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Archive for the ‘Early Paintings’ Category

 

 

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“It has always seemed to me that so long as you produce your dramatic effect, accuracy of detail matters little. I have never striven for it and I have made some bad mistakes in consequence. What matter if I hold my readers?”

― Arthur Conan Doyle

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Who would have thought that the creator of Sherlock Holmes would have some good advice to offer to artists?

The words above from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle about how he he would sacrifice accuracy of detail in order to gain greater dramatic effect in his work are very enlightening.

And reassuring.

I have been going through a lot of older work from over twenty plus years back when I was still in a formative stage with my painting. I hadn’t read these words from Doyle but one of the first conscious decisions I made about my work was that I would not be a slave to detail, that I would slash away as much detail as possible while still conveying a sense of what was being represented. Oh, I would use smaller details when they served the greater effect of the painting but the fewer the better.

One example from this early work is the piece at the top that is from around 1997. I was surprised when I came across this small painting in a file folder that I hadn’t examined in many years. It was a solid example of the work I was doing at the time, mainly in watercolor with the beginnings of my relationship with the acrylic artist inks that have long been a staple of my work.

It is sparsely detailed with little consideration to trying to replicate natural color. It just allows the colors and the shapes do what they will in communicating a sense of place and feeling. It works pretty well for what I want from it.

Over the years, I sometimes have strayed from this credo of spareness but I always find my way back to it. There just seems to be more space for the expansion of feeling when details are cut away. It’s a good thing to keep in mind.

So, thanks for the reminder, Mr. Doyle. I can use all the help I can get.

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GC Myers Exiles-Bang Your DrumThe switch to Daylight Saving Time really cuts into my prep time this morning. So I am going to share my musical selection for this Sunday along with a rerun of a post that originally ran ten years back. I reran it once four years back but I think it’s worth sharing again. Plus the painting fits the song. So here it is along with The Beat Is Rhythm from Club Des Belugas. As is the case with much of their music, it’s heavy on the beat which is as good a way as anything to give a kick to a dragging Sunday morning.

This is another piece from my early Exiles series, titled Bang Your Drum. This is a later piece, finished in late 1996.  

Initially, I was a bit more ambivalent about this painting compared to the feeling I had for the other pieces of the Exiles series. It exuded a different vibe. For me, the fact that the drummer is marching signifies a move away from the pain and loss of the other Exiles pieces. There is still solemnity but he is moving ahead to the future, away from the past.

Over the years, this piece has grown on me and I relate very strongly to the symbolism of the act of beating one’s own drum, something that is a very large part of promoting your work as an artist.  

For me and most artists, it is a very difficult aspect of the job, one that is the polar opposite to the traits that led many of us to art. Many are introverted observers of the world, passively taking in the world as it races by as they quietly watch from a distance. To have to suddenly be the the motor to propel your work outward is an awkward step for many, myself included. Even this blog, which is a vehicle for informing the public about my ongoing work and remains very useful to me as a therapeutic tool for organizing my thoughts, is often a tortuous chore, one that I sometimes agonize and fret over. Even though my work is a public display of my personal feelings, this is different. More obvious and out in the open.

There’s always the fear that I will expose myself to be less than my work. The fear that people will suddenly discover the myriad weaknesses in my character that may not show in my paintings, forever altering their view of it. The fear that I will be  revealed to be, as they say, a mile wide and an inch deep.  

But here I stand with my drumstick in hand, hoping to overcome these fears and trusting that people will look beyond my obvious flaws when they view my work. Maybe they too have the same fears and that is the commonality they see and connect with in the work. Whatever the case, there is something in the work that makes me believe that I must fight past these fears and move it forward, out into the world.

What that is, as I’ve said before, I just don’t know.  Can’t think about it now– I’ve got a drum to pound…

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She turned to the sunlight

    And shook her yellow head,

And whispered to her neighbor:

    “Winter is dead.”

 

― A.A. Milne,

    When We Were Very Young

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It’s just another reminder of who’s in charge from Mother Nature this morning as the temps here again sit at zero. There’s bright sunshine out there with the angle of the light making your mind believe that Spring is at hand and that, like the words of A.A. Milne in the bit of verse above, Winter is dead.

Stepping out into it, you realize that it was just another cruel trick. The air is sharp like a fresh razor blade. More so because your mind was telling you it would be warmly caressing your skin instead of biting at it.

Well played, Mother Nature. You got me again.

But Spring is coming and the seemingly endless wait will make the arrival of green grass and the first peeks of bulbs breaking the ground all the more special. The beauty of contrast.

The painting above is an old piece from about 1994 or 1995. It was among a small group painted at that time that was meant to have an object serve as a pole bisecting the picture plane with the light seeming emanating from it. Kind of in a Georgia O’Keeffe manner. I did a few of these pieces with imagined flowers or tree trunks.

Don’t know why I didn’t continue following this path because I am generally very pleased with them when I come across them. They have the sense of completeness and color interest that I still seek in my work. But at that point, every day of painting brought so many new discoveries and ideas that it was sometimes hard to decide which way to turn next. I had so many sparks being generated in my head that it would not have been possible to follow them all.

That changes over time, of course. New discoveries are fewer and farther apart. Sparks still come, many with the same intensity, but they create a low banked fire now instead of the roaring blaze that it seemed like when everything was new.

When everything was new…

And that brings us back to Spring. Maybe that’s the attraction, trying to tie one’s own personal renewal to that of the Earth. If so, I will be green again soon.

And that is a good thing.

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Finisterre is a peninsula at the westernmost point of Spain. In Roman times, it was thought to be the end of the known world.

Thus the name: finis/end + terre/land.

Finisterre.

It is also the title of a lovely song from English folk singer June Tabor that I am featuring for this week’s Sunday music. Very atmospheric.

The accompanying painting at the top is a piece I came across this past week in an old sketchbook from back in 1994, when I was just starting to paint. I hadn’t seen it in some time and was pleased that it had aged well, that it had a completeness that was not the norm for the work I was doing at that time. The rest of the sketchbook, for example, is filled with landscapes that are cringeworthy enough that this piece seems out of place.

I chose it to accompany this song because it also has an atmospheric quality, one that speaks of open space and emptiness. Pauses and the quiet rush of the wind through the grass. It might not be Finisterre but it feels like it might be the end of the world for someone.

Have a good Sunday.

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Was looking through some images of work from around 2006 and 2007 and came across this painting, The Middle Way. It really jumped out at me so thought I’d share it along with a blogpost from back in 2009 about a Henry Miller essay. The painting and the essay seem to fit together well.

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    From the very beginning almost I was deeply aware that there is no goal. I never hope to embrace the whole, but merely to give in each separate fragment, each work, the feeling of the whole as I go on, because I am digging deeper and deeper into life, digging deeper and deeper into past and future. With the endless burrowing a certitude develops which is greater than faith or belief. I become more and more indifferent to my fate, as a writer, and more and more certain of my destiny as man.

      – Henry Miller, Reflections on Writing

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This is a fragment of an essay, Reflections on Writing, from a book of essays, The Wisdom of the Heart, by Henry Miller, the great and controversial author. When I was young his books such as Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn were still being characterized as “smut” and many libraries didn’t have them on their shelves for fear the morality police would swoop in and raise a fuss. Probably many only know the existence and influence of his books from their use in a memorable Seinfeld episode, the one with Bookman the library cop whose hard-boiled dialogue still makes me hoot.

For me, I wasn’t so much attracted to his books by the raciness of the stories but rather by his way of speaking through his words and expressing views that I found at once to be compatible with my own. He observed and said the things that I  wished I could say with a voice and power I wished I possessed. I can pick up one of his books and open to a page anywhere in the book and read and be fascinated without knowing the context of what I’m reading, just from the sheer strength of his writing’s voice.

I see a lot of things in this particular essay that translate as well for painting or any other form of creation. It opens:

Writing, like life itself, is a voyage of discovery. The adventure is a metaphysical one: it is a way of approaching life indirectly, of acquiring a total rather than a partial view of the universe. The writer lives between the upper and lower worlds: he takes the path in order to eventually become that path himself.

Substituting artist for writer, I was immediately pulled in. The path he refers to is the path I often refer to in my paintings, the path we all walk and struggle along on, trying to find the middle way between these upper and lower worlds.

It’s a good essay and one I recommend for anyone who creates in any form and struggles with the meaning of their work beyond its surface. For anyone seeking that path…

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My annual show at the Principle Gallery in Alexandria, Virginia, opens on Friday, June 7th. This year is my 20th solo show there, something that seemed out of the realm of possibility when this run began with the first Redtree show back in 2000.

Nothing seemed guaranteed at that time.

I was still a fairly new artist at that point, showing my work publicly for barely five years with the last two years as a full-time artist. Still had that new artist smell. I understood that the Principle Gallery was taking a chance on me and that this show was a great opportunity for me as an artist. Solo shows in great galleries don’t just come to artists on an everyday basis and the success or failure of such a show could dictate how my career moved on from that point. I knew that all too well.

I remember my trepidation in the months before that first show as I prepared for it. I was operating in abject fear of my own failure was having trouble visualizing what success this show would even resemble. My final goal for the show ended up being that I simply hoped to not be embarrassed.

Fortunately, it turned out to be very successful. That led to the next year and the next and so forth. There have been varying degrees of success with the shows along the way but one thing that seldom changes is the absolute fear of failure that comes with each show. So, here I am, twenty years in, and still feeling that same ball of anxiety in my gut. If anything, it might even be worse because I see this as a personal landmark of sorts. I want it to be a show worthy of twenty years invested by the gallery.

I’ve been looking at some of he work from those earliest Principle Gallery shows, trying to see similarities and differences between the work then and now. To see how it has changed, to see what has been gained and lost. One that struck me this morning was the piece above from 2001 called Symphony to Joy. It’s a piece with what I would term great organic appeal. I mean that it in the sense given by the linework within the piece and the way the colors and forms play off one another. It just seems very natural.

Maybe I shouldn’t try to explain such things.

But what I am looking at is how I can regain that natural feel, that organic sense present in the painting. Twenty years of painting have straightened some lines, taken some spontaneity out of some color choices, and softened some rough edges. Experience and knowledge has taken the place of the urgency of the pure emotion found in these early pieces.

I sit here this morning anxiously wondering how to find a way to merge the experience with that emotional urgency. Hope I can figure it out before June 7th.

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My days, my years, my life has seen up and downs, lights and darknesses. If I wrote only and continually of the ‘light’ and never mentioned the other, then as an artist, I would be a liar.

–Charles Bukowski

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This is a painting, Sleepwalk, from back in 2002. It is part of what I call my Dark Work which was when I first began working on a black painted surface. The idea was to make the blackness part of the painting, to give the painting the darkness against which I could set the contrast of the light.

Like the poet Charles Bukowski says above, I felt that in order to be honest as an artist I had to incorporate my own darkness in my work. Utilizing the darkness kept the perceived optimism of the work from wandering into the territory of cockeyed Pollyanna-ism. It provided contrast in the form of a sense of reality, a basis for validating the optimism of the light and the color.

Light needs dark, plain and simple.

The Dark Work was very important for me and I continue to paint using the same process and techniques I developed in that time. This particular piece has lived with me for many years now and I love pulling it out to study it from time to time. There always seems to be something new to focus on. A brushstroke. A section of the texture. The transition of one color into another.

It provides lessons that memory has long forgotten as I continue my own sleepwalk through this life.

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