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Archive for the ‘Advice’ Category

Ablaze

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In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.

–Albert Schweitzer

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One final reminder here at the end of a week based on giving thanks. Don’t forget those folks who have inspired, encouraged, assisted, paved the way, opened the door, gently pushed, opened our eyes, morally supported and lifted us up.

They are the spark that sets the inner fire burning.

Hope your fire is ablaze.

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Another Grateful Moment

Grateful Moment- GC Myers 2014

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Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues but the parent of all others.

– Marcus Tullius Cicero

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I thought I would rerun the post below about gratitude that ran last year on the day before Thanksgiving.

I am a firm believer in the words of Cicero above, feeling that, if it is fully embraced, gratitude permeates everything we do in a positive way.

I also believe that nobody achieves anything solely on their own, that everyone owes someone something for getting them where they are. Someone along the way taught them something, pointed them in a direction or opened a door that greatly helped them move along. 

As much I would like to think I have done everything on my own, even the small amount of success I have achieved is the result of a lot of help and encouragement from hosts of people. Without them I am nothing.

A sense of gratitude makes everything it touches better. And as I wrote below, a lack of gratitude debases everything. Take a look:

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It’s Gratitude Week here on RedTreeTimes. It’s kind of like Shark Week without the carnage. Or sharks.

Well, there is a little carnage but I can guarantee there are no sharks.

For today’s installment, the great Roman orator Cicero certainly has it right. When you think of the great virtues– honor, courage, loyalty, honesty, compassion, respect, and grace along with so many others– you can easily place gratitude as a contributing factor to each. These virtues are often just gratitude set in motion.

If gratitude is not the parent of all virtues, it is at least a conjoined twin.

I am not harping on gratitude now just because it is the week of Thanksgiving. No, it has become painfully obvious that there is a lack of gratitude, and by extension, the absence of accompanying virtues, being shown by many of our public leaders. This includes one person in particular.

Simply put, this lack of gratitude trickles down ( much more so than any tax cuts!) from the top to the general population. As a result, we end up with ugly attitudes permeating our daily life.

Gratitude transforms into a sense of entitlement

Humility becomes boastful self-aggrandizement.

Respect is replaced by insult and denigration.

Courage becomes cowardice.

Loyalty becomes a temporary transaction where one’s loyalty is given only for as long as the other person remains useful.

Empathy devolves into a mocking of the shortcomings and weaknesses of others.

Responsibility is replaced by a need to place blame on others.

Honor becomes disgrace.

Trust turns to deep skepticism.

Grace transforms into insolence and coarseness.

And honesty?

Honesty has turned into a sort of mythological creature, like the Bigfoot or the Loch Ness Monster– seldom seen and so shocking that when it finally shows itself, we don’t believe what we are seeing with our own eyes. Dishonesty becomes the accepted norm and we lose the ability — or even the will–to recognize the lies from the truth.

We become a nation of liars, a land without virtue or honor that can no longer be trusted.

It doesn’t have to continue in this way. We are a nation based for centuries on its virtues, always moving towards doing what is right, no matter the cost. We can reclaim that. We can be a country of virtue.

It all starts with simple gratitude.

Be thankful for all that you have. Express it in your words and, more importantly, in your actions.

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The only quality that endures in art is a personal vision of the world. Methods are transient: personality is enduring.

–Edward Hopper

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Felt like a little Edward Hopper this morning and realized that, in all the years of doing this blog, I had never shown his most famous painting, Nighthawks, above. Can’t say why I had failed to display it. Maybe it just felt so obvious that it overshadowed other works from his career that also moved me. Regardless, it remains a defining painting, one that never fails to be striking.

His words just below the painting above are equally striking for me.

I often write about artists trying to find their voice. By that, I am talking about painting (or working in any other medium) in a manner that matches up with and captures the artist’s point of view, their thought process, and the many facets of their personality. Not every method or style jibes with every artist, allowing them full expression of the truth of their own personality.

And method alone only goes so far. Method is transient and without endurance, as Hopper points out, without personality.

How does this happen, this insertion of personality into one’s work?

I can’t really say. I guess it starts with having a point of view, an opinion, an emotion, a thought. I tell high school and college students that technique is important but it is even more vital to have a base of other knowledge to draw from. Art is not technique or method, it is expression of the self so have a fully realized self to express.

Don’t know if that’s right for everybody but, hey, it feels right for me.

Work on that and get back to me, okay?

 

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Marc Chagall- La Vie – 1964

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If all life moves inevitably towards its end, then we must, during our own, colour it with our colours of love and hope.

–Marc Chagall

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Well, I feel that you can never go wrong by showing a painting or two from Marc Chagall. His work never fails to make me stop to examine it, to try to read what it has written in its colors and forms.

There is always something there.

There is music and dance, grace and movement. There is myth and memory all intertwined. So much is there. But in it all are the warm colors of love and hope, much like the ones he mentions in the words at the top.

I can only hope to live out my life like a Chagall painting.

That would be a good thing for any of us.

Marc Chagall- L’Âne Musicien à Saint-Paul- 1975

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“Abandon the urge to simplify everything, to look for formulas and easy answers, and to begin to think multidimensionally, to glory in the mystery and paradoxes of life, not to be dismayed by the multitude of causes and consequences that are inherent in each experience — to appreciate the fact that life is complex.”

M. Scott Peck

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There are times when one can simplify, where complex concepts can be broken down to easily digestible chunks that allow almost anyone to understand and appreciate that concept.

I would argue that is the basis for my whole career as an artist.

I do it in simplifying forms and compositions so that they enter the viewer’s eye easily, before it has had a chance to fully comprehend the underlying complexity in the colors and textures. There’s more to it, obviously, but that’s a nice shorthand explanation of my process– in itself simple.

But there are other times where you can’t take a concept or situation and simplify it fully without losing the impact of all the details.

I am not talking about art here. No, I am talking about the beginning of the impeachment hearings tomorrow. I am afraid that too many of us want that simplified version, one that makes us see unequivocally either the guilt or innocence of this president* without having to wade through detail and actual thought.

This is a complex and multifaceted case, one filled with a multitude of details. When placed side by side so that you can easily see them, these details tell a damning tale. Cutting out details to simplify the story would muddy the clarity of the motivations behind it. When you get only a simplified version, you fall prey to the whims and preferences of the person telling the story or painting the picture.

I urge you to pay attention in the coming weeks. Take in the details, the nuance of each witness’ testimony, and let the story unfold in full for yourself. If you can do that, you may well come to a conclusion that is similar to my own after having followed this whole thing closely for the past three years.

Or maybe not. Maybe you will see things in a completely different way. Maybe you will refuse to see the details and complexity and try to simplify it for yourself to suit your own biases and predispositions.

But either way, I believe that the closer you look, the more you will see and the more you will understand.

Hey, maybe we’re back to art now?

Whichever case it is, pay attention and take a deep dive if you want to really get a better grip on the complexity that you’re witnessing. It’s too important to be asleep at the wheel at this point.

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Robert Henri- Irish Girl (Mary O’Donnel) -1913

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Because we are saturated with life, because we are human, our strongest motive is life, humanity; and the stronger the motive back of the line the stronger, and therefore more beautiful, the line will be.

–Robert Henri (1865-1929)

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I came across this quote from the highly influential painter/ teacher Robert Henri and it made me think of two separate incidents that influenced my work.

The first comes from the quote itself, about how a strong belief in humanity and life should manifest itself in one’s art, creating a stronger and bolder and more beautiful line. It brings to mind the only art training I ever received, a night course, Drawing 101, from a local community college. I was taking it because at the time I had an interest in pursuing architecture and needed a portfolio. All the drawing I had done up to that time was just, more or less, doodling on bits of paper, in journals, or in the margins of magazines and newspapers. I thought a course on drawing would get me to some work that might help in putting together a portfolio.

The course ended up being a travesty. The instructor had little interest in being there and gave only cursory instruction. He kept an eye fixed on the clock and often ended the sessions early so that he could get to the local pub a bit quicker. I didn’t get much out of the course and dropped my quest to go into architecture but I did get one bit of advice that I carried with me.

The instructor pointed out that he preferred strong, bold lines even if they were not completely accurate or correct in the context of the drawing. They exuded confidence and that was more important that accuracy, especially if the lines were weak and tentative. That really struck a chord with me and stuck with me through the years until I began painting.

I think his words line up well with Henri’s assertion above. That confidence the instructor referred to is much the same as Henri’s saturation with life and humanity.

The other incident that I was reminded of upon stumbling across Henri’s words is my encounter with the painting at the top of the page. It is titled Irish Girl ( Mary O’Donnel) and was painted by Henri in 1913 and is at the Boston Museum of Fine Art. When I first saw it, I was showing my work at several galleries and was about a year away from my first big solo show at the Principle Gallery.

I encountered this painting in a large gallery in the museum and was struck how people would immediately head to this painting, even though it was one of the smaller pieces in the large space. I couldn’t figure out why this was. I mean, it was a strong painting but the way people were attracted to it seemed out of line with what I was seeing. Looking at it dispassionately, I finally settled on the color of her sweater as being the reason. It was deep crimson that really popped off the wall.

It made me examine my own palette of colors. My colors at the time were more earth toned and red was certainly not a large part of it. When it did come into play, it was usually more subdued and washed out. Pale. To tell the truth, I was a bit afraid of it as a color. When I tried it in a bolder way, it often skewed to harsher, sharper tones that were not to my liking and usually didn’t align with the emotional context of the painting.

But seeing Henri’s use of it made me better appreciate the power of the color. I began to work with it more and soon was incorporating in my work on a regular basis. It became a vital part of my visual vocabulary. It showed itself in a big way with my first show at the Principle Gallery which was titled Red Tree. It has stuck with me and I have Henri’s Irish Girl to thank.

It’s interesting how sometimes failed attempts, like my college course, or confounding encounters, such as mine with Henri’s painting, have impacts on you that you could never foresee. You never truly know what will come from anything we stumble across. Inspiration comes in many forms.

Have a good Saturday.

 

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GC Myers- Night Comes OnThe post below from a few years back is very popular, receiving quite a few views each day. As I prepare to lead my annual painting workshop next week, I thought it would be appropriate to replay it here today.

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Whenever I am asked to speak with students I usually tell them to try to find their own voice, to try to find that thing that expresses who they really are. I add that this is not something that comes easily, that it takes real effort and sacrifice. The great poet e e cummings (you most likely know him for his unusual punctuation) offered up a beautiful piece of similar advice for aspiring poets that I think can be applied to most any discipline.

Or to anyone who simply desires to feel deeply in this world.

I particularly like the line: To be nobody-but-yourself -in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else- means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.  That line alone speaks volumes and no doubt resonates with anyone in a creative field.

Take a moment to read this short bit of advice, substituting words describing your chosen discipline wherever the word poet (or a word describing poetry) is used, and see what you think– or feel.

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A Poet’s Advice To Students

(e e cummings)

A poet is somebody who feels, and who expresses his feeling through words.

This may sound easy. It isn’t.

A lot of people think or believe or know they feel-but that’s thinking or believing or knowing; not feeling. And poetry is feeling-not knowing or believing or thinking.

Almost anybody can learn to think or believe or know, but not a single human being can be taught to feel. Why? Because whenever you think or you believe or you know, you’re a lot of other people: but the moment you feel, you’re nobody-but-yourself.

To be nobody-but-yourself -in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else- means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.

As for expressing nobody-but-yourself in words, that means working just a little harder than anybody who isn’t a poet can possibly imagine. Why? Because nothing is quite as easy as using words like somebody else. We all of us do exactly this nearly all of the time-and whenever we do it, we’re not poets.

If, at the end of your first ten or fifteen years of fighting and working and feeling, you find you’ve written one line of one poem, you’ll be very lucky indeed.

And so my advice to all young people who wish to become poets is: do something easy, like learning how to blow up the world-unless you’re not only willing, but glad, to feel and work and fight till you die.

Does this sound dismal? It isn’t.

It’s the most wonderful life on earth.

Or so I feel.

 

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