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Posts Tagged ‘GC Myers’

Wyeth/ Balance

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It’s all in how you arrange the thing… the careful balance of the design is the motion.

-Andrew Wyeth

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I read this quote from the late Andrew Wyeth then looked over a large group of his work, examining each piece with these words in mind. I could really see the importance of the placement of the elements in his work, how it was the characteristic that truly defined his work. It was this that gave his work a poetic feel.

His use of negative space is masterful, the empty areas taking on an important role in the overall feel of the work. Placing the central character, the focal point of the picture, in any in any other spot would change the whole piece, would make it feel less.

It would feel off balance, at least in the form that Wyeth defined it. That balance is his signature.

And I think that is true for many artists. This idea of balance and motion makes up the artist’s eye. Every artist has a slightly different way of seeing things which creates their own unique visual voice.

Myself, when I feel stuck or blocked or feel that I have painted myself into a creative dead end, I look back at older work. It is often the balance and motion with the composition that affect me the most. It serves as a reminder to not lose sight of this idea of balance, to not focus too  much on other parts of the painting that, while important, may not have as much effect on the overall impact of the piece.

Balance in the design creates motion. Good advice from Mr. Wyeth.

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Three Rules of Work: Out of clutter find simplicity; From discord find harmony; In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.

–Albert Einstein

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This Einstein fellow is a pretty smart guy.

Simplification, harmony and opportunity could be ingredients for any recipe to success in any field but I think they apply particularly well to the creative arts. I know that I can easily apply these three rules to my own work.

For me, its strength lies in its ability to transmit through simplification and harmony. The forms are often simplified versions of reality, shedding details that don’t factor into what it is trying to express.

There is often an underlying texture in the work that is chaotic and discordant. The harmonies in color and form painted over these create a tension, a feeling of wholeness in the work. A feeling of finding a pattern in the chaos that makes it all seem sensible.

And the final rule–opportunity lying in the midst of difficulty– is perhaps the easiest to apply. The best work always seems to rise from the greatest depths, those times when the mind has to move from its normal trench of thought. Times when it has to find new ways to move the message ahead.   The difficulties of life are often great but there is almost always an opportunity or lesson to be found within them if only we are able to take a deep breath and see them. These lesson always find their way into the work in some way.

Thanks for the thought, Mr. Einstein. I hear good things about you.

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This post ran here several years ago. Just thought I needed a reminder of what I should be doing.

 

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With about a foot of snow already on the ground and more falling as I write, I spent my first few hours this morning shoveling and plowing but still felt that I should post something. I am running one of my favorite posts, one that I run every few years. 

GC Myers- Heliotrope sm***************************

“Patience and perseverance have a magical effect before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish.”

-John Quincy Adams

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I don’t what made this pop into my head but I was thinking about a conversation from a few years back that I had with a friend who is also a painter. He has been a working artist for almost his entire adult life, fairly successful for much of that time. We both agree that we are extremely fortunate to have found the careers that we have, one that feels like a destination rather than a passageway to some other calling.

For me, I knew this was the career for me when I realized I no longer looked at the job listings in the classified section of the paper. For most of my life, I felt there was something else out there that would satisfy me but I didn’t know what it was or how to find it. Maybe it was as simple as finding the right job. Or so I thought.

When you don’t know where you’re going, any direction feels like it might be the right direction.

But during this particular conversation this friend asked, “What would you do if you suddenly couldn’t paint? What if you were suddenly blind?”

For him, it was unthinkable. His life of creation was totally visual, based on expressing every emotion in paint.

I thought about it for a second and said simply, “I’d do something else. I’d find a way.”

In that split-second I realized that while I loved painting and relished the idea that I could communicate completely in paint, painting was a mere device for self-expression. But it was not the only way to go. I knew then as I know now that the deprivation of something that has come to mean so much to me would, in itself, create a new need for expression that would somehow be satisfied. I have always marveled at the people who, when paralyzed or have lost use of their arms, paint with their toes or their mouth . Their drive to communicate overcame their obstacles. Mine would as well.

If blinded, I could or do something with words, using them to create color and texture. Perhaps not at the same level as my painting but it might grow into something different given the circumstance. The need to communicate whatever I needed to communicate would create a pathway.

It was an epiphany in that moment. Just knowing that I had found painting gave me the belief that I could and would find a new form of expression if needed.

I did it once and I could do it again. And I found that greatly comforting.

Yes, I’d find a way…

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I’ve mentioned here before that my father is in a local nursing facility, suffering from Alzheimer’s related dementia. Visits with him have become shorter and shallower, barely any conversation outside of a short script of repeating questions he asks that remain embedded in his fading mind. Most of the time, he sleeps now. It’s a strange thing seeing him now. He seems a faint echo of his prior self. Many of the facets of he personality I knew as a kid are not recognizable in him now.

I sometimes sit there for a bit and look at him, trying to remember him in different times, with his good points and his bad. I often think of him with his friends at a few local bars, the environment where he seemed to me to be most comfortable and at home. There was a lot of easy laughing and a warmth extended to his comrades, many of which were guys he’d known for most of life, that I didn’t see anywhere else, even at home. It was a true facet of who he was, one that only showed itself in the safety found in the dark, smoky closeness of those old bars. 

At those moments, looking at him in this way, I always go back to a favorite song, one that I used in the post below from several years ago that deals with this same subject. Here it is:

GC Myers-Tree Waltz smIt’s the last Sunday of June and I sit in my studio early this morning surrounded by new work in varied states of completion that is headed to the West End Gallery for my show there at the end of July. There are paintings on easels and on chairs, some propped against the walls, on ledges above the fireplace as well as leaning against the hearth– everywhere I turn they’re facing me.

I take a moment and just sit back and take them all in, just letting them meld together as a collective group. For a moment, there’s a disconcerting feeling like looking at mirror that is shattered but still in place, a hundred different angles of myself staring back at me. But there is a quick adjustment, like my eyes coming into focus, and they’re no longer images of myself. Oh, I’m in there and I am part of what they are but they are more like a group of friends surrounding me, each with their own life but still maintaining a close relationship with me. I know them well, know their secrets, know what they mean to me. And they know me, hold my secrets and share a past with me.

In that moment, there’s a feeling like I am in a room full of friends and it is warmly reassuring. I’m not sure I can do justice with my description here. It makes me think of a favorite song of mine, Feeling Good Again, from Robert Earl Keen. Whenever I hear this song I am reminded of the time in my youth spent with my father, especially after my brother and sister were gone and I alone remained at home.

On many Saturdays we ended up at the horse track and before heading out would stop at a beer joint in town. It would only be about 9 or 10 in the morning but the place would be busy, with some guys drinking their morning coffee and some their first of many beers for the day. When we walked in, there would be shouted greetings and smiles from around the bar. Everyone knew each other and there was a terrific sense of friendship and camaraderie in their banter. Looking back, I can  see how that place was a safe haven for a lot of tough, working class lives and how those friendships, though maybe not deep, were reassuring, a connection they often couldn’t find in other parts of their lives.

They might struggle through the week but for s few short hours, they had a kinship that made it tolerable. Those times had them feeling good again.

Feeling Good Again is the name of this song from Robert Earl Keen. When I hear this song, I am transformed again to one of those Saturday mornings, a thirteen year old kid drinking a coke while my old man joked around with his buddies and looked over the Racing Form with his cup of coffee.  Have a great day.

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Robert Henri- Irish Girl (Mary O’Donnel) -1913

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Because we are saturated with life, because we are human, our strongest motive is life, humanity; and the stronger the motive back of the line the stronger, and therefore more beautiful, the line will be.

–Robert Henri (1865-1929)

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I came across this quote from the highly influential painter/ teacher Robert Henri and it made me think of two separate incidents that influenced my work.

The first comes from the quote itself, about how a strong belief in humanity and life should manifest itself in one’s art, creating a stronger and bolder and more beautiful line. It brings to mind the only art training I ever received, a night course, Drawing 101, from a local community college. I was taking it because at the time I had an interest in pursuing architecture and needed a portfolio. All the drawing I had done up to that time was just, more or less, doodling on bits of paper, in journals, or in the margins of magazines and newspapers. I thought a course on drawing would get me to some work that might help in putting together a portfolio.

The course ended up being a travesty. The instructor had little interest in being there and gave only cursory instruction. He kept an eye fixed on the clock and often ended the sessions early so that he could get to the local pub a bit quicker. I didn’t get much out of the course and dropped my quest to go into architecture but I did get one bit of advice that I carried with me.

The instructor pointed out that he preferred strong, bold lines even if they were not completely accurate or correct in the context of the drawing. They exuded confidence and that was more important that accuracy, especially if the lines were weak and tentative. That really struck a chord with me and stuck with me through the years until I began painting.

I think his words line up well with Henri’s assertion above. That confidence the instructor referred to is much the same as Henri’s saturation with life and humanity.

The other incident that I was reminded of upon stumbling across Henri’s words is my encounter with the painting at the top of the page. It is titled Irish Girl ( Mary O’Donnel) and was painted by Henri in 1913 and is at the Boston Museum of Fine Art. When I first saw it, I was showing my work at several galleries and was about a year away from my first big solo show at the Principle Gallery.

I encountered this painting in a large gallery in the museum and was struck how people would immediately head to this painting, even though it was one of the smaller pieces in the large space. I couldn’t figure out why this was. I mean, it was a strong painting but the way people were attracted to it seemed out of line with what I was seeing. Looking at it dispassionately, I finally settled on the color of her sweater as being the reason. It was deep crimson that really popped off the wall.

It made me examine my own palette of colors. My colors at the time were more earth toned and red was certainly not a large part of it. When it did come into play, it was usually more subdued and washed out. Pale. To tell the truth, I was a bit afraid of it as a color. When I tried it in a bolder way, it often skewed to harsher, sharper tones that were not to my liking and usually didn’t align with the emotional context of the painting.

But seeing Henri’s use of it made me better appreciate the power of the color. I began to work with it more and soon was incorporating in my work on a regular basis. It became a vital part of my visual vocabulary. It showed itself in a big way with my first show at the Principle Gallery which was titled Red Tree. It has stuck with me and I have Henri’s Irish Girl to thank.

It’s interesting how sometimes failed attempts, like my college course, or confounding encounters, such as mine with Henri’s painting, have impacts on you that you could never foresee. You never truly know what will come from anything we stumble across. Inspiration comes in many forms.

Have a good Saturday.

 

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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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GC Myers- A Small Serenity*******************************

We are not going to change the whole world, but we can change ourselves and feel free as birds. We can be serene even in the midst of calamities and, by our serenity, make others more tranquil. Serenity is contagious. If we smile at someone, he or she will smile back. And a smile costs nothing. We should plague everyone with joy. If we are to die in a minute, why not die happily, laughing? 

― Swami SatchidanandaThe Yoga Sutras

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The painting above, created a couple of years back, recently came back to me which was a surprise because it really spoke to and pacified me from the moment it was finished. It was painted as a reaction to the darker nature of the time in which it was painted and was meant to serve as a hopeful guide forward. Given that the darkness of that time has only deepened, I believe its message is even more necessary today. 

To give an example, during the drive to visit my father who is a resident in a nursing facility suffering from Alzheimer’s related dementia, I find myself more and more aggravated these days by the people I encounter on the road. Some days I arrive at the facility seething and tense. But walking in, I try to smile and say something, a simple “hello” or “how are you?,” to the folks I meet on the way. That simple act and the occasional return of a smile or greeting from the other person has a profoundly soothing effect on me. My mounting misanthropy fades away for those moments.

And maybe that’s what I hope for this piece.  I don’t know. Anyway, here’s what I wrote about this piece a few years back:

I call this tidy 6″ by 12″ painting A Small Serenity. It’s a small and simple piece but it has a lovely feeling of tranquility in it, one that far exceeds its humble size. If anything, its dimensions enhance its sense of serene quietness.

And perhaps that is how a contagion of serenity begins, as a small seed within ourselves. A tiny feeling of peaceful tranquility that grows then bursts from us, radiating outward to infect those around us and hopefully through them to others.

And on and on and on.

The cynical part of me knows that such a plague of placidity is improbable but looking at this little painting for a moment gives me the serenity to hope and ask,“Why not? What harm could be done in being kind and calm or in wearing a smile? As the late Swami Satchidananda says above, a smile costs nothing.

So, let’s start this plague today.

Shouldn’t we all feel free as birds?

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