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Posts Tagged ‘Biography’

“The Walking Man I” — Alberto Giacometti



Artistically I am still a child with a whole life ahead of me to discover and create. I want something, but I won’t know what it is until I succeed in doing it.

–Alberto Giacometti



The short statement above from the late artist Alberto Giacometti perfectly captures a feeling that has been with me for a long time now.

Now well into middle age, I have been a professional painter now for over twenty five years and have did okay with my career in art. I do what I want basically, earn a decent living, get some recognition here and there and have established my own little niche with my work.

It’s a decent place to be at this point in my career and a lot of young artists would love to be in my position.

But most days, even when I feel the tiredness from the wear and tear of the years weighing on me physically, I still feel new to this whole art thing, like I have just scratched the surface with my work. As Giacometti points out, I feel like there is a whole life, an endless horizon, ahead of me that is filled with all sorts of new possibilities.

New forms, new expressions, new inspirations, new voices and more– all yet unseen and unknown. Just something.

And again like Giacometti, I feel a huge gnawing desire to find that something but don’t have a clue as to what it might yet be.

That was the same feeling that I had when I was first experimenting with painting years ago. I had a hazy vision in the recesses of my mind that I wanted to pull out but didn’t truly know what it was or what it might look like until it had emerged. When it did finally come out, I instantly recognized it for what it was and what it could mean for me. I ran with the inspiration from it for many years.

But at some point during these years, I began to sense that another vision of the same sort resides somewhere down there in my mind, one that had yet to be found. One that I won’t know until it comes out.

So, though I am a sometimes tired middle-aged guy, I know that I am still a child artistically, one who still sees the whole wide world and all its potential before him.

I work and wait in anticipation that this child’s voice will someday be heard.

 

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I came across this blogpost from four years back and it made me go over and closely examine the painting about which I was writing. It’s one of those things where you walk by it every day and after a bit, you fail to really see it. But looking at it reminded me of how much it bolstered me at the time it took its little prize.

I haven’t entered a painting in a competition for many years now. I never liked the idea of judging one painting against another as though there was some objective scale on which to judge them. Plus the idea of a group of judges trying to get a grasp of your work with 10 seconds exposure to it seemed kind of unfair in some way. Not that I didn’t have successes in the competitions I did enter. I took third place in a national competition and had a couple of Best in Shows along with a couple of other awards in regional events. But it never felt good to me and when I felt like it no longer served my needs I stopped entering them. 

But those competitions did wonders for me early on in my development and I may not be writing this today if not for them. Here’s what I wrote a few years back:

GC Myers-The Sky Doesn't Pity 1995smI was looking around my studio, taking in some of the work hanging on the walls throughout the house.  There are pieces from other artists, including some talented friends and young fans along with some notables such as David Levine and Ogden Pleissner.  But most of it is older work of my own.  There are a few orphans, paintings that showed extensively but never found a home.  In some I see flaws that probably kept someone from taking it home but most just didn’t find that right person with which to connect.  Most of the other hanging work is work that I won’t part with, work that somehow has deeper meaning for me.  Work that just stays close.

One of these paintings is the one shown here, The Sky Doesn’t Pity, a smallish watercolor that’s a little over 4″ square.  It was painted in 1995 after I had started publicly showing my work for the first time at the West End Gallery in Corning, NY, not too far from my home.  The gallery has been what I consider my home gallery for 18 years [22 years now], hosting an annual solo show of my work for the last eleven years.  This year’s show, Islander, ends next Friday.

But when this piece was done I was still new there, still trying to find a voice and a style that I could call my own.  I had sold a few paintings and had received a lot of encouragement from showing the work at the gallery but was still not sure that this would lead anywhere.  I entered this painting in a regional competition at the Gmeiner Art Center in Wellsboro , a lovely rural village in northern Pennsylvania with beautiful Victorian homes and gas lamps running down Main Street.

It was the first competition I had ever entered and, having no expectations, was amazed when I was notified that this piece had taken one of the top prizes.  I believe it was a third but that didn’t matter to me.  Just the fact that the judges had seen something in it, had recognized the life in it, meant so much to me.  It gave me a tremendous sense of validation and confidence in moving ahead.  Just a fantastic boost that opened new avenues of possibility in my mind.

I still get that same sense even when I look at this little piece today, a feeling that would never let me get rid of this little guy.  I can’t tell you how many times I have glimpsed over at this painting and smiled a bit, knowing what it had given me all those years ago.

It encourages me even now.

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GC Myers- Railbirds 1994This is an older painting of mine from back in 1994.  I was in the transition from trying to simply replicate the work of others to developing my own visual voice.  I wasn’t sure where it would go from there and didn’t even have an idea of how to proceed.  I just painted and painted, letting each piece be the guide for the next.  Sometimes it brought forth breakthroughs and sometimes not.  But this time and this work still brings back that excitement of the unknown that was so present in that time.

This little piece is a favorite of mine from that time and is painted in a more traditional watercolor style that I was dabbling in at the time.  It is titled Railbirds and depicts a scuffle between the inhabitants at the rail of a horsetrack.  Perhaps there was a dispute over a mislaid wager or which jockey looked sharpest in their colors.  Who knows?

I spent an inordinate time as a kid at the race track, reading the Racing Form and drinking way too much Coke.  One summer, my father and I were at the track on average 3-4 times a week.  It was a time when a 13-year old kid could lay wagers at the betting windows without any questions and I would often act as a runner for bets, including my own.  I learned a lot of lessons there.

First, that I was lousy judge of horses and a pretty mediocre gambler.  But more importantly, it was a laboratory and showcase for human behavior and it stirred in me the beginnings of a realization that I didn’t want to spend my life in that way.  I saw lives that were heavily addicted to gambling and alcohol and it seemed like such a waste of time in what even then seemed like a too brief lifespan.  There were very unhappy, angry and greedy people there, always on display and they made an impression on me.

Maybe these lesson and these people formed the darkness that I use as a base for my work.  I often think it is the contrast between the underlying darkness and the overriding light of my work that sometimes makes it effective, makes it feel hopeful without being pollyanna-ish.

I don’t know for sure.  But I do look at this piece quite often in the studio, studying its rhythm and flow while thinking of those times, good and bad.

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