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Posts Tagged ‘Inspiration’

Dare/ A Replay

 

I needed a pep talk this morning and went into the archives. I ran this post below back in 2009 with a quote from the Roman philosopher Seneca that really rang true to my ears then and now.

Fear creates our boundaries and prevents us from pursuing all that we desire. Our fears often make us doubt our own strengths, our own abilities, our capacity for enduring and every positive trait that has served us so well in the past. 

These fears and doubts can make us stagnant, can keep us in our place.  For some, that is satisfactory.  They will take what they are given and live with that.  For others, a life dictated by fears becomes an unbearable existence. They must move forward. They must face down their doubts and overcome their fears.

They must do what others tell them is too difficult to attempt.

They are the creators of the new world in which we will live.

Which will you be?

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gc-myers-dare“It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare; it is because we do not dare that they are difficult.”

– Seneca

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I’m at a point in my year when I have a little time to start working on new things, new directions for the work.  It’s always an interesting time at which I’m always a little anxious, not wanting to squander this time by not pushing myself enough.  To not dare myself to push through whatever barriers I have erected that I fear may be keeping my work static at the moment.

I view whatever small amount of talent or ability I have as being a ship and I am a sailor.  I may know how to sail the ship and may have ventured fair distances.  But there comes a point when I must dare to go further, past what I know.  See places unseen by few others.

And that’s how it feels at the moment.  The ship is at dock, waiting.  The sea is there and the horizon clear.  Now it’s up to me.

How far do I dare venture?

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lake-wanaka-nz-lone-tree-2I don’t know much about New Zealand, have never been there and most likely will never get to see that country.  But I have long heard about its spectacular natural beauty with its soaring mountains and forests.  Out of all of this beauty, I recently came across a photo of what is considered perhaps the most photographed and beautiful spots in all of New Zealand.

lake-wanaka-nz-lone-tree-5-bwIn the foothills of the Mount Aspiring National Park on New Zealand’s South Island, beneath the snow-capped peaks of the southern alps, there is an alpine lake and on the shore (and sometimes in the lake itself) stand a willow tree.  It is the Lone Tree of Lake Wanaka.

It started its life years ago as a hewed off willow branch acting as a fence post.  The tree sprouted from that post and stands alone now, the fence line long gone. That’s determination, a will to exist.

It’s a powerful image, this single tree standing amidst all the powerful glory of nature.  While it may attract crowds of tourists to snap pictures of the tree and themselves beside it, it is obviously the solitary determination of the tree that speaks to those who see it.  I think that is something that speaks to most of us, this need to know that we can withstand this world, can stand alone.

I know it sure speaks to me and certainly looks familiar to much of my work.  I did  a quick search and chose a few great images out of the many out there of the Lone Tree.  Take a look.  It is peaceful yet strong and defiantly determined.  Heroic.

If only it were red…

lake-wanaka-nz-lone-tree-7 lake-wanaka-nz-lone-tree-1 lake-wanaka-nz-lone-tree-3 lake-wanaka-nz-lone-tree-6 lake-wanaka-nz-lone-tree-4

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Man’s Search For Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl is one of my favorite books, one that has helped me through the tough times in my life.  I’ve mentioned it here several times including the post below.  I thought I’d rerun this post from several years ago as it fits very well with the theme from my current show at the Principle Gallery, Part of the Pattern, which is that we live in a universe that is vast and chaotic, often making our existence seem small and meaningless.  Yet, if we can see how we fit into the underlying pattern that lays within the chaos, can find our purpose, our why, we can live a life of meaning.

I urge you to read the book.  You can even listen to it freely on YouTube.  One of the first installments is at the bottom to give you a taste.

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GC Myers- The Moment's Mission 2011Everyone has his own specific vocation or mission in life; everyone must carry out a concrete assignment that demands fulfillment. Therein he cannot be replaced, nor can his life be repeated, thus, everyone’s task is unique as his specific opportunity.

——Viktor Frankl

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The words of Viktor Frankl, the WW II concentration camp survivor who went on to greater fame as a psychotherapist and author, seemed to ring true for this square painting after I finished it.  I saw the Red Tree here as one that finally saw its uniqueness in the world, sensing in the moment that with this individuality there came a mission that must be carried out.

A reason for being.

I think that’s something we have all desired in our lives.  I know it was something I have longed for throughout my life and often found lacking at earlier stages.  I remember reading Frankl’s book, Man’s Search For Meaning, at a point when I felt adrift in the world.  I read how the inmates of the concentration camp who survived often had  a reason that they consciously grasped in order to continue their struggle to live.  It could be something as simple as seeing the ones they loved again or finishing a task they had set for themself. Anything to give them a sense of future.  Those who lost their faith in a future lost their will to live and usually perished.

At the time when I read this, I understood the words but didn’t fully comprehend the concept.  I felt little meaning in my life and didn’t see one near at hand.  It wasn’t until years later when I finally found what I do now that I began to understand Frankl’s words and saw that I had purpose in this world as a husband, an artist and a person of feeling.

We are all unique beings.  We all have unique missions.  The trick is in recognizing our individuality and trusting that it will carry us forward into a future

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xe2R_R0kVaY&list=PLJl0vgwlPbB9vt7fefE3hR8HVT_bvPV5I

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Andrew Wyeth- Night Sleeper 1979

Andrew Wyeth- Night Sleeper 1979

I dream a lot. I do more painting when I’m not painting. It’s in the subconscious.

Andrew Wyeth

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Andrew Wyeth- Trodden Weed

I love this short quote from the great Andrew Wyeth.  That second sentence speaks to how I view my own  relationship with what I do– I do more painting when I’m not painting.  The mind is always clicked on, seemingly always seeking that something, that one inside thing that is crying out to be expressed.

It’s a built-in thing, one that can hardly ever be turned off.  You would think it would be a maddening quality but it has become a normal way of functioning and I would probably panic if I found my mind not churning in some way.

Sometimes it is in the form of day-dreaming, just letting the imagination run free.  Other times it takes place in the words or sounds or images of others. Like pulling a new thread from an existing fabric.

Inspiration comes in many different forms and the mind is always looking for them.

Here’s a neat short film from artist/filmmaker Andrew Zuckerman that shows Wyeth describing how he sometimes find inspiration.

Andrew Wyeth from Andrew Zuckerman Studio on Vimeo.

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close_chuck_2

I’ve written lately about the funk that I was in, how I was experiencing a crisis of confidence.  This has made approaching my work difficult and I have been wracking my brain trying to find inspiration or some new catalyst to drive me forward.  But deep inside I know that the remedy is just pushing aside my insecurity and doubts to do the only thing I know that has helped me in the past– get to work and paint.  I came across this post from several years back with some advice from Chuck Close that pretty much sums up this cure.  Here it is:

chuck-close-phillip-glassI’ve been a fan of the work of Chuck Close for some time, admiring the grand scale that much of his work assumes as well as his evolution as an artist, especially given his challenges after a spinal artery collapse left him paralyzed from the neck down in 1988.  He regained slight use of his arms and continued to paint, creating work through this time that rates among his best.  He also suffers from prosopagnosia which is face blindness, meaning that he cannot recognize faces.  He has stated that this is perhaps the main  reason he has continued his explorations in portraiture for his entire career.  The piece shown here is a portrait of composer Phillip Glass that was made using only Close’s fingerprints,  a technique which presaged his incorporation of his own unique form of pixelation into his painting process.

His determination to overcome, to keep at it, is a big attraction for me and should be an object lesson for most young artists (and non-artists, also) who keep putting off projects until all the conditions are perfect and all the stars align.  Waiting for the muse of inspiration to take them by the hand and lead them forward.  Sometimes you have to meet the muse halfway and Close has this advice for those who hesitate:

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.

Amen to thatThe process provides the inspiration.  I’ve stumbled around for some time trying to say this but never could say it as plainly and directly as Close has managed.  Thanks, Chuck.  I think I’ll take your advice and get to work.

chuck close at work

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I  was scanning the archives for the blog and came across this entry from four years ago, written in the immediate aftermath of that year’s West End Gallery opening.  It had the story of a young boy with a rare disease and a message that really touched me then and now.  Thought it deserved another run today:

josiah-vieraWell, the opening is over and the show continues to hang at the West End Gallery.  Good opening.  Talked to a lot of really nice people, many new to me.  Many thanks to everyone who came out.   You made the evening complete and  I could not be more grateful.

That said, I was sure glad when the night was over.  There comes a point near the end of an opening, especially in the aftermath of constantly promoting it by writing about it here,  where I am really tired of talking about me and can’t wait for that moment until I don’t have to say anything to anyone.

So later that night, we came home and decided to quietly watch that night’s Jeopardy,  a show I have watched intently since I was a child when Art Fleming was the host in the 60’s. Before it came on, I caught the end of the ABC Evening News and there was a story about their Person of the Week.  It was a young boy, Josiah Viera, from central Pennyslvania who suffers from Progeria, an exremely rare (something like only 54 cases in the world) disorder where the child begins prematurely aging, most having a life expectancy of between 8 and 13 years.  Josiah, now 7 years old, has the tiny body of a 90 year old, taking cholesterol and arthritis medications. He is 27 inches tall and weighs 15 pounds.

But Josiah doesn’t dwell on the hardships of his condition.  Instead he concentrates on his passion, that thing that brings him sheer joy: baseball.  He lives for the game, wanting to play it from the minute he wakes until the end of each day.  He approached a coach at the local t-ball league in Hegins, PA and told him that he wanted to play in the games.  They feared he might not survive more than a single game and indeed, after his first game, Josiah suffered a series of mini strokes and was hospitalized.

But he recovered quickly and his desire for the game was so strong that he was back after three weeks.  The news of this little boy and the joy with which he played the game captured the hearts of the local folks and by the last game there were several hundred fans ( not your usual t-ball crowd!) all cheering him on and chanting his name.  And as he stands on the bag at first base, which seems like a table under his small body, Josiah smile glows with the sheer and absolute joy of being safe.

Absolute joy.  How many of us allow ourselves to feel that?  Josiah’s time here is limited, as it is for all of us.  Yet his life is not sadder for that knowledge.  Instead he has somehow chosen to find joy in those few days, rejoicing in the moment instead of fearing the future or focusing on the  life that might have been under different circumstances, things which too many of us allow to take over our lives.

Life is now.  His pure joy is a lesson for us all.  Life’s too short to not revel in those things that make us happy.

What is your joy and if it’s not the biggest part of your life, why is that so?

Below is the longer version of the story from ESPN on which the ABC story is based.  It’s a beautifully done report.  Have a great Sunday and again, thank you for everyone who came out Friday night– you brought me a little of that joy that I speak of.

2015 Update:  Josiah is now 11 years old and still as much in love with baseball as ever.  He is the an honorary bench coach for the State College Spikes, the St. Louis Cardinal’s Class A minor league team located in central Pennsylvania.  He plays cards with the players before the game, gives the manager bits of advice on game moves and provides the team with much more than they could ever give him in return. He also went to spring training with the  major league St. Louis Cardinal, getting to hobnob and even play a pickup game with their star players.  Throughout it all, that joy sparkles and inspires.  As one player said after going through a particularly tough game, “When I see that little guy across the clubhouse, I know I’ll be fine.”

There’s a great article from MLB.com that gives all the updates on Josiah.  Click here to see it.

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Trey Ratcliff - china-deep-in-the-guangxi-provinceSometimes you can look at something and it immediately translates into something for you, something from which  you can take inspiration and  make something new.  That’s what came to mind for me when I came across this great image from photographer Trey Ratcliff.  It’s a panoramic view of a fairytale-like  landscape in the Guangxi region of  China that he took after scaling a peak similar to those you see in the photo.

It’s just a great image, one that gets my motor racing.  I immediately find myself comparing it to my own landscapes, noting  how the forms flow together to create a wonderful rhythm in the image.  There’s so much that will easily convey into my own work that it is in place before I really have time to think about it.  It’s like a jolt of creative electricity.  I just need to get to the easel before it rolls to the back of the line of imagery that is formed in my head.

For more of Trey Ratcliff’s incredible photograph’s from around the world, visit his website Stuck in Customs.  And check out the image shown above on Google+— it’s a 19,000 pixel  high def shot that is fully zoomable so that  you can fly in and out of the little valleys in the distance.  Pretty remarkable.

 

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Don’t Think

ray-bradbury-on-creativity-famous-quotes

I came across this quote from famed sci-fi writer Ray Bradbury on a post on the  TwistedSifter site that featured quotes on creativity.  This struck close to the bone for me as I have proudly not thought for years now.  I have long maintained that thinking usually inhibits my work, making it less fluid and rhythmic.

It’s a hard thing to get across because just in the process of doing anything there is a certain amount of thought required, with preliminary ideas and decisions to be made.  I think that the lack of thought I am talking about, as I also believe Bradbury refers, is once the process of creating begins.  At that point you have to try to free yourself of the conscious and let intuition and reaction take over, those qualities that operate on an instantaneous emotional level.

I can tell instantly when I have let my conscious push its way into my work and have over-thought the whole thing.  There’s a clunkiness and dullness in every aspect of it.  No flow.  No rhythm. No brightness or lightness.  Emotionally vacant and awkward.  Bradbury’s  choice in using the term  self-conscious is perfect because I have often been self-conscious in my life and that same uncomfortable awkwardness that comes in those instances translates well to what I see in this over-thought work.

So what’s the answer?  How do you let go of thought, to be less self-conscious?

I think Bradbury hits the nail on the head– you must simply do things.  This means trusting your subconscious to find a way through, to give the controls over to instinct.

And how do you do that?  I can’t speak for others but for myself it’s a matter of staying in my routine.  Painting every day even when it feels like a struggle.  Loading a brush with paint and making  a mark even when I have no idea at hand. Just doing things and not waiting for inspiration.

You don’t wait for inspiration– you create it.

So, stop thinking right  now and just start doing things.

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GC Myers- First View 1994It’s that time of the year when I get to take a deep breath and begin to look forward into the next year, trying to determine where my path will lead next.  It’s never an easy time doing this, trying to see change of some sort in the work  especially after so many years of being what I am and painting as I do.  It always comes back to the same question: What do I want to see in my paintings?

That seems like a simple question.  I think that any degree of success I may have achieved is due to my ability to do just that,  to paint work that I want to see myself, work that excites me first.  So I have been doing just that for most of my career, painting pictures that I want to see.  But there is another layer to the question.

What am I am not seeing in my work that I would like to see?

That’s a harder question.  How can you quantify that thing that you don’t know, might not even have imagined yet?

It might be a case of  knowing it when you see it.  I know that my first real breakthrough was like that.  I was simply fumbling along , looking for something that nagged at the edge of my mind.   I wasn’t sure what it would look like, had not a concrete idea of what it might be.  It was just there in a gaseous form that I couldn’t quite grasp.  But when the piece emerged in a tangible form– which is the painting at the top here, First View from 1994– I instantly knew what it was that I had stumbled on  and that it was something that  very important to me.

It might not look like much to the casual viewer now but in an instant I could see in this little painting everything I was sensing in that gaseous, intangible form that hovered at the edges of my mind.  I could see a realization of all of the potential in it.  Even now, after years of evolving from it, I can see how it connects to everything in my work, even those things I had could not yet see when I painted it.

And that’s where I find myself at the moment.  There’s something out there ( or in there, I probably should say) that I want to see, might even need to see.  But I don’t know what it is yet.  But I will know it when I see it.

And, trust me,  I do plan on seeing it. 

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GC Myers- The Stand

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that frightens us most. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and famous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that people won’t feel insecure around you. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in all of us. And when we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

— Marianne Williamson

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The quote above is an interesting example of how the internet sometimes creates its own mythology.   When I first came across this quote it was attributed in many places to Nelson Mandela, taken from his inaugural address in 1994.  That sounded right.  But I also saw that it was attributed to Marianne Williamson, the bestselling New Age guru.  And indeed, with just a short investigation, it was confirmed that Williamson was the author of this quote and Nelson Mandela had never uttered those words despite all those web followers who believed it so.

But regardless of authorship, it remains a good and inspirational quote.  I think it serves the painting at the top, The Stand, well as a description for what I see in it.  It is about letting your light shine and moving forward into a world of new possibilities.  Too often we are content to exist as less than we can be, to settle for a known mediocrity because we believe that the safety of this choice outweighs our desire for fulfillment.  Plus, it’s easier to stay put– no risk of stumbling in the spotlight and our friends are still there to commiserate.  Stepping up requires the risk of failure and the possibility of moving beyond those around you.

But, as the quote rightfully points out, we are doing no one a favor by denying our full potential.  Each of us serves as an example for those around us and to wallow in an unfulfilled life sets a bad example, denying inspiration to others.  No, we should dare to shine and let those around us look for their own potential in the light it provides.

There is a lot more that could be said here but I think brevity rules this day.  You can see this painting, The Stand, a 24″ by 48″ canvas, at the West End Gallery where my annual solo show, Islander,  opens tonight with a reception from 5- 7:30 PM.  I will be at the gallery so if you would like to stop out and talk for a bit, that would be great.  If not, come out anyway  to have a glass of wine and hear my friend Bill Groome play some wonderful parlor guitar music.  We’d love to see you there!

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