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Archive for the ‘Quote’ Category

Sing in me, Muse, and through me tell the story
of that man skilled in all ways of contending,
the wanderer, harried for years on end

Homer, The Odyssey

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Last week I showed a painting in an early stage.  It’s composition was all blocked in with red oxide and the sky was partially laid in. I wrote about the decisions that were in front of me and how I was seeing how it might go from that point on.

Well, at the top of this page is the nearly finished painting, one that I am calling Dawn Invocation. At that earlier point I thought that this painting might go in a much different direction, one slightly darker in tone.

It turns out that my vision for it and the final product differed a bit. That’s not a judgment on how I am feeling about this piece because I find myself very pleased with this painting in its present state. It was just a matter of the process leading me to add a bit more light and color, even though the colors are a bit more muted and tonal than my typical choices.

The resulting piece is more open and inviting than the one I originally saw in the underpainting. Calmer. More resolved.

There are still a few touches that need to be placed, some that I see just now as I write this. They are small adjustments but sometimes these little strokes here and there add much more to the overall feel of the painting than you might think.

So, it goes back on the easel for a short time. This is one of those pieces that carry a lot of small lessons as I move forward which makes it memorable for me, well beyond my own affinity for the painting itself.

And that’s a good thing on any day.

 

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Sometimes the horizon is defined by a wall behind which rises the noise of a disappearing train. The whole nostalgia of the infinite is revealed to us behind the geometrical precision of the square. We experience the most unforgettable movements when certain aspects of the world, whose existence we completely ignore, suddenly confront us with the revelation of mysteries lying all the time within our reach and which we cannot see because we are too short-sighted, and cannot feel because our senses are inadequately developed.  Their dead voices speak to us from nearby, but they sound like voices from another planet.

–Giorgio de Chirico

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de chirico_mysteryA turning point for me when I was first stumbling around with my own painting was when I encountered the work of Giorgio de Chirico, an Italian painter of darkly toned metaphorical works. He lived from 1888 until 1978 but was primarily known for his early work from 1909-1919 which is called his Metaphysical PeriodMetaphysics is  devoted to the exploration of what is behind visible reality without relying on measurable data. Very mystical. De Chirico’s work after 1919 became more realistic and more traditional.

His later work was less colorful, less symbolic, less powerful and way more mundane. It is definitely the work from the earlier Metaphysical period that defines him as the artist as we know him today.

I was immediately drawn to that work.  It was full of high contrast, with sharp light and dark.  The colors were bold, bright and vibrant, yet there was darknessde-chirico-the-great-tower implied in them.  The compositions were full of interesting juxtapositions of forms and perspectives.  It was a visual feast for me.

At that time in my own painting, I was still painting in a fairly traditional manner, especially with watercolors. That is to say that I was achieving light through the transparency of my paint, letting the underlying paper show through. It was pretty clean which was fine. But it wasn’t what I was looking for in my work.

Seeing de Chirico’s paintings made me realize what I wanted.  It was that underlying darkness that his work possessed. It was a grittiness, a dark dose of the reality of our existence.  I immediately began to experiment with different methods that would introduce a base of darkness that the light and color could play off.  My work began to change in short order and strides forward came much quicker as a result of simply sensing  something in de Chirico’s work that wasn’t there in my own.

Perhaps that is what is meant by metaphysical…

This post is a combination of a couple of posts from years ago. I really wanted to use his quote at the top because I often get that feeling from certain paintings, that they represent “voices from another planet,”  that they come from a point well beyond our realm of knowledge. I also wanted to include the video below that shows much of De Chirico’s metaphysical work. Take a look below.

de-chirico



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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.

Deepak Chopra
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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

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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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The greatest achievement was at first and for a time a dream. The oak sleeps in the acorn, the bird waits in the egg, and in the highest vision of the soul a waking angel stirs. Dreams are the seedlings of realities.

James Allen, British Author  (1864-1912)

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I’ve had this new painting in the studio for the past few weeks and my eyes keep coming back to it. Not in a questioning way where I am looking for what might be lacking in it.

No, it’s a satisfied look. Instead of me looking for what I can add to it to make it better, I am looking to see what it can add to me to make myself better.

It has that kind of feel to me. More than the sum of its parts.

I am calling this piece, a 24″ by 36″ canvas, Flight of Angels. I take that title from that feeling that there is something hidden in there that is trying to assist me and from the shape of the space running up the river and into the sky. It has the silhouette of an angel, one that just jumps out at me. I’ve altered the image a bit in the image at the bottom of the page to better illustrate what I’m talking about.

Now, I am not sure that I truly believe in angels or can even pretend to know how they would act or move or interact with us. But if I were an angel – and that’s very big if– I could imagine myself flowing in the cool air above rivers and seas, always moving towards the light of the sun.

After all, wouldn’t the angels fly near where the earth, the waters and the skies converge?

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

Hakuin Ekaku

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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.

And maybe that’s the message of the new painting at the top, a 24″ by 18″ canvas that I am for the moment calling Seek and Find : We can seek far and wide to find the thing closest to ourselves. 

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Rules: Replay

I wrote the following post back in early 2009.  I am replaying it today just as a reminder to myself to not get too caught up in my own set of rules for my work.  I have to tell myself to remember that sometimes it’s the straying from the norm that creates the new norm.

GC Myers-  Solitary Crossing- 2009

 

Any fool can make a rule, and any fool will mind it.

     –Henry David Thoreau

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I have always had a problem with adhering to rules, in practically all aspects of my life.  It’s as though when a rule is presented, a part of me automatically starts figuring out an exception to the rule, a way to go around it.  In everyday life this is not always a desirable trait, often putting one at odds with the law and one’s own conscience.

But, as luck would have it, this trait is indispensable in art.

It’s always amazing to me how many artists are tied to their own set of rules and nothing can deter this adherence, even if straying a bit might actually cause their work to really blossom.

For example, I know a painter who will generally only paint what is before him, either in person or in photos, and will not add or subtract any detail from the scene.  He once showed me a painting that was really painted beautifully, rich and bold. Everything worked well and the piece was really eye-catching except for a telephone pole that bisected, in a very intrusive fashion, the very middle of the canvas. It was a real distraction that threw off the whole weight of the composition and stripped away a lot of the appeal that it might hold.

Why is this pole here?” I asked.

He gave me a quizzical look then said, “Because it’s there.

He explained that it was in the scene as he had photographed it. When I asked if it had any purpose in the painting he said that it didn’t but it was part of the original scene as he saw it.

There was a certain realization that came from this brief exchange.  I realized that there were truly talented artists who can sometimes be shackled by their own rules and that absolute adherence to any arbitrary rule can be the death of creative expression.

Now, I’m sure there will be those who would argue this point and would be able to point out any number of examples that might contradict this statement.  So what? They are mere exceptions to this loosely formed rule.

So, kids, here’s the moral of this story:  In art, keep the rules around as guidelines, but when you need to paint outside the lines or cut out that ugly pole that is breaking up a beautiful scene, just do it.

PS: I would probably amend the wording in Thoreau’s quote to damn fool. Those two words seemed forever linked in my mind. Besides, if you’re a fool there’s a pretty good chance you’re a damn fool.

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