Archive for September, 2009

GC Myers 2009 Buildiing UpI’m at a point with this work in progress, a 42″ by 60″ canvas, where I have basically finished the underpainting which is the process of blocking in the composition.  The next step for me is to start building up color throughout the piece, developing more depth from all the elements.  In this case, I start by using a light application, again almost drybrush, of a yellowish paint.  for this piece I’m using a yellow oxide.

The thinly applied yellow allows me to see dimension yet still lets the darkness of the base’s black and the red of the underpainting show through.  This is something that I feel is crucial to the feeling I’m trying to achieve.  Again, I could easily go through and simply paint each structure with one pure color and save a ton of time but it would lose the effect I desire.  Besides, it gives me more time to consider each subsequent move.

Now comes some red.  I start with a few cross-strokes of a crimson in the sky then start applying some yellow strokes as well, just to start to give light the sky.  I also start to lighten the path in all parts of the painting just to give some more depth.  At this point, I’m also pondering if I should start working a bit on the waterway as it is such a large and crucial element in the lower half of the painting and it’s darkness at this point might alter how I proceed with other elements.  After some thought, I decide against working on the waterway and move on to the roofs of the structures.

GC Myers 2009 Adding the Red RoofsAgain, I use a crimson red that is a bit darker which gives me a bit of leeway so that I can lighten roofs later as I see the need.  I’m beginning to see more and more light in the piece at this point and can see areas where I want to concentrate in some of the next steps in the process.  For instance, sides of the houses that will be a sort of focal points through the piece.  I’m reminded also at this juncture of how the roofs of the village act as little pointers or arrows that move the eye upward in the picture.  I do this with other elements as well, in may of  my paintings, everything pushing the eye toward the center of the painting.  It didn’t start as a conscious effort but I became aware that I was doing this years ago and have been doing this subconsciously, albeit with an awareness,  for years.

I was a little apprehensive in showing how I paint in this style, afraid that it might take away some of the mystique of the final paintings, make it seem that  the work was a pure product of process.  But taking the time to write down how I proceed makes me realize that while there is a process it is the decisions that are made during the process that make it either work or not work.  Intuition and a constant visual weighing of elements play huge roles in this decision making, which makes each piece unique beyond the process.  These are things that I take for granted in my day to day existence in the studio, parts of the process that are below the surface and operating on a subconscious level but are perhaps the most important aspects of the process.

So, I’m on to the next step.  Stay tuned…

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GC Myers 2009 Underpainting #@So I’m well into the underpainting of this large 42″ by 60″ canvas, a step that is perhaps the most important in my process.  This part of the process really builds the final composition and gives me guideposts as it grows to what the final product might be.  As I’m painting, I’m taking in parts of the painting that I will later enhance and highlight.

In this top photo I build three layers of landscape beyond the village with a path running through them.  This adds depth and distance into the picture plane and creates an atmosphere of sorts.  It changes what the focus of the painting might end up being.  This addition, in my mind, brings in the possibility that the path running farther into this landscape says something about what might be coming or what has gone.  It’s not all about the static existence of the structures.

GC Myers Underpainting DetailAfter finishing this bit of landscape, I turn my attention to building my sky.  Again using a red oxide, I start a rough cross-hatch and fill the area where the sky will be.  At this point in the process, I am not yet thinking about the way the light will emerge from this sky.  I am merely putting down a base from which the sky will grow .

GC Myers Underpainting SkyTo many painters, this may seem like needless work.  By that I mean there are quicker ways to proceed with this sky to reach a similar final product.  However, for me, this is the way I have adapted that best fits with the way my mind operates.  It is slower in process and forces my mind to be less reactive, allowing me to take in the whole  picture and adjust, bit by bit.  I t just works best for me.

GC Myers 2009 Underpainting FinalMy next step is to finish the area on the right side of the waterway ,in the bottom right quarter of the painting.  I’ve decided I want to continue the road through the house and have some smaller roads off it.  I just felt that area needed a little more visual interest but don’t want it to be too fussy.  As I wrote before, I want the lower parts of the painting to enhance the whole, not dominate.  The only part of the painting that is left blank at this point is the waterway.  I sometimes also use a layer of red oxide in this situation but I’m leaving it blank for the time being to see how the areas above evolve.  They’ll dictate how I will proceed with the waterway.

So I’m basically done with the underpainting.  I have a really good idea at this point how the painting will grow although it can often change, especially in it’s emotional tone or feeling,  beyond this point in the process.  The next step is to start introducing more color and build.  I’ll let you know how it goes…

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GC Myers 2009 UnderpaintingSo I’ve been working on this large painting, a 42″ by 60″ canvas, as I noted in Saturday’s post.  When I last wrote I had just blocked in the lower parts of both sides and had the bridge just sort of sitting alone in the middle.  Since then I have continued with the underpainting in the red oxide that I prefer to use.  Most of this is applied in an almost dry brush way, where I put my brush into paint then swab a lot of it off before applying it to the canvas.  It leaves a lighter layer of paint, allowing the black underneath come through.  It takes a bit longer but it suits the way I see the thing building and growing.

It also takes a lot more time than one might suspect in growing the village from the start, especially in a way that makes it feel organic and not just thrown together.  Each new element informs the next and there is a bit of time spent just looking at each piece to make sure that it plays off the form below and beside it.  This is even more crucial in such a large canvas because I’m trying to maintain a continuity of form throughout the whole piece so elements in different areas of the canvas still relate to one another.

As the village grows upward I begin to try to decide how I want it to transition into either a background or sky or if I want to simply have the structure fill the entire picture plane.  I decide here that I want to have sky so I start to think of how I will have the structures end near the top of the canvas.  As I’ve been looking here I have chosen to have the village move into a somewhat empty landscape and that  into the sky.  I want to create a saddle-like structure with the landscape so that the light I create in the sky will be cradled by the landscape below.  I often do this in my work and I think it has to do with this cradling effect holding the light in a way that brings the eye to the lowest point, creating a focal point off of which the rest of the painting plays.  It’s a funny feeling writing about this because when I’m making these decisions, it’s very seldom near the front of my mind.  They’re just done in stride, instinctually,  as I’m taking in what I’m seeing.

GC Myers Underpainting DetailI’m also at a point in the canvas where I have a bit of space at the lower center of the piece, around the bridge and banks of the waterway.  I start to fill in this area, adding detail although it’s not real fine detail.  I want this space to have interest and detail but not so much that it becomes the sole focus of the work.  I see the light that I will create where the sky meets the landscape in this painting as the more important area of focus, conveying more of the feeling that I’m hoping will emerge.

So I keep working upward and as I near where I feel I want to stop the structures I begin to start get a feel for how the landscape itself will continue.  Here’s where I am at this point and where I’ll leave it for now.

GC Myers 2009 Underpainting

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big lebowski multiI was looking for a video on YouTube and came across some old Smothers Brothers things from their 1960’s show.  Time has kind of faded the notoriety they had at that time in America.  Most people, especially those under 40, think of the Smothers Brothers and think of a couple of older, very straight looking guys in tuxes performing skits with the Boston Pops or Tommy Smothers doing his YoYo Man act.  Hardly anything controversial there.

But in the late 60’s their Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour was a huge hit on CBS, bringing political irreverence  and protest along with the best music of  that era’s youth to a wide audience.  They were cancelled at the peak of their popularity in 1969 in a dispute with CBS over censorship, an action that they later filed suit and won against CBS.

I loved the show when I was a kid.  It was funny and smart and said the things that the news coverage of the time refused to say, particularly about the war in Viet Nam.  You have to realize how much narrower the options were at that time for hearing something out of the mainstream.

I especially liked the music.  Pete Townsend of the Who claims to have lost his hearing in one ear when Keith Moon exploded his drum set  during a performance on the show.  Pete Seeger had a famous appearance singing Waist Deep In the Big Muddy as a protest against the war.  So much great stuff.

I happened across this segment featuring Kenny Rogers and the First Edition doing their hit Just Dropped In ( To See What Condition My Condition Was In), a song that most young people will no doubt associate with its part in The Big Lebowski‘s dream sequence with The Dude, as shown above.  This video with Kenny Rogers in his pre-Gambler days has pretty much the same feel, in that 1960’s goofy TV psychedelic effect way.  Take a look…

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GC Myers 2009 Beginning PieceI started a new painting on Wednesday of this week, a 42″ high by 60″ wide canvas.  I first prepped the surface with layers of gesso and a layer of black paint.  I’m not sure if the texture of the surface will fully come through in this photo but it has an interesting surface with string-like bands running across it.

I’ve been working lately in my self-titled obsessionist style, work that is based on a dark ground with building color shapes on top.  It is the style I have used for much of my Red Roof work and is the type of work I have featured as of late in this blog.  I tend to work in surges, focusing on a certain style for an extended period, as though each piece, though self-contained and complete in itself,  is both rehearsal and an extension for the next piece.

By extension, I am referring to an extension of the thought process that forms my compositions.  For instance, I may take a concept that started in an earlier piece in the series and either expand upon it or take it in a different direction than the painting from which it stemmed, maybe in a direction that I recognized after the original had taken form.

GC Myers 2009 UnderpaintingAs I have been doing a lot of Red Roof-like work I wanted to take something that I gleaned from a few of my recent pieces and move it to a larger canvas.  I wanted a large mass of structures building upward.  So I began working in the lower corners, blocking in the forms in a red oxide paint.  As I said before I have used other colors as an underpainting before, I prefer red oxide for the way it shows through and creates a warmth and depth in the whole piece.  My eye responds to the red breaking through the overlaying colors as the piece proceeds.  It’s something that  reminds me of the  bits of a vermillion color you often see braking through other colors in Paul Gauguin’s work, something I always look for in his work.

As I start bringing the corners toward each other, I start making decisions on how it will build upward.  Everything, except for the fact that I know I want masses of structures, is up in the air at this point and my forward vision is constantly shifting.  At this point on this piece, I have a feeling that I want to insert a canal or river, elements that I have used often as of late, and a bridge connecting the two sides.  I decide to start with the bridge and let the waterway build off of that.

Covering such a large canvas with small forms is time-consuming, more so than some of my other work which consists of large color fields and requires a different form of concentration because, as I said above, the piece is always shifting as each new element is added.  It requires me to stay fully engaged which is really the basis for obsessionism as I see it.  As a result, I often am thinking about my next move on the work even when I am not at the easel or when my day is done in the studio.

So, it’s time to get back at it…

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A Face In the CrowdIt’s funny sometimes how the truth behind a satire from another time seems to come to bear in the present.

This past weekend, I watched part of  A Face In The Crowd, the classic film that I’ve seen many times from 1957 starring Andy Griffith as slimy Lonesome Rhodes, a drunken Southern drifter who by virtue of circumstance becomes a media darling and mouthpiece for conservative populism a la Glenn Beck of today. It’s a great film, one that always provokes a strong reaction and always seems, even in its dated setting, to have something that we can see in our own circumstances today.  It was a tour de force performance from Griffith and a far cry from the gentle, wise Sheriff Andy Taylor of Mayberry.  Lonesome Rhodes was the type of character that would have had Barney Fife pretty nervous.

Lonesome Rhodes knows how to manipulate the people, spark them into a fiery force, yet has nothing but contempt for them.   He has a natural ability, like many cons, of being able to read people, sense their drives and triggers while ingratiating himself at the same time.   He is all charisma.  But beneath this patina of charm and folksy wisdom lies a core of anger, sex and violence- a dangerous timebomb who strives to shape the public opinion into his vision.

It’s a great depiction of how the public reacts to a man of the people, even when he may be a wolf in sheep’s clothing.  There is always talk of remaking this film and I always cringe at the thought.  Like most remakes of great films, it would probably lose that intangible spark that makes the original blaze, be it a stellar performance and natural charm like  that of Andy Griffith, a great supporting cast featuring Patricia Neal and Walter Matthau, or the sharp, angular storytelling from director Elia Kazan, a controversial figure himself.  I really hope that they choose to leave this one alone.

Anyway, if you like social satire check out this film.  Good stuff.  Here’s the original trailer-

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Gassed  John Singer SargentI’ve always loved the work of the great John Singer Sargent, best known for his exquisite portraiture.  Several years ago I saw a large retrospective of his work at the National Gallery in DC and was overwhelmed by the quality of his work in the show.  It was not in a style in which I work nor was the subject matter always my cup of tea but the beauty of his brushstrokes was gorgeous.  There was something beautiful in  how a nose on a portrait that appeared so perfectly modeled from a distance when inspected up close was a slash of paint, singular and perfect.

But for me the star of the show was his epic painting, Gassed, shown above.  It is a massive atmospheric  painting, nearly 8 feet by 20 feet, and depicts soldiers in World War I who have been the victims of a gas attack.  Blinded, they struggle ahead, linked  together, seeking help.  A departure from Sargent’s  trademark portraiture, it’s a powerful image and really captures the horror of  the first truly modern war that was hitting the entire world at that time.  The War to End All Wars –if only that were true.

I am reminded by this painting of a poem written in that same time, decrying the horrors that had been unleashed and the feeling of chaos that seemed pervasive.  It’s The Second Coming from William Butler Yeats.  The first verse is particularly powerful and the last two lines of it are often quoted and could apply to just about any time of turmoil, such as the present.


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: a waste of desert sand;
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
Wind 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?

Both the painting and poem are interesting spotlights on the time.  I don’t know why either sprang to mind this particular day.  Maybe it’s all the doom and gloom, end of the world, here comes Jesus and he’s carrying a really big hammer stuff that is bombarding us around the clock.  Maybe the chaos and consuming din has caused us to not be able to hear our own falconer, our own guiding voice.

Or maybe I simply like the works of Sargent and Yeats.  It’s a mystery…

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A Year Later

Archaeology: Rising From Blue / GC MyersI just realized that it has been a year since I started writing this blog last September.  Quite honestly, I didn’t think I would keep up with this endeavor and had grave doubts as to whether it was a mistake in the first place, not really sure that I had anything to offer.  Still not sure on that account.

But it’s become a part of my routine after this last year and I come  into the studio early every morning thinking of what I might have to offer for that day.   Sometimes I come up with a blank but for the most part I can find something to write about.  I think it has went pretty well thus far judging by the number of views and the feedback I receive from folks.  But I hope to do better.

There were a couple of things this past year I enjoyed and will consider doing again, such as the Name This Painting contest.  I’d like to interview a few artists or gallery people.  I’d like to do some more personal mythology pieces.  I want to show more works-in-progress.  And more.

But today I’m just going to reflect back on the past year.  If there is anything anyone out there wants to see, let me know.  I’m always open to new ideas or questions.

Many thanks to those of you taking the time from your busy days to read.   I really appreciate it.

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Passionate Without the Hatred of the Tea-BaggersWe all know there’s a lot of debate and contention over the idea of universal healthcare here in the US.  People marching, people screaming and many people generally at their worst levels of behavior.  It’s passionate out there, as it usually is when there is the idea of change in the air, when people are forced to change the way they do or perceive things.  Always been that way.  Always will.

There are always going to be those who, for reasons that seem unfathomable to many, will oppose such change and seek to disrupt its progress in any way possible.  Always been that way.  Always will.

Take, for instance, the Civil Rights Acts of the 1960’s.  There was a Voting Rights Act in 1960 and a Civil Rights Act prohibiting general segregation in 1964.  The world has changed a lot since those days but it was only 45 years ago that a vast number of our citizens were denied their inalienable rights.  So much has changed and the idea of racial equality seems like such a no-brainer for those who like to believe that America is the land of the free that I’m sure that many folks today  take for granted that this legislation passed through Congress in a breeze.

Not so fast.

Like healthcare today, the idea of simply giving all American citizens equal footing was not a popular idea with everyone.  The final votes, in fact, had 27 of the 100 senators voting against the bill.  In the House, 130 of 420 voting voted against it.  As for regional support, only one Southern senator from Texas supported the bill- the other 21 learned men voted against something that we all take for granted today.  Equal treatment under the law.

Now looking at those numbers, there will be those who will say that most of those who voted against the bill were Democrats and this is true.  The Southern Democrat of pre-1964 was a much different creature than the Democrat of today.  In fact, this very Civil Rights Act’s passage paved the way for most, if not all of them to jump ship to the Republican party.  Strom Thurmond was such a party jumper in 1964.

It wasn’t just that these men ( I hate using that term for them but I’m trying to maintain decorum here) voted against universal civil rights.  They also filibustered for 57 days, putting aside the work of this country’s congress so that they could maintain the status quo, the status quo that kept many as sub-citizens.  Besides racism, the idea of fighting so hard against something so basic to our definition of ourselves as Americans is beyond my comprehension.

And that brings me back to healthcare.

Many of the most shrill voices in the battle against healthcare, much like the battle for civil rights,  are Southern voices.  Joe Wilson from South Carolina, for instance.  What is the real motivation here?  Why be so passionately dead set against something that can only help your state, which ranks in the bottom two or three states every year in most rankings for most healthcare categories?

I think the anger of the protesters is misguided and if they would take a minute and think, really think about it, their anger would be just as passionate but at a different target.  If I lived in South Carolina I would be angry at Wilson for defending a health system in a state that has given us some of the worst healthcare in the country.  Some of the worst levels of infant mortality, premature births, teenage pregnancies, highest percentage of uninsured citizens and on and on across all categories.  These angry people, especially those from South Carolina who so wholeheartedly back this slack-jawed idiot as their representative in our government, should be asking Wilson why this is so and what is he doing to get us, the people he represents, the best healthcare they can have.  That they deserve.

But maybe that’s the point: They’re getting exactly the healthcare he thinks they deserve.

So, folks, again I apologize for meandering off my painter’s path.  I just wanted to point out that there will be resistance to any change,especially that which affects the most people,  but we, as a people, have to slog past those who try to slow or stop progress.  There will always be demonization by those who want to live in a past that has benefitted the few over a better future for the many.

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Last Day of Summer

Last Day of Summer GC MyersI have this piece shown here in my studio.  It’s a 12″ square painting that I completed several weeks ago and has been in my sightline for about half of the last three months- half  my summer.

There’s something about this piece that reminds me that today is the last day of summer.  There’s something in this that speaks of a time of change, of the transition from one season, one time, into the next.  Maybe it has to do with the way the light in the sky is cooler at its center, fading to  the warmer yellows and reds at its edge.  Maybe its just the simple fact that the scene seems to be from an older farm, a symbol in its way of the changes that have occurred in our culture.

I don’t know.  Just makes me think that today is the last day of summer.

I guess I have my title for this work.

Got  to run.  Work to be done…

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