I have been busy in the studio preparing for my upcoming shows and find myself working on a new piece on a canvas measuring 16″ high by 40″ wide.
After the canvas has been prepped with multiple layers of gesso and a layer of black paint, I compose the painting by laying in the elements of the picture in red oxide paint.
This is my favorite part of the process, the time when I can just let my mind fall into the picture and roll around all the possibilities that it offers. Every stroke is a decision and most are made instinctively, letting the surrounding elements and the underlying texture dictate the next move.
As the piece progresses, the painting takes on its personality in a warm glow of varying reddish tones. At this point I decide where I want to place the focus for the painting. Here I want it to be all about the sky. Painting the sky at this point is not always the norm. Sometimes I go to work on the landscape first, letting it tell me how I will treat the sky. But on this piece the sky comes first, so I begin to lay in colors radiating from around the sun. Or moon. Nothing is really set in stone- or paint-at this point.
As the sky progresses , I veer off momentarily to lay in a little color on the houses and the flat fields that occupy the middle of the painting. I am now at a point where I still have work to do on the sky but the painting is beginning to speak plainly to me. I know what it is and have a fairly good idea of where it can go. I say fairly good because there is still a lot of decisions that will affect the final version. The colors of the landscape, for example, and their intensity and tones.
I am almost always at my most deepest level of infatuation with the piece when I am at this point in the process. The moodiness of the red tones have a shadowy effect that pleases me, that makes the sky contrast a bit more than it may after the colors of the landscape are added. I find myself asking this morning if I should forgo the colors I normally add and focus on creating a tonal composition based on the red oxide. It would be a darker piece than my normal work but if it works as I hope it might, it would carry that feeling that always hooks me as I am working.
So this morning I am sitting here looking over at the easel and deciding if I will spend the day in bright color or in shades of russet.
I like a job where that might be the hardest decision that must be made today…
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I’m not a religious person and wasn’t raised with any religion in my life. Growing up, Easter was just another excuse to gorge myself on candy and boiled eggs.
But the idea of resurrection that this day represents is a potent theme, one that resonates deeply with me. I am not talking about actual resurrection, the rising from the grave type of thing. But the idea of rebirth, of washing away the past and beginning anew has always struck a chord within me.
Maybe that’s why I am a morning person. Each day is a personal resurrection of sorts. There is a new start each day the sun comes up, a new chance to redeem yourself in some way. So, in a way, Easter is just part of a continuum of constant rebirth, one that transcends personal religion.
For this Sunday morning music I am choosing a song that concerns itself with a more literal form of resurrection. It is Ain’t No Grave (Gonna Hold This Body Down) which was written in 1934 by Claude Ely. He was twelve years old at the time and was stricken with tuberculosis. His family is said to have prayed for his health to return and in response, he spontaneously performed this song.
I can’t attest to that part of the story but it is a pretty well known gospel standard now. This version is from the great Odetta.
The newer painting above is a small 8″ by 8″ panel that I call Resurrection. It feels very Easter-y to me.
Have a good Sunday.
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A child in India grows up with the idea that you have to make choices that will create a better future. In fact, your whole life is a continuum of choices, so the more conscious you are, the greater your life will be.
I don’t think many of us spend much time in considering the many choices that we make each day that make up our life. Indeed, the many choices we make that form our personality and our character.
And that’s a shame because we do have a great deal of control over who we are and how we live. More control than many of us would believe, especially those of us who make a choice not to choose, to live an unconscious life that takes little notice of the possible consequences of our decisions.
I see this new painting, an 18″ by 24″ canvas that I call The Choice, as a representation of those who decide the course of their lives. Clarity, light, and color make up this painting for me and I would like to think that is the same for those people who choose their own way.
Of course, there are bad decisions made after much deliberation. That is our But it seems to me that knowing why or how something has gone wrong makes the decision in how one deals with the consequences that much simpler. And being conscious of our decisions and actions makes it more likely that we can make adjustments as we move forward. Adjustments that will help us find the feeling represented in this piece.
I wrote this off the cuff this morning so maybe it won’t sound that good later today. But even so, there’s something about this piece that really appeals to me and pulls me in.
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The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.
– Friedrich Nietzsche
I am calling this new painting, a 30″ by 24″ canvas, Maverick. I hesitated about using that particular word for a bit, as it seemed a bit tainted for me by a certain past vice-presidential candidate from outside the lower 48 states. But it’s too good a word to let that person’s use of the word spoil it. A maverick is just a consciously active nonconformist, someone who makes the choice to separate themselves from the herd.
I think many of us would like to think of ourselves as nonconformists or mavericks. But I don’t know how many of us ever really deserve that label.
I know that I certainly don’t see myself as one, at least in the true sense of the word. I find myself all too often bending to the will of the crowd and staying in line. Oh, I still try to have my way and to do what I want in the manner that I want but I try to keep it low key without flaunting it or unnecessarily stepping on toes.
Maybe if you were able to use an adjective in front of the word. An anxious nonconformist or a fretting maverick. Maybe then I would put myself in that category.
And even then, probably not. I mean, what kind of maverick cares what they are called? They just want to do their thing without any hassle and the opinions of others be damned.
And that’s kind of what I see here with the Red Tree on a rocky outcropping away from the other multi-colored entities that seem to be primarily focused on the issues of themselves and their neighbors. Looking at the lower part of this piece reminds me of a microscope image of the endoplasm of an amoeba as it pulses and churns. It all seems inward and involved only with what is around it. It can’t see much beyond its own cell walls whereas the Red Tree, having freed itself from those struggles, is able to focus on other matters- the sea, the sky, the sun, and its place in that realm. A perspective that encompasses things well beyond itself.
Well, that’s my opinion. If you’re a maverick you most likely won’t give much of a damn what I think. Good for you.
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Posted in Favorite Things, Music, Painting, Recent Paintings, tagged Billie Holiday, Fred Astaire, GC Myers, George and Ira Gershwin, jazz, Music, New Painting, Red Tree on April 4, 2017|
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We may never never meet again, on that bumpy road to love
Still I’ll always, always keep the memory of
The way you hold your knife
The way we danced until three
The way you changed my life
No, no they can’t take that away from me
No, they can’t take that away from me
–George and Ira Gershwin, They Can’t Take That Away From Me, 1937
I was looking at the new painting shown at the top, 10″ by 30″ on canvas, trying to determine what it was saying to me. For some reason, those lines from a favorite Gershwin song kept popping into my mind–We may never never meet again, on that bumpy road to love/Still I’ll always, always keep the memory of…
The more I thought about it, the more I liked the way the song tied to the image. I think I’ll keep it that way in my mind. You can’t take that away from me.
The song, You Can’t Take That Away From Me, was written by the Gershwins and first performed by Fred Astaire in the 1937 movie Shall We Dance. George Gershwin died two months after the film’s release. Since that time the song has become one of the great entries to the American songbook, performed by a seemingly endless list of jazz and pop singers. There are so many great versions of this song by some of the greatest vocalists of all time that it’s hard to pick one that might stand out for everybody.
For myself, I always come back to the Billie Holiday covers. She started performing the song in 1937 and I like those early performances but the one below from 1957 is a favorite, a great version with top notch players backing her.
Give a listen. And pay heed to those deep memories that no one can take away from you.
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I finished this new painting a couple of weeks ago and it has been a piece that I’ve spent a lot of time looking at since its completion. It satisfies me on many different levels and simply raises a certain contentment within me. I guess that would be the textbook definition of what I am trying to do for myself with my work.
When I look at this piece, following the river upward where it converges with the sky with the sun at the center of it, I see a winged angel-like figure. This was not by design and it has become the focus of the painting for me. Perhaps this even adds to my engagement with this piece. That and the overall warmth of the colors and the pull towards the center created by the sky and sun.
There’s just a quality of attraction and completion in it for me that keeps me looking at it.
I was trying to name this piece while I was looking for a suitable bit of music for this Sunday morning selection. While I am not sure this will end up being the final title for this painting, I thought that the title from a somewhat obscure Bruce Springsteen song might fit.
The song is Lift Me Up and it was written in the late 90’s for a film, Limbo, from filmmaker John Sayles. The song is a quiet, almost pleading, song that features Bruce singing throughout in a falsetto that takes on a lovely and mesmerizing quality as the melody engulfs it.
I think it’s a nice fit for this painting, at least for this morning. I also threw in a companion song this morning. It’s a beautifully quiet version of If I Should Fall Behind that brings most of the other band members, including the late Clarence Clemons, forward to solo on the lyrics. Nice stuff. Have a good day…
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Scientific views end in awe and mystery, lost at the edge in uncertainty, but they appear to be so deep and so impressive that the theory that it is all arranged as a stage for God to watch man’s struggle for good and evil seems inadequate.
—Richard P. Feynman
We live always on the edge of certainty and uncertainty.
We know what we know and that sometimes seems like an unending body of knowledge. But we also know that there is much that we don’t know and perhaps will never know. And that seems even more vast and overwhelming.
There is so much we wish to know so that we can put our uncertainty to rest. So we strive, we seek, we explore, and we observe, always searching for the next answer, the one that will bring it all together.
But the next answer poses new questions and opens new frontiers of discovery. We gain knowledge but our certainty is shaken.
But the only thing we know to do is to continue onward, forever seeking certainty.
That’s what I see in this new painting, a 20″ by 44″ canvas that I am calling The Restless Edge. For me, the thought behind this piece is about living in a world that straddles that line between certainty and uncertainty. Between truth and untruth. Between belief and non-belief. Between wisdom and ignorance.
About living in and coming to terms that allow you to find moments of peace on that restless edge.
And that’s what I see here. You may not see it and that is as it should be.
One man’s uncertainty is another’s belief. Or something like that…
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