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Perceiving the Tactile in a Digital World

One of the aspects of being an artist that is rarely mentioned but very enjoyable is the actual tactile experience of drawing and painting. Each medium comes with its reward that translates directly into the hands. Dragging soft pastels on toothy paper, the way cold press watercolor paper accepts transparent layers of color, and the sensual enjoyment of soft graphite gliding across vellum paper are some of the elements and pleasures of making art. The end product is visual, but the making of art is an intellectual and multisensory process.

different use of paint
Jackson Pollock throwing and dripping paint onto canvas.
mid-air painting
James Nares suspends himself for dynamic brush strokes.
sample of action painting
Sea Change, © Jackson Pollock
action painting in the air
Make ‘Em 2005 ©James Nares

When the exploded rubber meets the road

Six years ago, I had a health crisis with Lyme disease that kicked off Reactive Arthritis. This reaction to these bacterias left my hands partly challenged to manipulate art materials. I decided to add a new tool that might be easy for me to handle: digital mediums. I went from using watercolors and mixed media to exploring photography and digital illustration.
This idea started with collecting “found objects” along the side of the road. The original idea was to turn them into sculptures. As I began to photograph them for preliminary sketches of the sculptures, I found the images of the tires alone more beautiful and expressive as a photograph than I had imagined. It wasn’t long after I took those photos that I made the connection to Zen calligraphy. The expression of steel-belted wires of the tires related directly to the bold brushstrokes of zen calligraphy, both conveying a moment in time. The exhaled breath used for calligraphy now related to the tire parts as they lost their air and changed form.
At first, I brought the tire photographs into photoshop and bent the images in a circle to see how close I could imitate Japanese Enso circle art expression. In some ways, I was returning them to their original configuration but with a new kind of expression. Later experiments evoked an emotional quality that could compare to a Rorschach test. This work became a complete story when combined with other recognizable references. Even though the brush or pencil was not in my hand, the expression and emotion of those mediums were still very much available as guides in creating images this new way.

As it turns out, the end product is a combination of actual and imagined experiences, similar to real life.

“One does not discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time.”

~ Andre Gide

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