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Archive for December, 2017

I’ve been under the weather for most of this week, which is never grounds for throwing a party. But maybe there’s an upside here in that it keeps me from spending too much time dwelling on the work of the past year and in which direction next year’s work will head. That is something I tend to do a lot at this point on the calendar as we get ready to turn the corner into the new year.

It’s a constant evaluation of how I see my work and it run s the spectrum depending on my mood and confidence level. I fear that if I did it now, I wouldn’t fare too well against my own judgement.

Thinking about this reminded me of a post from about 5 years ago after I had sat down for a radio interview. You can hear that interview here. The advice I talked about then is as applicable now as it was twenty years ago. I sometimes forget these important things…

Another thing from the Out of Bounds interview that I wanted to expand on was my answer to Tish Pearlman‘s question as to what advice I  might give to aspiring artists. I said that I thought that they should paint the paintings that they wanted to see. I think there needs to be a little more depth to that answer.

Earlier in the interview I had said that I was influenced by a wide variety of imagery from many great painters and illustrators to advertising and film and television. Any visual input had some influence. I spoke of deeply saturated colors that I had seen maybe 25 years ago in a Coca Cola ad on TV, colors that still dwell in my mind. There are hundreds of little nudges that push you towards that perfect, idealized  image that you maintain in your mind but is never quite fully captured. I know that’s how it was for me.

I would go into museums and look at great works of art and absolutely love so many of them yet still felt that none was exactly an expression of what I was feeling or who I was. There was always a lingering feeling that there was work that was closer to the hazy criteria my mind presented, work that I still wasn’t seeing. It was this feeling that led me to the conclusion that I would never find what I was looking for by trying to paint in the style of other painters. If their work was what I was looking for to begin with, why even paint? It seemed to me that too many artists are satisfied by simply doing work that resembles other work, safe in the accepted pack, rather that taking the gamble on stepping away from it.

But I wanted to step away and to do so I would have to assess what I was as well as what I wasn’t. By that, I mean I would play to what I felt were my strengths and not waste too much energy on my weaknesses. I knew that anything that would be close to what I wanted to see had to come from a total belief from within and that trying to do things that were not who I was, which would be a weak area in my abilities, would diminish the whole thing. No, it needed a total commitment from myself.

I guess what I am saying it that aspiring artists need to focus on what they believe they want to see and use their strengths to try to achieve that end. By concentrating their efforts on their strengths, a natural style or voice will evolve. If they accept this voice with a real belief in its validity, it will soon be as natural as signing their name. They will soon be able to celebrate the things that make them different than others, rather than striving to be like them.

I don’t know if any of this is making sense this morning. I’m sure some of the above will ring true to some and ruffle the feathers of others. That’s art  for you. It’s more mystery than science. I might be right or wrong or both. Depends on who’s looking…

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Silent Night

Mystery of the Unseen

Slowly on the mend and in my weakness somehow let some useless trivia find its way into my head. It seems that the song Silent Night is the most recorded holiday song of all time, having been recorded 137,315 times.

Maybe it’s because I don’t feel great but all I can think is “ugh.”

The reaction has nothing to do with the song itself. It’s a lovely song and there are worse songs that could occupy its spot as the number one holiday song. Imagine 137,000 versions of Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer— I don’t think I would ever feel well again.

It just feels like 137,000 versions of any song might be a few too many.

As it is, you could start listening to versions of Silent Night this morning and you would still be listening to them a year from now, even if the asylum you’re in lets you listen to it around the clock.

So, let’s hope for a hiatus on future versions of the song. But before shutting the door on listening to it, give a look and a listen to what I think is a definitive version from the great gospel singer Mahalia Jackson. This is a wonderful performance and her face is as expressive as the music and lyrics.

 

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Skating

Been way under the weather the last couple of days but wanted to at least share something this morning. And what can be better this time of year than some Vince Guaraldi music from A Charlie Brown Christmas? This is Skating. Have to admit, it made me feel a little better.

So, if you’re not feeling up to par or are just down a bit, maybe it will work for you as well. Give a listen– what do you got to lose?

 

 

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Greed

The financial catastrophe of 2008 nearly precipitated a calamitous economic depression, jolting America and much of the West into a sudden recognition of their systemic vulnerability to unregulated greed.

Zbigniew Brzezinski

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How did we not learn our lesson? Did we forget this soon?

But it seems we have forgotten that greed without regulation is a voracious beast, leaving us now to live in a time of unbridled and shameless greed with no end in sight.

Oh, it’s nothing new. Greed is as old as mankind and was the basis for the rise of most kingdoms and empires. But what we are experiencing now, as in the Republican Congress’ cash-stuffed love gift to big business that they claim is tax reform, has been building for the past 30-some years, since the first blotch of trickle-down economics stained our national fabric, to this crescendo of pure avarice where the Republicans in Congress have given up even trying to hide their thirst for more and more.

Their bald-faced lies, the deaf ears they turn to their constituents, the denials of any evidence that disproves their claims and the paltry bread crumbs they symbolically throw to the masses is an abomination, a direct insult to the people of this country.

Plain and simple, it is filth.

But until we stand united against this filthy greed, the greater part of the populace will suffer and pay for the greed of the few. This will deepen and continue until it is no longer sustainable.

And the cycle of greed is never sustainable. And when it is comes to an end there will be a great reckoning, one that I fear will be as ugly as anything this country as ever witnessed.

And we have seen some great ugliness.

I apologize for this riff this morning. There are no answers here outside of advising you to stay engaged and enraged. I know that’s a hard thing to sustain but we have no choice. As tired and frustrated as I am now, the anger I feel as I watch our country being played the fool while its pockets are being picked fuels me. Knowing that we are setting the table for a great suffering, one that the short-sighted refuse to see, and not caring is unacceptable.

 

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Maybe it’s the time of the year. Maybe it’s the weather that brings a certain bleakness. Or maybe it’s the political climate and the anxiety it produces on what seems like an hourly basis. Whatever the case, I have found myself listening to the album Nebraska in the studio on a regular basis lately.

It’s an album from Bruce Springsteen from back in 1982 that was recorded solo in his home on a four track cassette recorder. It was meant to serve as a demo for a new group of songs but Springsteen liked it as it was and released it without a band or much embellishment. It is sparse but has an urgency along with a contemplative and sometimes darker tone,  much like the Andrew Wyeth winter scenes from yesterday’s post, that makes it one of my favorites. I also like the feeling that you are hearing these songs in a pure state, closer to how the artist felt them as they formed, before they’ve went through a hundred iterations in the studio to become something much different.

For this week’s Sunday music I thought I’d share one of the more upbeat numbers, Open All Night. If you’re feeling a bit bleaker – or want to feel that way– I’ve also included My Father’s House, a song that gets little notice but, for me, has great imagery, feeling more like a piece of literature than a song.

Give a listen, if you are so inclined, and have a good day.


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Wyeth Winters

Andrew Wyeth – Fence Line 1967

I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape – the loneliness of it, the dead feeling of winter. Something waits beneath it, the whole story doesn’t show.

Andrew Wyeth

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Andrew Wyeth – Over the Hill 1953

Andrew Wyeth- Heavy Snow

Andrew Wyeth- Not Plowed 1985

Andrew Wyeth- Farm Pond Study

 

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The power of imagination makes us infinite.

John Muir

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The image above was taken by NASA’s Juno spacecraft of the tops of the clouds surrounding Jupiter. I find myself constantly staring into it this morning with a mix of awe and dejection.

Awe at the sheer beauty and power of it. It is spectacular on a visual level in so many ways, at least to my eyes. The force of its rhythm is immense and the enhanced colors capture an emotional tone that rivals the work of the greatest painters. Looking at it, I see the ghosts of Van Gogh– I mean, this image is Starry Night taken up to the next several levels— Picasso, Goya, Chagall, Bosch and so many more.  With my last glimpse I saw Munch and Dali and an image of the Minotaur. And Thomas Hart Benton. I think any of these painters would look at this and find inspiration, would see that intangible force in it that begs to be painted.

I know that I feel that way but that is where the dejection enters the picture. It inspires but in a way that seems far beyond my meager talents and my simple mind. It’s like being a Golden Retriever watching his master, let’s say it’s Einstein, pondering the Theory of Relativity at his chalkboard. I know there’s something there because it seems so important to my master and I want to help but all I can do is bark and wonder what the hell I am looking at.

I am like a frustrated dog trying to describe the power of the universe.

But it’s early. I’ve only been looking at this for forty minutes or so. Maybe the dejection will pass and the longer I look, the more I will move myself into those swirls of cloud and color to find a rhythm, or even a trace of one, that aligns itself with the simpler ones that run within myself.

And maybe something will come of it. You can never tell what the end product, if any, will be from any point of inspiration. Maybe it will set off a series of thoughts and ideas that takes you galaxies away from the original inspiration. But an image like this has an effect in some way, even if it does show up right away.

I feel the need to look a little more. Take a deeper look for yourself.

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