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GC Myers-  October Sky sm



I am currently in the midst of painting for my annual June show at the Principle Gallery and am in what I believe is a pretty good groove at the moment. I was thinking about how I view my work at these times, about how it is about how I am painting rather than what I am painting. It reminded me of this post from a few years ago that shows closeup details of the painting’s surface. These details are actually how I see my work most of the time, especially when in a groove. And probably as much as I see them as a whole. Made me think this post was worth revisiting.



I was looking for something to play this morning and put on this album, Blues Twilight, from jazz trumpet player Richard Boulger. I’ve played a couple of tracks from this album here over the years.

While the title track was playing I went over to over to a painting that hangs in my studio, the one shown above. It’s an experiment titled October Sky from a few years back that is a real favorite of mine. I showed it for only a short time before deciding that I wanted it hanging in the studio. I never really worked any further in the direction this piece was taking me. Part of that decision to not go further was purely selfish, wanting to keep something solely for myself, something that wasn’t subject to other people’s opinions.

A strictly personal piece. A part of the prism that doesn’t show.

I look at it every day but generally it is from a distance, taking it in as a whole. But his morning, while the album’s title track played I went and really looked hard at it, up close so that every bump and smear was obvious. And I liked what I was seeing, so much so that I grabbed my phone and began snapping little up close chunks of it.

It all very much felt like the music, like captured phrases or verses. Each had their own nuance, color and texture and they somehow blended into a harmonic coherence that made the piece feel complete.

It’s funny but sometimes when I am working hard and in a groove that takes over from conscious thought, I almost forget about those things that I myself like in my work because I don’t have to think about them in the process of creating the work. Looking at this painting this close made me appreciate the painting even more, made me think about it in a different way than the manner in which I now used to seeing it.

Guess it’s a good thing to stop every now and then and look at what you’ve done, up close and personal.

Here’s Blues Twilight from Richard Boulger. Enjoy the music and take a look at the snips, if you so wish. But definitely have a good day.





GC Myers- October Sky detailGC Myers- October Sky detail20180415_07492420180415_07490820180415_07485920180415_072615



 

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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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Hey, today is the birthday of Vincent Van Gogh, who was born on this day back in 1853. I thought it might be fitting to rerun a post from several years back about Van Gogh’s self portraits and the lessons they offer.



van gogh self-portraitI showed this short video here about six years back, in 2010. It’s a compilation of morphing self portraits from Vincent Van Gogh put together by video maker Phillip Scott Johnson that I found intriguing then and now.

It’s a short piece, less than a minute in length, and it’s interesting to see how the familiar views of Van Gogh relate to one another and how his appearance or, at least his perception of it, changed through the years. For me, Van Gogh’s self portraits are among the most revealing and compelling of any artist. His state of mind is evident in each piece, with some showing a vibrant, seemingly healthy man and others showing the more tortured Van Gogh that we tend to think of as the man.

Seeing them together as in this video allow you to see the changes in the man and in his art that take place over time. Interesting.

I also found it interesting now because I have been spending some time recently looking at my own older work in a different way. I am often not looking at the pictures as whole images. Instead, I have been looking at the individual marks I am using in each and seeing how it has changed through the years. Or how it has stayed the same in some cases.

I’ve always said that my painting for me was a continuum that, while changing all the time, always seemed the same to me– always in the present. But looking at it in this manner I am finding that my mark-making does change periodically which fundamentally changes the way a picture is painted and how it emerges in the end.

It’s not something I often think about– I just paint in whichever way the moment strikes me. Sometimes it is dependent on the condition of the brush or the weight and quality of the paint I am using. As a brush ages and wears, especially with the rough treatment given to them by me, it makes a more and more distinct mark that I find appealing. Looking back, I can often tell when I am using fresh or old brushes.

So, I watched this film in the same way and it is fascinating to just look at Van Gogh’s mark-making throughout without focusing on the faces. It is varied and each differing style serves the image in different ways. Some marks are wildly expressive and others small and quietly acting in service to the greater whole.

As I said, it’s less than minute and interesting even if you don’t give a damn about the mark-making part of it.



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Folk Blues- LeRon's Yellow Guitar -GC Myers 1994



This morning, I thought I would combine another old piece with this week’s Sunday morning musical selection. The painting above is one of my earliest pieces, completed in early 1994.

It was at a point before I had what I considered then and now to be a breakthrough with my work. I was still working with watercolors solely and using them in as close to a traditional manner as someone who is self-taught can. I still find the qualities of that medium really appealing and use many of them– in a manner that is adjusted to fit the way I think– in much of what I call my transparent work with inks.

This piece was titled which meant that I saw something in it that deserved a name. That’s one way I judge some of this earliest work. There are some pieces in my files that don’t have titles which means that while I may like the piece or see something of value in it, I don’t feel it is complete and whole.

I think I saw this piece as being whole even though at the time I didn’t feel it was good enough to exhibit. Maybe it wasn’t that I didn’t think it was good enough, maybe it was more that by the time I was showing my work a year after this my work had changed, moved away from this style.

It’s titled Folk Blues/ LeRon’s Yellow Guitar. It certainly has flaws but there is much in it that I like.

Anyway, thought this would pair up with an old blues tune written and first recorded in the 1920’s, Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out. This version is from early blues artist Scrapper Blackwell who is an interesting case.

Blackwell was born in South Carolina in 1903 and moved to Indianapolis, Indiana as a child. He built a cigar box guitar and taught himself to play, becoming a performer in the Indy/ Chicago areas as a teenager. Around this time he met and partnered with pianist Leroy Carr. In the late 1920’s until around 1935, the two were very successful as songwriting and recording artists. One of their best known songs was Kokomo Blues which was later transformed into the song most of us know as Sweet Home Chicago.

The duo lived pretty large at that time with lots of drink and partying. However, Carr died from physical complications from this lifestyle in 1935. Blackwell floundered for a couple of years before dropping out of the musical scene altogether. He settled into an obscure life in Indianapolis as a manual laborer in an asphalt plant for the next 20 years. In the late 1950’s he reemerged as a musician, recording several albums of his early blues over the next few years. The song below was recorded during this period and is pretty poignant in that at that time he truly knew the highs of stardom and the lows of poverty and obscurity.

His renewed career was taking hold at a time when the blues were undergoing a revival in the early 1960’s when he was shot and killed while being mugged in an Indy alley in 1962. He was 59. As a result, his influence in the blues revival never really extended out to the wider audiences that other blues artists were able to tap into in the mid 1960’s. Most of you have most likely never heard of Scrapper Blackwell.

This is a really nice recording of an old blues song. The kind of song LeRon at the top would feel right at home with. Give a listen to Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out.



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GC Myers- The Sky Is Always the Sky 1995 sm



There is one spectacle grander than the sea, that is the sky; there is one spectacle grander than the sky, that is the interior of the soul.

Victor Hugo, Les Misérables



Thought I’d share another older piece, one that also never found its way out of the studio. Some times the reason they stay with me is obvious and other times not so much. This small piece falls in the not so much category.

It’s from mid 1995, not long after I first started showing my work publicly. Across the bottom of the piece of watercolor paper on which it is painted is the title The Sky Is Always the Sky along with the date it was painted in 1995.

Looking at it now, I can’t figure out why I felt it wasn’t worthy to show at that time. I am actually pretty pleased to be able to show it now. It has much in it that I wish would show up in my work now, twenty five years later.

For example, its utter simplicity and the gracefulness of its linework. Well, my definition of gracefulness, anyway. There’s also the way the layers of color go together so well with the grainy pigments of the cobalt blue settling into the shallow pits of the paper above a sepia underlayer.

Looking at it, I realize that many of the changes that took place in the following years in my work were material related. A few years after this I went from employing traditional watercolors in my work to acrylic inks. The difference is that the inks have a more and finer pigments which make their colors more explosive, more impactful. There is a difference in the more subtle aspects of the watercolors that is hard to replicate with the inks. This piece is an example, at least by my analysis.

Another difference was that I also began using a gessoed surface a few years later which also brought dramatic changes to the work. The positives of using gesso outweigh not using it for me but the beauty of cotton watercolor paper and its tactile appearance is undeniable.

The other difference was that the brushes I was using at the time were  wonderful Winsor & Newton round brushes that have long since been discontinued. These round brushes had a different brush profile than almost any other round brush I have been able to find since that time. I use a round brush almost all the time in my wet work even when a flat brush might sometimes be a more obvious choice. I like the organic quality it gives the work and the linework it produces. Brush choice has a big impact on how the work appears and I am still trying to find brushes that have the same qualities as those old W&N brushes.

Anyway, looking at this old piece again so closely gives me inspiration, makes me want to revisit those elements that make it work so well for me. We’ll see

Here’s an old Chris Isaak song, a favorite that is centered around a particular blue sky. It’s the tone I would like for this piece. Here’s Blue Spanish Sky.



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GC Myers- After PartyTurn out the lights, the party’s over
They say that, ‘All good things must end’
Let’s call it a night, the party’s over
And tomorrow starts the same old thing again

–Willie Nelson, The Party’s Over



 

This is a new small painting that is going to be part of my annual solo show at the Principle Gallery in  Alexandria, VA. This year’s show is called Between Here and There and opens Friday, June 4th.

This might be an odd choice to be the first piece shown from this year’s show. It’s called After Party and is one of those pieces I often do mainly for myself. Actually, most of the work I do is for myself first.

But this and others like it might be even more so. They just really satisfy some need inside of me, something that wants to come out.

Plus, they usually make me smile or sigh. I know that this one did both.

I am not going to get into what I see in this for myself. I would rather you have your own interpretation on this one.

I will say that I immediately thought of the old Willie Nelson song, The Party’s Over, that he wrote way back in the 1950’s. A lot of us remember Dandy Don Meredith wailing it during the early years of Monday Night Football ( with Howard Cosell) when the game’s results seemed inevitable. I have been listening to a remake of this old classic as done by the Atlanta-based group Manchester Orchestra. They employ the basic structure and chorus of the song but add a bit to the song. Some may not like the idea of toying with another’s song but I think it works well here and I kind of like it for this painting.

Give a listen, if you like.



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If you can’t dig this, you got a hole in your soul– and that ain’t good.

–John Lee Hooker



On some Sunday mornings, the day I always choose a song to feature, it’s a struggle trying to find what i consider is the right song for that morning. I want it to reflect how I am feeling and maybe set the tone for the rest of the day. 

This morning I was in the studio at 5:30, wanting to get an early jump on my day of painting. I began looking for a song that I though might match with the painting above, River Angel. I thought of a couple of other songs with river in their titles but when this song clicked in my head, I knew it was the one.

River Deep, Mountain High as sung by Tina Turner in 1966, produced by Phil Spector. He was crazy and dangerously despicable but, man, he made some great records. Immortal recordings.

This is one of those.

It only takes about 30 seconds for Tina to reach full emotional intensity. And she never lets down from point on. It just roars and soars above the high mountaintops.

I just love this recording. My day feels like it off to the races already. Like the late great John Lee Hooker says at the top– If you can’t dig this, you got a hole in your soul– and that ain’t good.

Hope you dig it.



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GC Myers- Rest Stop sm

“Rest Stop” – Currently at the West End Gallery



A man must find time for himself. Time is what we spend our lives with. If we are not careful we find others spending it for us. . . . It is necessary now and then for a man to go away by himself and experience loneliness; to sit on a rock in the forest and to ask of himself, ‘Who am I, and where have I been, and where am I going?’ . . . If one is not careful, one allows diversions to take up one’s time—the stuff of life

― Carl Sandburg



This painting, Rest Stop, which is at the West End Gallery in Corning, is a favorite of mine. It might be in the colors or textures, those elements that often reach out to me, but it’s more likely because it’s message speaks clearly to me.

We all need to periodically stop the busyness of our lives, if only for a few moments. A short spell to pause everything and appreciate where we are in the present, to ponder how we came to be there, and to imagine where the future will take us.

An interlude to see how the past, present and future exist within us.

That’s the message I get from this painting. Now, doing such a thing is another animal altogether. For many of us, just stopping everything seems an impossibility. Or many may think such a thing is simple foolishness with no real purpose. Or some might feel that the prospect of actually thinking about anything, especially anything to do with their own life, is too tall a task.

But for some of us, these moments of ponderance are a necessity. They simply make life bearable. They create reason and meaning in a world that often seems to lack both. Those are the moments that define purpose at times when we need to know there is indeed purpose.

I get all of this with a glance at this painting. And I think that’s why I place so much stock in this piece– it speaks volumes with a so little effort. That’s the opposite of my writing or any form of expression with words.

Even this short re-examination of this painting is a form of pausing, of reflecting on what is now, what was then and what will will be. And maybe that’s the purpose of this piece and of art, in general.

Got to think about that…

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GC Myers- Far Away Eyes



Seems like a recurring theme lately with me starting most posts by saying that I am busy and eager to get to work. That’s actually a good thing for me. That eagerness to get to it is something that is not just there. It is cultivated, a result of previous actions. It usually means I am doing the right things (at least, for me) in my creative process.

So, while I wish I were willing to spend more time writing this morning’s post I am glad to want to get to my work.

But I wanted to share the painting above, Far Away Eyes, that is currently at the West End Gallery. I wrote about this piece last July and rereading that post reminded me of the struggle that I had with it. It was one of the first pieces I worked on during the early days of the pandemic. I had no momentum, no energy, little inspiration nor any eagerness to be at work. My mind was wholly distracted.

This piece though fought with me and made me work. Made me shut out the outer world for a time so that I could focus my mind on it, to become part of it.

To put it plainly, it didn’t come easy. That’s probably why this piece resonates so strongly with me. I think we all appreciate those things that make us struggle, that make us be at our best. We might be frustrated and demoralized during the battle but the result, the overcoming, makes us forget that. I know that the struggle in this piece had slipped my mind until I read the post that was written soon after this painting was completed, when the battle was still fresh in mind.

I now appreciate it for what it is, the force it possesses and not for what it provided in its creation.

As it should be.

The title for this song  was borrowed from an old Rolling Stones song from their 1978 Some Girls album. I didn’t mention it in the original post about the painting because I didn’t think the song itself fully lined up with the piece but its title did. But now, I’m not so sure.

Give a listen and you decide.



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Ah, St. Patrick’s Day. I grew up not knowing our genealogy. My mother, who would have been 89 today, was from the O’Dell family so we assumed we had Irish blood. But years later I discovered that the O’Dell name in our line had transformed over the years from the Woddell name. We were English, not Irish.

But while doing this research on my father’s side, which we always thought of as German, I found that his grandmother, my great-grandmother (who drowned in a canal in Allentown, PA just days after my dad was born but that’s another story) was fully Irish. I found out quite a bit more about her family’s past here in America though little of the actual Irish roots. However, my DNA has me at about 1/3 Irish

A few years ago I painted a small series of paintings of ancestors that I called Icons. One was of my great-great grandmother, Mary Tobin. I am including a post, sort of tragic in an Irish way, from a few years ago about her along with a song, The Donegal Set, from those venerable Irish musicians, The Chieftains.

Have an enjoyable St. Patrick’s Day. Or just a nice Wednesday, if that appeals more to you.



From 2016:

One of the things I am trying to emphasize with this current Icon series is the fact that we are all flawed in some way, that we all have deficiencies and stumbles along the way. Yet, uncovering these faults in my research, I find myself holding affection for many of these ancestors that dot my family tree. Perhaps it is the simple fact that without them I would not be here or perhaps I see some of my own flaws in them.

I’m still working on that bit of psychology.

The 12″ by 12″ canvas shown here is titled Icon: Mary T. She is my great-great grandmother. Born Mary Anne Ryan of Irish immigrant parents in the Utica area she married Michael Tobin, an Irishman ( I believe he was from County Kerry but the research is still up in the air on this) who came to the States around 1850, right in the midst of the Great Irish Immigration.

Michael worked on the railroads being built throughout central New York in the late 1800’s. Following the progress of the railroads, the couple and their growing family worked their way down through the state towards Binghamton, NY where they eventually settled. Mary Anne eventually ended up as a housekeeper in a prominent home in the area. Michael died around 1890 although records are sketchy on this and Mary died at my great-grandmother’s home on Church Street in Elmira in 1914.

All told, they had seven daughters and three sons. Most worked in the then booming tobacco industry of that time and place. Most of her daughters worked as tobacco strippers and some worked as cigar rollers, as did her sons.

That’s the simple telling of the story. Looking into the back stories provide a little more depth which can sometimes change all perceptions.

None of her sons ever married and all were had desperate problems with alcohol. One son was listed in a newspaper report from some years later as having been arrested for public drunkenness around 40 times over the years, seven times in one year. He was also arrested for running a still more than once during the prohibition years. Two of her sons died in institutions where they had been placed for their alcoholism.

A Silk Spencer

A Silk Spencer

I came across a story in the local Binghamton newspapers about Mary and two of her daughters, who were also working as domestics with here in the prominent Binghamton home owned by a local attorney and nephew of the founder of Binghamton. In 1874, the story reports that a number  of items came up missing from her employer, including a “forty dollar silk spencer,” which is a sort of short garment like the one shown here at the right. Her neighbors informed the owner of the spencer that Mary had a number of the stolen items in her possession and a search warrant was sworn out.

Detectives came to the Tobin home and made a thorough search but turned up nothing. They then tore up the carpets which revealed a trap door that led to a small basement. There they found many of the stolen items but no spencer. But they did find a silk collar that had been attached to it.  

Mary and her two daughters were arrested.

Mary did finally claim to be the sole thief and her daughters were released. I have yet to find how this particular story ends and how Mary was punished but based on the futures of some of her children I can’t see it being a happy ending. 

Doing this painting, I was tempted to make my Mary a bit harsher, a lit more worn. But as I said, there’s some sort of strange ancestral affection at play even though I know she was obviously a flawed human. She’s smaller and more delicate looking in the painting than I imagine she was in reality. In the only photo we have of her daughter, my great grandmother, was sturdy looking lady. But maybe making her a bit less harsh is a little gift to my great-great grandmother for the information her story reveals about the future of my family.

This is a simple painting because, as I pointed out, this is a simple story at its surface. It’s the story of many, many families.



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