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Archive for the ‘In the Studio’ Category

Fly Over



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Wasn’t going to write anything this morning. Words just don’t seem to want to come. Recently, I have been thinking in shapes with dreams that have me working on puzzles that involve shapes and forms. The neat thing is that in the dreams I sometimes solve them with a logic that seems much better than the one I possess in waking hours.

If only I could dream while I’m awake.

Oh, wait, I already do that.

I thought I would instead share two pieces that I did over a few days back in 2017 based somewhat on the Aboriginal art of Australia. I am a fan of that work and wanted to try to consciously incorporate some of its elements in my work. That led to these two pieces.

I never showed them in any public forum and the one below, a 12″ by 36″ piece on panel hangs in a bedroom/storage area here in the studio. I never felt they were enough of mine, that they were too derivative of the Aboriginal work. And that’s not fair to either of us.

Plus, as a result, they never fully fit into my body of work or, at least, in a way, that felt natural or organic to me. I would always see them as Aboriginal based and maybe a little too forced.

But the funny thing is that I always enjoy looking at these pieces when I do so without taking my own bias into account. The textures, rhythms, and colors create a reaction that satisfies me in some way.

Makes me want to fly. Not way up in the clouds. Just a couple of hundred or so feet in the air so that I could see the rolls and rhythms of the land in bit and pieces. There used to be an ultralight that would periodically fly by on its way to a seldom used airstrip down the road. I would see the pilot– is that what they’re even called?– as the putt-putt sound of his small engine reached my ears. He seemed to be hanging in the air in a lawn chair strapped under a wing as he chugged along at considerably less than supersonic speeds. Looked to be about 45 MPH to my eye.

I always envied that guy.

But I never wanted to do that because I knew I would surely suffer some sort of hypnotic state while staring at the ground and the patterns. Most likely, I would just end up putt-putting my way into a bloody face plant with the ground while in such a stupor.

I’ve done that before, from a ladder at a mere 16 feet or so. I still periodically see the wet earth racing up to meet my face. Once is enough and I don’t really feel the need to do it from a higher point. Even so, there are moments when I yearn to fly low and slow, to see the fields and farms and streams and ponds lay out beneath me.

So I imagine. And dream. And paint.



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GC Myers- Take Off Your Shoe ( Stay a Little Longer)



Been working lately on a group of interior scenes that are part of my June show at the Principle Gallery in Alexandria, VA. I showed one this past week called After Party and it set the tone for this group with the sloppy disheveled look of a room after the party is over.

There are many things I like about these pieces. One is the fact that they can seem humorous while still seming quietly mysterious and even pensive or somber. I like that dichotomy. Maybe that’s because I have often seen humor in some of the more serious moments of my life.

It’s often a short ride from crying to laughing.

Another of the things I like about painting these pieces is their rough edges and slightly askew perspectives. I paint these pieces with slightly larger brushes than needed which gives them the softly sloppy look that appeals to me.

Like much of my work, these pieces are not planned out. I just start in one spot and see what builds out from that first mark on the surface. I make a mark then reassess and add another then reassess again, weighing the balance of the composition as well as the balance of the colors and contrasts.

It’s like juggling where you are always readjusting with each toss of the ball and with each new additional ball thrown into the mix. Maybe that is what I should call myself–paint juggler.

This piece is a small 9′ by 12″ canvas and is called Kick Off a Shoe ( Stay a Little Longer) which is a tip of the hat, in a way, to the old Bob Wills Western swing classic, Stay All Night ( Stay a Little Longer). Below is a version of that song from Ray Benson and Asleep at the Wheel, who have for many decades kept the spirit of Bob Wills’ music alive with their own brand of Western swing. Always sure to get your toes tapping.

Give a listen and get up and dance a little. Maybe kick off a shoe and stay a little longer. What’s stopping you?



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Brilliant Determination



If your determination is fixed, I do not counsel you to despair. Few things are impossible to diligence and skill. Great works are performed not by strength, but perseverance.       

– Samuel Johnson



Running this post below from back in 2009 because I am working on a new painting and am eager to get at it. It’s one of those piece where the first few forms painted set it off perfectly and it begins to come to life immediately. These kind of pieces are sometimes both the easiest to paint and the hardest because there is always a fear that I will somehow make it go bad and lose all that beautiful potential, all the life that is already coming through. But every day in the studio is not filled with enthusiasm like this. It is often hard and I am filled with doubts most days. It seems like I have been waiting for the last twenty years, long before the post below, for the next shoe to drop and my career to evaporate before my eyes. But I keep on keeping on despite that and that’s the theme here. – March 2021



I’ve been thinking about determination a lot lately. There are times when nothing seems to come easily and it seems like there are any number of things that would be more enjoyable than struggling forward with your chosen endeavor.

But in the end you force yourself ahead. There’s a greater satisfaction in struggling with that which you have chosen and feel is meaningful than in doing something that means little to your inner self even though it is easier and, in many cases, more entertaining.

This is something I keep in mind when I’m in the studio. There are many days when nothing comes easily, every stroke is like lifting a heavy weight and inspiration seems to have left the building long ago. In these moments self doubts begin to stir and I seriously wonder if I have reached an end to my creative life. It’s like a dull pain that seems like will be with me forever and there are points I want to stop.

But I remember that this is the path that I chose to follow.

With that recognition I am reminded of other times when I have been at this point before and I know, I just know, that if I steel my mind and force myself to move ahead, one small step in front of another, that I will come to a point where all this forced energy builds and builds and suddenly breaks free.

In this moment of release, everything suddenly seems effortless and inspiration is everywhere. It’s like going from the dark depths of a stifling mine to the top of a cool mountain. And the memory of the toil that it has taken to reach this point fades into the distance.

Until the next time.

And that’s where determination is needed once more.

 

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If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Then quit. There’s no point in being a damn fool about it.

-W.C. Fields



I wanted to play another song, I Don’t Mind Failing, from the late folksinger Malvina Reynolds and thought a replay of this post from a decade ago would fit well with it. Not much has changed in these past ten years from the standpoint of failure. The post below, from 2011, was titled Failure, of course



 

In response to yesterday’s post concerning a very large blank canvas that is waiting patiently for me, I received several very interesting questions from my friend, Tom Seltz, concerning the role that failure and the fear of failure plays in my work. He posed a number of great questions, some pragmatic and some esoteric, that I’ll try to address.

On the pragmatic side, he asked if there is a financial risk when I take on large projects like the  4 1/2′ by 7′ canvas of which I wrote. Actually, it’s not something I think about much because every piece, even the smallest, has a certain cost in producing it that, after these many years, I don’t stop to consider. But a project such as this is costlier as a larger canvas is more expensive right from the beginning simply due to the sheer size of it. The canvas is heavier and more expensive and more of it is used. I use a lot more gesso and paint. The framing is much more expensive and the logistics of shipping and transporting become more involved and costly. It’s larger size and price means the audience of potential buyers is much more limited which means more time trucking it around or storing it.

And while these cost of materials and handling are the larger cost, the biggest financial risk comes in the time spent on such a project. It takes longer to prepare such a large canvas, longer to paint and, if it works out, longer to finish and frame. This is time not spent on other projects. Wasted time is by far the biggest risk in facing such a project and that is something I have to take into consideration before embarking on large projects.

He also asked whether I can reuse the materials if I don’t like what I’ve painted. Sure, for the most part.  Especially canvasses. Actually, the piece shown here on the right was once such a piece. There’s a failure lingering still beneath its present surface.

I had a concept in my head that floated around for months and I finally started putting it down on this 30″ square canvas. I spent probably a day and a half worth of time and got quite far into it before I realized that it was a flawed concept, that I was down a path that was way off the route I had envisioned. It was dull and lifeless, even at an early stage.

It was crap and I knew that there was no hope for it. I immediately painted it over, mainly to keep me from wasting even more time by trying to resuscitate it, and the piece shown here emerged, happily for me.

Tom also asked if I ever “crashed and burned” on a piece or if the worst sort of failure was that a piece was simply mediocre. Well, I guess the last few paragraphs say a bit about the “crashed and burned” aspect, although that is a rarer event than one might suspect. The beauty of painting is that it’s results are always subjective. There is almost never total failure.

It’s not like sky-diving and if your parachute doesn’t open you die. At least, that hasn’t been my experience thus far. I’m still here.

Mediocrity is a different story. That is the one thing I probably fear most for my work and would consider a piece a failure if I judged it to be mediocre. I have any  number of examples I could show you in the nooks and crannies of my studio but I won’t. Even flawed and mediocre, these pieces have a purpose for me and some have remaining promise. The purpose is in the lessons learned from painting them. I usually glean some information from  each painting, even something tiny but useful for the future. Each is a rehearsal in a way. But most times, the mediocre pieces teach me what I don’t want to repeat in the future. A wrong line or form here. A flatness of color there. Just simple dullness everywhere.

But, being art, there are few total failures, and many of these somewhat mediocre pieces sit unfinished because there are still stirs of promise in them.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve come to what I felt was a dead end for a painting, feeling that it was dull and lifeless, and set it aside. Months and months might pass and one day I might pick it up and suddenly see something new in it. A new way to move in it that brings it new life. These paintings often bring the greatest satisfaction when they leave the gallery with a new owner.

Sometimes failure is simply a momentary perception that requires a new perspective.

Sometimes you need to fail in order to succeed later.

Okay, that’s it for now. I’m sure I have more to say about failure but it will have to wait until a later date. I’ve got work waiting for me that doesn’t know the meaning of the word failure and I don’t want to take the risk that it might learn it.

Tom, thanks again for the great questions.  I’m always eager for good questions so keep it up!



Now here’s I Don’t Mind Failing from Malvina Reynolds. It’s from around 1965 and was written after hearing a sermon called The Fine Art of Failing. Lot of great lines in this one:

I don’t mind failing in this world,
I don’t mind failing in this world,
Somebody else’s definition
Isn’t going to measure my soul’s condition,
I don’t mind failing in this world.

Give a listen and if you fail today, don’t worry about it. You’re in good company.



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“Its was one of those events which at a crucial stage in one’s development arrive to challenge and stretch one to the limit of one’s ability and beyond, so that thereafter one has a new standard by which to judge oneself.”

Kazuo Ishiguro, The Remains of the Day



This large painting, something like a 18″ by 42″ oil on wood panel, has been hanging in my studio for quite some time now. It’s become like a permanent fixture on a wall in one of the rooms here in the studio, to the point that it sometimes surprises me when I take a moment to stop and take it in.

It’s called Challenger which came from my memories of the Challenger explosion in early 1986. I was ill with salmonella poisoning, laying on my couch in a feverish state with severe stomach cramping. I was in kind of a haze watching that day which added to the horror of the whole tragedy. I remember the brightness of that day with the light of the winter sun streaming through our windows. It just seemed too bright and positive a day for such a thing. That memory of the light still remains with me.

When first painted fifteen years later, I didn’t mean for this piece to represent that day, wasn’t looking to make a tribute of any kind. There was just something in the light and sky of this painting that brought me back to that day. I began to see the Red Tree and its posture as a sign of fortitude and determination, a symbol of the continuance of our journey even after taking such a hard blow.

Our own challenge.

We may very well be at our best when we face challenges. Any challenge, whether it is one which is taken on voluntarily or one which is forced upon us, requires us to call on all our strengths and creative powers in order to succeed because if we know beforehand that our success is guaranteed, it’s not really a challenge, is it?

I am pretty sure I have never shown this painting here before. It’s one of those paintings that I can’t judge objectively. It’s certainly not a great piece based on some standards but the inherent meaning in it makes it a memorable piece for me, at least. 

It’s one of those pieces that I am glad never found a home outside this studio. I see it as a reminder to continue to push myself to set new and higher standards, to accept the failures when they come and not be too satisfied with any successes.

To face every day as a challenge to be overcome.

And in the times, when it’s so easy to fall prey to the paralysis of angst and worry, I can use the push it provides. 

Good luck in facing your own challenge today.



PS:  My memory is fading, obviously. I actually did write about this painting before, back in 2016. However, that post focused on the piece’s strengths and weaknesses and didn’t go into the meaning behind it for me. 

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“How can it be that I’ve never seen that lofty sky before? Oh, how happy I am to have found it at last. Yes! It’s all vanity, it’s all an illusion, everything except that infinite sky. There is nothing, nothing – that’s all there is. But there isn’t even that. There’s nothing but stillness and peace. Thank God for that!”

― Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace



Yesterday was one of those hard days in the studio. Nothing seemed to work. I felt like I was breaking in a new sets of hands and eyes and my mind was bouncing off the walls instead of locking in on the surface on which I was working. It was frustrating and I found myself early in the afternoon with a burning ball of anxiety in my gut, exactly the opposite feeling that my work normally produces in me.

It was just a slog. It reminded me of some of those days when I worked in construction and things weren’t going well. I remember standing in mud and falling snow early in the morning with a day of hefting chimney blocks up a ladder ahead of me. I was filled with a tired kind of dread.

I wanted to be anywhere but there but that wasn’t an option. So, I just put down my head and slogged onward and upward. God, what  long and awful days those sometimes were. Cold. Wet. Aching and tired with a simmering anger of dissatisfaction just below the surface. 

My life is different now. I am not cold and wet. Well, most days, at least. And I ache in different ways and my tiredness is different as well. But I still have days of simmering dissatisfaction and anxiety.

Yesterday was one of those. A log, as I said.

I took a break in the afternoon and took a walk in the cold wintry air. Walking among the trees of the local cemetery under a slate colored  high sky changed my focus. It took a while but after some time it got better. Cleared the debris that was cluttering my mind. Then, it wasn’t a matter of trying to force something out of me now.

Just being alive under that  the air of that infinite sky among the silence of the graves.

Just a small thing but it changed so much. It settled me and made me feel more connected to the world.

And that’s a good thing. It’s always good to put a slog day behind me.

Makes me look forward to being at work today. 



The painting at the top is a 12″ by 12″ canvas from several years back called Placidarium. I chose it because its feeling, for me, represents what I am shooting for in my days in the studio. A placid place with color and space for the mind to explore. The fact that it it here in the studio is a mystery to me. It’s one of those pieces that felt right from inception to completion. Even now, it brings me a great deal of satisfaction to take it in. But that’s how it is sometimes– the pieces that resonate most with me are often the last to leave me now.

And that’s okay because it means I get to live with them a bit longer.

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