Archive for the ‘Influences’ Category

The Chamber Idyll 1831 Edward Calvert 1799-1883

Edward Calvert The Chamber Idyll 1831

Edward Calvert was a British artist born in 1799 .  He was trained in the Royal Academy as a painter and had a distinguished career as traditional painter of his era.  But in his early years, he also learned wood and copper engraving as a member of a group of artists who were followers of visionary artist and poet William Blake.  They called themselves The Ancients.

It was during this time that Calvert created a series of prints from his engravings that are considered visionary masterpieces.  I know that when I look at them they seem to be out of time and almost modern in feel, certainly not something you would expect to see from Britain in the 1820’s.  His last engraving from this time was The Chamber Idyll, shown at the top, finished in 1831.  It is considered his masterpiece and would be the last print he ever did, abandoning printmaking altogether to pursue his career as a painter.

He didn’t carry the visionary feel of his early print work into his paintings, choosing to work in the traditional style of the time.  While he had a long career as a painter, his painted work is not considered in the nearly the same regard as his prints which are considered to be some of the most important British prints made. I think they are pretty wonderful and  find myself just staring at them, taking in each composition’s  design and use of space within the picture.  Just beautiful…

The Sheep of his Pasture circa 1828 Edward Calvert


Edward Calvert- The Ploughman 1827

Edward Calvert The Brook 1829

Edward Calvert -The Lady and the Rooks 1829

Edward Calvert -The Flood 1829

Edward Calvert -The Cyder Feast 1828

Edward Calvert -The Bride 1828

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Born to Run CoverBorn to Run turned 40 years old yesterday and I am somehow surprised, even though I am well aware of time passing.  Maybe because it remains so in the present for me to this day.  Actually, my first artistic foray involved selling Bruce t-shirts out of the want ads in the back of Circus magazine.  They were a little crude,  screen-printed with a logo for the E Street Band that I had designed on the front and  a verse from Born to Run on the back.  Sold a few, mainly to fans in Europe including one in Northern Ireland who remains a friend to this very day, but not enough to call it a success or even break even.

But Springsteen, and Born to Run in particular, had a huge influence on my life as well, well beyond that failed attempt at marketing.  I was knocked out by his commitment to his passion, his need to keep true to his own vision for his work and his need to do all he could to get that vision across to his audience.  It may not always be your style or taste, but his work is as true to his vision as any artist in any medium.

Here’s a blog entry from back in 2009 where I documented my first encounter with Bruce:

When I was seventeen years old I left high school early, in January.  I guess I graduated.  I had enough credits, had fulfilled all the requirements.  Never went to a ceremony, never received a diploma.  I had had enough school at that point.  I was adrift in my life.  No real goals to speak of.  Oh, I had desires and dreams but no direction, no guidance.

At some point, I decided i would move to Syracuse and work for my brother, putting in above-ground swimming pools, but that wouldn’t start until April so I had several months to kill.  Free time.  I spent most of my time reading or watching TV or just driving around.  One day in February, I stopped in at the local OTB (that’s off-track betting, by the way) and bet my last eight dollars on the ponies at Aqueduct.

Good fortune was with me that day and I won, hitting the daily double and walking away with a couple of hundred dollars.  I called Cheri, my girlfriend (and now my wife) and asked if she would be interested in going out.  There was a guy playing tonight at the Arena in Binghamton who I had heard a little about.  I had his first two LPs and they were alright.  Might be interesting and I had money burning a hole in my pocket.  His name was Bruce Springstone, Springstein- something like that.

So we went to Binghamton.  We got there about an hour before the show and it seemed so different than other shows we’d been to at that time, the mid-70’s.  It was so quiet.  People were lined up but it was almost silent, like there was this heavy air of anticipation stifling all sound.  We still needed tickets so we headed to the box office.  I asked the lady behind the glass for the best seats she had and after a moment she slid me two tickets.  I looked at them then asked if she had anything better.  She laughed and said no, these were pretty good.

They were in the third row, just left of centerstage.

I did say that I was seventeen, right?

Inside, there was a quiet stillness as we took out seats.  There weren’t the screams of drunk kids nor the pungent clouds of pot smoke. No beach balls bouncing through crowd–just that heavy air of anticipation.  As we waited, the people around us kept nervously looking at the stage, which was close enough to touch, as a well dressed older man tuned a grand piano.  We had no idea what to expect but our interest was being piqued.  Finally, the roadies cleared the stage and the arena went black.  The first Bruuuces filled the air.

The lights came up and there they were, only feet away.  Bruce was in a white collarless shirt buttoned at the neck and a vest with a woolen sport jacket.  Miami Steve ( Silvio for those of you who know him from the Sopranos) was dressed in a hot pink suit with a white fedora. And directly in front of us, resplendent in a white suit that seemed to glow in the lights was the Big Man himself, Clarence Clemons, his sax glinting gold.

It was overwhelming for someone not knowing what to expect, like mistakenly walking into a revival meeting and coming out converted.  It was unlike anything I had ever seen to that time.  It was pure sonic nirvana with the thump of Mighty Max’s bass drum rattling my sternum and the Big Man’s sax  flowing high over jangly guitar and tinkling piano  lines.  

But more than that was the sheer effort that was put out by Springsteen.  It was the first time I had seen someone so committed to what they did.  It seemed that all that mattered at that moment for him was to get across that space to the people in that arena.  He dove across the stage.  He clambered onto speakers.  He gave everything.  By the end of the show, some three and a half hours later, he appeared to have been dragged from a river.  He was soaked from the top of his boots to the top of head and when he played his Telecaster, his hand on the neck of the guitar would fill with a pool of  sweat.

His desire and commitment to please us was something I carried with me.

Several years later I ran into a person who had been at that show and when I told him my luck at getting such great seats he turned green with envy.  His seats were much further back in the hockey arena.  We then both agreed that our favorite moment was when they did a cover of  It’s My Life from the Animals.  We didn’t really know one another but we both gushed about how that song had moved us, had changed our lives in some small way.  I still carry that image and when I hear that song I am suddenly 17 years old again.  And ten feet tall with the world at my feet because it was my life and I’d do what I want…

That’s my first Bruce story.

Here’s She’s the One from the year before the show I was at.  Enjoy.

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GC Myers- Time Frames  smI’ve been working on trying to create a patterned underpainting  in my work, inspired by a dream I had a few weeks back.  It still is moving ahead and is not yet what I saw (or, at least, what I recall seeing) in that dream.  It may never get to that state but it acts as a catalyst,  something that pushes me forward.  This small piece, a 9″ by 12″ canvas, uses blocks or plates much like those I saw in my dream to form a pattern that hovers barely vsisble in the sky.  It doesn’t have the intensity of the color of the dreamed vision but it still creates what I think is an interesting effect on this piece.  It serves as both a step forward and a self-contained entity.

I call this piece Time Frames, alluding to the shapes of the plates in the sky here. Like much of the underlying textures in my work, it refers to those  forces and knowledge that have untold influence on our world and our lives yet remain just beyond our perceptions.

All that we do not know.

At the moment, we are at the leading edge of all knowledge here in this world.  Yet, it is an edge that is always moving forward and what we believe today with all certainty may one day be revealed to be proved false.  Future generations may look back on us and wonder at some of the things we believed to be true.

But you live with what you know and what you see.  Blissfully in the moment even while obscured ultimate truths may be oh so near…

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Hiroshima Survivor Bonsai US National Arboretum

Today is the 70th anniversary of the atomic bomb being exploded over Hiroshima.  I am not looking to get into an exploration of whether it was right or wrong, don’t want to justify or condemn the decision.

It happened.  And with horrifying effectiveness.

No, instead of focusing on our ability to destroy I would rather today feature a story of natural endurance and beauty.  I am talking about the now 390 year-old bonsai tree, shown above, that now resides at the U.S. National Arboretum in Washington, DC.  It has made it intact through the centuries of history including surviving the Hiroshima blast which took place less than two miles from its then home.

It started its life on the Japanese island of Miyajima back in 1625.  Think about that.  Here, we were five years into the Plymouth colony, still struggling to gain our footing in this land while on an island half a world away this tree was beginning its life.  And since that time, this tree has received constant daily care, allowing it to thrive and live well beyond the life expectancy of a normal bonsai.

At some point in its life, this rare tree came into the possession of the Yamaki family which ran a commercial bonsai nursery for several generations near Hiroshima.  It was at this location when the bomb exploded.  The tree was sheltered by a wall and the blast fortunately only caused minor injuries to the family, mainly lacerations from flying glass.

In 1976, bonsai master Masaru Yamaki donated the prized tree as part of the Japanese people’s gift to the U.S. in recognition of our Bicentennial.  It has lived the last 39 years, one tenth of its existence, at the National Bonsai & Penjing Museum at the National Arboretum. It has witnessed the world changing in so many ways yet it stands still.

Serene and beautiful. With our care.

Let us hope that we begin to realize that we gain so much more by nurturing this world than through destruction.

Just look to the tree…

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GC Myers  Destiny Bound framedThis coming Saturday, August 1, I will be giving a Gallery Talk at the West End Gallery in support of my current show, Home+Land, that is hanging there.  It starts at 1 PM and, as many of you who regularly read this blog will know, ends with a drawing where one person in attendance will take home a painting of mine.

It’s something I’ve done for several years now at my Gallery Talks  and is something that really gives me great pleasure.  I’ve always felt so fortunate to have found my current life as a painter that this allows me to express my gratitude in a tangible way.  As a result, I try to carefully choose the works that I give away, not wanting to just go the far corner of the closet where I hide those early experiments that make me grimace to look at them now.

No, I want to give away paintings where I feel a pang of loss in giving them away, want them to have some sort of meaning for me so that this is not just an empty gesture. So, for this Saturday’s drawing, I have chosen the painting shown above.  It’s called Destiny Bound and is a 16″ by 20″ canvas so it has the size to give it a real presence.  It’s a painting that was only shown publicly once for a very short time before I brought it back to the studio.  It is sort of an anomaly in my body of work in the way it is framed, using a gold-leafed plein air frame rather than my signature frame.  I tried this frame style for a handful of pieces several years ago and decided that I wanted to stay solely with the continuity of my normal frames.  This is the one painting that remains in a gold frame and I chose to keep it as I’ve just become used to seeing it that way.

So, even though it has a unique overall appearance for my work, the painting itself is what I consider a great example of what has been called my Dark Work, work that first appeared in the months after 9/11 but has evolved over the years.  I am really attracted to overall presence of this painting and the deep colors and line work as well. And the expressiveness of the tree on the right.  That tree  has always felt like it pays tribute in some way to Thomas Hart Benton with its curves and lines.  While it reminds me of some his figures or trees, off the top of my head I can’t cite a particular painting of his that might feature such a tree or figure.

But that connection and the way the tree seems animated jumps out at me whenever I look at this piece. I just plain like this painting.  And I am giving it away on Saturday.  So, stop in at the West End Gallery on Saturday for what I hope will be an entertaining talk and maybe you can take  Destiny Bound home with you.  The talk starts at 1 PM and generally lasts about an hour.  Hope to see you there.

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Jan_Toorop_Fatalisme 1893I recently came across the work of the artist Jan Toorop and really found myself attracted to his imagery.  I hadn’t heard of him but at the first glimpse immediately wanted to see more.  Toorop  was another of those artists who have not garnered as much attention outside his home in the Netherlands as you might expect when you consider the work and the influence it had on other artists of the time. Toorop’s work largely influenced the work of Gustav Klimt and other Symbolist painters of Northern Europe.  You can see this in the piece above, Fatalisme.

Jan Toorop was a Dutch-Indonesian artist born on Java in 1858 who moved to the Netherlands as boy.  He worked in many styles in his early career, sometimes in pure Realism but often following the trends of the time.  He produced work in a decidedly Pointillist style as well as work that was purely Impressionistic.  But in the early 1890’s he began to develop the style that garnered the attention of many other artists.  It was Symbolist imagery based on Javanese motifs carried by dense and curvilinear line work.  Eventually, this led to him working in an Art Nouveau style later in his career.

Toorop died in 1928.  There is a Jan Toorop Research Center that has a site that displays the wide range of his work in a chronological fashion. I like this way of showing the work as you can see the evolution in style over time.  His daughter, Charley Toorop, was a celebrated painter as well who produced a series of wonderful self-portraits throughout her life and had another very accomplished painter for  a son (and grandson of Jan), Edgar Fernhout.  A very talented family, indeed.

Compelling work for you to consider…

Jan Toorop Oh Grave Where is Thy Victory 1892 Jan Toorop Three Brides Jan_Toorop_-_The_New_Generation_ 1892 Jan Toorop The Song of Time 1893





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Jackson Pollock -Convergence 1952Painting is a state of being…Painting is self discovery.  Every good painter paints what he is.

–Jackson Pollock


In yesterday’s The Guardian, here was a review of a current exhibit at the Tate Liverpool of Jackson Pollock paintings.  Writer Jonathan Jones describes Pollock’s work around 1950, in the period when he was briefly liberated from his chronic alcoholism,  as being the pinnacle of his career. As he put it : Pollock was painting at this moment like his contemporary Charlie Parker played sax, in curling arabesques of liberating improvisation that magically end up making beautiful sense.

GC Myers-Under TextureThat sentence really lit me up, as did the words of Pollock at the top of the page.   In Pollock’s work I see that beautiful sense of which Jones writes. I see order and rhythm, a logic forming from the seemingly incomprehensible. The textures that make up the surfaces of my own paintings are often formed with Pollock’s paintings in mind, curling arabesques in many layers.  In fact, one of the themes of my work is that same sense of finding order from chaos.

 To some observers, however, Pollock’s work represented the very chaos that plagued the world then and now.  But true to his words, Pollock’s work was indeed a reflection of what he was– a man seeking grace and sense in a chaotic world.

Painting is, as Pollock says, self discovery and indeed every painter ultimately paints what they are.  I know that in the work of painters I personally know I clearly see characteristics of their personality, sometimes of their totality.

I believe that my work also reveals me in this way.  It shows everything– strengths and weaknesses, hopes and fears.  You might think that a painter would be clever enough to show only those positive attributes of his character, like the answers people give when asked to describe their own personality.  There are some that try but it comes off as contrivance. Real painting, real art, is in total revelation, showing the chaos and complexity of our true self and attempting to find order and beauty within it.

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