- Bryan Jernigan
Bits and Bobs...and Why I've Been Quiet Lately
So, I've been working from home since the end of March and it's now June 25 without a blog post. I can't say that I haven't thought about creating one. What I can say is, the COVID-19 pandemic was successful in stifling me from getting a post out.
In a word, the pandemic is "exhausting." In some ways that's bad, but in others, it's been good.
In many ways, I found myself being much more creative and trying new things artistically. Unlike some for whom the pandemic halted their creativity, mine seemed to soar. First, I was creating on a much smaller scale than before - and submitted several pieces on my social media channels as part of a global movement for artists called the
#ArtistSupportPledge. Each day, I would make works on paper - mainly abstracts, but some pastel landscapes as well, and offer them for $200 or less. Each time I reached $500 in sales, I would pledge to buy another artist's work as a means of starting and perpetuating a mini-artistic economy. It went extremely well, and I met my $500 goal twice! It was a worthwhile endeavor, too, because, like so many other self-employed people, I was helping artists get through the lockdown when they had no other income sources.
Then I challenged myself to create 50 different versions of the same scene. Since the Artist Support Pledge was mainly about my abstracts, for this project, I highlighted my pastel work. I settled on a simple scene of a path that wandered between some trees. I changed up the seasons or the colors used, but always stuck to the same general scene so that I could practice rendering each piece quickly and with gestural strokes that could show my impressionistic creativity. I am currently up to about 22 different iterations and on my way to the halfway point. Stay tuned...
It was about the same time I arrived at 20 or so pastel scenes when upheaval came regarding racial prejudice in this country. And so, as most artists will attest, when social unrest rears its head, we, as creatives, must find a way to respond. That changed my outlook on the series I was doing. It was no longer just for me, but my way of supporting the various causes of Black Lives Matter. With each sale from the landscape series I ended up entitling, "Iterations," I would donate 100% of the proceeds to The Marshall Project, through Black Lives Matter. The Marshall Project pledges to support objective reporting on the state of our judicial system in this country, and as a former reporter, this is a project very close to my heart. I'm pleased to say that at the time of this writing, I've donated $250 to The Marshall Project and am about to donate another $125. As a matter of fact, I've decided to donate 100% of the proceeds from my Iterations series, up to $1,000, to that organization. Yes, it's that important!
As that project continues - and because as an artist, I just can't help myself - I've embarked on yet another project. This one is helping me be thoughtful and conscious about using composition and value in my abstract paintings. It has been said that creating work with a good composition is almost half the battle to creating a good painting, and yet, I've always struggled with it. I now understand that composition goes hand-in-hand with value. The stronger the value contrast, the easier it is to see the composition in the work. So I've been using a variety of tools to create black and white pieces just for me - studies of a sort - to exercise my composition muscle. One set of work uses a combination of charcoal, graphite and erasers to create stronger compositions on paper. The other set uses collaging aspects with black and white source material to create designs that are easily noticed. I am loving these exercises so much and am finding that once I start, I can look up and hours have passed. It's truly enlightening and meditative at the same time!
And I cannot forget the culmination of my last post, I finally brought my large commission for the U.S. Grains Council and the National Corn Growers Association in for a landing! Just last week, I heard from the framer that my piece was finally ready to pick up. It had been delayed due to the frame supplier in Georgia being closed for nine weeks and so my oversized 48" x 60" wood panel had been safely living at my frame shop until it could be completed. It took a little coordination - including renting a van because the framed piece wouldn't fit in my car - but I got it to the office and ready for hanging. While it was a bit of a soft ending - the lights were off in the office and so photographing it in situ was more difficult than it appeared, hence the washed out photo below - but I was pleased with the sense of accomplishment I had when I left the building.
So, while you may have not heard from me in a while, it doesn't mean I haven't remained creative throughout this time. It just means the creativity is coming easier in some ways than in others. Like most of us, whether we know it or understand it, the pandemic is changing us in ways we likely never suspected could happen.
How has it changed you?
Here's a good exercise for painters who love color. Make a painting with only three colors and black and white. I know, I know - how can color lovers stick to just three and make a satisfying painting? I think you'll find that within these restrictions, you'll find a world of color possibilities. And each color you can make will work well with all the others because most will have strains of each color within them. If you are a color pro, purposefully choose colors you think will not go together. By doing this exercise, I think you'll find that even colors that appear disparate will work within these parameters. Good luck!