Posts Tagged ‘Henry David Thoreau’


“I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”

― Henry David Thoreau, Walden: Or, Life in the Woods


This is a new painting, 18″ by 24″ on panel, that is headed to the Principle Gallery for my upcoming show, Redtree: New Growth, that opens June 7. It’s been one of those pieces that keeps drawing my eye in its direction here in the studio. Maybe it’s the rings of colorful flowers– part of the New Growth from the show’s title–that encircle the Red Tree that attract my eye. They have a gem-like quality in the landscape.

I have mentioned in the past how I view many of my Red Tree paintings as being portraiture as much as they are landscapes, with the Red Tree and the foreground landscape often serving as the head and shoulders of a portrayed figure.  That certainly holds true for this piece, which I have titled  The Pharaoh’s Necklace.

In this piece, I see the Red Tree as a head held high with the colorful bands around the mound– the neck here– transforming from beds of flowers into a sort of necklace like those seen of the pharaohs of ancient Egypt. By the way, for your daily dose of useless facts, that type of necklace is called a usekh or wesekh.

Seeing this painting as a portrait, I see it as a portrayal of the strength and pride of someone who has, as Thoreau describes above, endeavored to live the life they have imagined in their dreams and have met with unexpected success.

More than that, it’s a painting of possibility, one that points out that we all have the potential to realize our hopes and aspirations, That is, if we can first formulate a dream. I sometimes get the feeling that many people have never given their dreams much thought.

As to those who have, I often wonder if many people actually maintain the dreams of their youth into their adulthood. If not, have they convinced themselves that these dreams were foolish and unattainable then finally ceased all pursuit? Or perhaps they had aspirations that didn’t match up with their actual strengths and abilities?

For example, I knew at an early age that my dream of being the ace of the St. Louis Cardinals pitching staff was off the table. And I never had the nerve to be a master thief. I knew my dreams had to focus on the few qualities I possessed and prized if they were ever going to come to fruition, if I was ever going to wear my own pharaoh’s necklace.

And, thankfully, there are some days when I do feel that I am sporting my own gem encrusted usekh. Those are the good days of this life and this painting is how those certain days feel to me.



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Hokusai- First Cargo Boat Battling the Wave


You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment.

—-Henry David Thoreau


Really felt like looking at some of my favorite Japanese prints from the 19th century this morning, mainly from Hokusai and Hiroshige. There are a couple here, including the one above, that led to the iconic Great Wave from Hokusai, shown just below.

With their great rhythm, harmony, and force, I could look at these pieces continuously and never feel like I’ve looked enough.

As for the symbolism of the wave today, you can plug in whatever meaning pleases you.

I know what it means for me today. And, with a bit of hope, tomorrow.

Hokusai- The Great Wave

Hokusai- Feminine/Male Wave Kammachi Festival Float Ceiling Panels

Feminine Wave – From Float Panel Hokusai



Hiroshige- Navaro Rapids

Hiroshige- Sea Off Satta Point

HiroshigeThe Wave 1859

Hokusai- View of Honmoku off Kanagawa

19th Century Japaneses Woodblock -Artist Not Indicated


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It is better to have your head in the clouds, and know where you are, if indeed you cannot get it above them, than to breathe the clearer atmosphere below them, and think that you are in paradise.

–Henry David Thoreau


This is a new painting, titled Aurae, that is part of my upcoming June show at the Principle Gallery. It has a real presence in a space, mainly to its strong colors and its sheer size, 36″ by 36″. I know that it’s a piece that my eyes keep coming back to during the day as I am working in the studio and with each look comes a deep and satisfying pang.


I don’t know what that even means except that it feels good.

I guess it also means that it feels right and true.

Core. Essential.

I just feel a pang inside, in that area between my head and my heart, when I look at it.

Aurae is the plural of aura and it refers to the pale blue aurae that runs around each cloud. These blue aurae were actually never meant to be so visible. They were meant to be a step to another upcoming layer (or layers) that would have undoubtedly altered the final painting from what you are seeing. But once they were in place, they suddenly made the piece jump to life. The whole piece seemed to speak at that point and I knew I couldn’t cover these aurae with more paint.

But aurae also refers to the general atmosphere that surrounds the central Red Tree here. It’s an atmosphere of completeness, of self-knowledge.  Or as Thoreau said in the words at the top, of knowing where you truly are as a human.

I am going to stop talking about it. The more I write, the less I seem to be saying.

Let’s just go with pang.


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Rules: Replay

I wrote the following post back in early 2009.  I am replaying it today just as a reminder to myself to not get too caught up in my own set of rules for my work.  I have to tell myself to remember that sometimes it’s the straying from the norm that creates the new norm.

GC Myers-  Solitary Crossing- 2009


Any fool can make a rule, and any fool will mind it.

     –Henry David Thoreau


I have always had a problem with adhering to rules, in practically all aspects of my life.  It’s as though when a rule is presented, a part of me automatically starts figuring out an exception to the rule, a way to go around it.  In everyday life this is not always a desirable trait, often putting one at odds with the law and one’s own conscience.

But, as luck would have it, this trait is indispensable in art.

It’s always amazing to me how many artists are tied to their own set of rules and nothing can deter this adherence, even if straying a bit might actually cause their work to really blossom.

For example, I know a painter who will generally only paint what is before him, either in person or in photos, and will not add or subtract any detail from the scene.  He once showed me a painting that was really painted beautifully, rich and bold. Everything worked well and the piece was really eye-catching except for a telephone pole that bisected, in a very intrusive fashion, the very middle of the canvas. It was a real distraction that threw off the whole weight of the composition and stripped away a lot of the appeal that it might hold.

Why is this pole here?” I asked.

He gave me a quizzical look then said, “Because it’s there.

He explained that it was in the scene as he had photographed it. When I asked if it had any purpose in the painting he said that it didn’t but it was part of the original scene as he saw it.

There was a certain realization that came from this brief exchange.  I realized that there were truly talented artists who can sometimes be shackled by their own rules and that absolute adherence to any arbitrary rule can be the death of creative expression.

Now, I’m sure there will be those who would argue this point and would be able to point out any number of examples that might contradict this statement.  So what? They are mere exceptions to this loosely formed rule.

So, kids, here’s the moral of this story:  In art, keep the rules around as guidelines, but when you need to paint outside the lines or cut out that ugly pole that is breaking up a beautiful scene, just do it.

PS: I would probably amend the wording in Thoreau’s quote to damn fool. Those two words seemed forever linked in my mind. Besides, if you’re a fool there’s a pretty good chance you’re a damn fool.

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GC Myers- The Old Man smNone are so old as those who have outlived enthusiasm.
Henry David Thoreau


This is a new painting that measures 12″ by 6″ on panel and is part of my show at the West End Gallery that opens in about two weeks, on July 22.

I  call it The Old Man.

For me it symbolizes someone in their final years and days of life who has lost enthusiasm for this world, who sees it as a place that has changed beyond all recognition or comprehension.  It is no longer their world, which feels like an alien landscape in which they are stranded.

They feel detached from the lifeblood of the now and of the future, clinging to what remains of the past in their memories and connections, both which grow smaller and smaller with the passing of time.  After a time, even pulling from that field of memory brings no joy.

It becomes a painful waiting game beneath an unblinking sun.

That sounds sad, I know.  But there is something positive in it as well.  I see this as a cautionary piece, one that warns against disengaging from the world even as it changes from that which we have known and accepted.  The world keeps on moving and we must remain enthusiastic and find new joy in this ever changing world.

That’s my take on this painting, most likely formed from some personal observations. Perhaps you will see something other than this when you look at this image, something that jibes with your view of the world.

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GC Myers- Contact smThe morning wind forever blows, the poem of creation is uninterrupted; but few are the ears to hear it.

Henry David Thoreau


This new painting is 24″ by 30″ on canvas and is titled Contact.  The words from Thoreau above speak pretty clearly to what I see in this piece,  that we often ignore the beauty and wonder of the natural world that exists all around us.  How many of us take the time to actually look at the sway of the trees in the breeze or the pattern of the stars in the night sky?  Sadly, we’re more likely now to see these things on our phones or laptops.

We’re too  busy, too distracted to have much interaction or contact with the wonder of the world that is often within our reach.

The buildings here seem closed in and eyeless, almost as though they are turned away from and oblivious to the world beyond their narrow line of sight.  They are symbolically in the shadow of the hillside, rising in a pyramid-ish form toward the open fields and woods that open to the radiating sky.  The sun has a warm and eye-like presence and the Red Tree seems to have reached a sort of tranquil communion with it.


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GC Myers- I Was Lost 1997Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves.

Henry David Thoreau


I used the painting above to illustrate a post several years back.  Titled I Was Lost, this is an experimental piece I did back in early 1997.  It remains one of my favorite pieces, one that I linger over when I come across it in my computer’s files or when I go through some older work stored in a bin here in the studio.

There’s nothing special about this piece.  It’s a simple thought that was quickly rendered.  It definitely didn’t end up  anywhere in the vicinity of perfection.  Some of the lines veer  and quiver uncertainly while the tree trunks sometimes bulge erratically. There’s not really much to grab onto in  this piece.

Yet for all it’s deficiencies there is something in this painting that simply speaks to me in a personal way.  There’s a flawed elegance in it that moves me– a grace that provides me with hope on those days when the world seems bleak and it is hard to see beyond the trees that obscure the path ahead.

Thoreau’s words mesh well with this piece.  To put it another way: Adversity builds character.  A-B-C.

When we are lost in the woods, look past the trees that block our view.  There’s a way forward. We may not like it at the time but every challenge provides us with the opportunity to discover more of who we really are.

Sorry for going off on a pep talk this morning.  Hopefully, you didn’t need it.  And if you did, I hope this helps a bit.

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