Spaces, surfal-farlow-bwces and forms and their countless physical qualities continue to inspire me as they have for many years. They present an endless buffet that nourishes my fascination with a vast playground that I refer to as visual language ambiguities.

In my drawings I nourish ambiguity through minimal content and composition. I use line, loops, scrawl and calligraphic movement to develop spaces, surfaces and forms that speak a nuanced language that alludes to and stirs vague memories of visual experience. This ambiguity is manifested by the continuum of markings that fill voids, liberate forms and activate spaces and surfaces alluding to the world around me yet keeping alive the ambiguity. This ambiguity inhabits a vast playground, extending north to south, east to west, unruled by time, distance or locale. Constantly involved in such a game I choose to take advantage of its play.

Inquiry Process

The Playground of Visual Language Ambiguities

As a creative mind and as a mentor of creative minds, I find that being curious and being inquisitive are very critical to learning, understanding and creating.  Presenting questions is more important than presenting answers, especially if the nuanced questions lead people to finding their own answers or asking further questions.  In my journey as a visual artist I have discovered that it is much more satisfying to present questions rather than answers through my work.  The hints of questions and connotations that radiate from these works will possibly point the viewer toward finding answers or maybe more importantly toward asking further questions as they explore this playground of ambiguity.   

My working process is an exploratory space peppered layer upon layer with the seeds of uncertainty, a fertile ground through which ideas and images emerge.  From beginning to end this working process is guided by nuanced ambiguity. This process provides a space that nurtures and develops imagery in a somewhat similar process to that found in printmaking, often working with the paper in a similar way as one works with the surface of a lithography stone or an etching plate. The image begins to emerge out of the paper in response to the physical processes that are applied to the paper surface.  It is a place where those spaces, surfaces and forms etched in my subconsciousness comes forth to join hands with the responses generated by the physical processes that are applied to the paper surface.  In this collaboration there is always this tension between reality and the abstract, between control and chaos and between dictating and responding.

The process embraces the investigation and awareness of the moment-by-moment procedures of a very physical making of marks that in turn demand, hint at or allude to the next response. Normally I start with eight to ten pieces of paper as I find working in multiples is a much more organic process that allows the creative process of one image that is being birthed to influence that of another. There is no preconceived image; therefore it is always exhilarating to see what evolves as I respond to the seeds of uncertainty layer by layer. The marks are structural; they reveal, shape and suggest meaning, as well as give form and substance to and activate surfaces.  They marry aspects of the mimetic and nonmimetic, therefore moving back and forth between abstraction and representation.  The force and the gesture that bring the mark or marks into reality work hand in hand with the intrigue and excitement of not knowinunspoken-implicationg.  The order in the chaos and the intent in this unknown language along with the awareness of what is unfolding and revealing itself are key in the creative process.  The awareness of the structure, the tension, the space and having the visual discernment to perceive visual relationships are all part of the equation of knowing when to stop.

My fascination with this vast playground that I refer to as visual language ambiguities extends to my play with verbal language and the ambiguities hinted at in most of the titles. Just as the images are constructed from selected visual fragments so are the titles constructed from selected language fragments.  Our minds, our memories and our experiences are made up of fragments, fragments that have at least one or more attached meanings, fragments that may be blurred or buried due to the passage of time and experiences. These ambiguous titles merely hint at a direction, a place, or a playground where the eye and the mind can connect or reconnect and frolic.  The nuanced language of the art works along with the nuanced language of the titles encourage the freedom of the viewer to participate in recalling from their visual memory in order to find meaning and relationship to the work as it is only human nature to find meaning in what we read or what we see.

The visual language is indirect as is usually the verbal language of the titles, requiring commitment and energy on the part of the viewer to read or interpret this play of selected language.  As a visual artist I am engaging in poetic play with basic visual elements that births a visual language that transitions the intangible to the tangible. This poetic play of the chosen line, shape, form, space, movement, tension, value/tone and the structure that holds them all in relationship is central to the construction of each work.


In my drawings I nourish ambiguity through minimal content and composition.  I use line, loops, scrawl and calligraphic movement to develop spaces, surfaces and forms that speak a nuanced language that alludes to and stirs vague memories of visual experience.  This ambiguity is manifested by the continuum of markings that fill voids, liberate forms and activate spaces and surfaces alluding to the world around me yet keeping alive the ambiguity. This ambiguity inhabits a vast playground, extending north to south, east to west, unruled by time, distance or locale.  Constantly involved in such a game I choose to take advantage of its play.

How have my art making processes influenced my pedagogy as an art educator? As an artist, my own transformational journey via the creative process has greatly altered my thinking processes and my engagement with the world around me enriching my own life beyond measure. This in turn fuels my objective as an art educator to nurture and facilitate the creative process within each student and observe its ability to transform the way the students think as each one navigates his or her own unique path.

The real key is what is happening while they journey. What are they exploring and discovering along the way? What kind of information is being collected and how are they responding to it? Are they aware of all the bits and pieces in context? Are they able to unplug these bits and pieces from their context and rethink possibilities? Do they understand how to select, integrate, and creatively use both mental and visual building blocks? Are these inquisitive, creative minds experiencing a new liberty to select, arrange, and assemble something fresh, different, unexpected, and new? Are they experiencing a new freedom to explore and to discover new relationships, new plug-ins, new connections that are now harnessed to “what if” personalities? Core to my pedagogy is a strong belief that every student is capable of understanding and engaging in visual literacy and the creative process. As an artist/teacher, my art making requires me to regularly grapple with the creative processes mentioned above and then model those processes in an ongoing manner.

The practices stated above that have been birthed and developed through a lifetime of art making have obviously informed my pedagogy as an art educator.  This “symbiotic relationship” has formed within me the following core convictions:

  • Conviction that young lives will be greatly enriched and empowered through creative and critical thinking.
  • Conviction of the power and freedom that comes through taking the intangible and making it tangible.
  • Conviction that the above is not an option but a requirement for life in the 21st century.
  • Conviction that I must “practice what I preach” as an art educator. Why?
  1. Practice validates all that I teach
  2. Practice empowers and solidifies my pedagogical convictions
  3. Practice validates the joy and never-ending awe of the creative process
  4. Practice fuels a passion to propagate and see the richness and joy that have blessed and embellished my life being passed on to these young, creative minds of the 21st century.

|| Lowell D. Farlow

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s