Posts Tagged ‘Finger Lakes’

Vincent Van GoghWhy does one not hold on to what one has, like the doctors or engineers; once a thing is discovered or invented they retain the knowledge; in these wretched fine arts all is forgotten, and nothing is kept.

Vincent Van Gogh

Letter to his brother Theo 1888


When I read this quote from Van Gogh, I flashed back to a conversation I had several years back with an artist friend who was urging me to begin filming my painting process.  He said that a deer could jump in front of my car going home from the gallery that night and nobody would ever know how my  paintings came about.  He  thought would be a loss.

That made me think but I still didn’t follow his advice and protected my process, except for small glimpses here and there, for years like an alchemist greedily withholding their found knowledge.  It was one of several reasons for my lack of enthusiasm for teaching.

But time normally changes all things.  I began to realize that it was a fool’s mission in keeping my process to myself.  The  process was tool for expression– it was not the expression.

An artist often has individual expression that transcends subject, material and technique.  For example, an artist painting exactly like me– same trees and process– would produce work that would be different than my own.  It would have a different soul, if it had one at all.  If this artist’s purpose was mere copying, it would not.  I can say this because I’ve seen this before.

So, after a bit, I came to understand that showing or teaching my process would not diminish my work in any way.  In fact, I began painting the way that I do because I initially wanted to see paintings that I wasn’t seeing anywhere else.  Wouldn’t it be great to spur that same thing in others?

To that end, as I announced earlier, I am teaching my first two day workshop,  September 17 & 18,  at the Arts Center of Yates County in Penn Yan, NY.  It’s a lovely town sitting at the end of scenic Keuka Lake, one of the Finger Lakes, famed for their beautiful vistas and multitude of wineries.

I am pretty excited about this and am starting to put together just how I want to teach this.  I don’t want to spend any more energy  hiding my process and I plan to fill each of the  two days with as much info as I can get across while still making it entertaining and educational.  So if you want to spend a couple of late summer days in a beautiful setting learning a form of expression that might spur other good things for you, contact the Arts Center of Yates County.

Hope to see you there.

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GC Myers Sun CarvingOur internet  connection was down here for most of the day yesterday which was not really a surprise given the -19° on the thermometer.  Cold enough to make today’s puny 1° reading look appealing.  But because I didn’t have to focus on writing the blog I took the time to rearrange a couple of things in the studio, things that I often look at from my seat at the computer.  On the large stone wall that holds the fireplace in my studio there are three half-round stone shelves that hold several  wood carvings.

One is an inexpensive carving of Don Quixote that my sister gave me for Christmas when I was a kid and another is a beautiful carving of a crow from artist Don Sottile,  a talented sculptor from my home Finger Lakes region.  Then there are a few of my own carvings from the early 90’s, predating my first attempts at painting by a couple of years.  They are not nearly as well executed as Mr. Sottile’s work but they mean a lot to me, if only as a reminder that they were keys to a door in my mind that I was desperately trying to open at that time, one that would eventually lead me here.

I thought I would take this opportunity to rerun a blog entry about these pieces from back in early 2009:

GC Myers- Hank CarvingImmediately before I started painting in the mid-90’s, my form of expression was wood carving.  It was unpolished and rough but it provided the vehicle that I needed to spark further creativity.  Most were created with an inexpensive set of small chisels and scrap lumber, usually just pine boards leftover from projects.

Actually, the technique that is used in these carvings is linked very much to my earliest efforts at painting which consisted of a heavy layer of paint then removing the parts that didn’t belong leaving the desired image.  This is a technique that I use to this very day.


 GC Myers Poseidon CarvingThe thing that I learned most from doing these pieces is that I wanted to emphasize expression over technique.  By that I mean I did not want to focus so much on refining technique to obtain a very polished final product that the piece became more about craft and less about expression of emotion.  By doing so I realized the pieces would retain my own identity and idiosyncrasies.  It was my first real stab at creating a visual look and vocabulary of my own. 

I also took the idea of the work having a tactile feel to it.  The attraction of these for me was in holding them and feeling the wood and the weight of it in my hands.  When I first started painting I worked primarily on paper and I got this same feeling from the cotton of the watercolor papers.  It’s something that I also try to insert into my work today as well, through the use of texture and in the way I present the paintings.

When I look at these I’m not particularly impressed by them as art but I do appreciate them for the lessons they provided at a time when I needed guidance, lessons which I took to heart.  To me they are touchstones to a certain part of my life and as such are important to my development as an artist.

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GC Myers YCAC ClassOver the years I have been asked many, many times whether I offered classes or would be willing to teach and each time I have  answered with a hearty no.  There were several reasons for the answer.

First, not having taken any classes myself, I felt uninformed as to how to instruct a group.  It was out of my comfort zone and I just didn’t feel as though I had the qualifications or anything to offer.  Plus, I wasn’t sure if I could paint and talk at the same time.  I am not the most coordinated person in the world.

Second, it took time away from my own painting.  I am the artistic equivalent of a gym rat, always in place in my studio nearly everyday for about twelve or more hours.  It is who I am and what I do.  Time away from it is sometimes painful to endure.

The third, and definitely the most important, reason was that I was just hesitant in sharing any of the process behind much of my work that had taken thousands of hours alone in the studio to develop.  Trade secrets, if you will, that needed to be protected.

But over the last few years, I have come to understand that it is not purely process but the person behind it that makes the work come alive and that by hiding the process I was being small and petty.  There was nothing to fear from someone learning from my experience.  In fact, there might be insights to be gained from seeing how others react to working with my process.

So, this year I finally relented, after much urging from the director of the Arts Center of Yates County,  and will be giving a two day workshop featuring my process at  their wonderful facility in Penn Yan , NY, in the heart of the beautiful Finger Lakes.  It will take place beginning on either September 16 or 17— we are still working out final details.  The workshop will be from about 9:30 AM until 4:30 each day with a lunch break and  will be limited to 15 students.  If there is enough demand, there is always the possibility of adding a second session.

My feeling is that this is for all levels of ability, from non-painters up to those with much  more experience.  My goal is to pass on what I have gleaned from my journey over the past two decades so that it might send someone down their own personal path.  I want everyone in attendance to take away something new and of value for themselves.  And I guarantee that there will be no shortage of stories.

If you’re from out of the area and don’t know the Finger Lakes region of New York, you’ll be in for a pleasant surprise– it is an area filled with extreme natural beauty, many wonderful wineries, great watersports and a calming atmosphere.  A perfect place to getaway to.  So, if you’d like to spend a couple of late summer days painting with me in the Finger Lakes,  I urge you to contact the Arts Center of Yates County at this link and get on the list.


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9913-222  Revelation in Blue  smJust a quick reminder that I will be  at the Flick Gallery at the Arts Center of Yates County  for the opening of the show, Earthworks.  As one of the featured artists for this show,which is focused on the use of earth forms in creative works, I am showing a representative group of  my work.

The opening runs from 5-7 PM and is at their location at  127 Main Street in Penn Yan, at the northern end of beautiful Keuka Lake.  Wine will be provided by Glenora Winery. The exhibit runs until June 15.

Hope to see you there!

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GC Myers-Apolitical BluesI’ve been getting a small group of work ready for a show that opens next week  in Penn Yan, NY, which sits at the northern end of beautiful Keuka Lake in the Finger Lakes.  The Arts Center of Yates County holds several shows a year in their Flick Gallery, which is a beautiful space .on the city’s Main Street.   I have been invited to be a featured artist in their upcoming show, Earthworks, which runs from May 9 to June 16.  Normally, I would not try to fit in a small show only a month before a major exhibit such as next month’s show at the Principle Gallery but after seeing the gallery and speaking with their director, Kris Pearson, I was impressed and decided to try to squeeze it in a crowded schedule.  I also thought it might serve as  nice introduction to people of the region who might not be familiar with my work or with the West End Gallery in Corning, hoping they might travel down for my show there in July.

The show consists of a mix of new and recent pieces that  I feel are representative of my body of work.  There are a couple of Archaeology paintings, a few Red Roofs and my signature Red Tree, of course.  The piece shown here on the left is a small new painting, 2″ by 8″ on paper, that I call Apolitical Blues, after the old Little Feat song of the same name.  It’s a simple blues with very simple lyrics–Well my telephone was ringing /And they told me it was Chairman Mao /I don’t care who it is /I just don’t wanna talk to him now —  but with the state of current politics, the idea of being turned off and tuned out to the noise of it all seemed to fit with the solitary figure in this piece, away from the chaos and constant talk of the world.

Being Sunday morning, it seems appropriate that I share Little Feat‘s song with you.  This is a live version that was recorded at the Rainbow Theatre in London in 1977 for their live album Waiting for Columbus, which is considered by critics as one of the greatest live albums in rock history.  I know that it has been one of my favorites since it came out in 1978, a year before lead singer  Lowell George died.  This version also features famed British guitarist Mick Taylor who had formerly played on some of the Rolling Stones iconic albums of the early 70’s.  It’s a great way to open your eyes on a Sunday morning in May.

Have a great day!

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I came across an item that caught my eye on the blog of Candler Arts, a great folk art site that I check out on a regular basis.  It was a page from a book with an old photo of a man standing next to a dead tree that had been carved with all sorts of figures.  Alligators, monkeys, lions, Indian heads and bunnies adorned the tree.  What caught my eye was that it said he was from an area not too far from here, just below Auburn  in the Finger Lakes region of NY.

His name was George Carr.  According to his obituary  (Totem Tree Man Dies at Age of 86) in the Auburn newspaper that appeared in 1926 after his death , he was a veteran of the Civil War, serving as a musician in both the army and navy during the war.   It also said that his carved tree was a big tourist attraction in the Finger Lakes, drawing thousands of visitors from all over the country over the years and giving Mr. Carr nationwide celebrity as the story of his tree went out in the press.  Unfortunately, it also points out that the tree was destroyed in a cyclone that struck in the previous year, bringing to an end the  attraction for tourists.

I had never heard of George Carr or his totem tree nor have I been able to find much beyond a few photos, postcards and a thin but very collectible book on Ebay, George Carr’s Totem Tree and Other Curious Things.  This lack of available info and the obvious fact that the tree and any other carvings from his home no longer exist brings me pause.  As an artist, I always consider the possibility that my work may or may not live on beyond my own short lifespan, hoping that it does find a way to continue on its own, of course.  But the thought that it might someday fade completely away but for a few images caught in photos or a few words in an old newspaper is sobering.

Art is life and life is ephemeral.  Some fortunate art will always live on, carried by a life force that is continually replenished by those who see and love it.  Some art is less fortunate and is forever lost to new eyes and new energy that could carry it forward through time.  The same things could be said for any of us.

Maybe by writing about George Carr and his Totem Tree, I am actually hoping that someday someone in the distant future will do the same for one of my paintings and help revive it in some way, even if only a memory.

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When I was first starting to paint, one of the painters that I admired when I first ran across his work was the Modernist painter of the early 20th century, Arthur Dove.  As I was beginning to form my own visual vocabulary, I found many similarities in how Dove and I represented certain elements in our paintings. This gave me a feeling that I may be following the right path and gave me a little more certainty and confidence in my own work.  I was also drawn by the duality in his work between the abstract and the representational.  There was always the sense that you were looking at something recognizable and familiar even when there was definite abstraction present.  This was something I have aspired for in my own work.

I didn’t know much about the man but was also pleased when I found that he was from the Finger Lakes region of NY  and had been educated just up the road at Cornell.  No big deal, obviously, but it gave me an insight into the influence of the local landscape in his work and his eye that I could compare to my own.

One of the factors in being self-taught for me, was in finding an artist that I could identify with , who seemed to have a similar feel for how things would translate in different media.  I am surprised, even today, how much of my early work resembles some Dove pieces that I have only seen recently for the first time.

I can’t say I loved all of Dove’s work.  I don’t know if anybody can say that about any other human if their work fully represents them.  But I do admire the spirit and feeling of his work and know my work is better for it.

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PenelopeThis painting is titled Penelope after the wife of Ulysses who waited in Ithaca for his return, putting off suitors, in Homer’s The Odyssey.  Where I live in the Finger Lakes region of New York state, many of the small towns and villages are named from the classics.  There is Hector, Homer, Ovid, Ithaca, Sparta, Carthage, Romulus and so on.

When I was younger and became aware of the original places from which the names of these local towns were adopted, I always wondered about the people who settled these towns and decided what their new towns should be called.  What was the person like who decided that their new town would be Sparta and they would be the new Spartans?  In what trait in themselves did these people see a connection with the original Spartans?  Maybe it was a matter of dissuading other settlers from pushing into their newly claimed home.  You know- don’t screw with us, we’re Spartans.  It’s hard to see now, Sparta being a sleepy rural township above Cayuga Lake with hardly a sign of any carnage existing.

This painting is another going to my show at the Principle Gallery in June.  As I’ve written before, I am in the midst of preparations for this show , keeping me very busy.  I’ve got to run now but I wanted to leave a song from one of my favorites, Neko Case.  Her live CD, The Tiger’s Have Spoken, is a dynamic set that really showcases her powerful voice.  There’s a certain wistful quality there that I can’t put my finger on.  It’s definitely here in Maybe Sparrow

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