Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Heroes

++++++++++++++++++++

There is an electric fire in human nature tending to purify – so that among these human creatures there is continually some birth of new heroism. The pity is that we must wonder at it, as we should at finding a pearl in rubbish.

–John Keats

++++++++++++++++++++

I find myself nodding in agreement with the above words from the poet John Keats. It seems that there is ample evidence that humans have the desire and capability for living heroic lives. Yet to do so is a rare and wondrous thing.

A pearl in rubbish, as he says.

Maybe our failure is that we only see heroism defined in epic terms, not in the bravery of the responsibility that comes in making everyday decisions that opt for doing what is right and not expedient or self-serving. Not every hero wears a cape or jumps from buildings.

It’s a matter of perspective.

I think of when my mother was dying from cancer many years ago now. In her final months, she had a picture next to her bed of my father in a small cheap frame with press-on letters on the bottom leg of it that spelled out the word hero.

Now, hero is not a term I have often equated with my father, a man who is deeply flawed in many ways. I confess that, in this aspect, the apple doesn’t fall from the tree.

But this was especially evident when it came to his relationship with my mother. Most of their life together was loud and contentious. They were always one word or a single side glance away from their next battle royale, the horror shows of mine and my siblings’ childhoods.

But somehow through the years of anger and adversity she still saw something in this man that she recognized as being heroic. Maybe it was that he had simply stayed, had maintained a sense of responsibility and caring for her that became very obvious in her last days.

I will never know for sure. The psychology of it all evades me. But that cheap frame on a dying woman’s bedside table with that word hero on it still lingers with me and always will.

It’s a matter of perspective.

I didn’t plan on writing this for today’s post, didn’t seek to be so personally biographical. It just came and I guess I can live with that. I only wanted to jot down a little something to introduce the song below for this Sunday morning music. It is one of my favorite David Bowie songs, Heroes, performed by the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain. I know it sounds like it should be a joke or a parody but it’s a wonderful version. I think my mom might well understand it.

Have a good day. Be a hero to somebody.

 

A number of artists, take Picasso and De Chirico for examples, talk about about trying to maintain the mind of a child in order to create art. I think there is definitely something to that.

I know that I feel best about my work when kids are attracted to it and know a work is at its best when a kid gives it their approval. They look at it without preconceptions and biases, judging it solely on how it speaks to them personally. They often can read the emotional tenor and meaning of the work without needing explanation of any sort. They seem to have a built-in ability to read the innate symbolism of art.

How to stay in that dreamlike state, that mind of a child? That is the real question and I don’t know that there is an answer. Maybe not trying to answer the question is part of the answer. Just do the work with the trust that you are being open and honest without condescending your message to anyone. Perhaps then the work may approach that goal, might speak with and to the mind of a child.

Or so I hope.

Dark Crossing

I’ve got several things on my plate this morning so time is short. Thought I’d rerun the post below because it describes a bit the dark to light process I often use. I also liked this simple painting but, as I write below, I wasn’t sure about it at the time, wasn’t sure it would translate well to others. Time has passed and I still find myself liking this painting. Plus, it quickly found a new home so someone saw something similar in it. Give a look and have a great day.

**************************

***********************

“A painter should begin every canvas with a wash of black, because all things in nature are dark except where exposed by the light.”   

-Leonardo Da Vinci

***********************

I’ve been working on a number of pieces lately that start on a black base of paint, rising from the darkness as each subsequent layer adds more and more light. I still think of this additive process as being a form of sculpture, one that starts with a flat surface and builds out in contours that give it definition and texture. Each layer of paint is like adding clay to the supporting armature of the sculpture. It’s a process that is hard to pull away from when I immerse myself in it. There’s something about seeing the colors grow more and more vibrant on the surface that becomes mesmerizing. I guess that’s why I often refer to this work as obsessionism.

This small experiment, a 10″ by 12″ piece on paper, is in this vein. It’s one of those pieces that I’m just not sure about because I like it but I’m not sure if I like it for what it actually is or for the experience, the obsession of the moment in painting it.

Or because it is simply from my own hands, part of myself. Like a parent looking at something their child has done and wondering if they like it because it is truly good or simply because it was done by their child, their flesh and blood.

Sometimes I can finish a piece and it instantly stands apart and on its own, complete and independent. Ready to move on like a young person proclaiming their emancipation from their parents. Other times, there are pieces that cling closer to me, perhaps too attached to yet stand on their own, at least in my eyes. Because I am unsure, I become more protective of these pieces because they do feel more personal, more of me.

It’s a hard thing to describe, this uncertainty in a piece, especially when it feels objectively right. Can a parent ever fully take out their own subjective view of their offspring and see them objectively as they really are?

Around the Clock

+++++++++++++++++++

“Living right in the heart of Tokyo itself is quite like living in the mountains – in the midst of so many people, one hardly sees anyone.”

― Yūko Tsushima, Of Dogs and Walls

++++++++++++++++++++

This is a new painting, a 24″ by 24″ canvas, that was inspired in part by the older painting I showed here last week, Raise Your Eyes.  Unlike my normal Red Roof structures which have a closed off feel without doors or windows, these cityscapes are all doors and windows.

All eyes, ears, and mouths.

But as the late, esteemed Japanese writer Yuko Tsushima described in the words above, even with the presence of so many buildings filled with so many people, there is often a sense of anonymity. Perhaps it is the scale of the buildings which sometimes seem like looming mountains that overshadow anything beneath them. Or maybe it is the sheer number of people, so many that the faces and shapes blend into an amorphous blur in passing.

I’m not sure exactly what it is that gives this sense of anonymity but I find the paradox in it fascinating. Maybe that’s one reason why I enjoy painting these pieces so much. The main reason I believe is in the focus required in putting these together. Starting at the bottom of the canvas with no predetermined endpoint in mind, the picture rises slowly with each new structure leading to the next, all the while trying to ascertain how each new move changes the weight and feel of the whole.

Every stroke is a solution to one problem and the beginning of the next.

For me, the result is kind of like looking inside my head. It resembles a jumble, sometimes sloppy and tangled. But somehow, through the mess, it is always trying to create a sense of wholeness, of rightness.

Trying to find order in chaos.

Sometimes, I find it. Sometimes, I don’t.

I am still not sure this painting is finished. I am calling it for time being Around the Clock but for a time had considered calling it Witnesses or Hit and Run. I saw it with a body on the pavement of the intersection at the bottom right of the piece. and maybe a silhouette or two in the windows that look out on it. But I am not sure that I want to add that narrative thread, not sure that I want to change what I am looking at now in that manner.

So, I will dwell on it for a bit before I do anything. Or don’t.

We shall see…

++++++++++++++++++

The Peace of Wild Things

 

When despair grows in me

and I wake in the night at the least sound

in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,

I go and lie down where the wood drake

rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.

I come into the peace of wild things

who do not tax their lives with forethought

of grief. I come into the presence of still water.

And I feel above me the day-blind stars

waiting for their light. For a time

I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

 

–Wendell Berry

++++++++++++++++

You can’t go too far wrong on those rough days when you look to the words of Wendell Berry. It generally will provide the needed stillness to overcome the anxiety of these times.

Give the Wind Its Due

I was in my basement earlier moving some things around, trying to get somewhat organized, when I came across a box with a handful of giclee prints of my work  from 2001. I hadn’t went through this box in a while so took a few minutes to see what was there.

My eyes settled for a bit on the piece shown above, titled Give the Wind Its Due. I’d looked at it many times over the years but it was always for but an instant, just in quickly passing over it. But this morning, I took a minute and really looked. It tried to remember what I could of it from back in 2001. It was a large painting, I remember that, measuring 36″ high by 48″ wide on birch panel.

It was painted with oils rather than acrylic. I used oils as often as I would use acrylics around that time. I transferred almost solely to acrylics in the next few years, that medium better matching my technical and thought process. I found that I was too impatient to wait to get the effects I wanted with oils. The quicker drying time of acrylics allowed me to dive back in sooner while I was still focused in on what I was seeing and where I saw it going.

But this piece oil worked well as it was. It still worked and stood out for me now. Hopefully, whoever has ownership of this piece thinks so, as well. Unfortunately, I have no idea where the original painting is. Like this piece, there are many paintings that will be forever lost to me. I would love to see some of these earlier pieces just to examine the surfaces closely. Look at the edges and how the colors layer together.

In looking, I try to remember what I was doing then that I don’t do now, sometimes from just forgetting how it was done in that particular moment. I sometimes have memory problems when it comes to procedural items.

There are maintenance things that I have to do every year around the house or studio and I often have to go to the printed directions because my memory refuses to hold those details. Unfortunately, this also sometimes extends to my own work procedures. Revisiting older work sometimes is like looking at those printed directions and I find myself saying to myself, “Oh, so that is how I did that!

I find that there’s a lot to be learned from looking back periodically.

Maybe that applies to life as much as art. Or maybe not.

I can’t really say.

+++++++++++++++

People have the idea that an image must stand for something else, that the real meaning needs to be described with language. Instead it is the image itself that is the meaning.

Mark Ryden

+++++++++++++++

I came across the quote above from contemporary artist Mark Ryden and it struck a chord with me. So, often an image has a feeling to it  that is beyond words that adequately describe it. I know I have sometimes written about a piece of  mine and even though I have tried to fully describe how it strikes me, I often feel that the words fall well short.

Sometimes you just have to let the image be what it is.

Now, to be honest, I don’t know a lot about Mark Ryden except that he is a contemporary big name artist that works in the genre of Pop Surrealism. His work is sometimes also called Lowbrow which is a movement that began in LA in the 1970’s based on underground comix, punk music and other fringe pop references such as the tiki and hot rod cultures of the region. You may best know his work from his album cover painting for Michael Jackson’s Dangerous.

His work is engaging and appealing on many levels with recurring themes that run through the work. It is rich in symbolism though I think there is so much ambiguity that one could get lost in trying to decode many of the paintings. Which makes his statement about the image itself being its own meaning even more understandable.

I also came across another quote from Ryden that hits close to home for me: I believe if you follow your heart and do what you love, success will follow. If you enchant yourself, others will be too.

It’s something I have been saying for many years now. The biggest challenge as an artist is creating in yourself an excitement with your own work. If you are excited– enchanted in Ryden’s words– by it, more likely than not, it will excite others as well.

I can see where Ryden would be exchanted in his own work. It is something to which any artist in any field should aspire.

 

%d bloggers like this: