced Painting studios.

Sunlight glances through the shades of my 13th floor (the smoking floor) dorm at 162 North State Street.