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Taylor Fitzpatrick's Book

Opening I

For me, art is much more than putting together materials and learning techniques. Art is more than something that I do; it is something that I am - it is about how I experience being alive. The art that I do is self-witness.

Art is an experience: artworks are a result of art experience, and the purpose of the works is to help to generate another art experience in somebody.

Art works can be used like intellectual tools or machines.

A person's development of an artistic specialty - like painting, writing, dancing - in which to perform and express one self, is similar to a scientist's specializing in a field like physics or biology.

In studying, one can consider both the metaphysical aspect of the specialty (esthetic, spiritual, intellectual, esoteric) and the physical aspect of the specialty (object, act, space, time).

This class is about the art experience and about using art to generate or express the experience. Using art is concomitant with some knowledge of art form and structure. We will consider force, form, figure, image: imaginations stretching, searching for meaning.

Art is usually studied in bits and pieces such as; theory, technique, history, form. Theory, technique and form studies, take an analytical look at existing works - they look back in time-they are historical; and they look at the physical aspect of a specialty. That's not enough.

The use of art synthesizes experience in the present time alone - applying the food for thought which is at hand, with whatever the experiencing person brings to the esthetic picnic in the way of appetites, seasonings, and skills with recipes and ad-libbing.

A study of the use of art is neglected piece of the whole: is a soft and squishy area and understandably neglected. This class will attempt to approach art across the swampy, shaky ground of the use of art and the art experience, leaning more on synthesis than on analysis. The class will assume the points of view of both the user and the maker of art.

The word "art" as I use it here, has more than its usual meaning, its meaning is smeared somewhat. I think of the word as a group of meanings such as: 1) the fields of the arts; painting sculpture, architecture, writing, drama, music, dance; 2) a specific artwork; a picture, a poem, a dance; 3) the rich multi-leveled experience in the use of artworks; a picture becomes song-like; 4) a certain symbolic "extra-something-ness" quality in the experiences of our perceptions, as: when we see a tree, sunset, mountain; when we hear bird's songs and wind mixed in a forest setting; when we experience the sound-sight-motions of a seashore; in our interpersonal relations; 5) the uninhibited feelings intentions, openness, receptiveness in an approach to action; as in a scientist's research, with unrestricted openness to suggestions from all observations; a farmer plowing a field, in tune with the turning, rocking world; an operator of a business or some other social organization, sensitive to the effects of all inputs and outputs; a working artist, immersed in the potentials of a medium, a history and circumstances. "Art" has to do with lifestyle, experience and expression.

As young children, we enjoyed a fantastic intellectual independence, which for most of us is sadly diminished by the time we reach adulthood. The utility of speech hands us a great social plus but our social attitudes tend, I think, to restrict our mental reach by making us too dependent upon verbal modes of thinking at the expense of mental modes which are non-verbal and less socially useful. Using the arts (including the verbal arts) leads us, I think, in a direction which can re-establish what has been lost from our childish intellectual independence, giving us a more flexible and resilient maturity. In the areas of our non-verbal thinking, where we have been taught to distrust ourselves and depend on social system's judgments, we want to re-learn to trust our individual minds.

Day-dreams, night-dreams, super-market shopping, balancing the check book, each act has its mode of mental operation. Pairing an act with an inappropriate mental mode, or bringing an unusual mode into operation can cause embarrassment or worse for a person. The arts require unusual shifts in using mental modes and these can cause social problems and communication barriers between artists and "non-artists".

Art is so all-pervasive for me that, from whatever my standpoint, I see a relevance for art. Art permeates my life like mist in a morning landscape. It is around, in, under, over, through all features of my life. It colors and filters every experience. It simplifies and unifies my self.

The class questions. Answers are not important. Questions are important. Questions make us look and listen; think and feel.

Necessarily, the class is based upon how I relate to art in my life, how I confront art in the studio, gallery, job, city or country. This book is for reading prior to class work. The book emphasizes the spiritual side of art, and the class emphasizes the use of the physical side of art. Except for the outlines and lists, the book is not discussed in the class.

Now, if you please, I shall grind my ax and thump my stump. I don't ask you to believe my statements, but I do ask you to believe that I believe them; and that you try to see them as coming from a legitimate point of view. As I see it, writing (and other arts) creates their own reality with the reader and, although I know what I am talking about, I don't know what I am saying to you.

So, as to our intercourse through these realms; - bon voyeur.


In Part Two, of this book, I will go about as far as I can go in trying to say what I think art is, and why it is so important to my life. How I relate to art is all I can know about it. Art has no edges or limits so cannot be generally defined.

The class will try to attach a handle to some part of art so we can grab hold of that sucker, and put it to use. Learning to use art is something like trying to climb a greased pole. You know damned well that the pole is there and that you know how to climb, but you just can't get a tight enough grip to overcome the effects of gravity and grease. With art, the defeating gravity is the assumed need to operate within the logic of the social and physical-survival modes of thinking. The grease is the slipperiness of mental mode switching. To grip art, loosen up your mode-switching abilities.

The first step toward the prize at the top of the pole is the realization that art, unlike the greased pole at the fair, is not a competition or a contest; it is strictly private, it is the individual alone - working with oneself. This realization changes the rules: build a ladder, stack tables and chairs, borrow a "cherry-picker"; there are alternatives to slippery futility.

"I work at the "weaver's trade". (Weaving relates to all the arts.) As a loner I don't think generally in terms of expressing my thoughts to others. (You will get little verbal fluency and fine rhetoric from me). You will probably not learn much of what I think, that doesn't matter, that's not my interest. In the class you will be asked to pay close attention to yourself, not to me.

In the class I will show pictures, read poems and do a small thing with music, always looking for the art experience or its roots. Starting (and ending) with the art experience and working toward (and from) the stimulus, the class branches out in two different directions; on toward the metaphysical, esthetic realities (the swamp) of art, and the other toward the hard factual realities of specific art works. (Be prepared to go both ways at once). In this way I hope to stay very loose and free in the soft and nebulous areas, while avoiding nausea and vertigo by frequently touching base with hard fact.

By being careful we can handle a considerable amount of nitty-grittiness in looking at both the art object and the art experience. For instance, what is a line? Seems a simple enough question if we drag a pencil across a piece of paper. If we add to the question terms like "shape definition" or "continuity", then we see developing a concept of "linearity" which applies to music and poetry as well as to pictures. So, we can bounce around between the nitties and gritties of the object and the experience, and find areas of correlation.

In the class we will try to find a way of recognizing art form and, to find a direction toward a sensitivity to meaning in the relationships within art form and between the art form and the user.

For me, a root symbolism in using art lies in the degree to which the realities of the physical art work and the meta-physical art experience mirror the realities of my physical, social self and my meta-physical, private self.

The performer of an art work polishes the performance until it mirrors multiple parts of the performer.

My ability to sense this dual set of realities in art works relates to my ability to sense and use my own state of balance and duality.

Don't let the lists and fancy phrases which follow frighten you. The class will point to a lot of things, not because we are going into some heavy lecture or discussion - we will not-but because we want them in our awareness as the class proceeds.

We are not looking here for answers but for realizations.

This book is about a bowlful of jelly, the class is about the glass bowl and steel spoon for handling the jelly. The book and the class are more about "what is" than about "how to".

You can make a jelly mold from the glass, you can make a jelly mold from stell, but you can't make a jelly mold from jelly. Try to jack-plane jelly, work jelly on a lathe, drive a jelly nail into wood with a hammer, and learn about futility. Unmolded jelly has an un-firm shape.

Work with art using utilitarian sensory and mental modes, and get nowhere. However, the maker of art form must use the utilitarian modes as well as the esthetic modes, or their mold of art will not hold their jelly of art.

Warm fluid goes into the mold, cools and sets to a wobbly semi-firmness. A leaky mold is a mess. Artists have two problems: making a mold that doesn't leak, and a mold which releases the jelly.

For instance; for my money, despite their reputations, the molds (pictures) of painters like Leonardo and Gainsborough leak. There are some beautiful forms in their molds and they release what they do hold, but they are messy-leaky and won't fill up. (This may be due to ravages of time and mistreatment). On the other hand, painters like the Van Eyke brothers, Cezanne and Hans Hoffman have left us some very efficient molds.

By emphasizing the art experience - the use of art - I hope to accommodate simultaneously and to their mutual benefit both the interested user and the practicing professional.

Class size is limited to from three to five students because of the need to participate and interact, on one hand, and the restrictions of my facilities on the other hand.

Section One of the class, Reading Art is the meat; Sections Two, Three and Four are the gravy of technical extension and background.

Any seriously interested person may take section One, the other sections optional. Persons wanting private instructions in "how to" must take all four sections before starting such a class.

Section One is part of a person's first purchase of my work unless that person demonstrates to me an ability to read and use the work. For instance:


Drawn from Part Two, Statements, A Point of View, with elaborations and digressions.)

As a painter, in accepting a picture as done and releasing it for viewing I mean that the picture is to be read by other people and that the picture is readable.

Most people can read writing, some people can read music, but how many people can read pictures?

In order to read that which may be read - poem, music, picture - learning to read in that language is prerequisite.

Reading literature and music differs from reading pictures because of the way that time is used in pictures and in the way that the eyes are used in reading pictures. A picture hits you all at once and has no particular sequence to follow in reading it. Music and literature are presented to you a little at a time and in a fairly strict sequence.

Each reader of a picture is a performer, performing a pictorial event with her or his eyes. A picture cannot be performed for you by someone else nor read to you by someone else; the visual experience is fundamental to the reading of it.

When we look at things we don't just see shapes, lines colors, etc., what we see makes sense, means something. Our eyes pick up images of what we look at while our mind makes sense and meaning from these images.

There are many ways of looking; for instance, we may focus our eyes and mind:

1. with pin-point preciseness as in threading a needle,

2. to a distance though not to a point, as in reading,

3. without fixing either distance or point, but direction only, as in driving a car or running through a crowd,

4. not at all, as in day-dreaming.

We may scan with our eyes, or squint, or look slightly aside. We may look from up close or from a distance…

If I write something which I cannot read, that is not writing; for instance, ap skd hskeh when sdhtigne and leyd ham ehsiv. Writing needs more than letters and words - it needs sense. If I present a picture with thoughtless forms or with formal relationships which don't make sense, then neither I nor anyone else can read it.

Words put together in proper sequence will make sense, verbal sense. To speak, read and write we must think verbally. To write, read and hear music we must think musically. To draw or paint, and read pictures we must think pictorially.

A readable picture will make sense. As in music and literature, finding that sense takes work.

When a picture comes into your conscious view, give it the business! Apply to it every way in which you can employ your eyes and your attention. A picture thoroughly confronted can either perform beautiful feats or collapse in chaos before your eyes.

Copyright © 2006 Taylor Fitzpatrick Art Preservation Trust. All Rights Reserved.