April 6th, 2020

Michael Kessler Sketchbook

Michael Kessler Sketchbook

The post below is from my phone call today with Michael Kessler. We had time today to catch up like we haven’t done in months, and for that I am grateful — which turns out to be a current buzzword for Michael Kessler as well.

I have been self-isolating in the mountains, hiking and fishing and biking. Doing a lot of watercolors in my sketchbook and having a blast with that. Catching up on books and doing a lot of Firestone cooking like soups and stews. 

The pollen gets too bad in New Mexico, so I typically clear-out for April and May anyway, away from the juniper. Everybody is kind of enjoying the self-isolation: my family has new baby chicks and there is a certain kind of niceness to this! Not being on the road, focusing on your family and the things you love to do, your health and well being. It makes you feel grateful for the things that you have. Man, I am so grateful at this point. 
Michael Kessler Sketchbook

Michael Kessler Sketchbook

Because I’m doing these sketchbook, I am really energized and looking forward to the developments. They are watercolor, and in grays and black and whites with sepia. I am walking around and looking in the forest for phenomena that repeats itself. The way the sun falls on a branch underneath the foliage. I then figure out ways to use the paint, the wash, to suggest these phenomena. And I’m making a lot of progress and learning, and that will translate onto the larger work as well. Abstracting the forrest, but finding more and more ways to bring that onto the canvas. I am planning to include these sketchbooks in each exhibition and have them available as a single collection. They tell the story of the work, and gives a glimpse into the private life of the artist. #michaelkesslersketchbook
I am having way too much fun with my life here in the cabin — I don’t want to leave!
I’m doing the things I love to do — I miss my people, but to be able to do this things I am doing, what a dream! 
Michael Kessler in his studio

Michael Kessler, in his Utah studio

Artists are practiced at this (isolation) — one of the most difficult hurdles to get over is all of the time you spend in solitude. Even though it leads to loneliness. When you are young, before you learn coping mechanisms and get used to it, the isolation feels a lot like depression. You work at home, the studio is isolated and it’s a private place that is set aside from the world. Not to be shared. The work of an artist is a solo practice. We’re practiced at it. Self-isolating is necessary for an artist. So much of your work is based upon your observations and meditations. You are mining the human psyche as an artist your job entails going in there and finding out all of these things: the dark and the light. The wonderful and the scary things. We put all of that together on the canvas — our hopes, desires, fears. It all gets in there. Welcome to the world of the artist, because this is what we do every day! 
Rothko struggled horribly with alcoholism and depression. Rothko! The guy who made these sublime, beautiful, and awesome paintings that we all melt in front of. So did Pollack — they were all a mess. Even someone like F.L. Wright, who also had phychological issues. The artists who made these amazing contributions — many times it was at the cost of their own psyche. That’s the plight of the artist. 

Michael Kessler, “Aspeniced (2),” acrylic, 60″ x 96″

My own family has been so healing, having kids and a good mate. To go back and forth from the studio to the family — I am eternally grateful for it. My kids have great lives and it just adds more joy to the whole thing. I am grateful, and I try to keep my mind in that space. If you are grateful for all of the right things, you don’t have time for despair. It’s a great way to conduct your life. 
Thank you Michael, for your candid and uplifting conversation!