Jay Noble

Statement on the Home Page
current projects
painting friendly resources and other links
contact me

Henri Matisse in Notes of a Painter, published in La Grande Revue, 1908

"A distinction is made between painters who work directly from nature and those who work purely from imagination. Personally, I think neither of these methods must be preferred to the exclusion of the other. Both may be used in turn by the same individual, either because he needs contact with objects in order to receive sensations that will excite his creative facility, or because his sensations are already organized."

Images that have a tan heading are done from pure imagination.  For my purposes pure imagination means that all the imagery rises from my memory and/or interaction with the painting/motif itself.  So there are no direct sources involved.  No working from drawings of an outside source, no photos, no studies, or any other sources of information other than what seems to have distilled within my memory and my interaction with the painting.
I am not going for a memory stunt intended to fool or impress the viewer by its resemblance to life.  My most helpful discovery has been a diverse range of pictorial memory traditions and their qualities.  For example, Medieval European, Persian, Iranian, Chinese, Indian, Kuba, Japanese, late cubism, and many others have supported me in my efforts.  I love having something in common with these diverse and sophisticated traditions.
Too often medieval painting logic in particular is defined by what appears to many as its lack of knowledge... too bad they didn't know X... if only that had Y... For example, some gloss over the entire history of medieval/byzantine art as a clumsy effort to figure out perspective.  Russian Icon painters had very interesting arguments against the rise of naturalism coming out of Europe.  Evidence that theirs was not a naive tradition.  The aforementioned examples offer up a sophisticated pictorial language where naturalistic criteria, while not totally absent, are not the "controlling factor."  Sooo... if you have never allowed yourself to look at this work in terms of its real "controlling factors," you are missing out on some fantastic stuff.
A gallery goer, who I hold no ill feeling towards, pointed out, in so many words, that my elephants don't look real, "Elephants don't move like that" he said... "they aren't so light on their feet."  But my elephants are some sort of memory amalgamation of all the elephants I've ever seen, from Babar, to hours I spent drawing elephants at the zoo years back (which he, at the time, casually suggested I might benefit from), Dumbo, certain Persian drawings of elephants, Ganesh sculptures, and other forgotten imprints in my pictorial imagination.  My elephants are extra-natural beings operating according to rules that are not of this world, so to speak.  By default they operate according to the laws of their own painting world.  I use the elephant as an example here, but of course the same goes for all the other characters and environments in these pure inventions.

Images with a green heading are not of the "pure imagination" variety.  They are hybrid forms.  Some source of visual influence was used as a springboard. They are impacted, at some point for example, either directly from nature or a master painting.  They might either be completed by setting the original source aside at any point, or intermittently returning to the original source throughout the process.

Images with a blue heading are done from direct perception (which is not memory, it's not even short term memory... see recent brain science that suggests that our experience of the present is a short maybe 5 second duration of brain activity/thinking/awareness that is not considered memory).  Inventions do occur in these works, they appear in all painting as far as I'm concerned, however they are more empirical in nature (equivalents for sensory experience... in the presence of tangible reality).


Jay Noble

Paintings and Drawings