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“Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is non-existent. And don’t bother concealing your thievery – celebrate it if you feel like it. In any case, always remember what Jean-Luc Godard said: “It’s not where you take things from – it’s where you take them to.”

― Jim Jarmusch, MovieMaker Magazine #53 – Winter, January 22, 2004 



GC Myers - Early Work 1994A friend of mine has picked up his brushes and is attempting to try his hand at painting. He sent a message saying that he was kind of copying my work and hoped that it was okay with me. I told him that it was perfectly fine. In fact, it was expected and maybe even necessary for someone to “borrow” from others.

That’s how I started painting, after all. For example, this watercolor from back in 1994 is my take at that time on the work of Georgia O’Keeffe. Some of you may see it immediately and some may not. I know that’s all I see when I look at it.

I liked this piece at the time but knew that it wasn’t enough of mine to really show. I hadn’t transformed it enough, hadn’t proclaimed it with my own voice.

To be honest, I didn’t fully have my own voice yet. But doing pieces like this and others that were derived ( a fancier way of saying stolen) from the work of others helped me get there.

Borrowing” is a big part of making art. Like filmmaker Jim Jarmusch states above: Nothing is original.

You first take, but then you add your experience, your perceptions, your own way of expression to make something that is something all its own even though it may have the DNA of others within it.

The idea is to get to a point where you have transformed all your stolen ideas into something that is singular and honestly your own.  Something beyond what you first recognized in the work of others.

That’s good thievery.

 

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“Placidarium”


The more intensely we feel about an idea or a goal, the more assuredly the idea, buried deep in our subconscious, will direct us along the path to its fulfillment.

—Earl Nightingale



It’s funny sometimes what you take from an experience in your life. At one point in my life I was in the retail car business, working at a Honda dealership both as a salesman and for a time as a finance manager. In order to keep their sales staff engaged and excited about pushing their product, the management there would periodically send us to seminars with industry-specific motivational speakers and would also have sets of motivational tapes from other speakers that they would encourage us to listen to in our free time.

One of the sets of tapes was from famed motivational speaker Earl Nightingale who had a deep and engaging voice that added a serious dimension to whatever he said. As I listened to his tapes, it was easy to feel my interest growing as he told his little tales and his lessons began registering within me.

One of his stories was a short retelling of a classic lecture called Acres of Diamonds from Russell H. Conwell (1843-1925), an interesting fellow who was a Baptist minister, a lawyer, a philanthropist and the founder and first president of Temple University. The lecture, one that Conwell delivered over 5000 times during his lifetime, made the point that the riches we seek are often right in our own backyards. His tale is of an African farmer who sells his farm in order to go in search of diamonds and finds nothing but failure that ends with his suicide. Meanwhile, the man who took over the farm found an abundance of diamonds and ended up with one of the largest diamond mines in Africa.

There were a lot of lessons to be learned from this tale. obviously. But the primary lesson for me was that I had to leave the car business– it was not my backyard. It was the place to which I had come in search of my own diamonds. I had not even, at that point, began to search my own backyard.

I am not sure if that was the message that management had been hoping would sink in.

Or maybe it was. 

Their intent didn’t matter as I was soon on a different path, one that ultimately led me here, thankfully.

The other part of Nightingale’s message was that you had to set a course, aim for a destination. Everything was possible if you knew where you wanted to go and truly set your mind to it. He gave a laundry list of great human accomplishments that were achieved once we put our minds and wills in motion towards their fulfillment.

That resonated strongly with me. I had seen many people over the years who seemed deeply unhappy in their lives and most had no direction going forward, no destination for which they were working. Aimless, they drifted like a rudderless boat on the sea, going wherever the strongest current took them without having any influence over this motion.

If you can name it, you can do it in some form. Having a desired destination allows the mind, often subconsciously, to create a course that leads to that place.

As I said, it’s funny how things influence you. It’s been over thirty years since I heard those words but they still resonate strongly with me, even now. I try to be always conscious of the goals I set, knowing that the mind and the universe will always try to make a way for the possibility of achievement.



I run this post about every five years or so. As I say, there are lessons to be learned in every endeavor we undertake. Every job I ever held gave me something more than a paycheck. They showed me what I was and was not. In this case, I learned to work the fields that I knew and loved. 

It was a good lesson.

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theodore rousseau-underthebirches1842-43

Theodore Rousseau- Under The Birches 1842



It is better in art to be honest than clever.

–Theodore Rousseau



Theodore Rousseau (1812-1867) was part of the Barbizon school of painters, an art movement in 19th century France that was instrumental in moving away from from the traditional formalism that was prevalent in art up to that point and towards naturalism and artistic expression of emotion. It was very influential on many of the painters who later created the Impressionist movement.

Rousseau and Jean-Francois Millet, best known for his peasant scenes, were the two artists from this school whose work really spoke to me, seeming to have honest emotional content in them. Perhaps that is why his short quote resonated so strongly with me. That and the fact that I have found myself less impressed with cleverness than honest expression through the years. I have always believed that art comes from tapping into the subconscious, something other than the part of our brain that produces conscious thought.

I guess I just don’t think we are that smart. Or clever.

I know I am not.

My work is at its best when it comes from a place of honesty and real emotion, when it is made with more intuition than forethought. When it is too thought out and directed it begins to feel stilted and contrived, losing its naturalness and rhythm and becoming heavy-handed.

That is probably the reason I tell young or beginning painters to focus not so much on the actual idea or subject of a painting but more on things like paint handling and color quality, those things that make up the surface of a painting and convey the real meaning of the painting.

And I think that is what Rousseau was probably getting at in his terse quote.

But maybe not. Like I said, I am not that clever.



This post ran about six years ago and like they say, some things never change. I certainly haven’t gained any cleverness and I still believe that honest emotion is the basis of all impactful art. But what do I know?

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“Seeking the Design”- At the West End Gallery



As the peculiar faculty of the eye is to see form and colour, and of the ear to hear sweet tones and voices, so is aspiration peculiar to the soul.

–Meister Johann Eckhart



Don’t have a lot of time this morning but wanted to just share a few lines from Meister Johann Eckhart who was a German theologian/philosopher that lived in the second half of the the 13th century, dying around 1328 while waiting to hear the verdict on charges of heresy set against him. In more modern times Meister Eckhart has undergone a revival, being hailed in some circles as a mystic.

I don’t know about that but I do find his observations are often quite insightful and sometimes align closely with my own thoughts on certain subjects, especially on artistic expression– though I believe he is describing religious expression but let’s not split hairs, okay?– and the creative process. 

For example:

To be properly expressed a thing must proceed from within, moved by its form: it must come, not in from without but out from within.

This pretty much sums up what I have been saying for some time, that our real artistic voice takes in influences from without but synthesizes and adds to them inside ourselves to create a unique expression of self.

Or there’s this:

Only the hand that erases can write the true thing. 

That sounds very much like a line from Hermann Hesse’s Demian — Hesse probably pinched the idea from the old Meister– that has hung with me for a long time: Whoever wants to be born, must first destroy a world. Real change in this world and in one’s singular life demands a willingness to leave the past behind completely. 

Then there’s this one:

When the soul wishes to experience something, she throws an image of the experience out before her and enters into her own image.

This couples well with the line at the top about the aspiration of the soul. I have always held on the belief that if we truly want something of great significance in our lives, we internally and externally create the conditions for us to reach some form of that desire. I believe this actually a popular concept among modern self-help gurus but, of course, it’s not so quick or easy as they make it sound. The real proof is often decades in coming to fruition and even then it may appear in a form that you didn’t realize was your desire at the beginning.

But the soul knows better what the soul wants and needs.

Okay, there are a lot more examples from Meister Eckhart — for example, a relevant fave: Form is a revelation of essence –but I have to get to work, to express my peculiar faculty of the eye and attempt to reveal my essence. His words, not mine.

You go do what you do and try to have a good day in the process.

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Every time I start a picture… I feel the same fear, the same self-doubts… and I have only one source on which I can draw, because it comes from within me.

–Federico Fellini



I know that Fellini was talking about starting a film production in the quote above but it translates pretty neatly to the beginning of almost every painting for me.

There is always some level of self-doubt involved. I find myself doubting my abilities, my imagination, my drive, my vision, and even the quality of my paint or the amount of light in my studio, among a hundred other things.

Anything that gives me some sort of reason me to not do what I know I need to do.

And like Fellini points out, the only answer to this doubt is within myself. I can look to other creators and see how they have overcome their own doubts but, like so many things in art, every artist has a truly unique set of circumstances. The only thing all have in common is the desire and need to create, to express their vision and voice.

So, you learn to trust that desire and need. Trust that you are good enough. Trust that what you will do next will move you closer to realizing that vision and voice. Trust that there is real emotion and feeling behind what you are attempting.

That last one is a big one for me.

I have found that when I put concept before feeling, my attempts most often fail miserably.  By that I mean if I start a painting with a strong visual idea in mind but one that is not formed in emotion or doesn’t have some real personal feeling attached to it, sometimes it fails to take on real life. It might carry out the concept but it just lies there like a dead fish.

I have some of those dead fish here in the studio. I look at them and remember the original idea that I had when I first embarked on them. I also remember the feeling of deflation when I realized that I had no emotional attachment to them, sometimes early in the process. Things just don;t come together in the way I thought they might. There is flatness and shallow where I saw richness and depth in my mind.

Dead fish.

However, there is a caveat. Sometimes, when starting on a concept piece, things fall into place and momentum and feeling build. Attributes that were not seen in the original thought process appear and those I hoped for emerge stronger and more vibrant than envisioned.

The excitement of creation transforms into real feeling and the fish that looked like it might be dead begins to come to life on the surface of the painting. 

The feeling of seeing your work come to life, or at least the prospect of it, might be enough to overcome that initial doubt for me.  The words and advice from other artists might offer comfort but my own need to do what I do and to experience that thrill of creation are what get me past the hesitancy and dreadful doubt I face each time I stand before my easel or painting table. 

Okay, got to go. There are dead fish waiting for me. I think I might be able to put a little life in them if I just can get started.

Have a good day.

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“There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and will be lost.”

― Martha Graham



I was thinking about a recent comment on social media below one of my paintings where the commenter said that the piece made this person feel as though they were wasting their time with their own painting. They added that this wouldn’t stop them from continuing to paint.

I can’t tell you how relieved I was at that. While I gladly accepted the implied compliment of the first part of the comment I was mortified by the idea that someone would not continue painting because of my work.

And this was mainly because I had been at that same point early on, when as a novice painter I would look at artists whose work was fully realized, who through hard work had found their own style and voice. At that point, in comparison to the famed artists whose careers were full and complete, I felt inferior and dejected, thinking that maybe this wasn’t the path for me after all.

Maybe I should give it up and try another path or just give up altogether.

But I had a thought in my head very similar to the words at the top from the late dancer/choreographer Martha Graham. I truly believed that I had something inside me that needed expression and since there was only one of me in this world, whatever came out, good or bad, would be uniquely mine. At that point, I wasn’t thinking about selling my work or galleries or a lifelong career. It was just about getting the inner thing that was distinctly mine out into the world, if only to say, “Like it or not, here I am.

I believed then and now that we are all distinct creatures. We are all unique endpoints of evolution, ancestry, and experience. Even those people with almost identical evolution and ancestry often have widely varying experiential differences and influences. I see this with my own brother and sister.

Nobody has your exact pedigree. Nobody has your exact life experiences. Nobody has your exact way of seeing and feeling.

You are the unique and only you.

Your expression has meaning. It may not be pleasing to everyone or may not speak to all but it is yours alone.

This thought sustained me early on and it still does. I sometimes look at what I do and am deeply unsatisfied, thinking that I will never be at the point of which I think I am capable, never reach the endpoint I have formed in my mind. I see nothing but flaws and inadequacies at that moment.

But then I think, “This is me. For better or worse, nobody else could have done this.

The endpoint doesn’t matter. It’s simply taking the journey that counts.

You don’t have to be perfect. You don’t have to be the best. You have to just try to show what you truly are– the unique and only you. Let the world know it.

And have a good day doing so.

 

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“Come Days of Color”- Now at the West End Gallery



Not knowing how near the truth is, we seek it far away.

― Hakuin Ekaku



Wise words from Hakuin Ekaku, the 18th century Japanese Zen Buddhist master. You have probably heard of his famed kōan (a short story, statement, or question meant to test a Zen student’s progress) that basically asks: What is the sound of one hand clapping?

Heady stuff. But today we’re focusing on two of his thoughts, the one at the top and this gem:

At this moment, is there anything lacking? Nirvana is right here now before our eyes. This place is the lotus land. This body now is the Buddha.

We are creatures of desire and envy. We want constantly what others have, somehow thinking it offers us some intangible that will somehow provide us with lasting happiness. We envy other places, seeing in them qualities that we believe are lacking in those places we now occupy and believing that those places will provide a higher level of happiness or contentment.

But is happiness better found in more things or in far flung places? As Hakuin points out, in this moment, is there anything lacking? What prevents you from knowing what your happiness or what your truth might be?

Those two things–truth and happiness– are interior qualities. No place or thing can provide lasting truth or happiness. The secret is in not straining for these things but in recognizing that they are at hand, available if only you open yourself to them.

You may still want to to improve things in your life, acquire things or even physically move. But remember that they are not the way to contentment because it is already here, wherever that might be.

I write these words as a reminder to myself. I am as susceptible as anyone to falling to the lure of thinking that I can find happiness in external things and places. But a simple reminder helps me remember the happiness found in simple things, in recognizing the good things present in the humblest moments.

I thought about just that the other day. I was trudging through the mud outside my studio, a common thing at this wet time of the year. At first, it made me cringe and grump about it for a bit. Then I wondered why it bothered me so. It was part of the place that is a very important piece of my life and simply a product of the ever changing seasons. Soon it would be dry and grass would again be growing. I changed my point of view and felt a pang of happiness in that wet moment.

Contentment.

Simple things are not necessarily small things.

And vice versa.



This post ran on the blog several years ago but I thought it matched up well with the new small painting at the top, Come Days of Color. which is part of the upcoming Little Gems show at the West End Gallery. The exhibit opens Friday, February 12.

I see much of the message of this post in this painting, about fully appreciating the fullness and beauty of all things within your reach. We often see the days of our lives as drab and dreary but there is great color to be found if only we attempt to see the beauty contained in all things.

Hope you see some color in your days. Have a good one.

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“The Observer” At the West End Gallery



The heights charm us, but the steps do not; with the mountain in our view we love to walk the plains.

― Johann Wolfgang von Goethe



Isn’t this the truth?

We often aspire to greater heights, setting a course for bigger and better things, only at some point along the way finding ourselves unwilling to actually do the hard climbing required to reach our desired destination. 

I know that I have walked the plains for some time, all the time charmed by the heights ahead. They are often far in the distance but sometimes they loom so close that they seem easily attainable. But like most of us, I usually turn away from the harder paths that go directly to the higher ground and take those easier but less rewarding lower ones, all the while searching for some shortcut that will send me around the the difficult part of the climb.

Of course, time shows that there are no true shortcuts.

You have to put in the heavy climbing yourself.

This is a metaphor that could represent so many aspects of our lives beyond its obvious reference to personal aspiration but for this morning, I am leaving it as it is. Feel free to insert your own perspective and interpretation into it.

The thing I hope you take away from this is that we, individually and as a whole, must aspire to greater heights for our betterment. Then we must be willing to do the heavy climbing, pulled up by others from above while ourselves pulling up those still below us. Otherwise, we’re destined to roam the plains aimlessly.

Start your climb today. Have a good one.

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And now let us believe in a long year that is given to us, new, untouched, full of things that have never been, full of work that has never been done, full of tasks, claims, and demands; and let us see that we learn to take it without letting fall too much of what it has to bestow upon those who demand of it necessary, serious, and great things.

― Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters of Rainer Maria Rilke, 1892-1910



Gosh, I wish Rilke was sending me letters. I always seem to find something in his collected letters that speaks directly to me, something that helps me better understand my own place in the world.

Give me his letters and the Peanuts comic strip and I am all set for advice on how to live my life.

Rilke’s words above on the New Year speak loudly this year. Let us look at 2021 as a clean slate, a tabula rasa, that that is filled with new potential. The time ahead may be filled with hard work and stressful times but we should use every available minute of it in attempting to make 2021 far better than its predecessor. 

I know that these words can sound like empty platitudes but I truly hope they ring true this year and that we don’t waste the gift of time we are given.

Have a happy and quiet New Year’s Eve. Stay safe and perhaps next year at this time, we can truly celebrate the end of a wonderful year.

For those of you who don’t buy into my hopeful look forward and plan on partying your brains out tonight, here’s a song from Wynonie Harris, the great blues shouter who many consider the father of rock and roll. His style, his stage moves and provocative hip gyrations were swiped and adapted by Elvis, who some thought was the G-rated version of Wynonie Harris. His stuff really rocks and this song, Don’t Roll Those Bloodshot Eyes at Me, reminds me of the best work of Louis Prima, which is pretty high praise.

So, enjoy and bid goodbye to 2020 tonight in whatever way you see fit. May we all have a happy New Year in 2021.



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Invincible Summer

“Calidum Frigus”- At the West End Gallery



O light! This is the cry of all the characters of ancient drama brought face to face with their fate. This last resort was ours, too, and I knew it now. In the middle of winter I at last discovered that there was in me an invincible summer.

–Albert Camus, Return to Tipasa



Camus wrote the much quoted line above after revisiting the Roman ruins at Tipasa in Algeria in the aftermath of World War II. He had visited that site a number of times and finally recognized that unlike the modern Europe still reeling from the effects of war and fascism, there was a freshness there in those seaside ruins, an elemental dimension in them that couldn’t be smothered by time or modern events.

A sense of newness and the joy that comes with it was part of that place, was something that couldn’t be eroded by time and the elements. 

He was able to equate that with the part of our nature that we all carry, that being our will to go on, our will to find joy and meaning.

An invincible summer contained within us all.

Here’s an expanded version of the excerpt from Camus’ essay:

I discovered once more at Tipasa that one must keep intact in oneself a freshness, a cool wellspring of joy, love the day that escapes injustice, and return to combat having won that light. Here I recaptured the former beauty, a young sky, and I measured my luck, realizing at last that in the worst years of our madness the memory of that sky had never left me. This was what in the end had kept me from despairing. I had always known that the ruins of Tipasa were younger than our new constructions or our bomb damage. There the world began over again every day in an ever new light. O light! This is the cry of all the characters of ancient drama brought face to face with their fate. This last resort was ours, too, and I knew it now. In the middle of winter I at last discovered that there was in me an invincible summer.

In these crazy times, it’s especially easy to fall prey to the somber melancholy of winter, to forget that you carry your own invincible summer within you when the sky is slate gray and the cold winds blow.

But it remains there in this winter and in other dark times of our lives. Our invincible summer.

So, hold on to that and have a good day.

 

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