On Creativity: Starting vs. Finishing

I'm currently working on a number of projects that require me to take some risks, try some new ideas, and submit myself to others. It brings up two mindsets that I often struggle to reconcile, namely, Daring to Start vs. Finishing with Excellence. "Finish what you start, and only start good things." This was the maxim of my friend Carlos for a while. (I'm unsure whether he stuck to it.) This idea has elegance because it seems like it might spare the world from lots of sophomoric work, haphazard designs, and projects that run out of steam. I, for one, hate those things and dread being involved in them. Carlos's statement sounds like the rule of someone who is focused, dependable, and masterful. (More and more often, Carlos himself passes for all three at once.) The counterargument is embodied in this video by Ze Frank. He argues that ideas, unrealized, build themselves up in one's brain- demanding greater and greater hypothetical perfection before they can be executed. As such, he advocates getting ideas out and made as quickly as possible, even if this often leads to failure. I suspect real wisdom lies in clearing out ideas quickly and casually, and knowing how best to move forward with the worthwhile projects once they're out in the open.
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First Day of School

Another Fall Quarter begins! Good morning, kids; it's Thursday.

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Art in a Box and Seattle Arts Festival

Yes, I'm going to write about the Memory Paintings and LxWxH again! Yes, there are still some available! Yes, you even preview some of them here!

Carrie's LxWxH packaging

First, Carrie, at Gingham & Gold, is a Seattle design blogger and long-time friend of The Ryan Finnerty Studio. She recently made her first foray into collecting local art via LxWxH. (that project that curates Seattle artists and writers by packaging original works in small boxes, for cheap) She wrote about the experience here, using words like "fabulous" and "economical."

Second, in Mid-October LxWxH will be at City Arts Festival this year. Most of the art there will be installations, experiences, and spectacles. Most of the art there will live inside David Byrne's blessed heart. You'll find our stuff at the Friday/Saturday Pop Up Art Market. Go check it out and take it home!

Watercolor by Julie Alpert, flanked by foo dogs

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New Work: Word Paintings

Agnes in the Flood, 16x20" oil on canvas

I've been making new paintings that exist somewhere between "junk still-life" and "obscure history painting." They all involve some combination of elaborate, but clumsily built dioramas, suspended text, and other paintings inside the painting. So far, it's been a satisfying middle ground between the purely optical approach found in my painted sketches and the narrative and literary qualities of my prints and installation work. More soon...
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Reading List for Young Artists

One of many, many shelves for "Art Books"

In my teaching work, students occasionally ask me what books I would recommend for learning more about art-making. I say "occasionally" because I find the majority of young people allergic to the printed word and perplexed by the concept of independent learning. (Sigh.) So, in honor of you curious students of art, I've compiled some rough reading lists. (Also, there are lots of films, because film is a brilliant medium for learning about visual disciplines.) FOR DRAWING: The practice of drawing is a terrible thing to try to learn from a book, but once in a while authors explain ideas well, or publish beautiful illustrations that demonstrate real seeing. The Natural Way to Draw, by Kimon Nicolaides; The Practice and Science of Drawing, by Harold Speed; Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, by Betty Edwards; and Die Gestalt des Menschen, by Gottfried Bammes FOR PAINTING: Again, only painting will teach you painting. Hawthorne on Painting, by Mrs. Charles Hawthorne; The Art Spirit, by Robert Henri; and maybe What Painting Is, by James Elkins. Also, the film El Sol de Membrillo will blow your mind. ART HISTORY/THEORY: General Textbooks are a necessary evil. Also, A Short Guide to Writing About Art, by Sylvan Barnet.  Afterward you can go very deep very quickly. Here are some suggestions: Ancient: Ancient Art History and Ancient Regular History aren't that different. Art History does more with formal analysis, but this area is mostly about knowing how cultures interact and make things to reflect their ideas and values. I like the Crash Course videos for fun overviews with a few insights. I also like Jared Daimond's approach found in Collapse, and Guns, Germs, and Steel. Medieval and Renaissance: Read Genesis, The Gospel of Luke, and Revelations. They are shorter than you think, and account for 80% of the imagery in Christian art. Seriously, DO IT. Vasari's Lives of the Artists is like a fun trip into pre-modern art history, full of inaccuracy, moralizing, and other bad habits of scholarship. For really good scholarship on this period, read anything by Erwin Panofsky, but especially Studies in Iconology. Also Dürer's The Painter's Manual is arguably the first modern textbook in the areas of art and design. Early Modern/Modern: Aside from dry textbooks and the wealth of primary source literature from this period, I like John Berger's Ways of Seeing, Kurt Vonnegut's Bluebeard, and the PBS series, Art21 . Terry Barrett's Criticizing Art is good for understanding theory and has thankfully replaced its hideous cover. I also recommend reading monographs, exhibition catalogs, journals, essays, and interviews BY or ABOUT any artists that interest you. DESIGN: Yes, designers! Beyond whatever your actual design instructors tell you to read, I recommend many of the preceding titles, especially Collapse, but also Carol Cragoe's How to Read Buildings, Bill Mollison's Introduction to Permaculture, the films of Gary Hustwit, or about 75% of the talks on TED. I also strongly recommend Ken Robinson's books on creativity, like Out of Our Minds. This list is by no means complete or systematic, but is mostly a blend of things I read when I was a student that still affect me or things I wish my students had read. Also, I linked to Amazon like crazy, but I encourage you to find these titles at your local libraries, used, or independent bookstores. Reviews? Comments? Additions?
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LxWxH Launch Party, Friday the 13th

This Friday, July 13th LxWxH (LengthWidthHeight) will be having a launch party for the July/August issue: re Place. You should probably come.
Where is it? VERMILLION ART GALLERY, 1508 11th Ave, Seattle, Washington When is this happening? Friday, July 13th 6-8pm Will it be bad luck? No. It will be totally metal.

Some of these will be at the party. (Hopefully, the nudes.)

This is your chance to bask in the glow of Adam, Julie and I. It's also your chance to rifle around in the FEW REMAINING BOXES and convince yourself that, "Yes. This is the moment! This is when I start my collection of beautiful handmade things! This is when I spend $130 on local art instead of blowing it on toll roads or brightly colored jeans!" Or, if you're one of the lucky few who've already received their issue, this is your chance to get me to call you a "patron of the arts" in front of your date.
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Five Years

On this day, five years ago, Carolyn Reddy and I were married. Carolyn For the last five years, we've been on the following mission:
Be generous in prosperity, and thankful in adversity. Be worthy of the trust of thy neighbor, and look upon him with a bright and friendly face. Be a treasure to the poor, an admonisher to the rich, an answerer of the cry of the needy, a preserver of the sanctity of thy pledge. Be fair in thy judgment, and guarded in thy speech. Be unjust to no man, and show all meekness to all men. Be as a lamp unto them that walk in darkness, a joy to the sorrowful, a sea for the thirsty, a haven for the distressed, an upholder and defender of the victim of oppression. Let integrity and uprightness distinguish all thine acts. Be a home for the stranger, a balm to the suffering, a tower of strength for the fugitive. Be eyes to the blind, and a guiding light unto the feet of the erring. Be an ornament to the countenance of truth, a crown to the brow of fidelity, a pillar of the temple of righteousness, a breath of life to the body of mankind, an ensign of the hosts of justice, a luminary above the horizon of virtue, a dew to the soil of the human heart, an ark on the ocean of knowledge, a sun in the heaven of bounty, a gem on the diadem of wisdom, a shining light in the firmament of thy generation, a fruit upon the tree of humility. - Bahá’u’lláh
For all of you that have worked beside us, fed us, inspired us, sheltered us, challenged us, supported us, served us, counseled us, or enjoyed us; Thank you.  Our work continues.
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LxWxH (rePlace) Opens July 1st

Work and certificate for "The One About Needing a Bigger Boat"

On July 1st, LxWxH will begin selling their July/August issue: rePlace. The issue contains original works by Julie Alpert, Adam Boehmer, and Ryan Finnerty. There are only 20 issues available, and each box sells for an extremely modest price. (Order yours early!) My contribution is the Memory Paintings, in which I make visual recollections of other people's paintings. (more on these in earlier posts) This collection contains small paintings of everything I know about Jan Van Eyck, Gustav Courbet, Caravaggio, Kimberly Trowbridge, and many others. I'll post more images from this series in the coming days, but the best way to see them is probably to buy one. LxWxH is like a cross between a gallery, a magazine, and a CSA produce service. What's important is that its an exciting new idea in marketing artwork, and that it gives regular people the chance to collect some of Seattle's best artists for very little money. If you think owning contemporary art is just for rich people, Sharon, the project's curator, will be happy to disabuse you of that idea. (at length) ORDER YOURS HERE.
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