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The Center Holds

I first read the poem The Second Coming by William Butler Yeats over forty years back and it left a mark. Cut and scarred me. Its first verse still resonates in my mind, especially that last line– the best lack all conviction, while the worst/ Are full of passionate intensity. It just reeks of the current political bog in which we are mired.

After putting the final touches on the piece above, a 12″ by 36″ canvas, I began examining the painting, trying to discern what it held for me. Immediately, the image from Yeats’ poem came to mind of a world in disarray,  spinning out of control in dark chaotic clouds and rising tide that overtakes and drowns all hopes.

But instead of Yeats’ forewarning that the center ( or centre, as is in his Irish version) cannot hold, I saw the Red Tree standing strong and resolute against the troubles swirling around it.  It holds tight to its core, not allowing the madness surrounding it to overtake it or alter those values of goodness that it holds dearly as definitions of its own humanity. It will die before it will succumb to becoming part of the blood-dimmed tide, as Yeats put it.

I am calling this painting The Center Holds.

I think this is a strong piece although I am not sure the photo above captures everything in it, its depth and contours. It’s coming with me to the West End Gallery for my Gallery Talk there next Saturday, August 5. Stop by and check it out for yourself.

Meanwhile, here’s Yeats’ The Second Coming:

Turning and turning in the widening gyre   
The falcon cannot hear the falconer; 
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; 
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, 
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere   
The ceremony of innocence is drowned; 
The best lack all conviction, while the worst   
Are full of passionate intensity.                                                                                                                                                                               .
Surely some revelation is at hand; 
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.   
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out   
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi 
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert   
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,   
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,   
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it   
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.   
The darkness drops again; but now I know   
That twenty centuries of stony sleep 
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,   
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,   
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born? 

Sunny Point from Keuka Lake

Have some details here for a two day painting workshop I will be leading at the Sunny Point location on the east side of Keuka Lake, located here in the beautiful Finger Lakes region of New York state. The workshop is being hosted by the Arts Center of Yates County and their Sunny Point location is a wonderful setting. We will be painting on the wonderful porch overlooking the lake and if the weather turns will move inside where they are in the process of updating their lighting with full spectrum LED’s.

The dates are September 28 and 29, Thursday and Friday. The workshop begins at 9 AM and runs to 4 PM each day. Enrollment is limited to 8-10 workshoppers with materials being provided. It is open to all levels of ability– from working artists to pure beginners. Even if you have never held a paintbrush, you can take part and create your own piece of art. You can go to this link to contact them about enrollment.

Looking out from the Sunny Point painting porch

This is my third year with this workshop and it is, surprisingly for me, something that I enjoy. Believe me, I was a little apprehensive in the beginning, as I am sure the folks who attended that first workshop can attest. But seeing how attentive and excited they were by the things they learned was invigorating to me. They made tremendous strides in a very short time and much of what they did was, simply put, exceptional. Plus, it was fun, with a lot of story-telling and good natured conversation.

In the past two workshops we focused on my wet process, one where a lot of liquid paint is put on the surface then taken off. It is fast paced and sloppy but the effects of the paint show themselves immediately. It can be exciting.

We will be painting in this style at this year’s workshop

This year we are switching gears, moving to a more controlled type of painting, one where we will be working a bit more upright on easels, applying multiple layers of paint. To put it simply, the wet process was about pulling paint off to reveal light and this process is about adding paint to build up light.

It’s a different thought process, one that is often a bit more meditative and slow forming. But, that being said, we will be moving at a fast pace. I want the artists there to try to see how it is to paint without thinking so much about painting a picture and focus on each stroke and its importance. My feeling is that every stroke is significant and the painting as a whole is a compilation of small paintings that come together to express something emotive.

Maybe that sounds ambitious for a two day workshop. But I have a feeling that the folks who end up at Sunny Point will be willing to have some fun and work hard to see that end. If it sounds like something that might interest you, I can guarantee you that I will work hard to make it worth your while.

Hope to see you on Keuka Lake in late September!

 

I wrote about late artist Dale Nichols (1910-1995) a few years back after being completely charmed by his paintings of snowy scenes from his home state of Nebraska. In that blog entry I mentioned that there wasn’t a huge amount of info on the artist. The only book was a book that accompanied a show of his work from back in 2011 at a small but not unimportant museum, the Bone Creek Museum of Agrarian Art, in his hometown of David City, Nebraska. I was shocked to find that this book was selling for $458 on Amazon which is a testament to the lack of literature on this wonderful artist. Happily, I found a copy at a normal price at the museum’s online gift shop.

I came across a nice short called The Forgotten Artist from Nebraska public television that features Nichols’ work and the Bone Creek Museum. It is a charming look at his work and the relationship he had with his niece. I thought I’d rerun the article I ran earlier along with the video. Maybe it will help make Dale Nichols a little less forgotten.

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Dale Nichols- Company for SupperMost likely prompted by the recent weather here as well as a desire to try a slight change of palette, I have been doing a small group of snow paintings recently.  I thought I would look at several other artists, especially those with a distinct personal style,  to see how they handle snow in their work.  One of the artists whose snow works really stuck out  was Dale Nichols, who was born in Nebraska in 1904 and died in Sedona, AZ in 1995.  He is considered one of the American Regionalists,  that loosely defined group of painters whose work  for which I have long expressed my admiration.

Dale Nichols- After the Blizzard 1967His biography is a bit sparse with but Nichols lived a long and productive life, serving as an illustrator, a  college professor and the Art Editor of the Encyclopedia Brittanica.  He also spent a lot of time in Guatemala which resulted in a group of work with Meso-American forms that is quite different from his Regionalist work.

But Nichols is primarily known for his rural snow scenes and it’s easy to see why.  The colors are pure and vivid.  The snow, put on in multiple glazed layers with watercolor brushes has a luminous beauty.  The stylized treatment of the crowns of the bare trees adds a new geometry to the paintings.   There is a pleasant warmth, a nostalgic and slightly sentimental glow, to this work even though they are scenes that depict frigid winters on the plains of Nebraska.  Free of all angst, they’re just plain and simple gems.

You can see a bit more of Dale Nichols other work on a site  devoted to him by clicking here.

Dale Nichols- The SentinelDale Nichols- Silent Morning 1972Dale Nichols- Mail Delivery 1950Dale Nichols- Bringing Home the Tree

 

You have most likely seen the work of Piet Mondrian, the Dutch painter who lived from 1872 until 1944.

Like the painting shown here. Seems so simple. Mainly black lines creating squares and rectangles that are mainly white but periodically filled with bright primary colors. Critics claim it is too simple, that it is something a grade-schooler with a ruler and some paints could replicate easily.

Maybe. Maybe not. Who cares?

But putting that side aside, his work has always remained refresh and modern through most of the last century up to this very minute. Outside of time, like it represents a future moment that exists just beyond this very moment at all times. And that factor in itself makes his work appealing to me.

I will never list Mondrian as a true influence or even a real favorite of mine, there is much to be gained as an artist from studying his work. The elegance of his structures and the space created within, for example. Or how he transformed his work through the years from a style of impressionistic realism into cubism and then into the style of his that we know so well, stripping away all detail and content down to the bare essence of being.

The video below shows that evolution beautifully, with musical accompaniment from Phillip Glass. I hope you’ll find it interesting to see how the work makes that transformation. Take a look below.

Let us note that art – even on an abstract level – has never been confined to ‘idea’; art has always been the ‘realized’ expression of equilibrium.
-Piet Mondrian

Here’s an update for upcoming events on my schedule for the next couple of months:

First, on August 5, I will be giving a Gallery Talk at the West End Gallery in conjunction with my show, Self Determination, that is currently hanging there. The talk begins at 1 PM and generally runs about an hour, give or take. As is now tradition, one of my paintings will be given away to one of those in attendance, along with several other surprises that are currently in the works. This is normally a brisk hour of questions and answers with some laughs along with some serious moments. If you have questions about the whats, whys and hows of my work, this is a great way to have them answered. Plus, you might cart off a piece for yourself!

Then the following month, on Saturday, September 16th, I take the Gallery Talk on the road down to the Principle Gallery in Alexandria, VA. This is the 15th year for this annual talk and, like the West End talks, features a drawing for one of my paintings along with some other surprises. There is generally some fun and a few revelations. I am always surprised at how much I learn from these talks myself from the input and insight provided by the audience. This talk starts at 1 PM and goes to around to 2 with the drawing at the end of the talk.

Sunny Point on Keuka Lake

And in late September, I will again be leading a painting workshop at Red Barn at the lovely Sunny Point location on beautiful and tranquil Keuka Lake in NY’s beautiful Finger Lakes region for the Yates County Arts Council. The past two years doing this have been an unexpected pleasure for me and I think this year’s edition will be a couple of days of fun, good conversation and, hopefully, some useful instruction. The dates should be finalized this week and details will be forthcoming. Most likely, this two day workshop will take place in the last week of September. Enrollment is limited to 8 or 9 attendees so, if you are interested, don’t hesitate in getting in touch with Kris at YCAC  to get your name on the list.

Hope you make it to one of the talks or to the workshop. I think it could be a lot of fun.

I am in a real hurry this morning but wanted to at least share my Sunday morning song and I thought that my choice this week fit this particular painting very well. This painting, The Way of the Master, has spent a couple of years in Kuwait being displayed at the American Embassy there. When Ambassador Silliman’s appointment changed to being Ambassador to Iraq, the painting returned to me. It was a favorite of mine from the time I painted it and I was thrilled to have it back. It’s showing at the West End Gallery as part of my Self Determination show.

I am sharing what I wrote about this painting a few years back. The accompanying song is Tomorrow Never Knows from the Beatles, off their classic 1966 Revolver album. Give a listen and have a great Sunday.

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GC Myers- The Way of the Master

“There is one single thread binding my way together…the way of the Master consists in doing one’s best…that is all.”

– Confucius 

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I originally had a different title in mind for this new painting,which is 24″ by 36″ on canvas. I saw it as being about the end of a journey, about coming to a point that marked the highest level of emotional  and spiritual development. But then I remembered this quote from Confucius and it had immediate resonance.

It all comes down to effort in the end. Everything that comes to us, everything we desire and value,  ultimately depends on the amount of effort we choose to put forth.  Things done half-heartedly and with little attention never prosper or develop. Those things you take for granted never grow into something more.  They only diminish with less attention. You can witness  this in every aspect of your life. I know I can see it in my own. Everything I value– my marriage, my work and my peace of mind– requires hard work and maintenance, my very best effort.

This full effort ultimately leads to a deeper sense of connection with those things we value, emotionally and spiritually, and I suppose that’s what this piece signifies for me. I believe that any thinking person wants to reach their highest point of development, wants mastery over their own physical and spiritual life. This painting reminds me that it is obtainable if I am willing to give my very best.

As Confucius says: and that is all.

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A Lindner Replay

Busy this morning but feeling like a pop of color. Maybe in the form of of one of the artists who were in the vanguard of the Pop Art movement, Richard Lindner. Here’s post from several years back along with a video slideshow of his work. It’s oddly set to the music of Brahms. I would have thought some 60’s pop would have been better suited but, hey, I didn’t make the video. Take a look for yourself and have a good day.

Richard lindner Double PortraitI’ve been going through some books on my shelves that I haven’t looked at for some time and came across a smallish book on the work of Richard Lindner, who was  a German born  (1901)  painter who moved to New York during World War II.  He taught at the Pratt Institute then later at Yale before his death in 1978.

His work was obviously a big influence on the Pop Art movement of the 60’s.  If you remember the artwork for the Beatles’ Yellow Submarine film,  you can easily see how Lindner’s work Richard Lindner The Coupleguided the hand of the film’s  artist who most people think was Peter Max.  However, the artist was Heinz Edelman .  This misconception probably shows Lindner’s influence on Max as well.   I also can see Lindner in some of Terry Gilliam‘s animations for Monty Python.  The Beatles  paid tribute to Lindner  by inserting his image  in the group of figures on the cover of their classic Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album.  He’s  between Laurel and Hardy in the second row.

I am really attracted to Lindner’s colors and use of forms.  His colors have gradations and complexities that give his work added dimension.  His shapes and lines are strong and sure.  It’ demands an immediate response, even if it’s negative, and I really respect that.

Richard Lindner  FBI On East 69th StreetOne of my favorites is shown to the left here,  FBI On East 69th Street.  I have no idea whether he was influenced by Lindner’s work (although I wouldn’t be surprised), but when I look at this painting I can only think of  David Bowie, especially in the early 70’s in the Glam era.  Again, the strength of the color and shape,s as well as how his figures fill the picture frame, excite me.  How I might take this excitement and make it work within my own work is something that remains to be seen.  It may not be discernible but seeing work that makes your own internal wheels spin will show up in some manner.  We’ll have to see if this comes through in the near future.

Richard Lindner The Meeting

Richard Lindner Rock-RockRichard Lindner Telephone

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