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Archive for the ‘Quote’ Category

Rene Magritte- The Empire of Light – Guggenheim Museum

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Life obliges me to do something, so I paint. 

–Rene Magritte

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I wasn’t sure what this post was going to be about when I started. Still don’t know, to be honest. I was simply going to put up a short quote with a painting or two by an artist, as I sometimes do. In this case the artist was the famed Surrealist Rene Magritte.

I liked the quote above. Simple. Concise. Right to the point.

Plus, I think it lines up with an answer that I sometimes give when someone asks how I became a painter. I will answer, “Hey, everybody has to do something.

That opens up what could be a whole philosophical discussion about what our obligations really are in our lives as humans.

Are we really obliged to do something?

I don’t know.

Maybe. I guess not doing something is, in it’s own way, doing something. I know that when I am not a painter I am, among many things, sometimes a lazy slob.

Life obliges me to do something, so I do nothing.

That doesn’t have quite the same cache as Magritte’s statement but it is sometimes true.

But for the most part, when life obliges me to do something, I paint.

Not like Magritte. In my own way, at my own pace and of my own choosing.

Hey, life can push me around but only so far.

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PS: I was going to write about the painting at the top which is one version of a painting, The Empire of Light, that Magritte painted fourteen times. The subject was not going to be about the night scene of this painting with a blue sky above. Rather, it was to be about the repetition of forms by artists, a subject to which I am well acquainted. Maybe next time.

Now, let’s look at some other Magritte paintings.

Rene Magritte- Decalcomania – 1966

Rene Magritte- The Mysteries of the Horizon 1928

Rene Magritte- The Son of Man 1964

Rene Magritte- The Beautiful Relations 1966

 

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In my picture of the world there is a vast outer realm and an equally vast inner realm; between these two stands man, facing now one and now the other, and, according to temperament and disposition, taking the one for the absolute truth by denying or sacrificing the other.

Carl Jung

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Time flies.

We’re looking at another decade slipping away. I originally didn’t give much thought to any way of marking this but in recent days began looking back at work from the past ten years, trying to to see if there was a single piece that summed it up for me.

That is really difficult. Even trying to choose a single painting that sums up a single show or year is often near impossible. There are favorites, pieces that speak to me more personally than others, but they often don’t reflect the body of work as a whole. But choosing one that stands as a symbol for ten years of hard work seems out of the question.

But I tried and came up with a few that stood out as possibilities. The painting at the top, for example. It’s The Internal Landscape from 2012. It’s a large piece, 4 1/2′ by 7′, and was the titular centerpiece of my show that year at the Fenimore Art Museum in Cooperstown, NY.

It’s a painting that has meant a lot to me, as far as building a confidence in myself that my work had lasting value that might carry it into the future somehow. I had been a full-time artist for about 14 years at the point that this was painted yet I still wasn’t confident my own evaluation of my work. I felt that it was a real expression, not mere decoration. It was my inner reality and like, Jung’s words above, I often found myself torn between this inner realm and the outer realm of the world. I knew this as a real world but I didn’t feel that I was qualified to say if this reality was enough, that it transcended what it meant for myself.

But this painting and its acceptance by the viewers of that show made me realize that my work’s effect could move beyond me.

And that was vastly important to me in doing this thing that occupies my days and nights.

Now, I can’t say this painting fully sums up the decade for me but it may come as close any other piece I might choose. It occupies a wall in my studio now and I take moments now and then to take it in. Its size makes it an embracing piece, one that makes me feel as though I am stepping into it with the warmth of the colors and shapes wrapping around me. It’s easy to spend time in front of it and let my mind wander among the fields and hills.

I don’t know that it will ever find a home outside the studio and that is fine with me. It feels like family, like a part of me now.

 

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“Watch any plant or animal and let it teach you acceptance of what is, surrender to the Now.
Let it teach you Being.
Let it teach you integrity — which means to be one, to be yourself, to be real.
Let it teach you how to live and how to die, and how not to make living and dying into a problem.”

Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now

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I have need of a little serenity this morning. It’s a crazy world out there and sometimes, when I let down my guard and let my reactions to it rule my demeanor, it gets the best of me. I find myself looking too far into the both the past and the future, seeking the causes and effects of things. While that might seem like a wise thing to do, to seek why things go a certain way and where they may lead, it often neglects the present time, the now.

That’s where I find myself this morning. Not in the past or the future but not quite fully in the now.

I try to sap some of the meaning of the words above from Eckhart Tolle. I have long found serenity in watching the forest and its inhabitants that surround the studio. There is a beauty in the witnessing the lives of the creatures of the wood.

For instance, take the common white tail deer that lives in abundance in our woods.

Their lives seem so difficult. Their existence is a constant struggle to find food, water and a tiny bit of shelter from the elements and the predators that hunt them. I used to have a doe that would snuggle up at night between the shrubs in front of my studio, laying up against the wall of the building. It was as safe and dry a place as she could possibly find.

There are few breaks for them. They are always on high alert, always skittishly scanning for danger and bolting in bursts of leaps through the forest at the slightest wrong movement.

Yes, it is a hard life.

Yet to see them have absolute moments of joy where they play and run with wild abandon around the studio makes me envious. It’s such a pure thing, their glorious reveling in the moment. In the now.

Watching them at these moments is one of the few times when I myself feel in the now. Their joy becomes my joy in that moment and the bitter world that surrounds us is gone away, if only for that brief instant. Gone are the worries of living and dying, of hardships past and to come.

Just a small yet absolute moment of joy.

That might be as close to real serenity that I ever experience. It might seem like a small thing but it feels like an immense treasure in a world that seems ready to plunge into madness.

And that’s just what I need. It’s good enough on this morning.

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Wyeth/ Balance

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It’s all in how you arrange the thing… the careful balance of the design is the motion.

-Andrew Wyeth

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I read this quote from the late Andrew Wyeth then looked over a large group of his work, examining each piece with these words in mind. I could really see the importance of the placement of the elements in his work, how it was the characteristic that truly defined his work. It was this that gave his work a poetic feel.

His use of negative space is masterful, the empty areas taking on an important role in the overall feel of the work. Placing the central character, the focal point of the picture, in any in any other spot would change the whole piece, would make it feel less.

It would feel off balance, at least in the form that Wyeth defined it. That balance is his signature.

And I think that is true for many artists. This idea of balance and motion makes up the artist’s eye. Every artist has a slightly different way of seeing things which creates their own unique visual voice.

Myself, when I feel stuck or blocked or feel that I have painted myself into a creative dead end, I look back at older work. It is often the balance and motion with the composition that affect me the most. It serves as a reminder to not lose sight of this idea of balance, to not focus too  much on other parts of the painting that, while important, may not have as much effect on the overall impact of the piece.

Balance in the design creates motion. Good advice from Mr. Wyeth.

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“I can very well do without God both in my life and in my painting, but I cannot, suffering as I am, do without something which is greater than I, which is my life, the power to create.”

Vincent van Gogh, The Letters of Vincent van Gogh

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Amen.

Love the passion in the words above from Van Gogh but really just wanted to share the painting at the top of the page. It’s The Red Vineyard from 1888 and it is considered to be the only painting ever sold by Van Gogh in his lifetime.

It was bought by the Belgian Impressionist artist Anna Boch in 1890, the year of Van Gogh’s death. It was bought for what would be abut $2000 in today’s dollars. I include that because when Boch let it go to auction in 1909, its value had shot up to what would be about $150,000 today. Van Gogh’s sister-in-law, the widow of his brother Theo, wanted to get it back but the price went well past her means.

It was purchased by a Russian collector who gave up ownership of it when all private property was nationalized by the Bolsheviks after the Communist Revolution. Today, it hangs in the Pushkin Museum in Moscow.

More than likely I will never see this painting in person but it remains a peach.

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Three Rules of Work: Out of clutter find simplicity; From discord find harmony; In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.

–Albert Einstein

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This Einstein fellow is a pretty smart guy.

Simplification, harmony and opportunity could be ingredients for any recipe to success in any field but I think they apply particularly well to the creative arts. I know that I can easily apply these three rules to my own work.

For me, its strength lies in its ability to transmit through simplification and harmony. The forms are often simplified versions of reality, shedding details that don’t factor into what it is trying to express.

There is often an underlying texture in the work that is chaotic and discordant. The harmonies in color and form painted over these create a tension, a feeling of wholeness in the work. A feeling of finding a pattern in the chaos that makes it all seem sensible.

And the final rule–opportunity lying in the midst of difficulty– is perhaps the easiest to apply. The best work always seems to rise from the greatest depths, those times when the mind has to move from its normal trench of thought. Times when it has to find new ways to move the message ahead.   The difficulties of life are often great but there is almost always an opportunity or lesson to be found within them if only we are able to take a deep breath and see them. These lesson always find their way into the work in some way.

Thanks for the thought, Mr. Einstein. I hear good things about you.

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This post ran here several years ago. Just thought I needed a reminder of what I should be doing.

 

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The Scale of Our Competence

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“Our understandable wish to preserve the planet must somehow be reduced to the scale of our competence – that is to wish to preserve all of its humble households and neighborhoods.”

― Wendell Berry, The World-Ending Fire: The Essential Wendell Berry

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I wrote a longer post about the power of the small actions of one person in the face of the big problems hovering over this world based on the words above from poet Wendell Berry but ended up trashing the whole thing.

It was just way too much… well, way too much.

I simply like the term Berry used: the scale of our competence.

Simply put: Don’t wait for big answers. Do what you can do where you are. And do it now.

Big things often begin from the actions of one single person doing what they can do where they are.

Don’t focus on the scale of the problem. Focus on the scale of your own competence, of what you can do in the here and now.

Then do it.

Amen. End of sermon.

Now leave, okay? Go do what you can.

 

 

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