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I normally don’t rerun posts on Sunday which is when I feature a musical selection. But this week I thought the chosen song matched up well with this post and the painting in it, which is one that feels very personal for me.. So, here’s a post from a few years back accompanied by a selection,On The Nature Of Daylight (Entropy), from contemporary composer Max Richter. It’s a beautiful piece of music.

Have a good Sunday…

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GC Myers- CandleThere are two ways of spreading light… To be the candle, or the mirror that reflects it.

–Edith Wharton

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This is a new piece,  8″ by 10″ on paper, that I am calling Candle. Working on this painting, I determined that I wanted to keep the composition very simple and stark. There was so much energy in the radiating forms that adding anything beyond the blue panel at the bottom would change the whole feel of the piece as I was seeing it. The blue provides contrast and forms a horizon line that gives the whole image a measure of inward depth without detracting from the simplicity of the image, which I see as being essential to the strength of this painting.

Simplicity, as is often the case, translates as grace. And grace of some form was what began to show in this piece as it unfolded. I was reminded as I worked on this of the great (in my mind, the greatest British artist) JMW Turner‘s reputed dying words: The sun is God. There is a spiritual element in how the sun is depicted in his work and I often feel that I am representing something more than a source of physical light and energy when I paint these sun orbs in my work.

Perhaps that something more is a presence beyond the physical.

I don’t know. But for a moment, my uncertainty is relieved and I feel connected with the warmth and light from the presence that is the sun in this piece.

A Little Wendell Berry

I was going through the blog from a few years back and came across this post, one that had slipped my mind. Reading it again was what I needed this morning. Sometimes you need a reminder to just sit down and be quiet. Thought it might be a good replay for these hectic days..
GC Myers- Trio:Three Squares
I came across this poem from author Wendell Berry on Maria Popova‘s wonderful site, Brain Pickings. It’s a lovely rumination that could apply to any creative endeavor or to simply being a human being. I particularly identified with the final verse that begins with the line: Accept what comes from silence. I’ve always thought there was great wisdom and power in silence, a source of self-revelation. Perhaps that is why so many of us shun the silence, fearing that it might reveal our true self to be something other than what we see in the mirror. Berry’s words very much sum up how I attempt to tap into silence with my work.

At the bottom is a recording of Wendell Berry reading the poem which gives it even a little more depth, hearing his words in that rural Kentucky voice. It’s fairly short, so take a moment, sit down, be quiet, and give a listen.

HOW TO BE A POET
(to remind myself)

Make a place to sit down.
Sit down. Be quiet.
You must depend upon
affection, reading, knowledge,
skill — more of each
than you have — inspiration,
work, growing older, patience,
for patience joins time
to eternity. Any readers
who like your poems,
doubt their judgment.

Breathe with unconditional breath
the unconditioned air.
Shun electric wire.
Communicate slowly. Live
a three-dimensioned life;
stay away from screens.
Stay away from anything
that obscures the place it is in.
There are no unsacred places;
there are only sacred places
and desecrated places.

Accept what comes from silence.
Make the best you can of it.
Of the little words that come
out of the silence, like prayers
prayed back to the one who prays,
make a poem that does not disturb
the silence from which it came.

Wendell Berry

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My originality consists in putting the logic of the visible to the service of the invisible.

Odilon Redon

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This is a bit of a continuation of yesterday’s post where Magritte spoke of poetry and mystery in his work. The above quote from Odilon Redon (1840-1916) describes very much that same sentiment.

A work of art should have a sense of logic to it even if it might go against all that we know of the natural world. This created logic allows us to accept what we see before us, permits us to fully absorb the poetry and mystery–the invisible elements to which Redon alludes–without question.

This acceptance allows us to move beyond the visible, allows us to perceive our reality in a different manner, perhaps in an enhanced way.

As a viewer, I know the works of art that move me most of all fall into this category. They may not seem unusual at first look. Their subject might even seem mundane. They seem outwardly logical but there is something that moves them into that area of mystery and poetry, that gives them an sense of the indefinable.

As an artist, it is something you hope to achieve but don’t really know how to explain how you do it because you don’t really know for sure. It sometimes either happens or it doesn’t.

And that is its own mystery.

It’s a mystery that keeps the artist wanting to always move ahead with the hope that it will all someday be revealed.

Will it one day be revealed? Who knows? It’s a mystery.

 

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People who look for symbolic meaning fail to grasp the inherent poetry and mystery of the images.

Rene Magritte

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I absolutely love this painting, The Banquet, from Rene Magritte in 1958. It has the effect where I don’t question anything about it. I just accept it as it is presented. I am not looking for symbolism in it at all, not looking for a reason why the red ball of sun is hovering low in front of the trees. The colors, the contrast, the composition– they create a whole sensation doesn’t need a why or what or how.

As Magritte points out, it contains poetry and mystery.

And that is something to try to understand. I know I often feel the need to try to explain my work, to point out where I find an emotional base in a piece. Sometimes that is easy, almost jumping out at you. But sometimes it is not so obvious and it is simply the mystery of the created feel, a great intangible pulse, that makes a particular painting work.

You see it, feel it, accept its reality yet you don’t fully understand the why and how.

And maybe that is just as it should be. Not all we behold can or should be explained. Sometimes, maybe we simply need to experience poetry and mystery.

A blog post that ran here a couple of years back with some advice from poet e e cummings is consistently one of my most popular, always getting a number of hits. For example, there was quite a pop in its numbers yesterday. I don’t know what brought it on but it made me want to revisit the post. Reading it again made me appreciate even more the words. Even though it was aimed at potential poets it rang equally true for me as a painter, especially when I substituted the word painter for poet, paint for words, and painting for poetry.

I thought I’d replay it today doing just that. Where there is a word like [thiswith brackets, I have substituted an equivalent word. And if you’re not a painter, feel free to use any word that describes what it is you do to express yourself.

I think you might find it inspiring.

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Whenever I am asked to speak with students I usually tell them to try to find their own voice, to try to find that thing that expresses who they really are. I normally add that this is not something that comes easily, that it takes real effort and sacrifice. It is a never-ending struggle.

The great poet e e cummings (you most likely know him for his unusual punctuation) offered up a beautiful piece of similar advice for aspiring poets that I think can be applied to most any discipline.

Or to anyone who simply desires to feel deeply in this world.

I particularly like the line: To be nobody-but-yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else-means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting. That line alone speaks volumes.

Take a moment to read this short bit of advice and see what you think– or feel.

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A [Painter’s] Advice To Students

Borrowed from (e e cummings)

A [painter] is somebody who feels, and who expresses his feeling through [paint].

This may sound easy. It isn’t.

A lot of people think or believe or know they feel-but that’s thinking or believing or knowing; not feeling. And [painting] is feeling-not knowing or believing or thinking.

Almost anybody can learn to think or believe or know, but not a single human being can be taught to feel. Why? Because whenever you think or you believe or you know, you’re a lot of other people: but the moment you feel, you’re nobody-but-yourself.

To be nobody-but-yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else-means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.

As for expressing nobody-but-yourself in [paint], that means working just a little harder than anybody who isn’t a [painter] can possibly imagine. Why? Because nothing is quite as easy as using [paint] like somebody else. We all of us do exactly this nearly all of the time-and whenever we do it, we’re not [painters].

If, at the end of your first ten or fifteen years of fighting and working and feeling, you find you’ve [painted one part of one real painting], you’ll be very lucky indeed.

And so my advice to all young people who wish to become [painters] is: do something easy, like learning how to blow up the world-unless you’re not only willing, but glad, to feel and work and fight till you die.

Does this sound dismal? It isn’t.

It’s the most wonderful life on earth.

Or so I feel.

Christmas in Prison

Came across this old piece, an early attempt from 1994 before I was showing my work in public. It’s painted in way, a direction I never followed much further but it is a piece that always makes me stop.  Don’t know where it came from or why I painted it. Don’t know why I gave him some sort of seaman’s cap and striped shirt. I loosely refer to this as the Sea Dog.

I don’t think there was a narrative at all. It just came. But after 24 years or so, it has developed a story, of a sort, for me. I see him as sailor in an exotic South Seas port city on a misty and mysterious night. A scuffle, a knife fight and a man falls down dead on the dark, wet streets. He flees the port and begins on building a new life with a new identity.

For a minute this morning, I saw him as a young Santa.

Maybe that’s Santa’s backstory? A murderous sailor redeemed?

I don’t know about that. But, hey, you never know.

That brings me to a Christmas song. Well, kind of a Christmas song, one that’s keeping in the spirit of a Killer Kringle. It’s from  John Prine, and it’s Christmas in Prison. It’s been a favorite of mine for decades so I was surprised that I haven’t played it here yet, after ten years of this blog.

Well, today’s the day. Give a listen and don’t mind the subject or title too much. It’s actually a beautiful song. It could be Santa singing, in different circumstances.

Van Gogh’s Mementos

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“The world concerns me only in so far as I owe it a certain debt and duty, so to speak, because I have walked this earth for 30 years, and out of gratitude would like to leave some memento in the form of drawings and paintings—not made to please this school or that, but to express a genuine human feeling.”

Vincent van Gogh, The Letters of Vincent van Gogh

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Thought a good way to kick off this week might be to share a few paintings from Vincent van Gogh along with a quote from one of his letters that speaks very much to my own feelings about my own reasons for doing what I do. These are not his better known paintings, though some of you may well know these pieces. They’re pieces that speak to my own personal inclinations. You might notice that most of these paintings have his ball sun/moon.

The idea of feeling a need to leave a memento behind that expresses one’s gratitude and one’s expression of self is one that is not foreign to me. I often think about how my work will speak for me after I am gone. Actually, if it will speak into the future at all and if so, will it be an honest reflection, a true representation of my voice.

I know that an artist, for all of the ways they try to guide the narrative about their work and life, have little control on the future.

What will be, will be.

Their voice might echo but it is always just that, an echo, a one-sided conversation from the past. Hopefully, what is said in that echo reverberates and speaks to someone of that future time so that they can fully understand and connect to the feeling behind it. And if so, with the hope that they might respond to that voice in some small way that continues to give life to it.

As I said, an artist has little control over this outside of doing their work with honest efforts and emotions. It’s obvious this was the case in the work of van Gogh and we continue to have a conversation with his echoes from the past, his mementos of gratitude.

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