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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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Patricia Pasteur- The Long Road Home

At my September Gallery Talk at the Principle Gallery, someone asked if anyone had ever translated my work into a quilt. I mentioned that a  fiber artist had used my work in a piece several years ago and that several people had mentioned wanting to do so but wasn’t sure that it had been done. The following day I received an email from a fiber artist in Maine, asking if she could use some of my work– with credit given as the inspiration– for some small quilts.

I had to chuckle and wonder at the coincidence of the question on Saturday and the request on Sunday.

Patricia Pasteur Collage Pot

I first checked out the work of the Maine artist, Patricia Pasteur. The first thing I saw was the vessel shown here on the right, a collage pot with three birch tree trunks with islands in the distance in front of a moon/sun against a reddish sky. I absolutely loved this piece. After looking at several other pieces of her work, I could see where my work would resonate with her.  I was sold and was eager to see what she would come up with.

This past week, Pat sent me the results. There are four small quilts ranging in size from 20″ by 20″ for the square one to 17″ by 25″ for the largest of the rectangular quilts. I would guess they might be better called quilted wall hangings.

I immediately recognized my forms and color combinations, the Red Roofs and Red Trees. That was unmistakable. But Patricia had interpreted them with a unique blend of fabrics and textures that gave them a new voice. I am not sure in these photos here, how well you will be able to see how she was able to create textures with different fabrics and stitches. I spent some time zooming in to inspect them closer and was fascinated at her techniques.

Thanks so much for sharing these with me, Patricia. I am so pleased at how well they have turned out and honored that you allowed me to provide a bit of inspiration for your very fine work.

Patricia Pasteur- Standing Strong

Patricia Pasteur- On the Road to Nowhere

Patricia Pasteur- Moon Rising

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If you want to run, run a mile. If you want to experience a different life, run a marathon.

–Emil Zatopek

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The words above are from Emil Zatopek, the immortal Czech runner who was called the greatest runner of all time by Runner’s World Magazine.  Zatopek wowed the sports world at the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki by winning both the 5000M and 10000M races then entering at the last minute and winning the marathon. It was the first marathon he had ever competed in.

I think he must be correct in his quote. Running is one thing, something most of us can do for short intervals. But committing to and running marathons are a whole different thing. It takes real focus and dedication– a compulsion — to run marathons at a high level. It requires altering your diet to get the most from the least. It takes the willingness to sacrifice the time for training, putting in endless miles running alone. Mastering that solitude is a special skill in itself.

I know that it’s something I will never do which is perhaps why I admire those that take on this hard task.

One person I know who does this is my nephew, Greg. He’s been running most of his life in some form. A little cross country in high school. Running just to stay fit as he aged. Casual stuff for the most part. He trained for and ran his first NYC Marathon in 2005, I think it was. He was in his early thirties at the time and his time was respectable.  In the years since, with some time away from competitive running to be a great dad to three active sons, he has slowly become a committed marathoner, doing all the things I described above.

Fittingly, the work and time he has dedicated have shown up in his results. His times have consistently improved even as he has aged. At age 47, he is consistently in the top 2% of both all runners and his age group. In yesterday’s NYC Marathon, he established a personal best for that race coming in at 2:56:16.

It’s been fun watching Greg’s continuing progress as a runner. Seeing his dedication and hard work rewarded is a lesson that I hope his sons absorb and use in their own lives. I am pleased for Greg and proud of his hard fought efforts.

Great run, Greg. Keep up the good work and looking forward to you establishing a new personal best in Boston in 2020, if that’s in your plans.

Here’s a favorite of mine from the Velvet Underground in honor of your race. It’s, of course, Run, Run, Run.

 

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“One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We’re no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It’s simply too painful to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we’ve been taken. Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back.”

― Carl SaganThe Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark, 1995

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Earlier this year, I used another passage from this same book by Carl Sagan that decried the dumbing down of America and the celebration of ignorance that he was witnessing at that time, in 1995. As most of us have noticed, if things have changed at all, this celebration of ignorance has only grown.

The passage at the top is an understandable explanation of those who still somehow, beyond all explanation, defend the behavior of trump- the unending lying, the blatant corruption, the sheer amorality, the rampant criminality and the traitorous disloyalty to the office and the nation.

They just don’t want to admit they were bamboozled.

They still believe there is some sort of redemption ahead, some move by trump that will miraculously explain the vast array of lies and corrupt actions that have rained down on us nearly every day for the past three years. Personally, I can’t point to any single moment, any words or actions, any evidence of any kind that has me asking myself if maybe this guy is being somehow unjustly persecuted.

No, he is getting what his actions warrant. That is, if the pillars of our democracy hold.

The bamboozle isn’t over yet. The charlatan is still at work.

For this Sunday morning music, I am presenting a different sort of bamboozlement. There are two videos below from Puddles, the 6′ 8′ clown with the Pagliacci manner and a beautiful baritone voice, and his Puddles Pity Party. He has taken two songs, Johnny Cash’s Folsom Prison Blues and the Who’s Pinball Wizard and mashed them together, switching the lyrics from one to the music from the other.

Both are terrific. It’s like two of  my favorite musical artists had weird but fun children. This should be the only sort of acceptable bamboozling.

Give a listen, hopefully enjoy and have a good Sunday.


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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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