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“The untold want, by life and land ne’er granted,

Now, Voyager, sail thou forth, to seek and find.”

Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass

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A little short on time this morning (what’s new?) but I wanted to share this new song from an upcoming album by a favorite of mine, Rhiannon Giddens. She has one of those voices that always seems absolute and powerful. A beautiful rarity. I felt that this particular song fit right in with the theme behind much of my work, especially in the line in its chorus :

Don’t know where I’m going but I know what to do

Does anyone really know what they’re looking for in this life? Just doing the right thing and being honest with ourselves is all we can do as we search.

So, give a listen and keep on seeking, folks. Have a great day.

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a4Xlyi8Is98

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Got way too much stuff to get at it this morning to write. But I thought I’d share a post from back in 2010 that I like a lot. Take a look.

Southern Gardens- Paul Klee

I was asked yesterday if I talked to my paintings.

Interesting question.

I talk to animals. I talk to trees and plants. I talk to my car. I talk to my studio, which actually has a name. I talk to ghosts, present or not. Whether any of these things or beings listens is another matter.

But talk to my paintings?

It immediately brought to mind a section of a famous lecture that I had been reading recently and had really resonated with me. It was On Modern Art,  delivered in the 1920’s by Swiss artist and a personal favorite of mine Paul Klee:

May I use a simile, the simile of the tree? The artist has studied this world of variety and has, we may suppose, unobtrusively found his way in it. His sense of direction has brought order into the passing stream of image and experience. This sense of direction in nature and life, this branching and spreading array, I shall compare with the root of the tree.

From the root the sap flows to the artist, flows through him, flows to his eye. Thus he stands as the trunk of the tree. Battered and stirred by the strength of the flow, he guides the vision on into his work. As, in full view of the world, the crown of the tree unfolds and spreads in time and space, so with his work.

Nobody would affirm that the tree grows its crown in the image of its root. Between above and below can be no mirrored reflection. It is obvious that different functions expanding in different elements must produce divergences. But it is just the artist who at times is denied those departures from nature which his art demands. He has even been charged with incompetence and deliberate distortion.

And yet, standing at his appointed place, the trunk of the tree, he does nothing other than gather and pass on what comes to him from the depths. He neither serves nor rules–he transmits. His position is humble. And the beauty at the crown is not his own. He is merely a channel.

This very much sums up how I’ve always felt about art, especially my place as an artist– a mere channel or transmitter.  And when I look at my paintings, the crown of my tree, it is not in the form of a conversation so much as listening to what the paintings have to tell me. I paint because I question and, at best, the paintings provide some answers and insight that I might not find or see otherwise.

So, do I talk to my paintings? Not so much. But do they talk to me? Yes. And I do my best to listen…

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The anarchist painter is not the one who will create anarchist pictures, but the one who will fight with all his individuality against official conventions.

–Paul Signac
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Really eager this morning to get at a painting that is on the easel. It’s at a point where it is making that final transformation that seems to make it come alive and I am excited to see the final result for this piece. But before I do that I wanted to show a few paintings from the French painter Paul Signac (1863-1935) who, along with Georges Seurat, developed Pointillism and was one of its best known proponents.
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I have admired Signac’s work since I came across it many years ago. Maybe it is in the clarity of his colors that give his works a sense of being in the present. For example, note the vivid color in the painting at the top, Portrait of Felix Feneon.  While it was painted in 1890, it feels like it could be from any point in the next 125 years.
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Another favorite is shown directly below. It is titled In the Time of Harmony. The Golden Age is not in the Past, it is in the Future and was painted 1893-95. It is a massive piece, nearly 10′ by 14′. I think it is a brilliant painting.
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Here are a few more pieces from Signac that have always struck me. I am not going into his biography– like I said, I have a painting to get at– but I do recommend you take a further look. You can go to his Wikipedia page by clicking here.
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I am sharing a favorite of mine for this week’s Sunday morning music selection. It’s from composer Philip Glass and is a piece originally from a soundtrack of the 1985 film Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters. The full title of this particular selection is String Quartet #3 Movement VI (also called Mishima Closing) and is performed by the Dublin Guitar Quartet. I have listened to this piece performed by a variety of artists and groups with different instruments and all are wonderful. But I like this version and it just seems to fit this morning.

The story behind the film that this piece is taken from concerns the life of the Japanese novelist Yukio Mishima. Born in 1925, Mishima was considered one of the most important writers of modern Japan. That would be notable enough on its own but it was the end of his life that more often than not associated with his name.

Mishima was an avowed nationalist of sorts and for many years trained physically and mentally according to the bushido, the code of the samurai. He formed a civilian militia with the purpose of defending the emperor in the event of a communist revolution and takeover. On November 25, 1970, Mishima and four members of this militia, the Tatenokai or shield society, entered a military base in Tokyo and barricaded themselves in the office of the base commandant, who they detained, tied to a chair.

Mishima then went out onto the balcony and delivered a manifesto he had prepared to the soldiers of the base who were gathered below. His speech was intended to inspire a coup within the ranks that would restore the powers of the emperor.

But the soldiers only mocked and jeered at Mishima.

Finishing his manifesto, he went back into the commandant’s office and performed seppuku or harikari, a suicide ritual in which he would stab himself and then be beheaded with a sword by one of his aides. The aide failed in three attempts at the task of beheading Mishima and another took over the task. This aide then performed the same act on the first aide who had failed in his original task.

It was a strange event and one of which I have to admit I was not aware until several years ago. I also have never seen the film but Glass’ soundtrack is powerful and beautiful. Give a listen and have a good Sunday.

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Have a lot of things to get at this morning so I wasn’t planning on  writing anything. But I came across a painting from an artist unknown to me that I thought I would share. The artist is Todros Geller, a Jewish American printmaker/painter who was born in Ukraine in 1889 and, after immigrating to Canada in 1906, in 1918 moved to Chicago which remained his home until his death in 1949. I don’t know much about Geller but found this painting intriguing along with some of his other works which I urge you to look into.

Strange Worlds, above, is a 1928 painting which depicts an older man, most likely a newspaper vendor under the steps of the elevated rail in Chicago. The composition really pulled me in as did Geller’s treatment of his colors and tones. Just a wonderful piece.

I also found a nice video on this work that better interprets the painting and explains the background and history behind it. I am normally not thrilled with these kinds of interpretative art videos but this was well done and really felt that the information provided here filled out this particular painting nicely. Please take a few minutes to watch and see what you think.

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Came across a blogpost from back in 2009 had a piece of music that I couldn’t remember. Playing it this morning fascinated me and I listened to it a few times. It’s a big loud choral piece with ominous sounding Latin lyrics and a thumping percussion rhythm that drives it forward in a way that makes it feel as though it is absolutely unstoppable.

It’s a piece called Dies Irae from a 2005 work, Requiem, from the contemporary Welsh classical composer Karl Jenkins. Dies Irae translates as Day of Wrath and the tone of this piece has that feel, without a doubt. Powerful stuff.

It certainly woke me up this morning. I found myself wanting to be able to paint with that kind of feel. It’s something I can;t explain fully. I see big slashes of color and full sweeps of the arm across the surface with my feet set wide apart in front of the easel as though I was delivering body blows to the canvas. Primal. No delicacy here, no up close touches of paint. Every stroke a deep mark, a bruise, on the surface.

Like I said, I can’t really explain it.

But here it is along a video comprised of apocalyptic imagery, most from the artist Alfred Kubin who I have featured here in the past. The piece at the top, Into the Unknown, is from Kubin. It may startle you awake or, at least, stir  something deep within you.

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“I have always said that you do not see a thing until you look away from it. In other words, an object or a fact in nature has not become itself until it has been projected in the realm of the imagination.

~ Marsden Hartley

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Marsden Hartley (1877-1943) is a favorite of mine both for his paintings and his words, which often express thoughts about painting that ring true for my own experience. For example, I love this quote above. Some of the strongest images for me are those that are taken at a glance, sometimes while driving down the highway at 70 miles per hour.

If the imagery strikes me in a powerful way, my mind immediately starts breaking down the image into a sort of shorthand, blocking in the forms and organizing them in a way that registers deeply. It is simplified but contains the elements and the effects that struck me. Sometimes I will move my arms while doing this, trying to create a muscle memory of the rhythm of that which I am seeing in my mind.

The image is thus entered into my imagination. Everything else around it that is not part of image that spoke out to me seems to not exist in that moment. It s a funny process and is deeply ingrained to the point that I don’t even think about it but for this reminder from Hartley.

Got to get to work. Have a great day.

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