M. Ramirez


There is absolutely nothing wrong in thinking about your life as an evolving work of art. Seriously, I won’t go into it here but if you explored “conceptual art” you’d easily find the stuff you think about in your spare time passing as art. I’m not putting you or conceptual art down. Actually, I mean to confirm that when you’re letting your thoughts flow and your imagination carry you – it’s a good thing.

The history of art is a highly personal account of individuals learning to trust themselves and pay attention to the stuff they love. It doesn’t matter where you’re from or what year it is. The process is the same: Use anything you can get your hands on and make something. Then, make something else. You will easily find what excites you and what motivates you to keep going. That truly is the secret – to keep yourself going no matter what.

There are plenty of distractions to keep you from making a drawing of a lop-sided coffee cup. There are a lot of “reasons” for not jotting down that poem that appeared in your mind when you went outside this morning and caught a whiff of honeysuckle. I get it. Not everything has to be recorded and you can use somebody else’s images or words in the public domaine. For example, just this year “The Time Machine”, “The War of the Worlds”, and “The Invisible Man” from author H.G.Wells, all entered the public domaine.

But really what you want is not so much to quote other people but rather learn from everybody that interests you and zero in on whatever it is that excites you. That is the stuff that’s worth making your own through your own voice, your own hand, your way of handling what you can get your hands on and what you can wrap your head around.

At TOI we find books and open them. We look at pictures and copy them. We talk about what we see and we listen to each other in ways that help us to open our eyes wider. Martin Ramirez (1895-1963) is an artist we find fascinating, engaging, and instructive. He immigrated to the United States from Mexico when he was thirty. From the dust jacket of our book: “… he began exhibiting a remarkable drive for artistic expression, creating drawings with any material he could find, including paper bags, wooden matchsticks, and a paste he made from saliva and mashed potatoes. Ramirez’s work illuminates the struggle of an artist trapped between two worlds, blending memories of Mexico with the experience of poverty and alienation in America.”

We don’t read the dust jacket in our workshop. Instead we go right to the pictures full of patterns made from tunnels and rail road lines. And a little man on a horse shows up blowing a horn. For a young artist what’s not to fall in love with here? M. Ramirez is an artist that through his work he invites all artists to invent with pattern and line, shape, and all the little things that populate your imagination.

Our TOI open studio encourages “free-styling”. This is expressive drawing and painting with whatever comes to mind. Our instruction involves exercises to expand visual awareness beyond what you can “think” and “feel”. You learn to rely upon methods and materials. Methods are languages of “how to”. Materials are pigments (colors including black and white and gray) anyway and anywhere you can find them. Over years and decades and centuries this doesn’t change – google “cave paintings”. Methods, materials, and a little bit of “DIY” research will change, and possibly save, your life.