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Archive for the ‘Motivation’ Category

There’s a tombstone in a local cemetery that we walk by nearly every day. I look at it nearly every time we pass and it always makes me smile. Below the name and the dates of his lifespan are the words Grade A Milkman. All I can think is what great pride this man took in his job before he passed away at an early age. It reminds me of a post from several years back that I ran for the Labor Day weekend. It fits here for this Grade A Milkman.

A little postscript: After years of walking by this grave, a bit of research revealed that this fellow was my mother’s 3rd cousin. Makes me smile even a little more.

Here’s the post from back in 2013:

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If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.

–Martin Luther King, Jr.

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Another Labor Day weekend is here. On this blog in the past I have bemoaned how the general public has forgot how much it owes to the labor movement, how the middle class that was the pride of this country during the middle of the last century was a direct result of hard fought gains from workers who banded together and stood against social injustice. But today I just want to speak briefly about taking pride in one’s job, the same sentiment reflected in the quote above from Martin Luther King, Jr.

When I was a waiter in a pancake house, even after I had started showing my work in several galleries, I was always a waiter first when I was at my job. Never a painter-slash-waiter, a title which served no purpose. Circumstances had put me in this place at this time and I had determined that if I had to be there I would give it my complete attention and effort. I would make it my own. If I disliked it so much that it made me miserable, I would do something about changing my job when my day there was done and the task before me was complete.

But while I was there, I treated it as though it were my destiny because, who knew, maybe it was. I took great pride in being good at that job and some other jobs that I’ve done that could be classified as menial. What was the cost in doing this? If I had to be there then I would rather be recognized for my excellence than for my displayed misery.

Simply put, take pride in the task before you, however menial you see it. Find pride in the toil and treat it as your destiny because, in that very moment, it is.

Have a great Labor Day weekend and remember what the day stands for.

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Today is the last day to get into the West End Gallery to see The Rising.

Many thanks to those of you who were able to stop in and take a look. The response has been fantastic and the feedback I have received provides me a lot of inspiration going forward. That’s a big thing for me and for any artist.

Thanks as always to Jesse and Linda at the gallery for all the work they do for my work. I know it’s a lot and I truly appreciate it.

Hope you can make it into the West End Gallery today. Thank you!
2018 WE Show 2

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Life is very short… but I would like to live four times and if I could, I would set out to do no other things than I am seeking now to do.

William Merritt Chase
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I find this to be a very interesting quote from the American master William Merritt Chase (1849-1916). I don’t think about it very often but given a choice of doing what I am doing with my life and being able to freely pursue any other life, I would continue, like Chase, on the path I am currently on.
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I know there could be greater adventures, greater importance, greater rewards, wider travels and so on in other pursuits. But this life meshes with my character and my preferences so well that the thought of doing anything else seems almost absurd at this point. It never even enters my mind.
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And there is something calming in the certainty of this. It’s one less thing that might gnaw at me, to make me question my own decisions. One less thing in which to find uncertainty in a world overflowing with it. When I enter my studio, I know I am in my proper place. Oh, I might question my decisions, my actions, in that space but I can no longer imagine myself being in any other place. And like Chase, I find myself wishing I could live four more of these lives.
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And that’s a good thing.
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Here are some more painting from William Merritt Chase. Hope his words somehow apply to you. Have a great day.
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It is my dream to create an art which is filled with balance, purity and calmness, freed from a subject matter that is disconcerting or too attention-seeking. In my paintings, I wish to create a spiritual remedy, similar to a comfortable armchair which provides rest from physical expectation for the spiritually working, the businessman as well as the artist.

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–Henri Matisse

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I have read (and shared) a different translation of the quote above from the great Henri Matisse. It aligns perfectly with my own hopes for my work and stands almost as a credo. At the end of the day, I am trying to create work that allows any viewer, no matter how much or how little they know about art, to withdraw into their own inner space while at the same time feel a sense of communion with a greater whole. To move into a place that feels safe and comforting.
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A spiritual remedy, as he calls it.
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It’s not something you can have in mind, however. It only comes in the process, as the thoughts that may have been pressing on my mind are set aside and my own emotions are leveled off to a state of calm. It has to be my own spiritual remedy before it becomes that of anyone else.
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When it happens, it is a lovely thing and the world seems somewhat right.

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Art has always been the raft onto which we climb to save our sanity. I don’t see a different purpose for it now.

Dorothea Tanning
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Doing research for this blog, I run into so many artists that work well into their nineties and beyond that I begin to get hopeful for my own longevity. I try to see if there is some sort of common denominator among them, something that might be a key to their long careers and lives.
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There seems to be among many, at least to my eye, a constant striving for growth and change in their work. There are often new subjects, new styles, new mediums and new processes. But a constant state of wonder.
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Dorothea Tanning is one such example. Born in 1910, she worked until late in her life and died at the age of 102 in 2012. Her work changed throughout her career, having multiple phases, but always remained her own. I am only showing a few of her pieces here, a few that immediately grabbed me this morning, along with a short video with a bit of an overview. Like many artists I show here, I don’t know a lot about her work but hope to use this as an introduction.
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Hopefully, in forty years or so, I will still be following Ms. Tanning’s example. But most likely only if I try continue to attempt to grow. Because as Dorothea Tanning also said: It’s hard to be always the same person.

Tanning, Dorothea

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I perceive the world in fragments. It is somewhat like being on a very fast train and getting glimpses of things in strange scales as you pass by. A person can be very, very tiny. And a billboard can make a person very large. You see the corner of a house or you see a bird fly by, and it’s all fragmented. Somehow, in painting I try to make some logic out of the world that has been given to me in chaos. I have a very pretentious idea that I want to make life, I want to make sense out of it. The fact that I am doomed to failure – that doesn’t deter me in the least.

–Grace Hartigan
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Grace Hartigan (1922-2008) was a painter based in NYC. She often called herself a second-generation Abstract Expressionist because she used the influence of the major artists of the genre as a jumping off point for her own distinct work.
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While we certainly work in different forms of expression, I admire the strength and vibrancy of much of her work. I also like her work, such as some below from her Oranges series, that incorporate the written word, in this case the poems of her close friend, poet Frank O’Hara. And I certainly understand her own words above, especially about perceiving the world in fragments and trying to put that chaos into some coherent form of logic. And the doomed to failure part, as well.
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I think that sense of failure, that goal that always move out of reach, is the compelling part of painting. If you felt you reached that desired endpoint, there would be no point in continuing.
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The above quote is from Wassily Kandinsky and concisely captures what might be the primary motive for my work. I think, for me, it was a matter of finding that thing, that outlet that gave me voice, that allowed me to honestly feel as though I had a place in this world. That I had worth. That I had thoughts deserving to be heard. That I was, indeed, here. 

That need to validate my existence is still the primary driver behind my work. It is that search for adequacy that gives my work its expression and differentiates it from others. I’ve never said this before but I think that is what many people who respond to my work see in the paintings- their own need to be heard. They see themselves as part of the work and they are saying, “I am here.” 

Hmmm…

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This was one of the early posts from this blog from back in 2008. It remains true to this day, nearly ten years later, as the idea of “I am here” still drives my work.

Maybe this will be one of the things we touch on this coming Saturday, August 4, at my Gallery Talk at the West End Gallery, starting at 1 PM.

Maybe. Or maybe we’ll just have a sing-along. Who knows? It’s a fluid thing.

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