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Posts Tagged ‘Francis Bacon’

Francis Bacon
Portrait of Michel Leiris 1976

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As you work, the mood grows on you. There are certain images which suddenly get hold of me and I really want to do them. But it’s true to say that the excitement and possibilities are in the working and obviously can only come in the working.

–Francis Bacon

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I am swamped in work today. I say that a lot and it might sound awful to many folks. But for me it is the best possible situation because being at work means that, like Bacon says above, I am amidst the excitement and possibilities that come with working. Thinking about ideas, mulling what you’re going to do has a place but they are worthless nothings until they go into process, become work. Then they usually become something altogether different because the work allows you to flesh out what the mind alone couldn’t imagine.

The process of working is the true generator of ideas.

There have been many artists through time who have expressed this same sentiment, that doing work generates new work, creates new possibilities. I know that it is true for myself.

Breakthroughs in the work always come while working, with hands in paint and eyes and mind straining to see where the piece before me ends and the next begins.

Here’s one of my favorite inspirational pieces from artist Chuck Close that very much says the same thing: Don’t wait on inspiration–make your own!

The advice I like to give young artists, or really anybody who’ll listen to me, is not to wait around for inspiration. Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work. If you wait around for the clouds to part and a bolt of lightning to strike you in the brain, you are not going to make an awful lot of work. All the best ideas come out of the process; they come out of the… work itself. Things occur to you. If you’re sitting around trying to dream up a great art idea, you can sit there a long time before anything happens. But if you just get to work, something will occur to you and something else will occur to you and something else that you reject will push you in another direction. Inspiration is absolutely unnecessary and somehow deceptive. You feel like you need this great idea before you can get down to work, and I find that’s almost never the case.

I am taking that advice and just doing what I do. You do what you do, okay?

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Paul Henry - The Fairy ThornI thought since this was St. Patrick’s Day that  I would feature an Irish painter.  There are a couple of obvious choices– Francis Bacon and Jack Butler Yeats, for example– but I chose Paul Henry, who spent his life painting his native Ireland from 1877 until 1958.  He was perhaps the best known painter in Ireland through the first half of the 20th century though many of us here in the States may not recognize the name.

You will however recognize the familiarity of his landscapes, most set in the west of Ireland in the Connemara district, an area described by Oscar Wilde as “ a savage beauty.”   For many, Henry’s landscapes represent the idealized image of the Irish countryside with simple white cottages set among stark, barren hills and rolling green fields.  But his greens are not that bright Kelly green so often used in depicting Ireland.  No, Henry often chose blue and brown tints in his work.  He used a very distinct and deceptively cool palette in his painting which enhances the coolness and solitary nature of the landscapes.

So, even if you haven’t an ounce of Irish blood, I hope you will enjoy these images of Eire.  Have a good St. Paddy’s Day.

Paul Henry Paul Henry The Fishing Fleet Galway

(c) Queen's University, Belfast; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Paul Henry Killary Bay Paul Henry A Farm in County Down Paul Henry A Connemara Village 1933-34 Paul Henry - Connemara Landscape

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bacon-s-studio-1This is not my studio.

Although sometimes when I am in a really good groove of painting my studio does get progressively more and more cluttered.  At first, it doesn’t bother me at all that the floor didn’t get swept or that piles of papers are beginning to pile high on the stone kneewalls that separate the spaces in the studio.  Tubes and bottles of paint and old yogurt containers with brushes in varying degrees of wear all over the place.  New paintings propped against any available wall space so that I can freely see and consider them and a few old pieces and raw canvasses ready to be worked on stacked off to the side, creating a new wall in themselves.

bacon-studioBut at a certain point, the feeling of chaos begins to creep in and I can’t take it anymore. I have to organize at least a bit to calm the drone that the chaos has brought on in my head before it breaks into my painting rituals too much.  So, I re-stack paintings and paper, cleans some brushes and containers, put away some books and maybe vacuum.

Maybe.

Maybe not.

bacon-reece-mews-studioBut I feel a little lighter and my mind is clearer so I can easily fall back into that groove.  Plus my current studio is, even in its most cluttered state, less chaotic than my old studio in the woods above our home.  It was very rustic and I regularly purged the paints I soaked up in my process from my brushes on to the floor, creating a huge black spot of paint and ink.  Plus, being much smaller than the current studio made the space always seem filled and in a somewhat messy state even after I would pick up.

But even that space didn’t compare with the studio of Francis Bacon, the Irish born painter known for work that is sometimes violent and disturbing in nature.  The shots shown here are from his old London studio that was left intact after his death in 1992 at the age of 82.  It was moved exactly as it was, with every bit of dust and debris intact, to the Hugh Lane Gallery in Dublin where it is on permanent display.

bacon_study1953I remember seeing these photos years ago and feeling so much better about my studio.  The huge black paint stain on my floor didn’t seem so bad.  But I wondered if I could function in his space.  I guess the concentration required to block out the mounds of debris would have to be incredible.  Maybe that is part of the painting obsession- to be so engrossed in what is before you that all else is pushed far off into the background.  Bacon did view his painting as an obsession, saying, “I have been lucky enough to be able to live on my obsession. This is my only success.”  

Bacon was an incredibly interesting character and one whose words often ring true for me.  He was self taught and talked in terminology that I understand, earthy and straightforward.  Very little artspeak.

The piece shown here from Bacon is one of my favorites, Study After Velazquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X, and is very representative of the style of much of his work.  You can find a lot on Bacon and his work online.

Well, got to go– I think I better pick up a bit…

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bacon-reece-mews-studioOne of the chores I have around the studio this time of the year is to restore a little order.  The year is a little over halfway over and in painting for the two solo shows I do each year that open in June and July, my studio environment can get a little disheveled, papers piled up and paint tubes, bottles and brushes everywhere.  Half-done canvasses, some started with a fire of inspiration that suddenly  dwindled midway and now await renewed  interest, lean against every available wall.  Books are stacked in piles waiting for the day when I can sit down and just read.  

It’s not as bad as it was in my old studio in the woods.  It was smaller and all my different processes including framing, staining and matting, were done in one compact space.  That was infinitely more messy and about this time every year, I found the clutter made concentrating in the studio more and more difficult.  The mess created a kind of static in my thinking.

bacon_study1953Now, the studio shown above is that of Francis Bacon, the late Irish born artist best known for his Expressionistic work that is often viewed as violent and disturbing.  I remember seeing these photos years ago and feeling so much better about my studio.  The huge black paint stain on my floor didn’t seem so bad.  But I wondered if I could function in his space.  I guess the concentration required to block out the mounds of debris would have to be incredible.  Maybe that is part of the painting obsession- to be so engrossed in what is before you that all else is pushed far off into the background.  Bacon did view his painting as an obsession, saying, “I have been lucky enough to be able to live on my obsession. This is my only success.”  

Bacon was an incredibly interesting character and one whose words often ring true for me.  He was self taught and talked in terminology that I understand, earthy and straightforward.  Very little artspeak.  

The piece shown here is one of my favorites, Study After Velazquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X, and is very representative of the style of much of his work.  You can find a lot on Bacon and his work online.

Anyway, I’ve got some cleaning to do or my studio will start to look like this…

 

 

I have been lucky enough to be able to live on my obsession. This is my only success.

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