Feeds:
Posts
Comments


I am in the midst of a painting and I am at a point where I want to get at it as soon as I can. Plus I am not thinking in words this morning so it will be easier to move on with the day once I am painting. I know that sounds goofy, not thinking in words, but there are mornings, a lot of them lately, where I find myself just blankly staring at the screen. I have no words but do feel shapes and colors and patterns that can’t be verbally expressed.

Even writing that seems ridiculous when compared to what I am trying to describe.

So, instead I will share a video of the work of painter Stuart Davis who lived from 1892 until 1964 and was at the forefront of Pop Art. I like this video because it displays work from the different phases of his career, showing his stylistic evolution from realism to abstraction. Oddly enough, even though Davis’ work is mainly associated with jazz, the backing track of Ravel’s Bolero works pretty well.

Anyway, those are all the words I can muster today. Enjoy the Stuart Davis and the Bolero. Have a great day.

Several years back, I wrote here about the late Croatian painter Ivan Generalic (1914-1992). I don’t really know how his work is categorized. He mixed folk art, rural Eastern European village life and folklore, and allegory in a painting style that was richly colored and inviting. It was most often painted on glass which increased its vibrancy and glow. It had a certain charm that reminded me of the jungle paintings of Henri Rousseau.

I thought I’d share a video this morning that features his work set to music, “Raindrops Prelude” by Grupo Pedagógico Infantil. It’s a nice and interesting watch. I urge you to take a few minutes and give it a look and a listen.

Sing in me, Muse, and through me tell the story
of that man skilled in all ways of contending,
the wanderer, harried for years on end

Homer, The Odyssey

***********************

Last week I showed a painting in an early stage.  It’s composition was all blocked in with red oxide and the sky was partially laid in. I wrote about the decisions that were in front of me and how I was seeing how it might go from that point on.

Well, at the top of this page is the nearly finished painting, one that I am calling Dawn Invocation. At that earlier point I thought that this painting might go in a much different direction, one slightly darker in tone.

It turns out that my vision for it and the final product differed a bit. That’s not a judgment on how I am feeling about this piece because I find myself very pleased with this painting in its present state. It was just a matter of the process leading me to add a bit more light and color, even though the colors are a bit more muted and tonal than my typical choices.

The resulting piece is more open and inviting than the one I originally saw in the underpainting. Calmer. More resolved.

There are still a few touches that need to be placed, some that I see just now as I write this. They are small adjustments but sometimes these little strokes here and there add much more to the overall feel of the painting than you might think.

So, it goes back on the easel for a short time. This is one of those pieces that carry a lot of small lessons as I move forward which makes it memorable for me, well beyond my own affinity for the painting itself.

And that’s a good thing on any day.

 

Sargent’s Venice

I have a lot going on this morning but I thought I’d share a lovely video that features the work of John Singer Sargent, focusing on his work, primarily his watercolors, painted in Venice. He visted the city a number of times in his life and held a certain fascination for it which certainly shows up in this work.

I am a fan of most of Sargent’s work but it was his work in watercolor that really hooked me.  His work is filled with light and the looseness of the painting makes it feel immediate and in the present, not as though it were painted 125 years ago. That looseness and the vibrancy of his colors give it an urgency and life. Just plain good stuff.

Take a look and enjoy the light.

Night Life

Another Sunday morning and I am ready for a little music. I was looking at some of the Nocturne paintings of James McNeill Whistler that I so much admire, like the one shown above from  1877, and thought I’d use that as the theme for this week’s music.

There are a lot of songs that use night as a theme but I settled on the classic Night Life written by Willie Nelson back in the late 1950’s. It has been covered by a lot of folks over the years, some good and some not so much. But  for me  while Willie’s version remains the truest and best of the bunch, I am partial to this performance by the great Marvin Gaye. He inserts his own special feeling into the song and the night life he creates is indeed his life. Good stuff.

Give a listen. Enjoy. Have a great day…

 

Sanctus Terrae

I thought that since today is Earth Day I would show this newer painting, an 18″ by 24″ canvas, that I am calling Sanctus Terrae, which translates as sacred land.

Sacred Land.

We like to claim that we hold a certain reverence for the world in which we live and see it as the living organism that supports us. But it seems as we have short memories and forget that all too often we have treated the earth with disdain, carelessly and selfishly using its resources with complete disregard for the consequences.

Think about the industrial pollution that plagued this country in the 60’s and 70’s.  Remember the thick brown clouds of smog that hovered over our cities. Don’t forget our indiscriminate use of pesticides such as DDT or the widespread water pollution that poisoned the ecosystems of so many of our rivers, killing all sorts of fish and wildlife. Or Love Canal. Or the acid rain that swept in from industries of the midwest to adversely affect my beloved Adirondack Mountains, killing great swathes of trees and making the lakes there practically uninhabitable for the native species of fishes. It still affects the area and it is estimated that by 2040 there will be no fish in any Adirondack lakes.

But we have made some great strides.  Cleaner energy reproduction is on the rise, lowering the cost of energy and creating a huge number of jobs. Most American cities today look radically different than they did in the middle of the 20th century,  Take Cleveland for example. My earliest memories of Cleveland came from a family trip that took us through that city in 1967 or 68. I remember the horror I felt at the yellow/brown skies that lingered over Lake Erie and the acrid sulphur stench of the air.

This was before the vastly polluted Cuyahoga River famously caught fire there in 1969. Actually, 1969 was just the worst of the fires on that river–it had been on fire a number of times over the years.

To me at that time, it felt like a hell on earth. That image of the city still jumps to mind. But go there today and that city shows little evidence of that past. It skies are clear, the lake and rivers run clear, and the sulphur smell has departed. It feels relatively clean and green and is a pleasant place in which to live or visit.

But we are at a point with this administration where they view the regulations that brought about these positive changes as some sort of restraint on the rights of large corporations, that their right to make profits supersedes their responsibility to the land or its inhabitants. They seem hellbent on reversing every forward stride made toward cleaning up our environment, forgetting that most regulations that are in place came about to address a real problem or concern.

Just because the problem has been alleviated (most likely as a result of the regulation) doesn’t mean that we should revert to the old way of doing something.

So on this Earth Day, we have to stand up for this, our sacred land. If you’re old enough take a moment and remember what the past really looked like.  If you’re younger, do some research and check out the ecological past of your area. Then take action. Act responsibly with your own interactions with this land. Vote.

Just don’t think that you can ignore it by sticking your head in the sand– you don’t know what might end up being down there.

Sometimes the horizon is defined by a wall behind which rises the noise of a disappearing train. The whole nostalgia of the infinite is revealed to us behind the geometrical precision of the square. We experience the most unforgettable movements when certain aspects of the world, whose existence we completely ignore, suddenly confront us with the revelation of mysteries lying all the time within our reach and which we cannot see because we are too short-sighted, and cannot feel because our senses are inadequately developed.  Their dead voices speak to us from nearby, but they sound like voices from another planet.

–Giorgio de Chirico

***************

de chirico_mysteryA turning point for me when I was first stumbling around with my own painting was when I encountered the work of Giorgio de Chirico, an Italian painter of darkly toned metaphorical works. He lived from 1888 until 1978 but was primarily known for his early work from 1909-1919 which is called his Metaphysical PeriodMetaphysics is  devoted to the exploration of what is behind visible reality without relying on measurable data. Very mystical. De Chirico’s work after 1919 became more realistic and more traditional.

His later work was less colorful, less symbolic, less powerful and way more mundane. It is definitely the work from the earlier Metaphysical period that defines him as the artist as we know him today.

I was immediately drawn to that work.  It was full of high contrast, with sharp light and dark.  The colors were bold, bright and vibrant, yet there was darknessde-chirico-the-great-tower implied in them.  The compositions were full of interesting juxtapositions of forms and perspectives.  It was a visual feast for me.

At that time in my own painting, I was still painting in a fairly traditional manner, especially with watercolors. That is to say that I was achieving light through the transparency of my paint, letting the underlying paper show through. It was pretty clean which was fine. But it wasn’t what I was looking for in my work.

Seeing de Chirico’s paintings made me realize what I wanted.  It was that underlying darkness that his work possessed. It was a grittiness, a dark dose of the reality of our existence.  I immediately began to experiment with different methods that would introduce a base of darkness that the light and color could play off.  My work began to change in short order and strides forward came much quicker as a result of simply sensing  something in de Chirico’s work that wasn’t there in my own.

Perhaps that is what is meant by metaphysical…

This post is a combination of a couple of posts from years ago. I really wanted to use his quote at the top because I often get that feeling from certain paintings, that they represent “voices from another planet,”  that they come from a point well beyond our realm of knowledge. I also wanted to include the video below that shows much of De Chirico’s metaphysical work. Take a look below.

de-chirico



%d bloggers like this: