“Wanderer—there is no path…the path is made by walking…” Luigi Nono
Introduced By Kathy Weinberg
I recently took a ramble through Richard Iammarino’s selection of his works from his 60 years of making art, featuring sculpture, drawing, painting, woodcarving, travel journal writing, and a trove of sketchbooks.
I also saw a rendering of a room interior. It is a watercolor and pencil from 1990, just 16” x 20”, which shows an interior, elegant and atmospheric while being precise and fully realized. I saw delicate depictions of wood graining that mirror Iammarino’s own line drawings. Then an entry titled Unfinished Comic 1995-7 “Lots of unfinished projects…most of my time taken up with painting.”
Iammarino is present in every line, present in all of his work. His art is grounded in elements of the world, so we begin from a known place before heading out into unfamiliar territories. A journey narrated by Richard Iammarino while looking through his sketchbooks sounds like this:
“Spanish Sahara…now Morocco Western Sahara. 1963…The journey that set me off…just follow your nose…see where it takes you…covered a lot of ground…few regrets. (Picture a 1962 Land Rover 109.)”
“Cefalu, Sicily 1999…A wonderful spot on planet earth.”
“Entering Bangladesh (Why we travel, 2006) Eight weeks passing through this alone…just taking it in…again too many stories.”
“Sunderbons…out with the honey gatherers…most incredible people…a unique experience…a world cut off from our world…TIGERS…they deal with tigers…to gather honey…I went out with them…smoking the hives…the outsider…keep your head down…get out there guys…It’s a most amazing game world.”
I was born in Bangor, Maine in 1958, and began drawing and painting as a youth. My early influences were the seasonal moods of the wild coastline of Maine and the artists in my family and circle of friends. Growing up in a remote location with the absence of television, I reacted to my environment by painting. The ocean and sky were constant sources for observation and expression. I studied art at Colby College and with Maine painters Henry Isaacs, Philip Frey, and Judy Taylor.
My current influences are:Max Ernst, Kathe Kollwitz, Emily Carr, Max Ginsberg, Jim Carrey, Milton Avery,Waldo Pierce, Rockwell Kent and The Group of Seven. My goal as an oil painter is to move away from inanimate subjects that convey the comfort of nature’s beauty and to move towards human subjects that embody life’s tragedies.
I just started my 96th sketchbook. Fifty-eight years ago at RISD, most pages were filled with drawings of classmates, figures or anatomical studies.The images were quite realistic, as I came there self-taught, wanting to be Norman Rockwell.
Once I discovered primitive art, Picasso, de Kooning and other modern masters, I reflected their influence in the later sketchbooks of my growing family,vacations at the Maryland shore, lunchtime crowds in Philly, commuters on the train, etc. I later filled sketchbooks with stylized self-portraits and studies of admired masters or of primitive art, hoping they would influence my work through osmosis.
Figure drawings and portraits have always dominated my sketchbooks and still do, often transitioning from realism to abstraction. I have rarely considered them studies for other work. They are stand-alone pieces of art, with mark making and page design always on my mind.
Recently,after thousands of figure drawings, many of which are 19” x 24” semi-abstracts,I seem to have come full circle in my sketchbooks, back to more-academic figures. I’m not sure why, since my paintings have become almost-totally-improvisational abstractions. Perhaps the long poses each week at Waterfall Arts encourage detailed study – or perhaps it’s just a function of age.
Though from different times and places, it’s easy to draw connections between the entries in sketchbooks and journals, to find ways to understand the effects of our choices, the states of mind we’ve been in. I began keeping a journal in third grade, and have filled many since then, the content including daily accounts, poems,sketches, musings, and letters. They area place where my past selves gather, a place where I can always find inspiration, and trust.
The sketches “Wildfire Smoke in San Francisco” and “Palace of Fine Arts Theatre” were done from 35mm film photographs that I took on a road trip from Washington to Maine. “You are beautiful,” is from two 35mm photos I took while in college, and the words from a letter sent to me by a college friend and mentor. “Between Notebook Pages” is a journal entry that I keep tucked between pages, along with the feather, from Whidbey Island,Washington, where I was living when I wrote the entry. The poem refers to a day on the road trip back east from Washington, driving along the coast.
I use my sketchbooks as a place to look, study, be present, and free myself up. The pages of the sketchbooks are typically heavy, textured watercolor paper. I work on both the front and back of the page. This means that there are no wrong marks in the sketchbooks, only opportunities to integrate all marks and colors into a finished page and book. No page can be ripped out because there is something on its back which relates to another image. Therefore, the challenge becomes incorporating all marks and all media together.
The pages of my sketchbooks grow over time, ultimately to become a unique book which records visual images I have explored. I sometimes complete one page of a facing dyad and wait until an image which compliments the first is clear to me. An example: two facing pages in my sketchbook are labeled ‘The icons – Katahdin and Monhegan’. The sketch of the lighthouse on Monhegan was completed in July; the sketch of Katahdin was completed in September. For me the two together were a statement about Maine.
I use permanent ink, watercolor, colored pencils, and graphite in the sketchbooks, anything which encourages me to play. Some pages are doodles developed while listening to something in my environment. Some pages are intentional drawings. With the sketchbook, I take the opportunity to center myself, be present in a silent place, and focus on line, form, color, value, and energy. This later informs larger works, not as replicas, but as a way of being present in the work.
I have carried a sketchbook and a pen every day for many years. Frankly, I feel a little lost without them. I prefer pen, because graphite smears when pages rub, so pencils and charcoal are for sketch books that stay in the studio.
And every day, I take out my sketchbook and enter something: a name, address, portrait, landscape, invention, a to-do list, a scribble or a watercolor, a wish, a regret, a collage, a feather or butterfly wing.
My sketchbook is one of my intimate places, where I experiment, dream, observe,think, pretend, be free, fail, shape up, break it all down, remember, and forget. I keep stacks of them, often with an intention to return and dig into ideas that don’t exist anywhere else. Often, I do return to these ideas and they become something else; often the ideas stay right there and never see the light of day again. Any way it goes, each morning it’s keys, change and knife on one side, wallet on the other, with sketchbook and pen in their own pockets. Then I’m ready to face any wicked day.
“Gallimaufry” is a great old 1500’s word meaning, “a confused jumble or medley of things.” Often a stew or hash. My sketchbooks are my gallimaufry: a potato here, chunk of lamb there, carrot, onion, tomato in a sauce, spicy and savory, at least to me.
Alan Crichton and Abby Shahn collaborative sketchbook
This is a collaborative book, a kind of mutual sketchbook that Abby Shahn and I made a few years ago.
She and I describe our process and some thoughts about making this book.
Abby – I think that the thing I like most about this process
…. about making these folded books.. about collaboration … is the way that
one is forced to give up plans… to forget about intentions… because the
other artist will obliterate them with a single stroke.
I’ve made these books with several different artists …
it’s a nice way to visit a friend.
– A brand new open book, open door. Fresh, heavy paper,
accordion-folded and blank, ready for a conversation you can see. No rules.
Start anywhere with anything interesting and send it back, let the book and
friendship build, see what happens. Pages start distant, move towards each
other, then overlap and layer. Always a surprise, from one friend’s hand,
through many postmen’s, to the other. Real play in real time.
Abby – You got a new book coming this way? Hooray!
Al – Great idea! I’ll send a new start with the new year!