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Posts Tagged ‘Advice’

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Painting and art cannot be taught. You can save time if someone tells you to put blue and yellow together to make green, but the essence of painting is a self-disciplined activity that you have to learn by yourself.

–Romare Bearden

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I came across the quote above from a painter, Romare Bearden, whose work I have admired for some time. It’s something I have known for a long time, the thing that makes this a difficult profession in which to succeed.

You can be taught certain aspects of an art form but there’s no way of learning how to make use of your own perception of things or how to make visual representations of their own feelings and emotions. Or how you react to the world. That is all internal and personally distinct.

What works for me may not work for you.

I always urge young people to try a life in art but there is no way that I can tell if they have what it takes to make a life as an artist. There are few metrics for determining one’s ability to take rejection, to allow their emotions to run free, to persevere, to sense the innate rhythms of the world or so many of the other intangibles it takes to be an artist.

But, even so, it is always worth trying.

Actually, while I believe this and could go on for some time discussing this, this was just a way to get to a short blurb that ran here a few years back.about Mr. Bearden which also acts as an introduction to a favorite song of mine. I am busy, much like when I first wrote this short entry.

Here it is:

Don’t have much of a chance this morning to write a proper post. Busy in a good way. But I came across this image above from the late painter Romare Bearden who lived from 1911 until 1988. I was going to say African-American painter as it does in most of his biographies but that kind of bugged me in the same way that bios often point out that an artist is a woman. Seems like they are creating a distinction and putting them into a sub-category for no reason at all, especially when the person in question is creating great work.

So I am just calling Mr. Bearden a painter.

And a fine one at that, one whose work always jumps into my eyes. Just plain good stuff.

Anyway this image has been sticking in my mind for about a week now and I thought it would be a great companion to some music for this Sunday Music by the one and only B.B. King. Especially since the central figure in the painting looks a little like B.B. King. I somehow have only played one song by him in all these years on this blog and it is definitely time to correct that oversight.

I came across his Live at the Regal album as a teenager and it just destroyed me. It was a live performance from the Regal Theater in Chicago from 1964 and it is one of the great live recorded performances ever put down on vinyl, regardless of genre. It just reels and rocks and is filled with classic after classic tunes from B.B., Lucille–the only guitar whose name you probably know– and a band that kicks it big time. As with Romare Bearden’s painting, it’s just plain good stuff.

Take a listen to the great Sweet Little Angel and have yourself a good–no, a great– Sunday.

 

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“And Dusk Dissolves”- Now at the Principle Gallery

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Great artists make the roads; good teachers and good companions can point them out. But there ain’t no free rides, baby. No hitchhiking. And if you want to strike out in any new direction — you go alone. With a machete in your hand and the fear of God in your heart.

–Ursula K. Le Guin

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I felt compelled to put up a piece of new work from my current Principle Gallery show along with a piece of advice for aspiring artists from writer Ursula LeGuin. Make your own road, baby.  Do the heavy lifting and don’t depend on any one person to guide you through. There are no shortcuts– no hitchhiking as she puts it. You’re on your own so learn to hear what you have to say to yourself.

Show who and what you really are then stand tall. Own your road.

That’s it. I’m going to be concise because it’s a busy day for me. While my show at the Principle Galley is ongoing, I am working hard on new work for my next show which opens in July at the West End Gallery. Plus this morning I am leaving the safe bubble of my studio and home to accompany my dad on his first radiation treatment for a cancerous growth on his temple.

It’s the first time in 13 weeks that I am seeing him as the nursing facility where he resides is under lockdown from the covid-19 virus. I am both looking forward to and dreading seeing him. The dread comes from anticipating what changes may have taken place in this past quarter of a year from the dementia and skin cancer that plague him. Perhaps his awareness and power of recollection has eroded even more? Will he even recognize me now, especially with the mask I will be wearing?

I guess I’ll soon find out.

Odd days, indeed. Have a good one, folks.

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“Hello babies. Welcome to Earth. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s round and wet and crowded. On the outside, babies, you’ve got a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of, babies-“God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.

― Kurt Vonnegut

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The words above are from the book God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater from the late Kurt Vonnegut. They are are spoken to the infant twins of a neighbor as part of a baptismal speech from Eliot Rosewater, the book’s protagonist.

It seems like a ridiculous bit of advice to speak over infants at a religious ceremony but the sentiment is striking in its simplicity and practical application.

In nearly every instance, kindness will make the situation better.

I don’t know why I am writing this today. Maybe it’s the shrill ugliness of our society at the moment, marked by naked tribalism and selfish greed.

Or maybe its our attack mentality that has become the norm, one where reason and logic are thrown aside and replaced with insults and slurs.

These negative aspects, the hatred and selfishness we are so often displaying, are not sustainable for us as a society. They are the signs of an undisciplined and unprincipled people.

On the other hand, kindness is a sustainable and enduring principle of guidance. It builds up, not tears down. A hand up, not a push down.

Like I said, I don’t why I am writing this. Maybe the thought was that we– maybe just I– needed a reminder that a little kindness does more for the world that all the ugly words spoken with hatred by one person toward another.

So, this is your reminder. We have a short time on this world. Don’t waste your time here being mean-spirited and vengeful.

Be kind to others. Be kind to yourself.

This made me want to hear a little Otis Redding this morning. Try a Little Tenderness. Doesn’t get much better than that.

Have a good and kind day.

 

 

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Dr. Seuss- Gosh Do I Look As Old As All That

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Say what you mean and act how you feel,

because those who matter don’t mind,

and those who mind don’t matter.

Dr. Seuss

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I think these words about sincerity from the wonderful and wise Dr. Seuss are good advice for just about anybody.  For myself, I pass this advice on to young artists. Make your own meaning and feeling the focus of your work…

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I ran the short post above several years ago and it resonated with me again this morning. For one thing, it reminded me of how much the imagery and messaging of Dr. Seuss influenced and informed my own perspectives and art. I never thought about it at the time I started drawing and painting but his way of representing the landscapes of his worlds very much infiltrated my own way of looking at my own inner worlds. I see the bendy curves of his trees and smile because I see them in many of my own Red Trees.

The other reason this older post resonated with me were his simple words about honestly saying what you mean and acting how you feel. There are many days when I am trying to write this blog and I feel inhibited by not wanting to offend anyone with my own personal views. I have many times set aside posts that I deemed potentially too offensive. But more and more, I am less shy about sharing my honest opinions for just the reasons that the good Dr. points out: those that matter don’t mind and those who mind don’t matter.

And that also translates to my work. I am also less shy in sharing work that moves outside my comfort zones for this same simple reason. I figure if I am being honest and sincere in my work and in my opinions, what do I have to fear from the opinions of others?

So, thanks for that Dr. Seuss, wherever you may be. Your words and art and storytelling have changed the worlds of many, myself included.

Here are a few more of his paintings that weren’t in the original post:

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GC Myers- Listening to the Muse

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I thought I would rerun the blog entry below that first ran in January of 2015. It might be the only piece of advice I truly feel comfortable in giving to aspiring artists in any discipline. Plus, it can be applied to everyone in their lives even if they aren’t engaged in creative endeavors because, at its base, it’s not just about making things, as much as it might seem at first glance. It’s about an attitude of being proactive in altering the world around us in what we see as being a positive manner. It’s about seeing something that doesn’t fully satisfy you and taking action to change that.

Moreover, at its root, it is about determining the person we want to be and moving consciously towards that goal.

Take a look and decide for yourself:

 

I spent quite a bit of time this morning looking at the image of the painting above, Listening to the Muse. It’s part of my show at the Kada Gallery [That show opened in December of 2014] which is in it’s last weekend there. This painting really captivates me on a personal level and reminds me of  a thought that once drove me forward as a younger painter. It’s a thought that I often pass along as a bit of advice to aspiring artists:

Paint the paintings you want to see.

Sounds too simple to be of any help, doesn’t it? But that simplicity is the beauty and strength of it.

For me, I wasn’t seeing the paintings out there that satisfied an inner desire I had to see certain deep colors that were being used in a manner that was both abstract and representative. If I had seen something that fulfilled these desires, I most likely would not have went ahead as a painter. I wouldn’t have felt the need to keep pushing.

It was this simple thought that marked the change in my evolution as a painter. Before it, I was still trying to paint the paintings that I was seeing in the outer world, attempting to emulate those pieces and styles that already existed as created by other artists. But it was unsatisfying, still echoing the work of others, forever judged in comparison to these others.

But after the realization that I should simply paint what I wanted to see, my work changed and I went from a bondage to that which existed to the freedom of what could be found in creating something new. For me, that meant finding certain colors such as the deep reds and oranges tinged with dark edges that mark this piece. It meant trying to simplify the forms of world I was portraying so that the colors and shapes collectively took on the same meditative quality that I was seeing in each of them.

In my case this seems to be the advice I needed. But I think it’s advice that works for nearly anything you might attempt.

Paint the paintings you want to see.

Write the book you want to read. [Toni Morrison said this very thing at one point]

Play the music you want to hear. Make the film you want to see. Cook the food you want to eat. Make the clothes you want to wear.

Make the world in which you want to live.

Simple.

Now go do it.

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GC Myers- Night Comes OnThe post below from a few years back is very popular, receiving quite a few views each day. As I prepare to lead my annual painting workshop next week, I thought it would be appropriate to replay it here today.

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Whenever I am asked to speak with students I usually tell them to try to find their own voice, to try to find that thing that expresses who they really are. I add that this is not something that comes easily, that it takes real effort and sacrifice. The great poet e e cummings (you most likely know him for his unusual punctuation) offered up a beautiful piece of similar advice for aspiring poets that I think can be applied to most any discipline.

Or to anyone who simply desires to feel deeply in this world.

I particularly like the line: To be nobody-but-yourself -in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else- means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.  That line alone speaks volumes and no doubt resonates with anyone in a creative field.

Take a moment to read this short bit of advice, substituting words describing your chosen discipline wherever the word poet (or a word describing poetry) is used, and see what you think– or feel.

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A Poet’s Advice To Students

(e e cummings)

A poet is somebody who feels, and who expresses his feeling through words.

This may sound easy. It isn’t.

A lot of people think or believe or know they feel-but that’s thinking or believing or knowing; not feeling. And poetry is feeling-not knowing or believing or thinking.

Almost anybody can learn to think or believe or know, but not a single human being can be taught to feel. Why? Because whenever you think or you believe or you know, you’re a lot of other people: but the moment you feel, you’re nobody-but-yourself.

To be nobody-but-yourself -in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else- means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.

As for expressing nobody-but-yourself in words, that means working just a little harder than anybody who isn’t a poet can possibly imagine. Why? Because nothing is quite as easy as using words like somebody else. We all of us do exactly this nearly all of the time-and whenever we do it, we’re not poets.

If, at the end of your first ten or fifteen years of fighting and working and feeling, you find you’ve written one line of one poem, you’ll be very lucky indeed.

And so my advice to all young people who wish to become poets is: do something easy, like learning how to blow up the world-unless you’re not only willing, but glad, to feel and work and fight till you die.

Does this sound dismal? It isn’t.

It’s the most wonderful life on earth.

Or so I feel.

 

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“Therefore, dear Sir, love your solitude and try to sing out with the pain it causes you. For those who are near you are far away… and this shows that the space around you is beginning to grow vast…. be happy about your growth, in which of course you can’t take anyone with you, and be gentle with those who stay behind; be confident and calm in front of them and don’t torment them with your doubts and don’t frighten them with your faith or joy, which they wouldn’t be able to comprehend. Seek out some simple and true feeling of what you have in common with them, which doesn’t necessarily have to alter when you yourself change again and again; when you see them, love life in a form that is not your own and be indulgent toward those who are growing old, who are afraid of the aloneness that you trust…. and don’t expect any understanding; but believe in a love that is being stored up for you like an inheritance, and have faith that in this love there is a strength and a blessing so large that you can travel as far as you wish without having to step outside it.”

― Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

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I have always felt a companionship of sorts with the words of the Bohemian-Austrian poet Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926). I find the themes in his poetry and writings often echoing in the feelings and sensations of my own life.

Perhaps the piece of writing with which I feel the most connected is a series of letters he wrote between 1902 and 1908 to a young Army officer who was conflicted about the choice between pursuing a career either a military officer or a poet. The officer, Franz Xaver Kappus, released them as a book, Letters to a Young Poet, in 1929, three years after Rilke’s death from leukemia at the age of fifty one.

There is so much tremendous advice and guidance in his words that apply to anyone seeking a creative life. I have been mentoring a young artist as part of a program with a local arts organization and I only wish I could pass on a tiny fraction of Rilke’s advice to this artist. I had a very enjoyable talk with him the other day and while I believe there was some good advice given, it certainly didn’t approach the depth and breadth of that given by Rilke.

Take the bit at the top of the page, speaking of how to deal with the artist’s journey and growth. He describes the solitary nature of this journey, one that creates changes that sometimes take the artist mentally beyond and away from those people around him. That is the natural course for the artistic journey. In order to grow, the artist must be willing to seek and travel to places internally to which they cannot fully take or even properly describe to those around them.

This inner journey can be both a testing and a blessing. Finding common ground in which to live in this world with those around the artist is an important step in coping with this inner journey.

I didn’t mention that to the person I was mentoring. Maybe next time.

The painting at the top is from 2004 and is titled, appropriately, Common Ground. I definitely see the wise words from Rilke in this painting.

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A Way to Work

I have been saddled with a chest cold for several days that is severely limiting my activities and making work feel like a real chore. In need of a little pick-me-up I came across this very early post from back in 2008 that is a good reminder of what I consider my work ethic. Reminds me that I need to dig a little deeper on days like this. See what you think:

997-341-labor-to-light-4001This is a piece called “Labor to Light”, a smaller piece that is at the West End Gallery in Corning. It features one of what I call my icons, the field rows running back to the horizon. To me, they represent the act of labor and the results derived from it.  The ability to work hard has been very important to me in this career and something I stress to kids whenever I get to talk to them.

I remember years ago reading an interview with author John Irving (of “The World According to Garp” and “The Cider House Rules” fame) where he talked about his work routine. He talks quite a bit about wrestling in his writing as he was a high school and college grappler and he used a wrestling analogy to describe how he approached his writing.

He said that if he aspired to compete and win at the highest level as a wrestler, which would be an Olympic or world  champion, he would have to train harder and longer than the men he would be competing against. If a wrestler in Bulgaria or anywhere else in the world was training 7 hours a day, he would need train at least that much and maybe more. He knew he would be basically competing against every wrestler in the world.

He then turned this mindset to writing.

His writing became a competitive effort of Olympic proportion, where he saw himself as competing with every other writer in the world for each reader that came into a bookstore. If you were buying someone else’s book, you weren’t buying his and in his mind, he had lost. So he began to train himself as a writer with the same effort as though he were an Olympic athlete, writing 7-8 hours per day, forcing himself to forge ahead even on days when it would be easy to just blow it off and do anything else.

When I read this it struck a chord. I realized that in order to reach my highest level I would have to be willing to devote myself to working harder and longer than other artists and be willing to spend more time alone, away from distraction. It would require sacrifice and hard, focused labor. But Irving’s example gave me a path to follow, a starting point.

I have since realized that there is a multitude of talented people out there, many with abilities and knowledge far beyond mine. But art is often more than sheer ability. It is the communication of an idea, a feeling, to others. And to do this successfully with your art you need to push that ability fully, in order to go beyond what your mind sees as an endpoint. I see this as my goal everyday in the studio. Sometimes I succeed and sometimes I come up short but I’m out there competing everyday.

Thanks, John Irving

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A blog post that ran here a couple of years back with some advice from poet e e cummings is consistently one of my most popular, always getting a number of hits. For example, there was quite a pop in its numbers yesterday. I don’t know what brought it on but it made me want to revisit the post. Reading it again made me appreciate even more the words. Even though it was aimed at potential poets it rang equally true for me as a painter, especially when I substituted the word painter for poet, paint for words, and painting for poetry.

I thought I’d replay it today doing just that. Where there is a word like [thiswith brackets, I have substituted an equivalent word. And if you’re not a painter, feel free to use any word that describes what it is you do to express yourself.

I think you might find it inspiring.

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Whenever I am asked to speak with students I usually tell them to try to find their own voice, to try to find that thing that expresses who they really are. I normally add that this is not something that comes easily, that it takes real effort and sacrifice. It is a never-ending struggle.

The great poet e e cummings (you most likely know him for his unusual punctuation) offered up a beautiful piece of similar advice for aspiring poets that I think can be applied to most any discipline.

Or to anyone who simply desires to feel deeply in this world.

I particularly like the line: To be nobody-but-yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else-means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting. That line alone speaks volumes.

Take a moment to read this short bit of advice and see what you think– or feel.

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A [Painter’s] Advice To Students

Borrowed from (e e cummings)

A [painter] is somebody who feels, and who expresses his feeling through [paint].

This may sound easy. It isn’t.

A lot of people think or believe or know they feel-but that’s thinking or believing or knowing; not feeling. And [painting] is feeling-not knowing or believing or thinking.

Almost anybody can learn to think or believe or know, but not a single human being can be taught to feel. Why? Because whenever you think or you believe or you know, you’re a lot of other people: but the moment you feel, you’re nobody-but-yourself.

To be nobody-but-yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else-means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.

As for expressing nobody-but-yourself in [paint], that means working just a little harder than anybody who isn’t a [painter] can possibly imagine. Why? Because nothing is quite as easy as using [paint] like somebody else. We all of us do exactly this nearly all of the time-and whenever we do it, we’re not [painters].

If, at the end of your first ten or fifteen years of fighting and working and feeling, you find you’ve [painted one part of one real painting], you’ll be very lucky indeed.

And so my advice to all young people who wish to become [painters] is: do something easy, like learning how to blow up the world-unless you’re not only willing, but glad, to feel and work and fight till you die.

Does this sound dismal? It isn’t.

It’s the most wonderful life on earth.

Or so I feel.

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GC Myers-  Inner Perception smallThis is a painting from a few years back that has toured around a bit and found its way back to me. Called Inner Perception, it has been one of my favorites right from the moment it came off my painting table. Maybe the inclusion of the the paint brush (even though it is a house painter’s brush) with red paint in the bristles makes it feel more biographical, more directly connected to my own self. Or maybe it was the self-referential Red Tree painting on the wall behind the Red Chair.

I don’t know for sure. But whatever the case, it is a piece that immediately makes me reflective, as though it is a shortcut to some sort of inner sanctum of contemplation. Looking at it this morning, the question I was asked at the Principle Gallery talk a week or so ago re-emerged, the one that asked what advice I might give my fifth-grade self if I had the opportunity. I had answered that I would tell myself to believe in my own unique voice, to believe in the validity of what I had to say to the world.

I do believe that but I think I might add a bit to that answer, saying that I would tell my younger self to be patient and not worry about how the world perceives you. That if you believed that your work was reflecting something genuine from within, others would come to see it eventually.

I would also add to never put your work above the work of anyone else and, conversely, never put your work beneath that of anyone else. I would tell myself to always ask , “Why not me?”

This realization came to me a couple of years ago at my exhibit at the Fenimore Art Museum. When it first went up it was in a gallery next to one that held the work of the great American Impressionists along with a painting from Monet. I was greatly intimidated, worrying that my work would not stand the muster of being in such close proximity to those painters who I had so revered over the years. Surely the greatness of their work would show me to be a pretender.

But over the course of the exhibit, that feeling faded and the intimidation I had initially felt turned to a type of defiant determination. I began to ask myself that question: Why not me?

If my work was genuine, if it was true expression of my inner self and inner perceptions, was it any less valid than the work of these other painters? Did they have some greater insight of which I was not aware, something that made their work deeper and more connected to some common human theme? If, as I believe, everyone has something unique to share with the world, why would my expression of self not be able to stand along their own?

The answer to my question was in my own belief in the work and by the exhibit’s end I was no longer doubting my right to be there. So to my fifth-grade self and to anyone who faces self-doubt about the path they have chosen, I say that if you know you have given it your all, shown your own unique self, then you must ask that question: Why not me?

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