Archive for January, 2021

“Private Space”- Available at the Principle Gallery, VA

Oh, they tell me of a home where my friends have gone
Oh, they tell me of that land far away
Where the tree of life in eternal bloom
Sheds its fragrance through the unclouded day

Uncloudy Day, Josiah K. Alwood 

Still on a semi-hiatus here on the blog but wanted to continue playing my Sunday Morning musical selection. This week I am going way back with a gospel tune called Uncloudy Day, written by Josiah K. Alwood in 1879. We’re not going back quite that far for this week’s pick but it’s still pretty old, taking us back to 1956 when The Staple Singers first recorded what is probably the definitive version of this song. 

This is a powerfully performed song, with the droning bite of the undertone from the electric guitar of Pops Staples and an emotional vocal lead from Mavis Staples. It’s hard to believe but Mavis was only 16 years old when she recorded this.

It’s reported that this song was a huge influence on a young Bob Dylan. His appreciation didn’t stop at the song as he pursued and proposed to Mavis Staples in the early 1960’s. She turned him down but they have maintained a close friendship and working relationship to this day, recording and touring together periodically over the many decades that followed.

Anyway, it’s a song that always stops me in my tracks and I think anything that makes you stop to listen is a good song to kick off a Sunday. 

Be careful out there and have a good day.

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Compromise/ 2021

I thought since I was running some old posts I would go back a little further, this one from early 2010. The painting in this post still excites my senses and makes me eager to be at work. It’s just what I need right now. Take a look .

I came across this painting from seven or eight years back, an 18″ by 26″ piece from 2003 titled Call of Freedom. It was quite a different look for my work at the time with its simple design of two two blocks of colors playing off one another. It may not visible in this photo of the piece, but there was a hint of purple through the bottom block of color that really enhanced the piece for me.

The tree was put in at the last moment. After I had completed the two blocks, I sat this aside for quite awhile, looking at it in the studio, trying to determine if it held together just as it was. Was there enough there — color, texture, contrast– to hold my interest, to make me want to continue looking?

This was a tough one for me. It met all my criteria. It held my eye. It had meaning for me. But I still wasn’t sure it would hold the attention and meaning of others. So, I hesitatingly put the blowing Red Tree in place, almost as a compromise.

The tree changed the dynamic, bringing the picture plane closer to the viewer, from vastness to intimacy. But it still allowed the blocks to dominate, to tell their part of story, so to speak. Adding the Red Tree worked without altering my first impression of what I saw in the piece and created an introduction into the painting for others.

This might be considered a compromise.

I don’t know.  

For me, it’s about coming across that space between the painting and the viewer and connecting in some way, communicating something I might not be able to define. So long as it doesn’t alter the feeling or the message I get from the painting, it’s not a compromise but an opportunity for more engagement.  

As a result, I often think of this piece as where I want my work to be in the long run.

Is it compromise? I don’t know. And so long as the work is transmitting my message, I don’t care.

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“All there is, is fragments, because a man, even the loneliest of the species, is divided among several persons, animals, worlds. To know a man more than slightly it would be necessary to gather him together from all those quarters, each last scrap of him, and this done after he is safely dead.”

Coleman Dowell, Island People

[Been running some older posts this week — and maybe next week, as well– as I attempt to recalibrate. Or better yet, as the post below says, gather the fragments and try to reassemble them in some workable form. This post features a favorite painting here in the studio as well as a favorite song.]

It’s been hard finding footing lately in the studio. It’s been hard to just get started on most days. There are plenty of factors that play in to this, some external and some internal, some that I can control and some I cannot. But the end result is the same: left feeling fragmented, broken into shards that don’t want to reassemble easily in the form of my work.

I am not worried however. This is not the first time I’ve felt so fragmented nor will it be the last. I know that I come apart at times and have to bide my time, just continuing to try to put myself back together so that I may uncover what I know is waiting there for me.

It’s there. It may seem an awfully long way away but I can see it and I know that while it may take time and much effort, I shall be together with it again.

The painting above is a piece that has been with me for a while now. One of the orphans that come home to reside for a bit.  I wrote about it last year when I thought I might change its name to Dimming of the Day but it still remains under its original title, Fragments, in my mind. And I suspect it will stay that way.

This painting is based very much on this feeling that I am experiencing at this moment and when this feeling emerges, I often think of this painting.  There is darkness and distance here. The space between the Red Chair and the house has a certain weight that makes me feel as though there is something more than physical distance at play here. The sky, a confetti-like blend of thousands of little fragments of brushstrokes that gave the painting its title originally, represents, for me at least in this piece, the world falling out of harmony.

Dark, distant and coming apart.

Yet despite that I find this painting very comforting. I think that goes back to what I said above, that I know this place well from past experience. I know how to navigate it and know that the distance is not so great nor the darkness too deep. And I know that the parts are still in place to come together again in the future if I simply exercise patience and don’t give in.

It’s funny how that works. I walk by this painting several times a day in the studio and it’s often without a thought as my mind is preoccupied with something else. But every so often I stop before it and suddenly all of these feelings flood back on me when I look closer. I’m glad it works that way, actually.

Here’s the song, Dimming of the Day, which made me think about renaming this painting. It’s from one of my favorites, Richard Thompson. This is a great acoustic version. Have a good day…

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Georges Braque- Still Life: Le Jour

Truth exists. Only lies are invented.

Georges Braque

I am in the studio, looking at a new larger painting on my easel that is nearing completion. The words above from Georges Braque clang around in my mind as I look at it.

The painting is strictly an invention, a representation of a nonexistent place.

I ask myself, “Is it therefore a lie?”

No, of course not.

The painting is a true expression of my emotion and existence. That place represented on the canvas exists within me. And maybe within others who see its symbolic truth.

But I think I know what Braque means with his words. I have some paintings in the studio that I know are lies– inventions and constructions not built  with honest emotion. They aren’t necessarily bad. In fact, a few have a shiny appeal and have an appearance of truth in them. But there is something just a bit off in the way they come across to me, like hearing the words from someone that you know in fact to be untrue.

Their lies might be well constructed and even feel true but they are still lies.

And if that feeling comes across to me, it no doubt does the same for some others, as well. Not everyone. Some people don’t want to look beyond the surface and are willing to accept the lie before them because it somehow fits their own needs. For them, it is an acceptable truth.

It is a useful lie that serves a purpose to fill their personal need.

And that is okay.

Well, at least it’s okay in the realm of art which is based on personal and subjective preferences.

In other aspects of this life, I think we are finding that this casual acceptance of invented lies can have dire consequences.

Hopefully, truth prevails…

I am looking back at some older posts this week and maybe next, adding just a little commentary and maybe attaching a song at the end. This post was from a few years back and I thought it had some relevance to current events and the explosion of falsehoods that have overtaken our country through misinformation, disinformation, and bald-faced lies that make up the insane conspiracies and beliefs that have driven so many of our fellow citizens off the rails.

Art is where we should live our subjective lives. But we live in an objective world and all the subjective belief in the world does convert a lie or untruth into reality there.

At least, it shouldn’t.

As predicted, the casual acceptance of invented lies by some of us have produced dire consequences for us all. Let’s hope we can get back to a shared reality with facts that we can all agree on sometime soon.

Here’s a song that seems relevant to the subject from the Avett Brothers. It’s called The Weight of Lies. And believe me, lies have real weight. 

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“I can live with doubt and uncertainty and not knowing. I think it is much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers that might be wrong. If we will only allow that, as we progress, we remain unsure, we will leave opportunities for alternatives. We will not become enthusiastic for the fact, the knowledge, the absolute truth of the day, but remain always uncertain … In order to make progress, one must leave the door to the unknown ajar.”

― Richard P. Feynman

The post below is from several years back and deals with my constant uncertainty, a theme that has ran through my life. I added the Feynman quote above because I like the idea of uncertainty opening the doors to new possibilities and futures that would not even be imagined if we held too tightly to our beliefs and saw them as absolute. Here’s that post:

I don’t know…

I would guess that I’ve said that phrase a couple of hundred thousand times in my life. Or maybe even a million times.

But then again, I don’t know.

As years pass, I am constantly fascinated by how little I know despite consciously trying to obtain more knowledge. It turns out that there are an awful lot of things out there that I will never know.

That doesn’t make me happy but I have learned to live with it and take some comfort in knowing that I am not alone. I don’t think any of us really knows as much as we let on. Oh, some speak with absolute certainty and and an air of confidence but that’s just bravado or a simple failure to recognize their lack of knowledge.

I do know that.

From personal experience, unfortunately.

So I cringe a bit now when I spot that arrogant certainty in the declarations coming from myself or others. Then I cast a doubtful eye towards these claims, my own included.

What does this have to do with the price of a gallon of milk in Kokomo?

I don’t know. I’m just blabbing in order to set up a song from the Irish singer Lisa Hannigan and is titled, fittingly, I Don’t Know. I particularly like this version shot in a Dingle pub. Lovely.

Have a good day and be wary of those who seem a bit too certain. Or not.

I don’t know.

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This is a post from a couple of years back with a new addition at its end:

“The world concerns me only in so far as I owe it a certain debt and duty, so to speak, because I have walked this earth for 30 years, and out of gratitude would like to leave some memento in the form of drawings and paintings—not made to please this school or that, but to express a genuine human feeling.”

― Vincent van Gogh, The Letters of Vincent van Gogh

Thought a good way to kick off this week might be to share a few paintings from Vincent van Gogh along with a quote from one of his letters that speaks very much to my own feelings about my own reasons for doing what I do. These are not his better known paintings, though some of you may well know these pieces. They’re pieces that speak to my own personal inclinations. You might notice that most of these paintings have his ball-like sun/moon.

The idea of feeling a need to leave a memento behind that expresses one’s gratitude and one’s expression of self is one that is not foreign to me. I often think about how my work will speak for me after I am gone. Actually, the thought is often if it will speak into the future at all and, if so, will it be an honest reflection, a true representation of my voice.

I know that an artist, for all of the ways they try to guide the narrative about their work and life, have little control on the future.

What will be, will be.

The artist’s voice might echo but it is always just that, an echo, a one-sided conversation from the past. Hopefully, what is said in that echo reverberates and speaks to someone of that future time so that they can fully understand and connect to the feeling behind it. And if so, with the hope that they might respond to that voice in some small way that continues to give life to it.

As I said, an artist has little control over this outside of doing their work with honest efforts and emotions. It’s obvious this was the case in the work of van Gogh and we continue to have a conversation with his echoes from the past, his mementos of gratitude.

[2021 Addendum]

Here’s a few lines from Goethe’s Faust that mirror this same sentiment:

“You can’t, if you can’t feel it, if it never
Rises from the soul, and sways
The heart of every single hearer,
With deepest power, in simple ways.
You’ll sit forever, gluing things together,
Cooking up a stew from other’s scraps,
Blowing on a miserable fire,
Made from your heap of dying ash.
Let apes and children praise your art,
If their admiration’s to your taste,
But you’ll never speak from heart to heart,
Unless it rises up from your heart’s space.”

― Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Faust, First Part

Have a good day.



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All my troubles will be over
When I lay my burden down
All my troubles will be over
When I lay my burden down

It’s a tired morning, this Sunday morning. Still dark and icy cold outside as I sit here in the studio.

I think I am feeling the toll of the last year’s stresses. The worries, the outrages, the fears, and just the general sense of disconnectedness and chaos that seemed so pervasive– it all feels like it came to bear inside of a few days. I just need a break, I guess.

Lately, I have been toying with the idea of stepping away from the blog, at least for a short period of time. Maybe take a small break to recalibrate, to take the focus, as little as it is, and put it towards some other efforts and projects that need my attention.

Perhaps to find the inspiration that I have been shoving away because it requires more work and focus than I have been willing to offer.

It’s not easy stepping away for even a short time. After all, this has been a habit that has been embedded deeply after over twelve years and over 3,750 posts. I am such a creature of habit that I feel out of sorts without sitting sown to do this each morning.

It has become a treasured burden.

But maybe I must step away for a bit and try to try to find what I really need right now.

Lay down this burden.

We’ll see. I will most likely, if I choose to take a break, do so in a few weeks after the opening for the Little Gems show at the West End Gallery on February 12. I will continue to show my new work through that time. 

For example, the new small piece shown above is from the Little Gems show and is titled– surprise, surprise!– Lay My Burden Down. It has the feel of the end of a day of work, of looking back on what you’ve done with a mixture of pride in the job done and relief that the toil is over for at least awhile. 

The title is taken from a wonderful old gospel tune that has been done by a number of folks in different ways. For this Sunday morning, I have opted for a solid version from Will McFarlane, who is best known as being the longtime guitarist for the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section. I like his voice and the arrangement with his guitar on this version. It fits the morning.

Lay down your own burden for a bit and have a good day.

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GC Myers- Canyon of Doubts

Creativity requires introspection, self-examination, and a willingness to take risks. Because of this, artists are perhaps more susceptible to self-doubt and despair than those who do not court the creative muses.

Eric Maisel

This painting below sits on a shelf directly in front of my desk. I was looking at it early this morning and wondered if I had put anything about it here on the blog. I came across the entry below from about four years ago which really spoke to the doubts I endure every year at this time as I begin to gear up for my annual shows.

This year is no different. Maybe even more pronounced, given the stress from the events of this past year. But I take some comfort in knowing that I have navigated through these canyons before and that takes off the edge. The doubts are still there but can’t box me in.

There is always a way through. 

Here’s what I put down about this four years back:

This new painting, 8″ by 10″ on panel, is called Canyon of Doubts. For me, it represents the navigation that takes place in the creative process as the artist tries to get past the formidable obstacles of self doubt. Doubt often throws up barriers that has the artist asking if they are good enough, if they have the talent, training, and drive to create true art that speaks for them to the world. Doubt makes them fear that they are out of place, that they don’t belong, that every other artist has more right to create than them.

Doubt keeps the artist seemingly boxed in with no apparent way forward.

Doubt is a pain too lonely to know that faith is his twin brother.

Kahlil Gibran

I’ve been trapped in that canyon many times. I’ve thought many times that there was no way out, that the fears posed by my doubts were the realities of who and what I was.

I have always felt alone with my doubts. Words of encouragement from others often felt hollow when I was lost in those canyons. They didn’t know how steep the walls of doubts seemed to me or how inadequate, how ill-prepared I felt in that moment.

The only option that seemed available to me was to trust that I could somehow fight my way out of those daunting canyons. It would mean mustering every bit of talent, every ounce of energy, and a sustained belief that I deserved to have my voice rise from out of  those canyons. It was matter of  either having the faith in my own value as human to find my way free or withering away in a canyon of doubts.

Your doubt can become a good quality if you train it. It must become knowing, it must become criticism.

Rainer Maria Rilke

I still find myself in those canyons. I still find myself periodically looking up at the walls that surround me and wonder if I am talented enough, strong enough, or even entitled to escape them.

But I now know that there is a path through them, one that is well worn with my own footprints from my past journeys in that shadowed place. I know that, even though it is lonely and seemingly unbearable in that moment, I don’t have to be trapped in that place of doubt.

I’ve traveled this path and there is indeed a way out.

It takes time and effort and devotion. It takes the belief in yourself, forged from past experience, that you will make the right decisions and not be trapped in those walls. It’s in having the faith that when take a wrong turn, when you make a mistake, that you will recognize it and get quickly back to the path that sets you free.

At the moment, I may well be in that canyon still but I have the moon guiding me and its light shows me where the canyon ends.

And then I will be free once more.

Have a good day.

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Think about
Think about how many times I have fallen
Spirits are using me larger voices callin’
What Heaven brought you and me cannot be forgotten

Southern Cross, Stephen Stills, Rick and Michael Curtis


I have a lot to do this morning so this will be brief. At least, that’s my intent. Sometimes it doesn’t work out that way.

Just wanted to show a new small piece at the top, Steady As She Goes, which is headed to the West End Gallery for their annual Little Gems show which opens on February 12. I love doing my boat pieces even though I am not a sailor. And even though the romance of sailing free on the wide expanse of the ocean under endless skies is powerful, I know that will not be a sailor in this lifetime.

My loss, no doubt.

But the boats themselves offer great symbolism for me that translates well in paint and speaks to the non-sailors like myself who understand and envy those who respond to the lure of the open sea.

I thought that a fitting song would be the Crosby, Stills and Nash song, Southern Cross, especially with a video that features the lyrics. Interestingly, Stephen Stills wrote this song with the Curtis Brothers, Rick and Michael, basing it on an existing song from the Curtis Brothers called Seven League Boots, which they had recorded several years before with members of Fleetwood Mac.

Stills explained how their collaboration on Southern Cross came about:

“The Curtis Brothers brought a wonderful song called ‘Seven League Boots,’ but it drifted around too much. I rewrote a new set of words and added a different chorus, a story about a long boat trip I took after my divorce. It’s about using the power of the universe to heal your wounds. Once again, I was given somebody’s gem and cut and polished it.

Well, he did a fine job in polishing it and I like how it attaches to this painting.

Give a listen and have a good day.

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Quite a day. Day of joy.

There are a lot of things from yesterday on which one could focus.

One of my favorites was seeing Eugene Goodman, the Capitol Police officer who came to fame for his bravery and quick wits in facing down, delaying, and luring the insurrectionists away from the Senate chamber a mere two weeks ago. Yesterday, he was the security escort for our new Vice-President and her husband at the swearing in ceremony and has been promoted to Deputy Sargent at Arms. A good deed rewarded.  And the sight of this Black hero with Kamala Harris, whose presence in her new position breaks all sorts of glass ceilings, was truly an inspiring sight.

Of course, there was Lady Gaga with a stunning and emotional rendition of The Star Spangled Banner and Jennifer Lopez delivering lovely performances of America the Beautiful and This Land Is Your Land.

And President Biden gave an Inaugural Address that was memorable and powerful in its call for unity while offering strength, determination and humility. Humility. Remember that? His address was not filled with self-adulation nor did it focus on recrimination and demonization of his opponents. It was sincere and forward looking. If you watched that speech and found it divisive and dark in any way then we are truly living on different planets.

But the star of the day was slight young Black woman who delivered a poem that spoke so directly to the moment that it became one for the ages. I hate to admit it but I wasn’t aware of Amanda Gorman, all 22 years of her, until she burst onto the national stage yesterday like a comet in a golden coat. She is the first Junior Poet Laureate of the United States and the youngest person to ever deliver an Inaugural poem. Her poem, The Hill We Climb, and her delivery of it became a viral sensation.

It is a poem of hope, strength, and a unified vision for this country. It very much echoed the tone of the day and if we carry this feeling and determination forward, we will get up that hill one day.

Below is a video of her delivering her, The Hill We Climb, and the full text is below that.

As I said, it was a good day but there is much work to do and so many challenges before us. Over 4,400 Americans died yesterday from covid-19. And we must deal with those who will fight against the future at every turn, those who seek to move this nation back into a darker age of racial and societal division. 

We can and will persevere though. As Ms. Gorman puts so eloquently:

So, while once we asked, how could we possibly prevail over catastrophe, now we assert, how could catastrophe possibly prevail over us?
We will not march back to what was, but move to what shall be: a country that is bruised but whole, benevolent but bold, fierce and free.

Now get to work. Have a good day.

When day comes, we ask ourselves, where can we find light in this never-ending shade?
The loss we carry. A sea we must wade.
We braved the belly of the beast.
We’ve learned that quiet isn’t always peace, and the norms and notions of what “just” is isn’t always justice.
And yet the dawn is ours before we knew it.
Somehow we do it.
Somehow we weathered and witnessed a nation that isn’t broken, but simply unfinished.
We, the successors of a country and a time where a skinny Black girl descended from slaves and raised by a single mother can dream of becoming president, only to find herself reciting for one.
And, yes, we are far from polished, far from pristine, but that doesn’t mean we are striving to form a union that is perfect.
We are striving to forge our union with purpose.
To compose a country committed to all cultures, colors, characters and conditions of man.
And so we lift our gaze, not to what stands between us, but what stands before us.
We close the divide because we know to put our future first, we must first put our differences aside.
We lay down our arms so we can reach out our arms to one another.
We seek harm to none and harmony for all.
Let the globe, if nothing else, say this is true.
That even as we grieved, we grew.
That even as we hurt, we hoped.
That even as we tired, we tried.
That we’ll forever be tied together, victorious.
Not because we will never again know defeat, but because we will never again sow division.
Scripture tells us to envision that everyone shall sit under their own vine and fig tree, and no one shall make them afraid.
If we’re to live up to our own time, then victory won’t lie in the blade, but in all the bridges we’ve made.
That is the promise to glade, the hill we climb, if only we dare.
It’s because being American is more than a pride we inherit.
It’s the past we step into and how we repair it.
We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation, rather than share it.
Would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy.
And this effort very nearly succeeded.
But while democracy can be periodically delayed, it can never be permanently defeated.
In this truth, in this faith we trust, for while we have our eyes on the future, history has its eyes on us.
This is the era of just redemption.
We feared at its inception.
We did not feel prepared to be the heirs of such a terrifying hour.
But within it we found the power to author a new chapter, to offer hope and laughter to ourselves.
So, while once we asked, how could we possibly prevail over catastrophe, now we assert, how could catastrophe possibly prevail over us?
We will not march back to what was, but move to what shall be: a country that is bruised but whole, benevolent but bold, fierce and free.
We will not be turned around or interrupted by intimidation because we know our inaction and inertia will be the inheritance of the next generation, become the future.
Our blunders become their burdens.
But one thing is certain.
If we merge mercy with might, and might with right, then love becomes our legacy and change our children’s birthright.
So let us leave behind a country better than the one we were left.
Every breath from my bronze-pounded chest, we will raise this wounded world into a wondrous one.
We will rise from the golden hills of the West.
We will rise from the windswept Northeast where our forefathers first realized revolution.
We will rise from the lake-rimmed cities of the Midwestern states.
We will rise from the sun-baked South.
We will rebuild, reconcile, and recover.
And every known nook of our nation and every corner called our country, our people diverse and beautiful, will emerge battered and beautiful.
When day comes, we step out of the shade of flame and unafraid.
The new dawn balloons as we free it.
For there is always light, if only we’re brave enough to see it.
If only we’re brave enough to be it.


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