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GC Myers -Simple Glory 2004I have a long list of things to be done this morning.  Since time is short, I thought I’d rerun a blog entry from back in early 2009.  It concerns the question of how long it takes to finish a painting, a question that has been asked of me many, many times. I usually tell the story of a commission I did for a Finnish diplomat a number of years back and how the work I did on that piece became the template or rehearsal for a larger piece soon after.

The answer that I gave in 2009 still pretty much applies although I have noticed that in recent years that it is taking me longer to finish paintings.  I tend to dwell on them a little longer now and am more apt to set them aside so that I can simply consider them before forging ahead.  But there’s even a variable in that– sometimes the energy and direction of a piece is so determined that there is a danger in losing its momentum by setting it aside.

So there is no one answer to the question.  Here’s what I wrote six years back:

I am asked this question at every opening and gallery talk:  How long does it takes to finish a painting?  

This is a question that I’ve answered a thousand times and I still have to stop and think about my answer. 

You see, there are so many variables in my painting technique at different times that sometimes the actual process can be much longer or shorter on any given painting.  Sometimes I can toil over a piece, every bit of  the process requiring time and thought.  There may be much time spent just looking at the piece trying to figure out where the next line or stroke goes, trying to weigh each move.  Then there are times when the painting drops out effortlessly and I’ll look up after a very short time and realize that it’s almost complete. Any more moves from me and the piece would be diminished.

I often cite an example from a number of years ago.  I had been working on a series of paintings, working with a particular color and compositional form.  Over the course of a month, I did several very similar paintings in several different sizes from very small up to a fairly large version.  Each had a very distinct and unique appearance and feel but the technique and color was done in very much the same way.

One morning at the end of this monthlong period, I got up early and was in the studio at 5 AM.  I had a very large panel prepared  and pulled it.  Immediately,  I started on the panel.  Every move, every decision was the result of the previous versions of this painting I had executed over the past month.  I was painting solely on muscle memory and not on a conscious decision making thought process.  I was painting very fast, with total focus, and I remember it as being a total whirl.  The piece always seemed near to disaster.  On an edge.  But having done this for a month I trusted every move and forced through potential problems.

Suddenly, it was done.  I looked over at the clock and realized it had only been two hours.  Surely, there must be so much more to do.  

But it was done.  It was fully realized and full of feeling and great rhythm.  I framed the piece and a few weeks later I took it to the Principle Gallery in Alexandria, VA. where I had shown my work for many years.  It found a new home within hours of arriving at the gallery.

I realized at that point that every version of that painting was a separate performance, a virtual rehearsal for that particular painting.  I had choreographed  every move in advance and it was just a matter of finding the right moment when plan and performance converge.

 It had taken a mere two hours but it was really painted over the course of hundreds of hours.

I hope you can see why I always have to think about this question…

[ The painting at the top is titled Simple Glory from 2004 ]

Running Free

GC Myers- Running Free smIt’s been a kind of hectic week here in the studio, just plain busy mixed in with the unavoidable distractions that life sometimes throws at us.  In the chaos of yesterday, I realized that I was remiss in not mentioning that my nephew, Greg, had run in his first Boston Marathon on Monday.

He has run for quite some time now as a recreational runner and in recent years has blossomed, finishing near the front in some races and winning a few along the way.  Even in his early forties, his times have kept improving due to his hard work and dedication to his running.

So it was a thrill Monday to have the race on as he ran in the rain on those Boston streets.  Throughout the race, I kept getting text messages with his times at different points in the race and was impressed by the constancy of his pace which hardly wavered at all throughout the day.

At the end of the day, in less than idea conditions with rain and wind, he came across the line in a personal best 2:53:40.  That placed him at 1348 overall out of a field of about 30,000 runners and 160th (out of about 2700) in his class– an impressive finish for his first effort on the hallowed course.

I was really proud to see Greg have such a great effort and to have a satisfying result to go along with it.  It’s a wonderful thing to witness someone achieving personal bests through their own hard efforts. My hope is that Greg’s three young sons understand the great lesson he is setting before them and will use it to find something of their own to focus on and work hard at so that they may set their own personal bests throughout their lives.

That would make this race even more of a personal triumph.

So, well done, Greg.  Long may you run.

Brancusi The Kiss Phila Museum of ArtOne day in Switzerland, in front of a beautiful mountain there was the most beautiful of cows, and she was contemplating me in ecstasy.  I said to myself, ” I must be someone if even this cow admires me.”   I came closer; she wasn’t looking at me, and she was relieving herself.  That tells you what you need to know about fame.

–Constantin Brancusi

*************************

This was a favorite anecdote of famed sculptor Constantin Brancusi (1876-1957) concerning an incident as he took the long trek on foot from Bucharest to Paris as a poor young man seeking fame and fortune.  He found both but the influence of his peasant roots in Romania remained with him.

His story of the unimpressed Swiss cow is a pretty good reflection on the nature of fame, even the type acquired through great deeds,  Fame is something created by other people, not something that is displayed on oneself. When all is said and done, we’re all pretty much the same– famous or not– in the eyes of that peeing cow.

It reminds me of when I first began showing my work in a gallery while I was still working as a waiter in a pancake house.  I would go to openings and people would praise my work, telling me how great I was.  I could barely get in my car to drive home because my head was so big by the end of the evening.  But at 6 the next morning, there I was, pouring coffee for truckers and families who were less than impressed by the praise lavished on me the night before.

A big pin prick that brought my head quickly back to a more normal size.

Those folks at the restaurant were my peeing cows.

It’s a lesson that I try to remember when things are going too well and I find myself beginning to believe that I am something more than what I really am– a simple schlub watching a cow pee.

Conquest

GC Myers Conquest  smConquest is one of those words that have grand connotations, often thought of it in terms of strength and domination, of empires and battles between nations and ideologies.But it can have a much smaller, more personal meaning as well, one where it is all about overcoming those things that keep us from becoming the person we ourselves as being.

Fear, for instance.

And that’s the meaning I see for myself in this new 24″ by 30″ painting, Conquest, part of my June show at the Principle Gallery in Alexandria.

It feels as though the Red Tree is in a moment of personal conquest, perhaps even epiphany.  It has overcome the struggles of the journey, symbolized by the path and fallen tree as well as the worked rows of the field, to reach a point where it can reflect back on it all, seeing in the clear bright light the realization of earlier, distant hopes.

These moments of conquest may not appear as epic moments for all to see. Personally, the times when I have most felt this feeling have not been grand moments of statement at all. There are few of those moments in most lives. Rather, they are often small and personal- a quiet and sudden recognition that I am at some point that seemed out of reach earlier in the journey.

In that moment, there is instant reflection on what led to this point.  The earlier fears that seemed like shackles now appear as harmless boogeymen, mere figments of imagination hidden in the dark.  But in the bright light the darkness recedes, revealing new horizons to move toward.

One person’s triumph over their fears is perhaps as large a conquest as that of any empire.

Budapest

Sandor Galimberti- Tában Cityscape in Budapest (1910)It’s funny how you sometimes come across things.

I had heard the song Budapest from George Ezra recently and had decided to share it on my Sunday music interlude.  It just has an infectious sound that seemed like a good way to start what looks to be a beautiful day.  Plus I liked the fact that he lists Bob Dylan, Woody Guthrie and Leadbelly as influences– kind of unexpected from a 20-something Brit.

So I began looking for something visual to accompany this lead-in to the music and punched in Budapest painting into my search engine.  Up came many lovely watercolor-y  images of the beautiful  grand riverfront along the Danube.  They were nice but tucked in among them was a rougher, more modernistic cityscape that really stuck out to me.

Red roofs.  Simple forms and dark linework.  A path leading in and up.  Even the tree that divided the upper right section of the scene looked familiar.  It looked like something that could have easily been tucked away somewhere  in my own body of work.

The painting, shown above  was titled Taban Cityscape in Budapest and the artist was listed as Sandor Galimberti.  Looking deeper, there was little info on Galimbert’s life except that he was Hungarian, born in 1883.   From a rough translation on a Hungarian site, I gleaned that he studied with Matisse and  had began to achieve notoriety for his work around Europe before World War I.  Married to another artist, he lived in Paris then finally Amsterdam before returning to Hungary to enlist in the army during the early days of the war.  In 1915, Learning that his wife had contracted lung cancer, Galimberti returns from the battlefield and his wife then dies.  Hour later, he takes his own life at the age of  32.

Yet another tragic story of what may have been an epic career cut short.  Looking at his work online (including his final work, Amsterdam, shown at the bottom) I am impressed on so many levels and can only imagine what may have come from an artist just reaching his maturity in the aftermath of the war.  We might be talking of him in the same terms as Matisse and Picasso and other modern masters.  But a tragic fate intervened and he is little known outside of a few certain circles.

So what began as a simple search for an image gives me a new artist to wonder at and study- perhaps my Hungarian cousin?  So many hidden treasures in this world.  Enjoy the song, enjoy the day and be glad for those things that bring you joy.

Sandor Galimberti- Amsterdam 1914

Deliberations

GC Myers- DeliberationsThis is a new 12″ by 24″ painting on canvas that, for the moment, I am calling Deliberations.  I finished it yesterday and have been looking at it ever since, trying to decipher what it is that I am seeing in it, why it is pulling me in,  Something very cryptic in it– perhaps it’s the birds or the Red Chair or the stubbed off tree limbs– that fills me with questions.

What is this place?  What do those birds have to do with the Red Chair?  Is the sun rising or falling past the horizon and is that snow on the ground?  Why is the Red Chair in the circle of earth?

Quite honestly, I don’t know.

Starting with the given title, Deliberations, I begin to see this as a place of  judgement, either some sort of self-judgement or a spiritual reckoning.  As  though it is a place where when one has passed on, they go to review their life to determine what they done with the time given to them here on Earth. The life in question is the Red Chair, the red representing the physical embodiment.  The birds might be witnesses or judges or both.  The light over the horizon might be the next step forward– heaven, if that is what your belief system tells you it is called– and the trees act as a barrier between this place and that next step.

Kind of reminiscent, in a more symbolic and  folky way, of the Albert Brooks/Meryl Streep movie, Defending Your Life, where the dead find themselves at a Disney-like resort where, over several days they attend hearings where they review and defend the life they have lived to to determine whether they have learned its lessons in order to move on to a more ethereal plane.  If not, they return to try again.

But maybe this is just a red chair in the woods and those are simply some birds who frequent those woods.

Who knows?  It’s all in the eye of the beholder.  As for myself, I will deliberate on it a little longer…

Ad Marginem C 1930 Painting by Paul Klee; Ad Marginem C 1930 Art Print for salePaul Klee On Modern Art 1924This excerpt from On Modern Art, the 1924 treatise from the great Swiss artist Paul Klee is a bit more than a quote but since this is about art we’ll be a little flexible in our definition.  And that, I believe, would please Klee, whose works often defied definition.

I know for me, he was a big influence if only in his attitude and the distinctness of his work.  I always think of his work in terms of the color– sometimes muted yet intense and always having a melodic harmony to it.

It always feels like music to me.

I like his idea that the world is in the process of creation, of Genesis, and that it is not a final form. It allows for visionary work, for imagining other present worlds that extend beyond our perception because, as he writes, “In its present shape it is not the only possible world.

And to me, that is an exciting proposition.

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