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Posts Tagged ‘Influence’

Marc Chagall Sun of ParisWhen I am finishing a picture I hold some God-made object up to it / a rock, a flower, the branch of a tree or my hand / as a kind of final test. If the painting stands up beside a thing man cannot make, the painting is authentic. If there’s a clash between the two, it is bad art.

–Marc Chagall

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I haven’t mentioned Marc Chagall  here but once over the 6+ years I have been doing this blog and I very seldom list him as one of my influences or even one of my favorite artists.   But somehow he always seems to be sitting prominently there at the end of the day, both as a favorite and an influence.

One way in which his influence takes  form is in the way in which he created a unique visual vocabulary of symbology within his work.  His soaring people, his goats and horses and angels all seem at once mythic yet vaguely reminiscent of our own dreams, part of each of us but hidden deeply within.

They are mysterious but familiar.

marc-chagall-fishermans-family-1968And that’s a quality– mysterious and familiar– that I sought for my own symbols: the Red Chair, the Red Tree and the anonymous houses, for examples.  That need to paint familiar objects that could take on other aspects of meaning very much came from Chagall’s paintings.

He also exerted his influence in the way in which he painted, distinct and as free-flowing as a signature.  It was very much what I would call his Native Voice.  Not affected or trying to adhere to any standards, just coming off his brush freely and naturally.

An organic expression of himself.  And that is something I have sought since I first began painting– my own native voice, one in which I painted as easily and without thought as I would write my signature.

  So to read how Chagall judged his work for authenticity makes me consider how I validate my own work.  It’s not that different.  I use the term a sense of rightness to describe what I am seeking in the work which is the same sense one gets when you pick up a stone and consider it.  Worn through the ages, untouched for the most part by man, it is precisely what it is.  It’s form and feel are natural and organic. There is just an inherent  rightness to it.  I hope for that same sense when I look at my work and I am sure that it is not far from the feeling Chagall sought when he compared his own work to a rock or a flower or his own hand.

Marc Chagall Song of Songs

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mose-allison_1Artistic influences,  seeing how a certain artist will take the work of others and transform it into their own, is a fascinating thing.  Sometimes it’s very obvious especially when the influence is of equal renown or when one artist directly copies the work of another.  But sometimes there are great influences that you may not even recognize.

Mose Allison (born in 1927) is such a person, a name you probably don’t know.  But for many musicians in the who found their voice in the 60’s, he was a huge influence.  Jimi Hendrix,  The Rolling Stones, The Who, The Animals, Tom Waits, Van Morrison and many, many others have all cited him as a strong influence on their work.  But Mose Allison, while achieving considerable fame, never became the household name like so many of his admirers.

He was pretty hard to pigeonhole as a musician- at times very bluesy, himself strongly influenced by the delta blues of his home in Mississippi, other times very jazzy or even pop tinged.  But always a unique and individual sound that allowed him to take a song, his own or those written by others, and  give it a new perspective.  I have to admit that I didn’t know much about Mose Allison until just recently but have been thrilled to find his work and can easily see it in the work of so many others.  I encourage you to seek out his work and give it a listen.

To that end, here’s a small sample for this Sunday morning.  It’s his version of the Willie Dixon blues classic The Seventh Son, a song that became a pop hit for Johnny Rivers.  But here, it definitely feels all Mose Allison.  Enjoy and have a great Sunday.

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Snoopy and Schroeder DanceAt the Kada Gallery opening last week,  a very pleasant man asked if my work was influenced by the Peanuts cartoons.  He said the work had that same feeling for him.  I laughed and said that, of course, these cartoons had been a large influence on my work and probably the way I see things in general.  After all, Snoopy was the first thing I ever learned to draw, the result of an older boy on my school bus ( thank you, Tom Hillman, wherever you might be) showing me how to do so in several easy steps.  Throughout grade school Snoopy was drawn all over every piece of paper I came across, his Joe Cool and World War I Flying Ace characters being personal favorites.

I explained that many of those early cartoons — the great Chuck Jones’ Looney Tunes , the very early Popeyes , the Disney cartoons with their gorgeous color, and so many more–informed and influenced the way I looked at things and set a pattern for the way I would later interpret the landscape.  They created a visual shorthand in the work that simplified the  forms in the surrounding landscape yet still gave a sense of place and time and emotion.

And that’s precisely what I try to do in my work today.

For me, A Charlie Brown Christmas is as close to perfect as any cartoon can be.  It’s a wonderful blending  of mood, movement and music with a smartness and charm that never seems to diminish. For this week’s dose of Sunday morning music, what could be more fitting than the Vince Guaraldi’s Christmas Dance from it?

Have a great Sunday and, if you feel like it, dance along with the Peanuts gang.  It’ll do ya’ good…

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matisse_icarusI am after an art of equilibrium and purity, an art that neither unsettles nor confuses.  I would like people who are weary, stressed and broken to find peace and tranquility as they look at my pictures.

-Henri Matisse

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I list Henri Matisse, the French painter who was at the forefront of modern painting at the beginning of the 20th century, as a favorite and an influence.  It’s an odd pick because it is based not simply on the impact of his imagery.  In reality, some of his work does nothing for me and brings little reaction.  But there are pieces that do and when you couple these with his words on his art, his life’s ever evolving body of work  and the fearlessness with which he approached his art- well, then there is an overall impact that is huge.

I find myself nodding in agreement often when I read his words, like the quote at the top here, which sums up what I have been trying to say about my own work for some time.   His words shed a lot of light on his work for me, allow me to better see how he was seeing his own work which makes me appreciate it all the more as it changed over the course of his long career.  Born in 1869, Matisse began painting in the early 1890’s and worked at his art until his death in 1954.

Matisse Blue Nude cut ou 2tI use the term worked at this art because Matisse was not only a painter.  As health problems hindered him, he turned to other forms of expression such as cutting forms out of paper.  The image at the top, Jazz, and Blue Nude, shown here on the left, are two of his best known examples of the cut outs, both considered masterpieces of modern art.  This ability to express himself fully through his art despite hardships is really inspiring as is the fearless way in which he approached his painting.

It is bold and sure, with human curves throughout.  More about harmonizing color and simplifying form than capturing reality.  It makes me want to pick up a loaded brush and just paint freely and easily.  Let loose.

There’s a lot more to say about Matisse.  It took me a while to see why he was so influential to so many artists but now that I can fully see the scope of his work, I now better understand and take his influence and inspiration with me.

Matisse-The-Dessert-Harmony-in-Red-Henri-1908-fast Matisse- La_danse_ 1st Version MOMA

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Henri Rousseau- Self Portrait -1890

Henri Rousseau- Self Portrait -1890

I wrote a tiny bit on this site about Henri Rousseau over five years back, showing a few of  his paintings that I count among my favorites.  Over the years, that little blogpost is consistently my most popular page, receiving a considerable number of hits each day.  It’s a testament to the  power of his imagery, both in its ability to draw in the viewer and in the timeless quality it possesses in its evocation of mood.  I know those are the two qualities that drew me to Rousseau and the qualities I sought to emulate in my own work.

But going through a large book of his work yesterday, I was stuck by one  of his  greatest attributes, one that I had overlooked: his fearless approach to painting.  His work never tried to be something that it was not and always displayed his hand proudly, always declaring itself as his.  It gave even his lesser works a strength that is undeniable and true.

It was evidence of a supreme belief in the manner in which he was expressing himself.

That’s not a small thing.  I know for myself, there is a constant struggle to maintain my own voice and vision, to not try to conform to the expectations and definitions set down by others in my work.  To remain fearless like Rousseau.

henri_rousseau_-_a_carnival_eveningRousseau was born  in 1844 and worked most of his life as a civil servant, a clerk who collected taxes on goods going into Paris.  He didn’t start painting  until he was in his early 40’s and was not a full-time painter until he was 49.  He was basically self taught  and worked for the next seventeen years as a painter, blissfully maintaining his fearless work even though he was ignored or disparaged by most of the critics and much of the art world in general.

Yet, among the painters of his day he remains one of the most influential, directly inspiring other giants such as Picasso and many of the the Surrealists.  I think they, too, were drawn in and empowered by his fearlessness.

I think he might have been one of the great examples of someone painting the paintings he wanted to see.  And that, too, is not a small thing.  This and his bold approach are constant reminders to painters who want to maintain their unique voice, who don’t want to be lumped in with genres and styles and schools to stay fearless.

I will try.

henri-rousseau-sleeping-gypsy Henri Rousseau the dream 1910

 

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GC Myers-1993 PieceI was looking through some old work, pieces that came from my earliest forays into painting about twenty years ago when I was just beginning to experiment.  I came across this particular piece and stopped as I always do when I am meandering through the old work and this painting appears before me.  It is one of my earliest efforts,  done in late 1993.  It is rough and doesn’t exactly represent where my work has went in the meantime.  I was hesitant in  showing it here but felt that there was something important in it for me.

This  painting, copied in part from another artist’s watercolor,  was done with old air brush paints on very cheap watercolor paper.  As I said, it’s rough and not a piece for which I hold a lot of pride. Nor is it a piece that shows any level of mastery.   Certainly not a piece that I  want many people to see if they are not already familiar with my work from the decades beyond this.  You seldom want to show something that displays a weakness but sometimes there is something of value that goes beyond the surface.

But for me there is something about this piece that propelled me forward, something that gave me some sort of insight into where I might want to go with this whole thing.  I equate it to walking along and suddenly stumbling for what seems no reason.  You stop and look down to see what made you trip and there is nothing but a tiny pebble.  Insignificant in every way.  Certainly nothing that would make you stop at any other time.  But this time it has somehow caused you to loose your balance.  So you stop and stand there, looking down at this pebble.  In the moment, you  begin to see other things that you had never taken notice of before and the path you had been walking before the pebble waylaid you is forgotten.

And that’s what this painting was and is for me– a pebble.  On it’s own it is very little.  Insignificant in every way.  But for me it that thing that tripped me and made me stop to take  notice of a new path.  There were small inklings– the curves of the landscape and the blocking of the colors, for example– in this this piece that sparked thoughts and further explorations that, in turn, pushed me even more as I went forward.

In a very long chain of mostly fortunate reactions, this was the catalyst.  So while I may not hold this painting in high esteem (nor would I expect anyone  to do so) this old work has real meaning for me.

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