Posted in Influences, Painting, Recent Paintings, tagged Allura, Cadillac, Elantra, Escalade, gallery talk, GC Myers, Integra, Principle Gallery, Red Tree on August 26, 2014 |
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I am putting together a small group of work to take with me for my upcoming Gallery Talk at the Principle Gallery next month, on September 13th. Among the paintings is this 24″ by 24″ canvas that I am calling Allura. After finishing this piece, it seemed that the moon was the central focus, the tree and landscape holding an attraction for it. I wanted something that described that but was sort of nebulous, not really well defined. What better way to do that than with a word that sounds descriptive and perhaps from a foreign language but has little basis in its meaning.
You see this a lot in automobiles. The Integra. The Elantra. My favorite is the Cadillac SUV, the Escalade. Oh, its a real word in French but it means the scaling of a fortification’s walls with ladders such as in a military attack. I’m not sure how this means anything to the vehicle perceived image.
But the word Allura stuck with me. It had its base in the word allure and that was what I was seeing in it. It was simple and efficient and even a bit elegant. But looking it up just to make sure it didn’t have some other meaning I found that it is an girl’s name used mainly in the 18th and 19th century in England and America.
But even more interesting was that the name’s given definition was Divine Counselor. I liked the name even more with this little bit of info. It seemed to fit as even better for me than the vague word implying the moon’s attraction. I could see the Red Tree here perching itself on that rise of earth and asking for some sort of guidance from the tranquil presence in the night sky.
I feel right with the name Allura now. It sounds like it fits and ultimately, it does…
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I am after an art of equilibrium and purity, an art that neither unsettles nor confuses. I would like people who are weary, stressed and broken to find peace and tranquility as they look at my pictures.
I list Henri Matisse, the French painter who was at the forefront of modern painting at the beginning of the 20th century, as a favorite and an influence. It’s an odd pick because it is based not simply on the impact of his imagery. In reality, some of his work does nothing for me and brings little reaction. But there are pieces that do and when you couple these with his words on his art, his life’s ever evolving body of work and the fearlessness with which he approached his art- well, then there is an overall impact that is huge.
I find myself nodding in agreement often when I read his words, like the quote at the top here, which sums up what I have been trying to say about my own work for some time. His words shed a lot of light on his work for me, allow me to better see how he was seeing his own work which makes me appreciate it all the more as it changed over the course of his long career. Born in 1869, Matisse began painting in the early 1890’s and worked at his art until his death in 1954.
I use the term worked at this art because Matisse was not only a painter. As health problems hindered him, he turned to other forms of expression such as cutting forms out of paper. The image at the top, Jazz, and Blue Nude, shown here on the left, are two of his best known examples of the cut outs, both considered masterpieces of modern art. This ability to express himself fully through his art despite hardships is really inspiring as is the fearless way in which he approached his painting.
It is bold and sure, with human curves throughout. More about harmonizing color and simplifying form than capturing reality. It makes me want to pick up a loaded brush and just paint freely and easily. Let loose.
There’s a lot more to say about Matisse. It took me a while to see why he was so influential to so many artists but now that I can fully see the scope of his work, I now better understand and take his influence and inspiration with me.
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Matisse with chalk drawing of Picasso- Brassai Photo
There was an article the other day on Brain Pickings that contained some words on inspiration and creativity that Pablo Picasso had passed on to famed photographer Brassai during the many times that he had photographed and interviewed the artist over the course of thirty years. It’s a short article with only a few points and, more importantly, a link to an earlier article concerning Picasso’s views on success . Both are interesting articles that I recommend but what caught my eye was a photo accompanying the first article of Henri Matisse with a chalk drawing he had done while blindfolded.
It reminded me of an exercise I periodically use where I attempt to draw faces with my eyes tightly closed. It usually involves a single line and is pretty rudimentary. The whole idea is to be able to visualize an image in your mind and follow it there with your hand, overcoming the disconnect that comes with the closed eyes. There are moments when the concentration kicks in and I can feel my hand and the image in a sort of harmony. It’s a nice little brain exercise.
Seeing the Matisse photo made me want to get a chalkboard and try this exercise on a larger scale, where the sweeping motion of the arm and hand might be easier to synchronize with the mind’s image than with the smaller strokes of pen on paper such as those below, done on old newsprint with a ballpoint pen. They are certainly nothing to celebrate but what I am looking for is a certainty in line and curve as well as a similarity to my own eyes-open doodles. In that aspect, I am pleased.
Give it a try. It’s a nice little exercise for your mind…
This one below was done slightly larger and with a few minutes of practice. Both the size and practice improve the image.
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In the attitude of silence the soul finds the path in an clearer light, and what is elusive and deceptive resolves itself into crystal clearness. Our life is a long and arduous quest after Truth.
I write a lot about the search for something and in reality I have no idea what that thing is. Gandhi says that it is Truth that we seek. His Truth may be the same as the wisdom that others claim to be seeking. Others say that life is a search for self or love or to shatter loneliness.
As for me, I just don’t know. I have thought it was many things over the years– truth, self, wisdom and a place to fit in. But none of those ever truly fit for me. I am not sure I am equipped with the wisdom to handle the truth and, as far as fitting in, I gave up on that some time back. And I have the self too elusive a thing to seek for too long. It sometime feels like looking for a Bigfoot– you think you may have found it but it always ends up not being what you hoped.
So I am left filled with even more uncertainty. And I think this uncertainty is a good thing because it makes me believe that the real quest is for a reason, a purpose for our existence. And maybe that makes the quest the real purpose– to be aware of our world, our lives. To hold up each day, to examine each moment. Maybe in each moment there is that truth, that wisdom. that sense of self and inclusion, if only we look with some uncertainty, not knowing why we do so.
But as I say, I don’t know.
The painting at the top is Quester’s Path and is 8″ by 14″ on paper. It is part of the show, Traveler, at the Principle Gallery.
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Just a reminder that my show, Traveler, is currently on view at the Principle Gallery and will be hanging there until July 9th. One of the pieces still available is the piece above, Shambhala, an 18″ by 36″ canvas piece that I wrote about on this blog back in early March. It’s a painting that I feel very strongly about. Since that was three months before the show went up, I thought I might replay that post today. In March, I wrote:
According to Buddhist tradition, Shambhala is name given to what they consider the Pure Land, a utopia of sorts whose reality is as much spiritual as it is physical. A place where everyone achieves a state of enlightenment and peace and tranquility. Author James Hilton morphed the name into Shangri-La for his novel Lost Horizon which describes a group of Westerners who find themselves the guests in a small idyllic nation of this name tucked away in a protected Himalayan valley.
Whatever you call it, the idea of a place of enlightenment and peace seems pretty attractive to me these days, given the many events going on in the world being driven forward by such negative factors as greed, hate and fear. That tranquil inner place is what I see in this new painting, an 18″ by 36″ canvas that carries this name, Shambhala. The road , for me, represents the search that leads to this elusive state and the sun a blissful guide with a warm lure that radiates throughout the sky. The Red Tree is on a small peninsula set into a calm body of water, still attached to the world but in an ethereal space. It is in a state of being where it is firmly in the moment, having set aside the past and disregarding the future. Just absorbing the now.
That’s what I see and that is what I imagine how that moment might feel but I am still on that path, looking ahead for a sight of that hopeful destination.
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JRR Tolkien Drawing for “The Hobbit”
Today, on the website, BrainPickings.org, a wonderfully informative site written by Maria Popova, there is a great post on the art of The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien‘s classic fantasy that has thrilled young and old alike for more than 75 years now. It includes Tolkien’s own drawings, which are quite impressive (one of my favorites is at the top of this post), as well as a number of other artists’ conceptualizations, taken from a number of editions from around the world. There are drawings from Swedish, Czech, Japanese and Russian editions, each very unique in their take on the Tolkien tale. It’s great to see these other translations of this story that has become part of our universal culture.
Below is a group from Swedish-Finn artist Tove Jansson‘s 1962 Swedish edition of the book. They are among my favorites although it’s hard to single out any one, so beautifully done are they all. Please click on the Tolkien drawing at the top to go to BrainPickings and see the entire group.
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What are we when we are alone? Some, when they are alone, cease to exist.
I was contacted by another author for use of one of my images for inclusion in his upcoming book. It was an old image, one that I still possessed and had used on the this blog, so I began to go through my files to find it. Shuffling through the old work, many from before I began exhibiting publicly, brought a number of surprises. There were pieces, like this one here on the right, that had slipped my mind and seeing them rekindled instant recognition and memory, like stumbling upon an old acquaintance who you had not thought of in ages. But there were others that had been lost in my memory and seeing them still only vaguely brought traces of their origin, as though you were again coming across someone who knew you but you couldn’t quite remember them even though there was something familiar in them, something you knew that you once knew.
Looking at these old pieces made me think of all the time spent alone with these images. The quote above from Eric Hoffer came to mind. What are we when we are alone? Is that the real you? Or is the real you that person that interacts with all the outside world? Looking at these pieces, I began to think that the person I was when I was alone had evolved slowly over the years, becoming closer to one entity. What I mean is that the person I was when I was alone, my inner voice, did not always jibe with my outer voice and over time, especially as I have found a true voice in my work, has come closer and closer to becoming one and the same.
I don’t know if I can explain that with any clarity. It’s a feel thing, one that instantly comes from holding one of these paintings and still seeing the division that once was in them and in myself. It is not anything to do with quality or subject or process. It’s just a perceived feeling in the piece, an intangible that maybe only I can sense. But it’s there and it makes me appreciate the journey and the work that brought these two voices closer together.
My alone time immersed in these pieces has seldom felt lonely and, going back to Hoffer’s quote, never did I feel that I ceased to exist in my oneness. I know people who are like that, that need constant interaction in order to feel alive and vital, but for me it has often felt almost the opposite. That probably is a result of that division of my inner and outer voices that I have been trying to describe. When I was alone I was always comfortable with my inner voice and the work that resulted from it served in the forms of companions.
I definitely exist in my solitude and my work, my constant companion, is my proof.
I am going to stop now. Enough confession for one morning. I have new companions on the easel to which I must attend.
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