penlogo_a pen_b2

Artist Statement


Music, art and literature - those are my things. I play, I draw, I write. The parallels between audio, visual, and verbal expression inform my world view. Light and sound vibrations are subject to harmony, dissonance, texture, timbre, rhythm and rhyme. Writing is purely cerebral but just as moody. I ponder these arts objectively, as if all observers perceive them as I do, putting art in the same conceptual realm as love, beauty, God and math, but my aesthetic judgments hold true even if reality consists solely of my impressions of it.

Drawings seem frozen in time compared to music and literature, but my drawings are often mazes and half the fun for me is the process of removing lines from the rough draft: the art of omission. With music, it means reducing a complex arrangement down to six-string logic. And in writing, anything worth saying can be said in three words. Little says much. Plus, it's an edifying exercise. The casual viewer/listener/reader of my works can find something novel - hopefully a pleasant surprise to stimulate the reflexes but may be further rewarded by analyzing my reductionism across all disciplines, possibly finding an "aha" moment in my point of view.

Art and entertainment differ but I admit that sometimes I'm amused by tracing a curve with my eye, or hearing a perfectly transitory chord in a musical context. I might even chuckle at a lowly pun if it conveys some deeper meaning. Common formal elements of creation such as scale, proportion, continuity, and pattern recognition will, ideally, connect surface with substance. All art forms have an internal logic - a natural resonant frequency or ideal form. Detecting significant forms light up varied networks of brain cells attuned to the given task. I am the world's leading expert in what sparks the aesthetic pleasure centers in my brain (anterior cingulated cortex); those subtle nuances in the flash of a gesture that jogs a memory and turns life into an artistic event. That's what taps my root.

Take a well-crafted sentence like, say, "Mister Windyhands sojourns to the horse latitudes," and compare it to a melody, F# E C B A C B E, or to a pen & ink drawing that subverts space in favor of time causing the eye to wander and one's scalp to float away (see The Violin Teacher, another of my "blind" doodles that seem cohesive despite its blatant visual disjunctions because the viewer's brain fills in the blanks). My interpretation of any familiar masterwork might, on the surface, take on a life of its own, but elsewhere, like in my original painting entitled Buck, it's the underlying composition that supports a narrative vision. But what do all the above have in common?

I emphasize the logical, intellectual aspect of my art works, but I admit that music, more so than drawing or writing, is apt to make me cry as easily as laugh, eliciting emotions by purely abstract means - instrumental music, which doesn't directly represent any particular object or event. Some would say art is all emotion. I disagree. As an author, artist, and musician, I compile the data that imparts an informative spin, with artistic insight being an emergent property as is consciousness itself, thank you very much.

The diversity of media from this single source, my mind, is phenomenological - a concept of reality that considers all aspects of an object at once. My identity is what my art, music, and literature all entail like a common thread of logic. Or as Ludwig Wittgenstein said: "The harmony between thought and reality is to be found in the grammar of the language." Of course, he also said: "A serious and good philosophical work could be written consisting entirely of jokes" whereas I must say that while writing my second book, Humor Scene Investigation, I completely lost my sense of humor. Just kidding. But speaking of my books, don't read Rhapsody In Overdrive until you've read my others. It would seem sophomoric but I assure you it is deeply philosophical.

I haven't mastered all of the arts yet; I'm not big on opera and I dance like a bee up the pant leg. I have, however, reconciled old age with an appreciation for the culinary arts, a.k.a. cooking. I am perfecting a signature salad and have managed beef Stroganoff to a fair degree. Also, I'm developing a new fragrance based on the intoxicating scent of the rosewood and Sitka spruce in my new guitar, just to cover all five senses.

I suggest matching my diverse art works - verbs, tones, and marks on paper, as if pairing wine with food, you know - a Côtes du Rhône with olive loaf pâté. Compare genuine scientific insights masquerading as humor, like in my essay Flea-market Neurology (found in my book The Intellectual Handyman) wherein a certain smug neighbor accurately surmises that, "...detecting sarcasm requires that a person know what the speaker believes that the listener believes." And then he sticks his head in a clothes dryer. True story. This episode might be well-accompanied by my original musical composition, Picture Window Rag, an instrumental guitar solo (on my new music CD, Amber Burst) that subjects an exceedingly sophisticated A-minor-ninth chord to a ragtime tempo. Wicked awesome. Meanwhile, my new edition of the vintage Indian-head TV Test Pattern Revisited conveys a very subtle implication that Howdy Doody just may have been the illegitimate love child of Lucy Ricardo and Marshall Dillon. Just sayin'.

So, yeah - I'll play the diversity card and keep paying honest tributes to the likes of Dante and Reuben and Bach and to their collective genius across those respective fields in the history of the arts with my own irony-clad derivatives of reality. It's all good. --Gary Peterson



My renderings are scientific investigations. They are not so much about what we see, but how we see. When looking at things, our eyeballs shift from one point of interest to the next as it sends data to the brain. Fortunately, the whole is more than the sum of its parts. Ambiguous details can still convey the big picture. Despite the underlying narratives, my art is as much about the medium as it is the message.


When sketching, I look only at the object - not the drawing itself until after the basic forms are outlined. Not watching what I'm doing, my hand-eye coordination drifts (in the basal ganglia of my brain). I call it the moment of abstraction. Points of visual interest - faces, figures, borders and angles, are exaggerated and the resulting drawings are sometimes laughable but coherent enough to fill in the details (e.g. highlight, shadow, reflection). At this point, the drawing process becomes gestural, emblematic, and just plain decorative.


Yes, these drawings are odd. For instance, in my interpretation of Degas' Violinist with Young Woman one might ask, "Why is this man's scalp floating away?" And what's up with Van Gogh's wandering eye or the harpoon in Copley's shark scenario seen here? Now you know. The human brain is forgiving and always fills in the gaps as it sees fit.


My style seems akin to Cubism, but it's more a function of time than of space: a continuous event versus multiple viewpoints. I deconstruct a picture to find an alternate route to the same end. A musical analogy would be to build harmonies on a familiar, but fractured, melody. Of course, pen and ink drawings are more like piano sonatas than orchestral works: They say it all in black and white. There's a vital resonance in these feverish depictions.


One byproduct of my method is that the line drawing becomes a visual maze. Therefore, I include a built-in "roadmap" in each drawing noted by two small arrows, in and out, where the eye can enter the labyrinth and flow to the exit along the single continuous white pathway without crossing any black lines. So, each work is also a puzzle that you can solve if you like. You're welcome. --GP



To read the latest brain research by Gary Peterson,
please click the following link -

Neuroscience in Art & Music