PDX-CSA, Pairing by Jason Kappus

I had the good fortune to talk last night to the artist with whom I've been Paired in PDX-CSA

The way PDX-CSA works is that you can support any one or any combination of projects, but the curators have made suggestions about pairs of artists that they think go well together for some reason. 

Vicki initially expressed some skepticism about the curators' intentions for pairing us together, believing that it was somewhat simplistic - that we're paired merely because we're both making figurative work. 

However, as we each discussed or inspirations and intents for our projects, it's clear that our work (for the PDX-CSA projects at least) overlaps in other ways, mainly having to do with meditation, serenity, transformation, transition and the like. 

I think the discussion eased her concerns and I hope that if you consider our project summaries (below) you'll agree that our finished artwork would have an interesting interplay in your home. 

Vicki Wilson will explore the relationship between humans and nature with figurative ceramic sculptures: meditative figures transform and bloom into the textures and shapes of the natural world. The approximately 12-inch-tall pieces will be fired in gas reduction, resulting in light, yet warm and earthy, colors. “
”Jason Kappus will explore the serenity of people with their eyes closed, depicting liminal states of consciousness (meditation, near-sleep) by overlaying delicate, naturalistic portraits rendered in marker and oil paint with bursts of abstract forms and lines. These mixed-media works will be approximately 9 inches tall by 13 inches wide on wood panel.

To be fair I am one of the curators who paired the two of us, but I feel confident that our contemplative work is a good match, and that it would be fun to add to your collections a painting and a sculpture that resonant the way these artworks will. Available for purchase here.

A test, an accident by Jason Kappus

Last year I found some random markers leftover from a PDXOS project and thought Hmm.

As part of exploring this Hmm I put a sheet of tracing paper (leftover from an encaustic Hmm that didn't pan out) over a b&w sketch and tried using the markers to make a bright, expressionist drawing.

The actual drawing didn't work for me (the colors seem morbid and the lines are too rigid), but it proved to me that markers could be a viable tool.

This test drawing got thrown in a pile near my desk.

Many months later I was cleaning the piles around my desk (actually cleaning might be too generous a term, I was making intermingling piles into slightly tidier stacks), and I happened to place the drawing on top of an abstract sketch.

Using the tracing paper months before had only been meant to save time so that I could get to the root of a question and see if the markers were a viable tool for me. Now I still didn't like either sketch, but together I was looking at something with potential. This could be method to keep my abstract and figurative modes separate during creation (as my brain prefers), then combine them after for a finished product. Hmm.

Two Modes by Jason Kappus

For many years I have worked alternately between (or concurrently but very separately) figurative art and abstract art.

It has been repeatedly suggested to me that I combine these two outputs. I've never seen a way to do it. Even when the way I'm handling the paint has been similar the two modes feel like very different types of visual problem solving.

And to further undermine my incredulity that these two modes could be combined, the very reason I started painting abstractly was so that I could emulate Elmer Bischoff and Richard Diebenkorn who vacillated between figuration and abstraction, but whose abstraction influenced and was even incorporated into the way they used color, form, etc in their figurative work.

Until recently (see chromoluminarist influence in Eyes Closed, Laughing) not even the colors I love in abstraction influenced my figurative work, so there has definitely been no influence or incorporation of forms or brushwork from abstraction.

Until now.

I have finally found a way to meld my abstract and figurative modes. Details in the next post.

Markers by Jason Kappus

I have a hard time finishing oil paintings recently, so when I started conceptualizing the Eyes Closed, Laughing series I wanted to work in a medium that is easier to pick up and put down, easier to work on sporadically, five minutes here, thirty minutes there. 

Acrylic? you say.
No. While it would be exceedingly logical, for several reasons, for me to work in acrylic, acrylic and I have never fully clicked. 

Pencil again, like with the early Obscured Faces?
No. This is laughter we're talking about, so I think it needs color. 

Colored pencils, then?
No. For some reason that didn't occur to me. 

Instead: Markers.
Well, the actual, no-spin, answer is because I had a dozen markers laying around from a PDXOS project from several years ago. So I did a test with them and it kind of worked. Then I bought a few more markers and did another sketch and that was better. So then I bought lots of markers. 

And then I thought, Should I have done this in colored pencil?
But by then I had spent a couple hundred dollars on markers, so markers it was. 

One of the advantages is that markers don't really come in skin tones (that is an advantage, stay with me). With the Obscured Faces I was sticking to naturalism, but for a big, bright emotion like Laughter I want to be a little more expressionistic. I'm not a big fan of impressionism, neo-impressionism, chromoluminarism, etc but I do think the exploration of separate, sometimes dissonant, colors combining optically to seem like a different color is interesting. 

I hope that by forcing myself to use a combination of a variety of colors to achieve a particular color (rather than mixing it up exactly) will help me become more attuned to the nuances of colors found in skin tones. And that this will also make for an interesting experience for the viewer.

Eyes Closed by Jason Kappus

Having spent more than four years depicting eyes and the band of the human face immediately above and below the eyes, I wanted to work on full face portraiture again. 

In the usual way of things, I arrived at my concept through several smaller decisions, whose exact order and reasoning I can't recall. Suffice to say that, just as with the way that Obscured Faces refers to the many reasons a person might cover their face, I wanted another overarching, but multifaceted parameter within which to do portraits. And I landed on people with their eyes closed. 

We, humans, close our eyes for many reasons, sometimes purposefully in order to cause relaxation, sometimes involuntarily, as with sneezing, but also as (a generally involuntary) part of such big emotions as joy, excitement, ecstasy, desperation, and sadness. 

That's quite a range of emotions/reasons. 

Rather than bite off more than I can chew and try to depict that entire range, I'm going to start with laughter. Then I'll move on to serenity. And then to prayer. 

Those of you that know me should realize that even though I have just pronounced what sounds like a plan of successive stages, I will, of course, be working on at least two, if not all three of these, at once and will in fact bite off more than I can chew and be completely overwhelmed. 

Obscured Faces - Ending and Continuing by Jason Kappus

Way back in June of 2011 I took the first tentative step in what would become the Obscured Face series. 

Early in the year I had decided to get back into figurative work and I had (in my logical fashion) made a list of thing I liked to draw, which included Faces and Cloth. My first concept was to draw people who wore fabric near/around their face and to draw them as is - to include the fabric. As I did my stock image searches to find photos it occurred to me to draw the face on one layer of vellum and draw the fabric on a second layer below the face, so that the face was emphasized. I encountered one material problem - paper that is transparent enough to let you see through it is fragile (and I'm not nearly delicate enough to avoid half-destroying it every time) and also one aesthetic/philosophical question - if I'm de-emphasizing the fabric by making it a sub-layer why bother with it at all. 

Taking the fabric out of the equation was a good decision; it led to greater philosophical/political meaning, sent me looking for other reasons people cover their face, and granted me an interesting series to work on in a variety of media while regaining/increasing my skills for representing people.

I was able to spend a portion of 2014 starting a set of Obscured Faces in oil paint, satisfying to work on, but also somewhat incompatible, time-intensity-wise, with my work schedule. As I finally finished some of them in 2015 I was ready to branch out into new work. 

At this point I had been working on the series, almost exclusively, for four years, so I felt I need to prove that I could do other things. 

I'll get to those other things I'm branching out to in the next post, but I've also been pleased to discover, after having started to dip my toe into other projects, that I'm still excited to make more Obscured Faces. So I'm taking a hiatus from Obscured Faces for most of 2016, but the series is definitely ongoing and you can expect news on it again in the future. 

New Website by Jason Kappus

I have a new website - thanks for visiting.

Here's my current modus operandi:

All completed artwork cataloged in project areas 'Obscured Faces', and soon-ish 'Eyes Closed' and 'In Conversation'. In the eventual I will add 'Abstracts'
All work currently for sale in 'Available for Purchase' area.  If you want to see the work in person before purchase you can e-mail me about a studio visit.

News about my artwork (what I'm working on, what I've finished, where you can see it).
Some general art links or recommendations about art I like.
Lots of feminist news links. 

Here you can track what I'm working on now and the progress of incomplete work (and most are accompanied by ambivalent or neurotic comments from me if you're into that).