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Archive for January, 2018

If I create from the heart, nearly everything works; if from the head, almost nothing.

― Marc Chagall

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So true…

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There can be no failure to a man who has not lost his courage, his character, his self respect, or his self-confidence. He is still a King.

Orison Swett Marden
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It’s fitting that one of the only things I’ve actually finished in this new year should be a painting that I see as a personal motivator. This new piece is a 30″ by 20″ canvas that I am calling Still a King for the time being.

The title is taken from the quote at the top from Orison Swett Marden, who was a writer in the late 19th and early 20th century who focused on inspiring people to make the most of their lives in business. This was the time of Horatio Alger and many rags-to-riches stories, with the world exploding with invention and innovations. Marden was an early self-help writer, trying to motivate would-be entrepreneurs to make the most of their opportunities.

I periodically go through crises of confidence, some shallow and short-lived while others are deeper and a bit more difficult from which to escape. I have observed that when I feel my self-confidence is nowhere to be found, my courage and self-respect are also missing in action. In these deeper ruts, I can only hope my character is strong enough to carry me up and out, at least to a point where those other attributes decide to rejoin the struggle.

When they all come back together I know I will be okay.

And it is that moment that I see in this painting. The Red Tree in this piece represents the coming together of those four qualities: courage, character, self-respect and self-confidence. The path to this point winds through a landscape that goes up and down until it comes to a higher point and the realization that it is still a king , even if its realm is only its own little landscape.

Anyone with those attributes can– and should– walk as a king.

Or a queen.

There was definitely male dominance in the time of Marden and he probably gave little thought to the idea that these concepts, simple and universal as they may seem, would apply to a woman. But times have changed and are still changing, thankfully. There is still male dominance in most fields but if women can hold on to and display their  courage, character, self-respect and self-confidence, they will be queens.

I’ve been an artist long enough to see this evolution take footing in the art world. In recent years, there are more and more women artists coming to the forefront. For me, much of the most interesting work I see is created by women and, more often than not, it is the result of seeing themselves as courageous rulers of their own realm.

And that is a very good thing.

Which leads me to one last epigram from Orison Swett Marden that I think also applies to this painting and what I written here:

Nothing else so destroys the power to stand alone as the habit of leaning upon others. If you lean, you will never be strong or original. Stand alone or bury your ambition to be somebody in the world. 

Now, I only have to put these words into action. Wish me luck…

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I came across this photo from the great Hungarian/French photographer Brassai and its impact hit me immediately. It’s a powerful image that is filled with emotional and narrative potentials.

Just a glimpse at it elicits some sort of response.

For me, it was like a scene from a bad dream. Running from some unseen menace through the dark in an unknown place. Hot and humid. Stumbling over cobblestones.

Maybe for you, it raises a different narrative. Maybe running heroically toward a dire situation.

Maybe not. Maybe it’s just a great photo with wonderful contrasts that is beautifully composed. Whatever the case, I like it and thoughts it raises in me.

I thought I’d try to find something that fit the image and came up with Blue Shadows in the Street from Dave Brubeck.I’m not sure this quite fits the bill but I like it. Hope you do as well. Have a great Sunday.

 

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Rockwell Kent- The Trapper

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Force against reason: reason, because it has the power

of enlisting force to fight for it, will win.

From the recognition of that truth has come democracy.

 

-Rockwell Kent

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There are a lot of things that could be said this morning, especially with a governmental shutdown taking effect overnight. This shutdown is the symbolic culmination of the political attitudes of the past twenty years that have led us away from compromise and reason as a means of governance.

I am not going to go into my own grievances here. I’ve done that enough. But I will say that for all the anxiety this government produces as it tries to force itself closer and closer to some form of autocratic authoritarianism, I am somewhat optimistic. And that may be because I agree with the premise of the quote above from one of my favorite artists, Rockwell Kent.

I do feel that we are in struggle right now between force and reason, that the direction in which we are being directed via deception and fear-mongering– the force here–goes against the ideals and virtues that we have long professed as the basis for our democracy– reason.  The idea that reason is enduring because it has the ability to enlist those who will fight for the truth of it is reassuring to me and seems to be backed by history.

What we are experiencing is reminiscent of the way other empires have ended, when the beliefs that grew these empires are set aside by rulers who see themselves as being above those ideals and virtues. But I believe we are still a nation with enough reasonable people to resist the forces of greed and nativism that have descended upon us.

And that gives me hope, even on these days that seem so dark. So, thanks for reminding me of that, Mr. Kent.

Here’s a video of some of Kent’s landscape work, primarily of the Adirondacks, Vermont and Greenland. The format of the video is a little cutesy for my taste but it shows a lot of great work from Kent and features the music of Edgar Meyer and Joshua Bell. Have a good day and stay reasonable.

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The straight line is godless and immoral. The straight line is not a creative line, it is a duplicating line, an imitating line.

Friedensreich Hundertwasser
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I was originally drawn to the work of painter Friedensreich Hundertwasser (1928-2000) by his use of color and the organic feel of his forms. Every line has a natural curl and arc and even those lines meant to replicate the straightness of a man-made object quiver and waver a bit. It all creates a world that feels natural and alive. Organic is the word that always jumps to mind although maybe spiritual is a better fit in that it seems to depict a world that is comprised not of the human body but of its soul and spirit.
I maintain a similar relationship with straight lines, viewing them as something to be avoided at all cost. The man-made feeling that comes with a straight line is something that I do not want to see in my work with the possible exception of the horizon line as seen on a body of water. Consciously painting that straight line is a real task, an ordeal of concentration.
As hard as it is to draw a straight line, it’s harder than you might think to not draw a straight line, especially after you have spent years drawing and painting, gaining a certain proficiency with pen and brush. I sometimes have to really focus on not painting a straight line or the stroke will unconsciously go straight and true. When that happens, it irks me to no end and I find my eye constantly going back to that straight line in the composition.
I think there is something in our brain that makes our eye seek out straight lines as though we are always searching for signs of humans, perhaps as some sort of survival mechanism. And a very straight line is almost always a man-made thing.
So, I am going to practice not painting some straight lines this morning with Hundertwasser’s words echoing in my ears. And eyes.

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Lee Krasner- Night Creatures

My own image of my work is that I no sooner settle into something than a break occurs. These breaks are always painful and depressing but despite them I see that there’s a consistency that holds out, but is hard to define.

Lee Krasner

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I’ve been in a funk with my work lately, one that makes it hard to even want to pick up the brushes. It reminds me of the one I felt at this exact time ten years back. My Archaeology series emerged from the depths of that funk so even though there is general sense of blah, I am optimistic.

Part of my process in clawing out of a funk is looking at work– my own and others– and reading on the experiences of others. I came across the quote above from the late artist Lee Krasner (1908-1984) and it spoke to how I have been feeling as of late. I spent a little time looking at her work and chose several that sparked my interest immediately.

Now, I am not well schooled on Abstract Expressionism so I am able to speak with any authority on her work or on her place in art history. But I do like these and a number more by her, finding something in them that inspires me with their rhythm, forms and composition. Born into a Jewish family in what is now the Ukraine, many scholars find elements of Hebrew script in the forms of some of her works.

Most of you, if you know her name at all, recognize her as the wife of Jackson Pollock.  It’s unfortunate that she is mainly known in this way because her own work has had an enduring power that has been sometimes overshadowed by Pollock’s notoriety. She is an interesting figure in modern art. Take a look sometime. Here is short video with much of her work.

Lee Krasner- Untitled (Little Image)

Lee Krasner- Noon

Lee Krasner- Composition 1949

Lee Krasner- Promenade

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Silence is not neutrality.

Silence is not a shield.

Silences relinquishes your voice and opinion to others, enabling those who seek power through division, disunity and deceptions.

Silence is the approval that allows dark deeds to exist in this world.

Silence is complicity to the darkness.

In things that matter, silence is surrender. 

 

 

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