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Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The Elements of Touch - An Artists Senses

Touch has always been the most important of senses for me. For as long as I can remember, the ability to reach out and touch a thing, was what made it real for me.

When I was young, my mother constantly scolded me in the stores for having to run my hands across every single thing I came in contact with. In a grocery store the feel of a bag of beans, or the cool sensation of fresh meat through a plastic wrapper was total amazement to me.

Later as I grew (and learned what I should and SHOULDN'T touch), I realized that this was an essential element of who I was.

I can’t wear watches, I rarely where bracelets of any kind, and gloves are the ultimate atrocity. Anything that impedes my hands from both touching and creating is anathema to me.

As an adult, my first foray into my creativity was to write books. I loved the flow of words and I loved the emotional reactions from readers. But without realizing it at the time, there was little to the sensation of touch involved in the art of writing. It satisfied the creative part of me, but still there was something missing (as well as the fact that writing barely put food on the table most of the time).

Later I began the serious pursuit of becoming a professional photographer. Again the creativity was satisfied, and I found, that part of my need to touch was more satisfied than in writing. I could touch some of the things that I photographed and to me that made them deeper and richer. In turn, my work as a photographer often focused on the dimensionality of a subject, the grain, the texture, the interplay of light and color and shadow. For me, they were all the things that were essential items to focus on. And I admit that when I viewed other photographers work, there was and is always part of me that thinks “geeze, they missed the most dynamic part of that subject”.

But as happy as photography made me, there was still something missing.

Then there came a day when I got tired of being told that photographers were simply photoshoppers and not truly artists and that photography had died with the dark room as a true art form, I finally lost my temper. Now it was personal. Now it wasn't just about satisfying the creative passion within me, but it was about proving I was a real artist, and like all other things in life, I went rather overboard with it.

But to my surprise I found something I’d never found in any other thing I’d pursued. It was love at first swoosh of the brush. I realized one day that I could be the happiest person in the world left alone in my studio with my supplies. Till then, while I was happy creating, I’d never felt quite this fire and passion that I was finding as an artist. I literally felt like a blind man that could suddenly see. And much to my delight, at the same time in this beginning journey, I found my life partner Billy and found a kindred soul! I was no longer alone in the pursuit of my art, but found another whom I could bother endlessly with tales of what I learned in the studio tonight stories and who actually understood when I walked past a trash can and my eyes got wide thinking about how a used board, or a bit of sparkly paper could be used to create something new.

Yet even then, it still hadn't dawned on me what was satisfying me about being an artist. It was a slow revelation as my work developed that everything I was doing had a commonality of touch. Subconsciously I was doing exactly what I’d always done. I wasn't just painting a picture to hang on a wall and be admired. What I was doing was creating something to be TOUCHED. It needed to be something that the viewer could walk up to and feel the texture of.

Before I even stumbled on this new reality, I had already been doing it in each and every piece I created. If the piece was too one dimensional, it frustrated the hell out of me. In the case of one canvas, it hung unloved in my living room for two months before I pulled it back into the studio and added dimension to it.
But it wasn't really dimension I was seeking; it was an element of touch. It was an element that made you want to reach out and get feel the energy flowing through it and the ridges and whorls. Before I even really understood the basics of painting, I was already exploring mediums to create texture. I've used grout, and silicon, and a variety of texture products. In one case I even used sheets of Kleenex (not the kind with the aloe, just plain old Kleenex).

So in the end my art (with very few exceptions) is meant to be felt up. I want people to reach out and add their energy to the energy already flowing through the elements of the piece.

The next time you’re in a store, don’t hesitate to feel those dried beans, or touch a rime of frost on the ice-cream case. No matter where you are (if your allowed), reach out and touch and see what new dimensions it opens for you. You may be surprised. 

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