Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Motivation’ Category

“Placidarium”


The more intensely we feel about an idea or a goal, the more assuredly the idea, buried deep in our subconscious, will direct us along the path to its fulfillment.

—Earl Nightingale



It’s funny sometimes what you take from an experience in your life. At one point in my life I was in the retail car business, working at a Honda dealership both as a salesman and for a time as a finance manager. In order to keep their sales staff engaged and excited about pushing their product, the management there would periodically send us to seminars with industry-specific motivational speakers and would also have sets of motivational tapes from other speakers that they would encourage us to listen to in our free time.

One of the sets of tapes was from famed motivational speaker Earl Nightingale who had a deep and engaging voice that added a serious dimension to whatever he said. As I listened to his tapes, it was easy to feel my interest growing as he told his little tales and his lessons began registering within me.

One of his stories was a short retelling of a classic lecture called Acres of Diamonds from Russell H. Conwell (1843-1925), an interesting fellow who was a Baptist minister, a lawyer, a philanthropist and the founder and first president of Temple University. The lecture, one that Conwell delivered over 5000 times during his lifetime, made the point that the riches we seek are often right in our own backyards. His tale is of an African farmer who sells his farm in order to go in search of diamonds and finds nothing but failure that ends with his suicide. Meanwhile, the man who took over the farm found an abundance of diamonds and ended up with one of the largest diamond mines in Africa.

There were a lot of lessons to be learned from this tale. obviously. But the primary lesson for me was that I had to leave the car business– it was not my backyard. It was the place to which I had come in search of my own diamonds. I had not even, at that point, began to search my own backyard.

I am not sure if that was the message that management had been hoping would sink in.

Or maybe it was. 

Their intent didn’t matter as I was soon on a different path, one that ultimately led me here, thankfully.

The other part of Nightingale’s message was that you had to set a course, aim for a destination. Everything was possible if you knew where you wanted to go and truly set your mind to it. He gave a laundry list of great human accomplishments that were achieved once we put our minds and wills in motion towards their fulfillment.

That resonated strongly with me. I had seen many people over the years who seemed deeply unhappy in their lives and most had no direction going forward, no destination for which they were working. Aimless, they drifted like a rudderless boat on the sea, going wherever the strongest current took them without having any influence over this motion.

If you can name it, you can do it in some form. Having a desired destination allows the mind, often subconsciously, to create a course that leads to that place.

As I said, it’s funny how things influence you. It’s been over thirty years since I heard those words but they still resonate strongly with me, even now. I try to be always conscious of the goals I set, knowing that the mind and the universe will always try to make a way for the possibility of achievement.



I run this post about every five years or so. As I say, there are lessons to be learned in every endeavor we undertake. Every job I ever held gave me something more than a paycheck. They showed me what I was and was not. In this case, I learned to work the fields that I knew and loved. 

It was a good lesson.

Read Full Post »



Every time I start a picture… I feel the same fear, the same self-doubts… and I have only one source on which I can draw, because it comes from within me.

–Federico Fellini



I know that Fellini was talking about starting a film production in the quote above but it translates pretty neatly to the beginning of almost every painting for me.

There is always some level of self-doubt involved. I find myself doubting my abilities, my imagination, my drive, my vision, and even the quality of my paint or the amount of light in my studio, among a hundred other things.

Anything that gives me some sort of reason me to not do what I know I need to do.

And like Fellini points out, the only answer to this doubt is within myself. I can look to other creators and see how they have overcome their own doubts but, like so many things in art, every artist has a truly unique set of circumstances. The only thing all have in common is the desire and need to create, to express their vision and voice.

So, you learn to trust that desire and need. Trust that you are good enough. Trust that what you will do next will move you closer to realizing that vision and voice. Trust that there is real emotion and feeling behind what you are attempting.

That last one is a big one for me.

I have found that when I put concept before feeling, my attempts most often fail miserably.  By that I mean if I start a painting with a strong visual idea in mind but one that is not formed in emotion or doesn’t have some real personal feeling attached to it, sometimes it fails to take on real life. It might carry out the concept but it just lies there like a dead fish.

I have some of those dead fish here in the studio. I look at them and remember the original idea that I had when I first embarked on them. I also remember the feeling of deflation when I realized that I had no emotional attachment to them, sometimes early in the process. Things just don;t come together in the way I thought they might. There is flatness and shallow where I saw richness and depth in my mind.

Dead fish.

However, there is a caveat. Sometimes, when starting on a concept piece, things fall into place and momentum and feeling build. Attributes that were not seen in the original thought process appear and those I hoped for emerge stronger and more vibrant than envisioned.

The excitement of creation transforms into real feeling and the fish that looked like it might be dead begins to come to life on the surface of the painting. 

The feeling of seeing your work come to life, or at least the prospect of it, might be enough to overcome that initial doubt for me.  The words and advice from other artists might offer comfort but my own need to do what I do and to experience that thrill of creation are what get me past the hesitancy and dreadful doubt I face each time I stand before my easel or painting table. 

Okay, got to go. There are dead fish waiting for me. I think I might be able to put a little life in them if I just can get started.

Have a good day.

Read Full Post »



“There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and will be lost.”

― Martha Graham



I was thinking about a recent comment on social media below one of my paintings where the commenter said that the piece made this person feel as though they were wasting their time with their own painting. They added that this wouldn’t stop them from continuing to paint.

I can’t tell you how relieved I was at that. While I gladly accepted the implied compliment of the first part of the comment I was mortified by the idea that someone would not continue painting because of my work.

And this was mainly because I had been at that same point early on, when as a novice painter I would look at artists whose work was fully realized, who through hard work had found their own style and voice. At that point, in comparison to the famed artists whose careers were full and complete, I felt inferior and dejected, thinking that maybe this wasn’t the path for me after all.

Maybe I should give it up and try another path or just give up altogether.

But I had a thought in my head very similar to the words at the top from the late dancer/choreographer Martha Graham. I truly believed that I had something inside me that needed expression and since there was only one of me in this world, whatever came out, good or bad, would be uniquely mine. At that point, I wasn’t thinking about selling my work or galleries or a lifelong career. It was just about getting the inner thing that was distinctly mine out into the world, if only to say, “Like it or not, here I am.

I believed then and now that we are all distinct creatures. We are all unique endpoints of evolution, ancestry, and experience. Even those people with almost identical evolution and ancestry often have widely varying experiential differences and influences. I see this with my own brother and sister.

Nobody has your exact pedigree. Nobody has your exact life experiences. Nobody has your exact way of seeing and feeling.

You are the unique and only you.

Your expression has meaning. It may not be pleasing to everyone or may not speak to all but it is yours alone.

This thought sustained me early on and it still does. I sometimes look at what I do and am deeply unsatisfied, thinking that I will never be at the point of which I think I am capable, never reach the endpoint I have formed in my mind. I see nothing but flaws and inadequacies at that moment.

But then I think, “This is me. For better or worse, nobody else could have done this.

The endpoint doesn’t matter. It’s simply taking the journey that counts.

You don’t have to be perfect. You don’t have to be the best. You have to just try to show what you truly are– the unique and only you. Let the world know it.

And have a good day doing so.

 

Read Full Post »

“Come Days of Color”- Now at the West End Gallery



Not knowing how near the truth is, we seek it far away.

― Hakuin Ekaku



Wise words from Hakuin Ekaku, the 18th century Japanese Zen Buddhist master. You have probably heard of his famed kōan (a short story, statement, or question meant to test a Zen student’s progress) that basically asks: What is the sound of one hand clapping?

Heady stuff. But today we’re focusing on two of his thoughts, the one at the top and this gem:

At this moment, is there anything lacking? Nirvana is right here now before our eyes. This place is the lotus land. This body now is the Buddha.

We are creatures of desire and envy. We want constantly what others have, somehow thinking it offers us some intangible that will somehow provide us with lasting happiness. We envy other places, seeing in them qualities that we believe are lacking in those places we now occupy and believing that those places will provide a higher level of happiness or contentment.

But is happiness better found in more things or in far flung places? As Hakuin points out, in this moment, is there anything lacking? What prevents you from knowing what your happiness or what your truth might be?

Those two things–truth and happiness– are interior qualities. No place or thing can provide lasting truth or happiness. The secret is in not straining for these things but in recognizing that they are at hand, available if only you open yourself to them.

You may still want to to improve things in your life, acquire things or even physically move. But remember that they are not the way to contentment because it is already here, wherever that might be.

I write these words as a reminder to myself. I am as susceptible as anyone to falling to the lure of thinking that I can find happiness in external things and places. But a simple reminder helps me remember the happiness found in simple things, in recognizing the good things present in the humblest moments.

I thought about just that the other day. I was trudging through the mud outside my studio, a common thing at this wet time of the year. At first, it made me cringe and grump about it for a bit. Then I wondered why it bothered me so. It was part of the place that is a very important piece of my life and simply a product of the ever changing seasons. Soon it would be dry and grass would again be growing. I changed my point of view and felt a pang of happiness in that wet moment.

Contentment.

Simple things are not necessarily small things.

And vice versa.



This post ran on the blog several years ago but I thought it matched up well with the new small painting at the top, Come Days of Color. which is part of the upcoming Little Gems show at the West End Gallery. The exhibit opens Friday, February 12.

I see much of the message of this post in this painting, about fully appreciating the fullness and beauty of all things within your reach. We often see the days of our lives as drab and dreary but there is great color to be found if only we attempt to see the beauty contained in all things.

Hope you see some color in your days. Have a good one.

Read Full Post »

kandinsky

 



Lend your ears to music, open your eyes to painting, and… stop thinking! Just ask yourself whether the work has enabled you to ‘walk about’ into a hitherto unknown world. If the answer is yes, what more do you want?

Wassily Kandinsky



Still working on getting my creative engines revved up and ready to go. Normal for me at this point n the year. One thing that usually helps me in these times is turning to the words and works of Wassily Kandinsky.

Several years ago in a short post here, I shared the quote above and a great little film from Alfred Imageworks that features an animation of the elements from some of Kandinsky’s great paintings as well a film from 1926 of Kandinsky creating a drawing with these same elements.

These always seem to help me in some way that I can’t quantify. Maybe I should take Kandinsky’s advice and stop thinking on this.

Anyway, thought they’d be worth revisiting today before I get down to real work.

Take a look if you are so inclined and then have yourself a good day, again, if you are so inclined.

STEREOSCOPIC FOR EXHIBITION – KANDINSKY from Alfred Imageworks on Vimeo.



Read Full Post »

Franz Marc- The Yellow Cow 1911



Traditions are lovely things- to create traditions, that is, not to live off of them… the great shapers do not search for their form in the fogs of the past.

–Franz Marc



I chose today’s quote from German painter Franz Marc (1880-1916) because he was an influence for me early in my career. Not so much in the style or subject matter that he employed but more in attitude. I admired the fact that he created work that stood out and was identifiable as his from across a gallery space.

His work, vision, and voice were his alone, never aspiring to follow the style or schools of others. This is basically what he is pointing towards in the aphorism above– to not toil in the fields planted by earlier artists but to carve out your own space and work it in the way that suits and  best expresses you.

Franz Marc- Large Blue Horses

Franz Marc- Large Blue Horses

He is not downplaying the influences of the past. Early in his career Marc copied the works of other artists from before and contemporary to him. Doing so allowed him to pick and choose the elements in the works of others that meshed with his vision, allowing him to use these found elements to create his own avenue of expression.

He did not want to remain a replicator but wanted instead to be a creator. He wanted to work in a field that he had planted and nurtured. One that was his own.

And that was the attraction for me.

Of course, there was safety and security in remaining in the larger symbolic field with others but it would often be as an anonymous member of a larger group, your furrow always directly compared to the furrow of those alongside you, your harvest always compared to those of others.

Breaking away and heading out was risky. You had to believe that in taking this leap of faith that you would be able to work your little spot in your own way away from others and produce a harvest that is uniquely appetizing to others in some manner. But you might end up toiling in barren soil, creating crops that appealed to no one but yourself. It was scary to think that your field might never expand but you were at least nourishing yourself.

This was the type of thinking that drove my work early on, fueled by looking at the work of Marc and others who veered from the traditions of the past in their times.

Unfortunately, Franz Marc only worked his fields for a relatively short time, dying in WW I at the Battle of Verdun. He was a mere 36 years old. But his crop still lives on, surviving being labeled as degenerate art in the 1930’s by Hitler and the Nazi regime.

It is unique and in his own tradition.

I believe that the lives and careers of artists  like Franz Marc provide valuable lessons for any aspiring artist, even in this world and creative environment that is vastly different than the one that Marc inhabited.

I know it helped me. 



Back trying to take a hiatus. This post ran six years ago but it’s one that I felt deserved another run. Unlike the traditions that sustain and give meaning to our everyday lives, art often occurs when the traditions of art are set aside. I think that is what Marc was talking about here and I believe it is an important thought to keep in mind for those who have their own voice heard.

Back to plowing. Again. Have a good day.



Franz Marc- The Waterfall 1912

Franz Marc- The Waterfall 1912

 

Franz Marc- Horse and Eagle 1912

Read Full Post »

“The Observer” At the West End Gallery



The heights charm us, but the steps do not; with the mountain in our view we love to walk the plains.

― Johann Wolfgang von Goethe



Isn’t this the truth?

We often aspire to greater heights, setting a course for bigger and better things, only at some point along the way finding ourselves unwilling to actually do the hard climbing required to reach our desired destination. 

I know that I have walked the plains for some time, all the time charmed by the heights ahead. They are often far in the distance but sometimes they loom so close that they seem easily attainable. But like most of us, I usually turn away from the harder paths that go directly to the higher ground and take those easier but less rewarding lower ones, all the while searching for some shortcut that will send me around the the difficult part of the climb.

Of course, time shows that there are no true shortcuts.

You have to put in the heavy climbing yourself.

This is a metaphor that could represent so many aspects of our lives beyond its obvious reference to personal aspiration but for this morning, I am leaving it as it is. Feel free to insert your own perspective and interpretation into it.

The thing I hope you take away from this is that we, individually and as a whole, must aspire to greater heights for our betterment. Then we must be willing to do the heavy climbing, pulled up by others from above while ourselves pulling up those still below us. Otherwise, we’re destined to roam the plains aimlessly.

Start your climb today. Have a good one.

Read Full Post »

“The Walking Man I” — Alberto Giacometti



Artistically I am still a child with a whole life ahead of me to discover and create. I want something, but I won’t know what it is until I succeed in doing it.

–Alberto Giacometti



The short statement above from the late artist Alberto Giacometti perfectly captures a feeling that has been with me for a long time now.

Now well into middle age, I have been a professional painter now for over twenty five years and have did okay with my career in art. I do what I want basically, earn a decent living, get some recognition here and there and have established my own little niche with my work.

It’s a decent place to be at this point in my career and a lot of young artists would love to be in my position.

But most days, even when I feel the tiredness from the wear and tear of the years weighing on me physically, I still feel new to this whole art thing, like I have just scratched the surface with my work. As Giacometti points out, I feel like there is a whole life, an endless horizon, ahead of me that is filled with all sorts of new possibilities.

New forms, new expressions, new inspirations, new voices and more– all yet unseen and unknown. Just something.

And again like Giacometti, I feel a huge gnawing desire to find that something but don’t have a clue as to what it might yet be.

That was the same feeling that I had when I was first experimenting with painting years ago. I had a hazy vision in the recesses of my mind that I wanted to pull out but didn’t truly know what it was or what it might look like until it had emerged. When it did finally come out, I instantly recognized it for what it was and what it could mean for me. I ran with the inspiration from it for many years.

But at some point during these years, I began to sense that another vision of the same sort resides somewhere down there in my mind, one that had yet to be found. One that I won’t know until it comes out.

So, though I am a sometimes tired middle-aged guy, I know that I am still a child artistically, one who still sees the whole wide world and all its potential before him.

I work and wait in anticipation that this child’s voice will someday be heard.

 

Read Full Post »



Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.

― Clare Boothe Luce



This post ran a few years back on this same date, December 7. Every time I come across this entry while scrolling through older posts it stops me cold. The purity of the color, the clarity, the compositions and the absolute simplicity, along with the sophistication mentioned by Claire Boothe Luce above, of it all just capture me wholly. It just makes me feel content and satisfied as a human.

But at the same time, as an artist, it also makes me feel discontented and a bit unsatisfied because it stirs my creative juices, reminds me that I haven’t yet reached that same feeling of contentment and happiness that I know is potentially there within my own work. 

That’s the yardstick I use when looking at the work of other artists– how much it makes me want to work even harder. And the work of Lillian May Miller does just that. Take a look.



 

I came across the work of Lilian May Miller only recently and was instantly infatuated with her beautiful woodblock prints. The colors and compositions just ring true for me and they seem to create a bridge between the traditional and the modern forms of the woodblock art form. I am showing quite a few of her pieces here but I could easily show many dozens more.

Miller was an interesting person as well. She was born in Tokyo in 1895 to American parents, her father a diplomat. She was enrolled in the atelier of a famed Japanese printmaker at the age of 9 and had her first exhibit at the age of 14. She shuttled back and forth between Japan and  and the United States  (where she graduated from Vassar) throughout her life, including considerable time spent in Korea when her father was stationed there for the State Department.

She saw herself as an envoy or messenger between the cultures of the East and the West. When in Japan, she dressed in a uniquely Western fashion, wearing ties and sport jackets and sporting a cropped haircut. When she made presentation back in the States, she often did so wearing traditional Japanese kimonos.

Miller achieved a degree of recognition for her work in the years leading up to World War II. However, she was devastated by the Japanese attack –which, by the way, occurred on this date in 1941– feeling that it was a personal betrayal of her love for that country. She worked for a counter propaganda unit of the Navy in 1942 until a large malignant tumor resulting from abdominal cancer was found.

She died in January of 1943 at the age of 47.

Her work and her story has slid somewhat into the ashes of art history. But much of her work remains and it doesn’t take much to see the brilliance of it at its best. It will pull its way back to light sometime soon.

This is a very quick and incomplete synopsis of her life. There was recently a more complete article on Miller on the Atlas Obscura site recently that you can read by clicking here. There is also a book, Between Two Worlds, that details her life and work.

For now, enjoy these images.

 

Read Full Post »



“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. 

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

<span>%d</span> bloggers like this: