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Trey Ratcliff - china-deep-in-the-guangxi-provinceSometimes you can look at something and it immediately translates into something for you, something from which  you can take inspiration and  make something new.  That’s what came to mind for me when I came across this great image from photographer Trey Ratcliff.  It’s a panoramic view of a fairytale-like  landscape in the Guangxi region of  China that he took after scaling a peak similar to those you see in the photo.

It’s just a great image, one that gets my motor racing.  I immediately find myself comparing it to my own landscapes, noting  how the forms flow together to create a wonderful rhythm in the image.  There’s so much that will easily convey into my own work that it is in place before I really have time to think about it.  It’s like a jolt of creative electricity.  I just need to get to the easel before it rolls to the back of the line of imagery that is formed in my head.

For more of Trey Ratcliff’s incredible photograph’s from around the world, visit his website Stuck in Customs.  And check out the image shown above on Google+– it’s a 19,000 pixel  high def shot that is fully zoomable so that  you can fly in and out of the little valleys in the distance.  Pretty remarkable.

 

Light Within

GC Myers- Light Within  sm People are like stained glass windows: they sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light within.

 –Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

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A number of years ago, I came across this quote from Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, the famed psychiatrist who pioneered the study of death and dying and introduced the Five Stages of Grief to us.

Her words really struck a chord,  for the human aspect as well as for the parallel I drew from it for painting.  Creating paintings that felt as though they were lit from within has long been an aspiration for me and I had never realized that there seemed to be  connection between that desire and my personal desire to be a decent and caring person.

But her words kind of put those two things together in my mind.  I began to see that my painting was a reflection of my aspirations.  That might not seem like much of a revelation but it certainly felt like one when I first read those words.  The work felt even more personal to me, more tied to my own character.  I felt that if I could continue to work hard at my work I could apply the same sort of effort to being a positively charged person and hopefully the two would someday merge together.  I don’t know if that’s good or bad but it became how I perceived what I was doing.

On the painting side, sometimes I hit close to my goal as far as feeling a painting is lit from within.  The piece at the top, a new 12″ by 24″ canvas, is such an example.  It just feels as though it has that inner glow I am seeking.  It is titled, fittingly, Light Within.

The personal side will take a little longer.  But this gives me some hope.

Seventh Son

mose-allison_1Artistic influences,  seeing how a certain artist will take the work of others and transform it into their own, is a fascinating thing.  Sometimes it’s very obvious especially when the influence is of equal renown or when one artist directly copies the work of another.  But sometimes there are great influences that you may not even recognize.

Mose Allison (born in 1927) is such a person, a name you probably don’t know.  But for many musicians in the who found their voice in the 60’s, he was a huge influence.  Jimi Hendrix,  The Rolling Stones, The Who, The Animals, Tom Waits, Van Morrison and many, many others have all cited him as a strong influence on their work.  But Mose Allison, while achieving considerable fame, never became the household name like so many of his admirers.

He was pretty hard to pigeonhole as a musician- at times very bluesy, himself strongly influenced by the delta blues of his home in Mississippi, other times very jazzy or even pop tinged.  But always a unique and individual sound that allowed him to take a song, his own or those written by others, and  give it a new perspective.  I have to admit that I didn’t know much about Mose Allison until just recently but have been thrilled to find his work and can easily see it in the work of so many others.  I encourage you to seek out his work and give it a listen.

To that end, here’s a small sample for this Sunday morning.  It’s his version of the Willie Dixon blues classic The Seventh Son, a song that became a pop hit for Johnny Rivers.  But here, it definitely feels all Mose Allison.  Enjoy and have a great Sunday.

Potential / Redux

gc-myers-1994I am ridiculously busy this morning, with several imminent deadlines and tons of work to be taken on in the next several weeks.  I am not complaining.  It’s a good busy.  But having done this blog for so many years now, I felt obligated to post something this morning.  However, I couldn’t focus  so I went to the archives and immediately  came across the post below that addresses the hard work that it takes to reach the full potential of one’s  abilities.

Without the effort, potential is a hollow nothing.

Here’s what I wrote several years back:

I had a nice email from a gentleman who told me about a prize his 16 year old daughter had recently won for one of her paintings.  I took a look at the piece and responded to him.  It was nice painting, nicely composed and had strong lines and color.  It was far ahead of anything I was doing at that age, especially by the virtue that it was complete.  I could see this young person doing more with their talents in the future.  I wrote him back and told him this but with my standard warning, one that I have written about  here before:  Potential  must be actively pursued with constant efforts and a consistent pushing of one’s abilities

I wrote him to tell him this, to let him know about some of the young talents I have seen come and go because they felt their talent was something that was in them and could be turned on and off with the flip of a switch.  I told him to tell her to look at the work required as a musician looks at rehearsals.  Perhaps even look at their talents as being like those of a musician, talents that need constant exercise in order to stay sharp and strong.  For instance, even if you have great innate talent, you can’t expect to play the violin like Itzhak Perlman if you don’t devote your talents in the same way as he does. A great part of his life is in nurturing his abilities.

I always feel like a sourpuss when I’m giving this advice.  Nobody wants to hear that they need to work harder.  Everyone wants to think that they have this great talent born within them and it will flow like a spigot whenever they so desire.  If only that were true.

I think you will find that those who succeed at the highest levels in any field are those who understand this need to constantly push and work their talents.  I’m sure there are exceptions but none come immediately to mind.  I wrote about this in a blog post when I first started this, over two years ago.  I wrote about something author John Irving had said about competing as a writer as he competed as a wrestler, putting in the same sort of work as though he were attempting to be an Olympic wrestler. 

Hard work.   It’s not glamorous especially in this world of instant gratification but it is a proven entity .

I’m showing the piece above to highlight this.  It’s a small painting that I did before I was showing in any galleries, in 1994.  At the time, it pleased me very much and I could have very easily kept painting in that style and been pretty happy, without much effort.  But there was a little voice in me that kept saying to push ahead and work harder, to see what I could accomplish with greater effort.  It became not an end but a stepping stone to move ahead.

That is how I hope this man’s daughter see her painting– as a stepping stone.  She may think it is the best thing she has ever done but if she is willing to push ahead and put in the effort, she will look at it someday as a mere step in her journey.

matisse.la musiqueI want to reach the state of condensation of sensations which constitutes a picture. Perhaps I might be satisfied momentarily with a work finished at one sitting, but I would soon get bored looking at it; therefore, I prefer to continue working on it so that later I may recognize it as a work of my mind…Nowadays, I try to infuse some calm into my pictures and I keep working at them until I have succeeded in doing so.

--Henri Matisse, 1908

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 It seems like every artist has a different answer for the question of  when a painting is done.  Whistler and several others said it was when all traces of its creation have been concealed on the surface.   Some say it is when the artist achieves his aim and others say they are never finished.  Edward Munch ( The Scream) said that a piece is done after it has had time to mature, weathered a few showers and endured the elements, including nail scratches.

I tend to go with the never finished group although Munch’s definition is appealing to my love of weathering and patina.  My goal is to have the work complete enough that they can exist on their own,to  be alive in the outer world.  In that respect, because they are human creations, I view them  very much as I view other humans– never quite complete and always imperfect.  That’s just how we are and I am certainly no different.

 I am a collage of imperfections that is still a work-in-progress.  If I saw me hanging on the wall I might want to take a brush and soften an edge here or there and add color in certain parts of my composition.  But I probably would not do it because those imperfections actually become part of the composition, create the contrasts that give us, as a painting, life.  And that , even with the flaws and weathering exposed, pleases me.

None of us is perfectly painted.  Nor should we be.

 

What’s Coming Up

GC Myers -The Refreshing smJust a quick announcement today of my next few events.  First, in just over two weeks, on SaturdayApril 11th,  I will be giving a Gallery Talk at the Kada Gallery in Erie, beginning  at 1 PM.  Then, on June 5th, marks the opening of  my annual solo exhibit at the Principle Gallery in Alexandria, VA.  And after that comes my annual solo exhibit at the West End Gallery in Corning, NY which opens on July 17th.

The  Gallery Talk at the Kada Gallery in April marks the first real talk I have given at the gallery in the 19 years that I have shown my work there.  Actually, it is the second but the first, which was a few years back didn’t feel like one to me and never had the rhythm or flow of my normal talks.  It was held at the beginning of the opening reception for my show there and there was little seating and people were milling about, looking at the new work as they entered the gallery.  There was a lot of distraction and it wasn’t really conducive to creating real interaction with the audience, given my limited skills as a public speaker.  I left feeling as though I had really under-performed  that night.

So I don’t count that as a true Gallery Talk and vow to bring my A game.  Also, this upcoming talk will feature a drawing for those in attendance to win one of my original paintings, along with several other goodies, something that has become a popular feature at talks at my other galleries.  I spend a lot of time deciding which painting to give away at these events because I want it to be something meaningful, not secondary work.  In the past I have given away what I consider to be substantial paintings and I promise those who take the time to come won’t be disappointed in the choice for this drawing. Or in the talk itself, for that matter.  So, if you’re in Erie on Saturday, April 11th, I hope to see you at the Kada Gallery at 1 PM.

This year’s show at the Principle Gallery is titled Native Voice and is the 16th consecutive show, going back to 2000,  at the Alexandria landmark.  It is always one of the highlights of my year, the anchor around which I build my work year.  I am pretty excited about the work that has been coming out for this show thus far and think it will be a very strong exhibit.  But don’t take my word for it– see for yourself.

And then in July, it’s a homecoming of sorts with the opening of my show (still working on the title for this show) at the West End Gallery.  It’s always a pleasure and a thrill to show in your home area.  It’s just a different vibe– more familiar might be the best way of explaining it.  It’s always nice to get to show off a bit for folks who might not see you just as a painter, but know you in other ways.  I see a lot of people from the other phases of my life at these shows and it means a lot that they come out to see this aspect of what I do.  As a result, this show always seems to bring out the best in my work and I suspect that this year will continue that trend.

So, that’s the next several months and, of course, there is more beyond that including a two-day workshop I will be teaching in September at the Yates County Arts Center in the beautiful Finger Lakes.  Not to mention Gallery Talks at the West End in August and the Principle in September.

And with a little surprise I hope to unveil in May, it makes for a very busy year. So stay tuned.

Worldshaker

GC Myers Worldshaker smStill affected by a lingering cold, I was struggling this morning to write about the new painting above, an 18″ by 18″ canvas titled Worldshaker.  I went back in the archives of the blog to look for inspiration and came across a term– native voice– I had used a few years back in a blog entry.

This particular blog entry used a Picasso quote– It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child – to describe my own decision years before to not follow tradition in my painting.  Instead I would try to paint in a way that would be as natural to me as breathing so that whatever came from my efforts would automatically have my idiosyncrasies and my fingerprints built into them as well as the unaffected honesty of a child’s vision.

Looking around the studio now at the canvasses, some finished and some in various states of progress,  that lean against any available wall space I can see that native voice very plainly.  Looking from piece to piece, I can see that each is very much imbued with my own voice, plain and simple.  No attempts to be anything other than what they are: a testament to one person’s existence.

And maybe that’s where this painting and its message enters the conversation.  Perhaps we all have the chance to shake the world in some way, even if only a small way,  if we can all dare to speak honestly with our own voice.  We think of change as a great sea tide but it often begins as a ripple of a thought uttered by a lone voice.

Let it be your voice.  Shake the world.

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