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Posts Tagged ‘Influences’

 

You can’t force inspiration. It’s like trying to catch a butterfly with a hoop but no net. If you keep your mind open and receptive, though, one day a butterfly will land on your finger.

–Chuck Jones
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I came across the quote above from the great animator/artist Chuck Jones and it made me think of a blog post I wrote back in 2009, citing him as an influence. Nine years later, I still feel that way as strongly as ever. I still see hints of his landscapes in my own. His strong visuals, along with those of the early Max Fleischer Popeye cartoons, really imprinted on me. I thought it deserved a second run. Actually, I just wanted to show Marvin the Martian again.
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Marvin the Martian and Daffy
I have cited artists here who have been influences on my work, people who are often giants in the world of art and sometimes lesser known but equally talented artists. But sometimes you overlook the obvious, those ones who have always been right in front of you.

What's Opera DocLast night [from 2009], TCM honored the great cartoonist Chuck Jones by showing a documentary and some of his landmark cartoons starring Bugs Bunny, Elmer Fudd and Daffy Duck. He also did the Roadrunner/ Wile E. Coyote cartoons as well as the seminal holiday favorite, How the Grinch Stole Christmas. His work was and is a vivid part of an incredible number of people’s childhoods. His What’s Opera Doc? with Bugs and Elmer in a Wagnerian setting with a tragic ending is classic and might be the only exposure to higher culture that many viewers may get.chuck_jones-opera-set

For me, I was always so drawn to the color quality that Jones had in his cartoons as well as the way he interpreted the landscape with a form of artistic shorthand that cut out extraneous detail yet never took away from the feeling of place, unlike some of the lower quality cartoons from Hanna-Barbera in the early 60’s. Don’t get me wrong. I loved those cartoons as well but even as a kid I was really distracted by the poor quality of the landscapes that scrolled continuously behind their characters. With Chuck Jones, it always felt fresh and real, as though there was thought given to every detail in every frame. Who else could put imagery like the above scene from What’s Opera Doc? before the eyes of impressionable children? Probably only the artists from Disney can match Jones’ work at Warner Brothers, but that’s another post.

His work also treated you, as a kid, like you had intelligence. They were smart, clever and nuanced. They never talked down to you.

For a kid this was potent stuff. Scratch that- it’s just potent stuff. Period.

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Arthur Dove- Me and the Moon 1937

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We cannot express the light in nature because we have not the sun. We can only express the light we have in ourselves.

–Arthur Dove

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Really busy morning getting my upcoming Principle Gallery show ready. It seems there is just not enough time in the day and when there is, I don’t have the stamina to take advantage of it. Thought I’d share a few words from the Modernist painter Arthur Dove (1880-1846) who was someone I looked to when I was first beginning to paint. I liked the way he merged abstraction and representation in his work and how he used recurring elements in his work. The ball/circle shape that I use so often as my sun/moon always makes me think of Dove.

He was also from the Finger Lakes region of New York, born and raised in Canandaigua and educated up the road at Cornell. While that may hold no importance in his work, it interested me because it made me wonder how he saw the same things I have often seen in this area. How did this environment shape the way he saw and expressed the world?

Anyway, here are a few of my favorites along with a video of his work set to a nice Schubert piece.

Arthur Dove -River Bottom – 1923

Arthur Dove- Sunrise– 1924

Arthur Dove- Willow Tree — 1934

 

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Again, I am busy this morning but want to share something from one of my favorites and an influence on my work, Grant Wood. I’ve written about his work here in the past, about how his treatment of his landscapes really affected the way in which I approached my own. There is always such a great rhythm and a beautiful harmony of color and forms in his work. They seem like living beings.

The painting shown here on the right, Near Sundown, which was once owned by Katherine Hepburn, was a piece that really sparked me early on. The impression of it in my mind and memory still informs how I treat a lot of the elements in my own work.

This is a nice video with an interesting song backing it.  It’s a folk pop hit, Greenfields, from The Brother Four from back in 1960. It was a song that went all the way to #2 on the charts when it came out but it’s a song that I had never heard. Well, maybe I’ve heard it and just plain forgot it. That’s a definite possibility. It might not have been my first choice as the soundtrack for this video but it gives this a kind of neat, kitschy feel.

Give a look and enjoy the work of Mr. Wood. Have a great day.

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GC Myers-Ode to Whitman Orphans is the word I use to describe the paintings that don’t find a home.  I’ve been fortunate in my career that there haven’t really been that many so that the ones that do keep coming back to me take on a special significance, especially the ones that I felt were somehow special beforehand.  It may be the extra time I get to spend with them, examining them again and again to see if there is some inherent flaw or lack of fire that keeps someone from making it their own, that gives it this significance.  I spend much more time with these orphans than those paintings that quickly find a home.

Ode to Whitman is such an orphan, it being a piece has toured the country and has yet to find a home.  It saddens me a bit when I look at this painting because I do see the spirit of Walt Whitman in this piece, at least as he translates into my own psyche.  Though quiet in nature, the Red Tree here is celebrating its very being and could be embodying Whitman’s verse:

I too am not a bit tamed,

I too am untranslatable,

I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world.

These were words that were very influential in the formation of my artistic voice.  They dared me to stand apart.  They challenged me to reveal my inner self to the world, to let my light shine.  To let my yawp go free.

And that is what I see in this  piece.  It as though once the yawp has been released, even as the surrounding trees seem to be recoiling from its sound and fury, a placid pall has come into the center of its being.  It is calm now that it knows who it is, what it is.

As you can tell, I see and feel a lot in this simple painting.  I guess that is why it pulls at me to think of it as orphan.  That’s why I am going to give this piece a home and this is going to be the painting that will be given away at the Gallery Talk this coming Saturday at the Principle Gallery, which starts at 1 PM.  I know that it will find a good home in this way because someone who didn’t like my work would not spend an hour of their time listening to me talk about it.

So I hope you can make it  to the talk and that, if you’re the one who takes Ode to Whitman home , you realize the feeling that it carries with it.

Here’s another bit of Whitman that like, from the preface to his landmark Leaves of Grass:

“This is what you shall do; Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul, and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body.”

 

 

 

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Work Ethic/Redux

997-341-labor-to-light-4001 I’ve been going over some old blogposts from back in late 2008/early 2009 in preparation for a couple of upcoming interviews on public radio and television, just to see how my views on my work, or at least how I represent them,  might have evolved over the last four years.  I came across this post from October of 2008 that talks a bit about how  my work ethic in the studio was shaped.  It’s one of my favorite posts from that time and a story I’ve related a number of times over the years ,  one that I think is still relevant for most field of endeavor.

This is a piece called “Labor to Light”, a smaller piece that is at the West End Gallery in Corning.  It features one of what I call my icons, the field rows running back to the horizon.  To me, they represent the act of labor and its fruits- the work ethic which has been very important to me in this career and something I stress to kids whenever I get to talk to them.  

I remember years ago reading an interview with author John Irving (of “Garp” fame) where he talked about his work routine.  He talks quite a bit about wrestling in his writing as he was a high school and college grappler and he used a wrestling analogy to describe how he approached his writing.  He said that if he wanted to go to the highest level as a wrestler, which would be an Olympic or world  champion, he would have to train harder and longer than the men he would be competing against.  He felt that he was basically competing against every wrestler in the world.  He then turned this to writing.  

He turned his writing into a competitive effort of Olympic proportion, where he was competing with every other writer in the world for each reader that came into a bookstore.  If you were buying someone else’s book, you weren’t buying his and in his mind, he had lost.  So he began to train himself as a writer with the same effort as though he were an Olympic athlete, writing 7-8 hours per day, forcing himself to forge ahead even on days when it would be easy to just blow it off and do anything else.

When I read this it struck a chord.  I realized that in order to reach my highest level I would have to be willing to devote myself to working harder and longer than other artists, be willing to spend more time alone, away from distraction.  It would require sacrifice and hard labor.  But Irving’s example gave me a path to follow, a starting point.

I have since realized that there is a multitude of talented people out there, many with abilities far beyond mine.  But to communicate successfully with one’s art one needs to push that ability fully, in order to go beyond what your mind sees as an endpoint. I see this as my goal everyday in the studio.  Sometimes I succeed and sometimes I come up short but I’m out there competing everyday.

Thanks, John Irving

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I recently picked up  the second volume of The Complete Graphics of Eyvind Earle, a 9-pound behemoth of a book featuring the work of the artist who I have written about here once before.  It’s an incredible book, full of spectacular imagery and pure color that I find both inspring and humbling.  He had a tremendously long career, about 70 years, that began with a one-man show at the age of 14 and continued through stints as a fabled Disney artist and graphic artist known for his  highly stylized greeting card design.  Through it all, there was an amazing consistency and brilliance to the many pieces produced by a prolific artist in such a long career.  I find myself overwhelmed by the variety and quality of his work as I go through the book which only covers a small part of work.

Just incredible.

There’s great clarity in the work of Eyvind Earle.  The compositions are often both complex in design but come across as simple, a duality that I really find appealing.  The color is bold and could be a little sharp in tone if it weren’t harmonized so masterfully within the picture plane.  He is a pure genius at handling harmony and contrast– another duality that strikes me. 

I also like the fact that Earle was an unabashed landscape artist, feeling no desire to express himself  through figurative work.  He found total expression in his handling of the landscape around him, often depicting the open spaces and coastlines of California. They are not mere scenes but have emotion and a depth that goes well beyond the surface, another aspect that appeals greatly to my  desires for my own work.  In short, it’s just beautiful work and an inspiration with every look.

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Well, it’s the day after Christmas and I’m trying to clear my palette from the holiday and get ready for the new year.  Not the holiday but the actual year 2011.  I’m starting to really begin to think about moving in new directions, even in a subtle fashion.  I’ve talked before about how this change is important to me and how it keeps me excited in the work.

Sometimes this new direction comes in the form of new compositions or a differing use of the materials at my disposal.  Sometimes in entails visiting past work or influences and seeing how they interpret at this point in time.  The same composition painted at different times often brings surprisingly different results.  Maybe my color palette is different at one time versus the other or maybe my emotional state is different, which has a huge effect on my work.

As for past influences, sometimes the time that has passed allows me to see different aspects of the painting I’m looking at and take this aspect into my own work.  The painting I’m showing today is an example of a past influence that I have used.  It’s Death on the Ridge Road from the great Grant Wood in 1935.  I love this painting.  It has so many aspects to ponder and take from.

When I first used this as an influence, in this painting from 2001 on the right, I focused mainly on the movement in Wood’s painting.  The curve of the road and the shapes and positions of the vehicles hurtling at one another, along with the lean of the telephone pole at the top of the hill set against the moving sky, all give this piece a sense of motion and action.

At the time, I wanted my painting to carry that same sense of movement as I felt in Wood’s piece but in an even simpler composition, without the drama of the vehicles potentially crashing together.  In my painting the road and motion in the leaves of the tree carry the action aspect.  It very much a different piece, compositionally and emotionally than the Wood painting.  At that time, when I painted this, that was what I took mainly from the Wood painting.  Now, I might focus on other aspects and create work that is quite different than what I first pulled from this influence.  For instance, today I might want to pull something from his shadowing at the bottom of the painting, something I actually have used in a number of paintings over the years.  Or the symbolic aspect of that lower telephone pole and the way it creates an almost shadow-like effect of a cross on the hillside.  That is filled with possibility.

So I will spend the next several weeks taking some time to look at past work of my and work from those I consider influences, such as Grant Wood, and hopefully something new will merge.  At least, a newer version of my work with a new facet.  We shall see.

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