He who lives in harmony with himself lives in harmony with
– Marcus Aurelius
This is a new painting that is titled Streaming Peaceful, a 24″ by 36″ canvas that is part of a group of paintings that should be arriving today at the Just Looking Gallery in San Luis Obispo on the Central Coast of California. This very much a signature piece for my work in form and content, a deep landscape under a gradated sky with the Red Tree holding central focus.
But for me the central aspect of this piece is the placid feel that emanates from it. It has a rich and supple feel that I find brings immediate calm as soon as my eyes lock on to the image. Even at this moment as I write, there is an instant sensation as though I am releasing a deep breath when I shift my gaze upward on the screen to this painting.
And that sense of being near some sort of core of peacefulness is what I am looking for in my work, at least in my own personal relationship to it. I have maintained this quite a few times over the years here that my primary personal goal in painting is not in mere representation, not in pure design or technical prowess. No, what I want, my ultimate goal, is to simply move myself with the work to an inner point where I am finally calm and at peace with the world. For me, feeling that calming envelope surround me is all I truly seek in my work.
Everything else is secondary.
And this piece hits that mark– for me. I can’t speak for others. We all seek different things and have differing reactions to art. What others see or feel in this is their experience alone and that is as it should be.
But, like it or not, I am at peace in it.
Posted in Quote, Recent Paintings | Tagged California, GC Myers, Just Looking Gallery, New Painting, Red Tree, San Luis Obispo | 3 Comments »
The greatest happiness you can have is knowing that you do not necessarily require happiness.
This quote from William Saroyan caught me off guard when I came across it, mainly because it captured in a few words the lesson I had finally gleaned from years of seeking this elusive beast called happiness. And a beast it was, a creature from mythology. I had made it into a thing that had special powers and was like the Abominable Snowman– rumored to exist but seldom seen.
I discovered over time that this was a mistake.
I was picturing happiness as a once in a life thing, some sort of peak moment, when it was, in fact, just a small part of our being human. The key in Saroyan’s short quote is the word knowing. Once we begin to know who and what we are and are not, the need for peak moments subsides as we understand that there is a sort of happiness in the smaller moments of simply being. It is not a gleeful, heart-pounding joy but a comfortable warm glow and an inner sense of satisfaction that often comes to you at what seems to be the most mundane of moments.
Stopping just now and looking out my studio window, for example. A light snow is falling almost in time to Paul Desmond’s sax that is mingling with Dave Brubeck’s piano and I sip my coffee. It is gray and almost gloomy but I feel this glow, this satisfaction in the moment. It is not happiness as most might define the word . It is just a moment of knowing that I exist in the world, that I am here to bear witness to the small wonders that take place around me in my small corner of the universe.
And that’s good enough.
I chose the painting at the top, A Consideration of Grace from back in 2002, because there is something like the feeling I am describing today in it for me. Maybe it can be described as grace. I don’t know…
Posted in Quote | Tagged Abominable Snowman, Dave Brubeck, Paul Desmond, Quote of the Week, William Saroyan | 8 Comments »
Our internet connection was down here for most of the day yesterday which was not really a surprise given the -19° on the thermometer. Cold enough to make today’s puny 1° reading look appealing. But because I didn’t have to focus on writing the blog I took the time to rearrange a couple of things in the studio, things that I often look at from my seat at the computer. On the large stone wall that holds the fireplace in my studio there are three half-round stone shelves that hold several wood carvings.
One is an inexpensive carving of Don Quixote that my sister gave me for Christmas when I was a kid and another is a beautiful carving of a crow from artist Don Sottile, a talented sculptor from my home Finger Lakes region. Then there are a few of my own carvings from the early 90’s, predating my first attempts at painting by a couple of years. They are not nearly as well executed as Mr. Sottile’s work but they mean a lot to me, if only as a reminder that they were keys to a door in my mind that I was desperately trying to open at that time, one that would eventually lead me here.
I thought I would take this opportunity to rerun a blog entry about these pieces from back in early 2009:
Immediately before I started painting in the mid-90’s, my form of expression was wood carving. It was unpolished and rough but it provided the vehicle that I needed to spark further creativity. Most were created with an inexpensive set of small chisels and scrap lumber, usually just pine boards leftover from projects.
Actually, the technique that is used in these carvings is linked very much to my earliest efforts at painting which consisted of a heavy layer of paint then removing the parts that didn’t belong leaving the desired image. This is a technique that I use to this very day.
The thing that I learned most from doing these pieces is that I wanted to emphasize expression over technique. By that I mean I did not want to focus so much on refining technique to obtain a very polished final product that the piece became more about craft and less about expression of emotion. By doing so I realized the pieces would retain my own identity and idiosyncrasies. It was my first real stab at creating a visual look and vocabulary of my own.
I also took the idea of the work having a tactile feel to it. The attraction of these for me was in holding them and feeling the wood and the weight of it in my hands. When I first started painting I worked primarily on paper and I got this same feeling from the cotton of the watercolor papers. It’s something that I also try to insert into my work today as well, through the use of texture and in the way I present the paintings.
When I look at these I’m not particularly impressed by them as art but I do appreciate them for the lessons they provided at a time when I needed guidance, lessons which I took to heart. To me they are touchstones to a certain part of my life and as such are important to my development as an artist.
Posted in Biographical, Influences | Tagged Carving, Don Quixote, Don Sottile, Finger Lakes, GC Myers, RedTreeTimes | 2 Comments »
I came across the video below recently of artist Holton Rower creating one of his paintings by pouring gallon after gallon of paint on to a central point, often over structures he has constructed that create different effects in the movement of the paint. These gallons of paint flair out, creating works with brilliant bands of contrasting color. The larger pieces are quite striking. There is also the performance aspect of his process that makes for entertaining viewing as you watch and wonder how each color that is introduced will affect the entirety of the piece.
Here’s a very short bio from Artsy:
Claiming, “I probably use more paint than anybody in the history of art,” Holton Rower, grandson ofAlexander Calder, is best known for his “pour paintings,” created by pouring up to 50 gallons of rainbow-colored paints over variously configured blocks and panels of plywood, and allowing it to spread and pool into textured, psychedelic compositions. He grew up surrounded by art and working in his father’s construction business, where he learned about the qualities of a range of materials. In his own studio, he experiments with many techniques and media, including sculpture, installation, and assemblage. In the early 2000’s, Rower began developing his “pour paintings,” which he equates to sculptures. Ranging from small- to large-scale, and appearing as vortexes or the ringed segments of tree trunks, they are records of control and chance, human ingenuity and natural forces.
Take a look at the video below. You may find it interesting even if it’s not your cup of tea.
Posted in Neat Stuff, Video | Tagged Holotn Rower, Pour Paintings, Video | 3 Comments »
Most mornings in the studio I will click on to the Pandora site for a little music while I write the blog. Normally I will choose the Chet Baker channel which is a blend of his music along with many others in a wide variety of jazz styles. I find that it’s a great sound to drive my thoughts without overpowering them, energetic and moody at once. Being able to step in and out of the music while I am thinking make it a great soundtrack to work by in the morning.
Listening to this has exposed me to a lot of artists and their music that were unknown to me beforehand. Can’t say I know much about jazz or its history, primarily a few of the better known tracks from the legends. But I try to keep an open mind and don’t turn myself off to it because of my own lack of knowledge, an attitude I hope a lot of folks who say they know nothing about art will maintain as well. Try it on– maybe it will fit you better than you might think.
So, for this week’s Sunday music I chose a piece from a musician that was totally unknown to me not too long ago, Richard Boulger. His horn work is beautiful and his compositions flow really well. I heard this piece one morning and was totally taken by it and now find myself listening to it once or twice a day now while I paint. It just fits me well.
Here’s Miss Sarah from Boulger’s 2008 album Blues Twilight. Hope you’ll enjoy it and have a great Sunday.
Posted in Favorite Things, Influences, Motivation, Music | Tagged Blues Twilight, Chet Baker, jazz, Music, Richard Boulger | 2 Comments »
Man is a part of the world, and his spirit is part of the spirit of the world. We are merely a peculiar mode of Being, a living atom within it, or, rather, a cell that, if sufficiently open to itself and its own mystery, can also experience the mystery, the will, the pain, and the hope of the world.
- Vàclav Havel
The Red Chair normally represents memory for me. Often it is the form of familial memory with the chair lifted by the branches of what seems to be its family tree. But in this newer painting, an 18″ by 36″ canvas that I call A Seat at the Table I see it as being part of a larger family unit, as a piece of the entirety of the world and the universe.
Oh, it may only play a small part but it is a part nonetheless, a link in the chained mesh of all things. It belongs.
It has a seat at the table.
And that’s an important thing to remember for each of us– that we do belong, that we play a part in serving to hold together this universe. We are not universes unto ourselves however much it sometimes seem. We best function in our parts when we seek to serve others and in some way strengthen our part of this universal mesh.
So play your part and involve yourself in the world, in the universe. You do have a seat at the table, after all.
Posted in Quote, Recent Paintings | Tagged GC Myers, New Painting, Quote, Red Chair, Red Tree, Vaclav Havel | 2 Comments »
Traditions are lovely things- to create traditions, that is, not to live off of them… the great shapers do not search for their form in the fogs of the past.
Franz Marc- The Yellow Cow 1911
I chose today’s quote from German painter Franz Marc because he was an influence for me early on. Not so much in the style or subject matter that he employed but simply in the fact that he created work that stood out and was identifiable as his from across a gallery space. This is basically what he is pointing towards in this aphorism–to not toil in the fields planted by earlier artists but to carve out your own space and work it in the way that suits and best expresses you.
Franz Marc- Large Blue Horses
He is not downplaying the influences of the past. Early in his career Marc copied the works of other artists from before and contemporary to him, using it as a way in which to find an avenue of expression that meshed with his vision. He did not want to remain a replicator but wanted instead to be a creator. And that was the attraction for me.
There was safety and security in remaining in this symbolic field with others but it would often be as an anonymous member of a larger group, your furrow always directly compared to the furrow of those alongside you, your harvest compared to their’s.
Breaking away and heading out was risky. You had to believe that in taking this leap of faith that you would be able to work your little spot in your own way away from others and produce a harvest that is uniquely appetizing to others in some manner. But you might end up toiling in barren soil, creating crops that appealed to no one but yourself. It was scary to think that your field might never expand but you were at least nourishing yourself.
This was the type of thinking that drove my work early on, fueled by looking at the work of Marc and others who veered from the traditions of the past in their times.
Unfortunately, Franz Marc only worked his fields for a relatively short time, dying in WW I at the Battle of Verdun. He was 36 years old. But his crop still lives on, surviving being labeled as degenerate art in the 1930’s by Hitler and the Nazi regime.
It is unique and his own tradition.
Franz Marc- The Waterfall 1912
Posted in Influences, Quote | Tagged Battle of Verdun, Franz Marc, Quote, Quote of the Week, WW I | 2 Comments »