Philosophy Of The Eternal And Universal by Lucas Novak

Angled detail of Tell Us Where The World Went. From the angled view, the gold paint becomes more visible. 

Angled detail of Tell Us Where The World Went. From the angled view, the gold paint becomes more visible. 

How to create art that is timeless? I think it must represent the eternal and universal. In my endless mission to create more meaningful work that transcends cultures and borders, I went back to a few philosophers for guidance.   

Although it appears that Arthur Schopenhauer was a cynical sexist asshole, he had some interesting thoughts about art: 

The deliverance of knowledge from servitude to the will, the forgetting of the individual self and its material interest, the elevation of the mind to the will-less contemplation of truth, is the function of art.

A work of art is successful in proportion as it suggests the Platonic Idea, or universal, of the group to which a represented object belongs. The portrait of a man must aim, therefore, not at photographic fidelity, but at exposing, as far as possible, through one figure, some essential or universal quality of man.  

For example, tragedy may take an esthetic value, by delivering us from the strife of the individual will, and enabling us to see our suffering in a larger view. Art alleviates the ills of life by showing us the eternal and universal behind the transitory and the individual. 

Tell Us Where The World Went, 36.5" x 48", oil and acrylic on canvas over panel, 2017.

Tell Us Where The World Went, 36.5" x 48", oil and acrylic on canvas over panel, 2017.

Note: The title of this piece comes from a line in The Road by Cormac McCarthy, p. 166.

To Be A Machine by Lucas Novak

Recently finished a stop-motion short film called HOP, a piece about life, mortality, and a theory of immortality.

I needed a dreamy version of Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata as the music theme, but I couldn't find a recording anywhere. So I took up a keyboard myself, learned the relevant portions, and you can hear me playing it. I do not claim to be an expert with the piano; indeed there are portions of the song that sound imperfect, but with the somewhat raspy recording, that was the intention. I chose not to fix the slight errors, use an expensive instrument, nor seek an impeccable recording studio. I like when stop-motion is a bit choppy, not completely fluid, so as to reveal the imperfect nature of humankind. So the song needed to match.  

The theory of immortality in the video was a contemplation of the contemporary transhumanist movement. Mark O'Connell recently wrote a book called To Be A Machine about the topic. "Transhumanists believe that technology — specifically, a direct interface between humans and machines — is the only way our species can progress from its current, far-than-ideal state. Evolution is now in our hands, they claim, and if that means shedding the evolutionary training wheels of flesh itself, so be it." More info at NPR

Click on the Videos Tab on this webpage to watch the video. 

Hate Won't Win by Lucas Novak

Reverend Clementa Pinckney, senator and senior pastor at Mother Emanuel A.M.E. in Charleston, South Carolina, will be remembered for his dedication to public service and spirituality. Fellow state senator Marlon Kimpson described him as "a giant, a legend, a moral compass,"

Portrait of Reverend Clementa Pinckney, 24" x 18", 2017

Portrait of Reverend Clementa Pinckney, 24" x 18", 2017

Reverend Pinckney and the eight others who were murdered at the church have become symbols. Positive symbols of love and resistance, I think; spiritual symbols connecting all of humanity as one. We face conflict and fight on, crack, struggle, rise, fall, and rise again. Although they were victims of hate, they have risen and are glowing emblems of our push to create a more culturally cohesive society that appreciates and celebrates differences. Hate won't win. 

Furthering the Intermission series by Lucas Novak

Detail: Fossil I (Intermission XII)

Detail: Fossil I (Intermission XII)

As in all of my artwork, the process of creating this piece relied on a leap of faith. I didn't have a vision of its finished appearance but instead worked in stages of the unknown -- not knowing exactly where I was going while relying on my experience and skills and having faith in my abilities of creation.

Similar to many of my other recent paintings, prior to painting in acrylic and oil, I first formed the three-dimensional surface with clay. As the clay dried, it cracked naturally, creating an effect that resembles fossilized forms, a reminder of our own vulnerability in this world. 

This painting furthers my ongoing Abstract Intermission series: In the battles of life, there is loss, persistence, and deliverance. Some of these episodes, more dramatic than others, serve as pillars or beacons in our own timelines. Then there are the lulls or periods of recovery from and preparation for past and future battles -- the necessary intermissions in between that often feel nameless but impact us nevertheless, sometimes in more important ways than the memorable events of our pasts. Sometimes we meander along our amorphous, cracked, or abstract thoughts. Our plans for the future are never definite and our memories constantly change. Nothing lasts forever. Like Tyler Durden says in Fight Club: Even the Mona Lisa's falling apart. 

Fossil I (Intermission XII), 36" x 48", oil, acrylic, clay, epoxy resin, wood panel, 2016

Fossil I (Intermission XII), 36" x 48", oil, acrylic, clay, epoxy resin, wood panel, 2016

3D Painting by Lucas Novak

Over the past few months the wave for creating stop-motion videos has once again grabbed me, and clay is typically an essential material in their creation. By exploring different concepts and experimenting with various ways of presenting them through visuals in the videos, it's shifted me to a different way of painting. I'm exploring new terrain in my paintings by creating a form of terrain on the flat surface.

A Visit, 35" x 24", 2016

A Visit, 35" x 24", 2016

By forming a three-dimensional surface, with both subtle and distinct shapes and texture, the piece blurs the lines between sculpture and painting. I like the effect of the properties of clay, such as its natural color, its cracked surface, and the way the paint adheres to it. As the clay dries, it cracks naturally, creating an effect that resembles decay, a reminder of our own vulnerability in this world. 

What's a bit disappointing though, is that in this day of social media and the ubiquity of the internet in everything we do, art benefits when the image of it transfers nicely to our computers, tablets, or phones. Here I go again . . . Maybe most painters/sculptors are somewhat disappointed with how their works transfer to a computer? But in this case, I think much is lost (more than usual) of the painting when seen only through the "lens" of your screen; when seen in person, the three-dimensional nature of the painting changes its look based on the lighting or the angle of the viewer as a result of varying highlights, shadows, and the nature of some of the pearlescent paints used here. 

Detail A Visit

Detail A Visit

This painting references Pablo Picasso's famous blue period, particularly, one of my favorite pieces at LACMA: Portrait of Sebastia Juñer Vidal (1903). 

Detail: A Visit

Detail: A Visit



Stop Motion Art: Three (3) Things I Learned by Lucas Novak

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After several years, I recently returned to creating a stop motion art piece. I hesitate to call this "film" or "animation", since nobody uses film anymore, and the term animation carries with it unfortunate baggage, like the preconceived idea that its target audience is children, or that animation involves illustration or cartoons and a rational storyline for commercial gain or simply to entertain. Anyway, those characterizations aside, I think stop motion is an awesome medium for presenting meaningful visual art for the sake of visual art, with multiple layers of complexity, relevant to the contemporary world across cultures. It is also good for new media outlets. 

I first started making serious efforts to incorporate stop motion into my art practice about ten years ago during my Masters program at Syracuse. It is a challenging medium that requires patience, endurance, and a wide variety of skills since the creator needs to create everything. And even though computers have already pretty much replaced stop motion in the entertainment industry, stop motion as an artistic medium is very young in the grand scheme of things -- it remains to be invented!  

Stop motion with choppy movements intrigues me (as opposed to absolute smoothness seen in CGI films, i.e., Pixar). The choppiness is a reminder that it's imperfect and human. Just like in painting, it's kind of like loose brushwork (Henri Matisse, Jean-Michel Basquiat, etc.). But the process is still tedious. Some things can't be avoided. In the latest piece I'm working on, here are three things that I learned, or had forgotten but now recall, that should be remembered for the next piece:  

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1. Resourcefulness with materials is key! When working in a small studio on a small budget with little or zero help, things come up: how to position a light and move it just so; how to suspend an object in mid flight; how to hinge a sculpture so that it moves and doesn't fall apart. It's fun and challenging to invent solutions, and because I keep a studio with a mixed assortment of hundreds of items, solutions can come easier, as I find myself using materials that I hadn't anticipated using. That leads to #2...

2. Here are some unanticipated essential materials. Maybe I just didn't think of them, but fortunately, I happened to have them in the studio: toothpicks, black cotton mesh, epoxy resin, flour, chopsticks, metal spoon, clear plastic acrylic sheeting, a few heavy books, a bookshelf (for maintaining movement of a light), black gloves, a round jar, aluminum foil, and a rubber ball. (By the way, some materials that I anticipated using and proved to be essential: hockey tape, painter's tape, electrical tape, canvas, assortment of wood, assortment of fasteners, steel wire, latex gloves, acrylic paint, self-hardening clay, matte gel, plasticine, cardboard, paper, needle and thread, hardware cloth, strings, clamps, and fishing line.) 

3. Laziness is your worst enemy. This speaks for itself but always comes up when there are choices to make. Sometimes it can be just a little thing that makes a big impact. This applies to painting too, and maybe all forms of art. (And law.) Embrace the tedium and be patient. Don't let laziness cause you to settle. If some extra effort will result in better work, do it! 

Kandinsky And Matisse Were Also Lawyers by Lucas Novak

Two of the most prominent artists of the 20th century were also lawyers: Wassily Kandinsky and Henri Matisse. Nice.

I've also noticed a similarity between the philosophies of two prominent individuals in art and law from the 20th century: art critic, Clement Greenberg, and former United States Supreme Court Justice, Felix Frankfurter: 

In the early 20th century, Justice Frankfurter was asked by a young man how to become a great lawyer. He advised the man not to limit his studies to the law, but to embrace the study of all fields, including history, art, literature, science, sports, culture, and the environment. 

About fifty years later, Clement Greenberg wrote in his essay Esthetic Judgment: To keep on expanding your esthetic taste asks that you keep on expanding and refining your sense of life in general. To further develop your taste in art, he advises that you keep on learning from life apart from art. 

I've had some people doubt me as an artist because I'm also a lawyer. I suppose they felt prejudiced by the assumption that lawyers must be uncreative. Although the craft differs (which is only scratching the surface), I find the practice of art and law to be similar -- they're both an intellectual process of analyzing, deconstructing, conceptualizing, building, revising, etc., based on life apart from art or law. 

I think that Kandinsky and Matisse would agree. 

Here is the latest Intermission painting

Intermission X, 45" x 45", oil, acrylic, canvas, 2016.

Intermission X, 45" x 45", oil, acrylic, canvas, 2016.

The Portraiture Concept by Lucas Novak

Many of us have probably strolled through halls or white rooms with portrait after portrait of seemingly the same portrait over and over, dulling our overall impression of the concept of portraiture. But if we free our minds of categorizing, historical chronologies, and overbroad groupings, by isolating each work of art as its own entity, then I think the dullness of the portraiture idea disappears. 

I think the concept of portraiture will never vanish as it applies to painting. There is an intrigue with the way a person can interpret and represent another person through lines and colors -- it's organic and human -- something that can't be replaced by machines or any other form of art. I don't mean to say that artists should just repeat what's been done in the past; to the contrary, the challenge remains, as it does with all forms of art, to create something fresh and original. 

Freshness and originality are not defined by mere subject matter. They just require creating something beyond what is known. Whatever that means. Undefined by their very nature.

Here are two styles I've been working on. Whether these paintings are fresh and original, I'll let you decide.

Left: Seated Woman, 24" x 18", oil, acrylic, ink, canvas. 

Right: Woman On Couch, 50" x 36", oil, acrylic, ink, canvas.