Posts Tagged ‘Malcolm Gladwell’

“I feel I change my mind all the time. And I sort of feel that’s your responsibility as a person, as a human being – to constantly be updating your positions on as many things as possible. And if you don’t contradict yourself on a regular basis, then you’re not thinking.” 

― Malcolm Gladwell


I am using these words from Malcolm Gladwell today because it fits well with my feelings on the painting I am showing here. By that I mean that this is a piece on which my mind has changed over the years, from feeling it was okay at first to loathing to grudging acceptance to now actually liking it quite a bit.

It’s a small painting, something like 7″ by 8″ on paper,  from 2006 that is titled In the Eye of Grace. When I first finished this piece it felt pretty good and evoked an emotion that hit a mark for me. It wasn’t blessed with that initial giddy excitement that often comes when finishing a painting but it felt right. It was good and I felt confident in showing it in the galleries.

So it was framed and sent out. It never found a home and came back to me a year or two later where it has been ever since. After being with it for a while, I began to actually dislike this painting. It bugged the hell out of me and I could never determine why that was the case.

I finally decided that it might be the way it was framed, set in a very wide mat and an extra heavy wide frame. It was a cumbersome setting for a small piece and I began to realize that I didn’t like– actually, I hated– the grandiose feeling of the frame for such a quiet small painting. It was like having a small simple gem placed in the middle of an overly large and ornate setting. Overwhelmed and eclipsed.

So I began to accept that I was letting my judgement be swayed by its setting. I no longer cringed when I came across it in the studio. It felt okay enough.

But in the past several months I placed this painting, still in its fat frame, in a place where I saw it while doing my morning workout. I began to really look at it and my doubts and distaste faded away. It was like I had disregarded the title I had given the painting years ago, In the Eye of Grace. It did have a simple grace that was easy to overlook.

It became a favorite in my morning ritual. I determined that I would change the frame to one that would let its grace shine through a little more easily. It’s funny how things sometime change, how even my own perception of a piece of myself can transform in several directions through the years even while that piece of self remains the same.

We are sometimes strange creatures living with moments of grace that we fail to see…


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To SanctuaryI’m in the last few weeks before my show in June at the Principle Gallery in Alexandria, VA.  As I’ve written in earlier posts, this is a time filled with finishing paintings, filling in the final details of pieces.  There’s photography to be done and then matting the pieces on paper and framing them all.  There are frames to be stained and sanded and glass to be cut.  When I see it all written out it seems like an awful lot of work but I’ve been doing this long enough that it seems like second nature, just something that must be done.

The one thing I do notice in these last few weeks is finding myself so immersed in what I have to do that I neglect the outside world even more than I do normally.  I read the newspaper and listen to the news but nothing seems to register, nothing seems to stick.  A few minutes later and I can’t remember much of what I’ve read or heard. Quite honestly, even when I’m reading my mind is focused on my work and, as a result,  my attention is never fully engaged.   This bothered me in the past, making me feel even more apart from the outside world.  Made me feel even less intelligent. Less informed.

I’ve come to accept this as part of who I am and what I do.  I realize now that for my work to succeed on any level, my total involvement and immersion in it is required.  Commitment.

This was somewhat reinforced by a video a friend sent me this past week of Malcolm Gladwell, author of Outliers, talking about the common traits of those who succeed creatively.  He spoke of a commitment to do whatever their chosen field was, to immerse themselves totally, excluding many other aspects of their life in order to practice their craft.  I immediately knew what he was talking about and  felt somewhat reinforced in my commitment to my work.   So I put my head down, push the world aside and get back to it…

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Thomas Wolfe Home AshevilleDuring our stay in Asheville our hotel was located directly next to the Thomas Wolfe house and memorial.  Our room looked directly down on the roof and you had the sense of hovering over it like a ghost or angel flowing over the landscape.  I wished I had heeded the advice of my high school creative writing teacher who had pointedly suggested that I needed to read Wolfe, specifically Look Homeward Angel. Of course, I had other concerns, other fish to fry, and the book sat on my shelves for over thirty years. So I stood at my hotel window, perched above his home, wishing I knew a little more about him and his life.

So I did a search and the first quote I came across struck me immediately because it spoke of exactly how I feel about effort and talent.  Talent is only valuable when used to its fullest. His quote:


If a man has a talent and cannot use it, he has failed. If he has a talent and uses only half of it, he has partly failed. If he has a talent and learns somehow to use the whole of it, he has gloriously succeeded, and won a satisfaction and a triumph few men ever know

                  – Thomas Wolfe, The Web and the Rock                                                                                           

There is a book out that I referenced in my gallery talk, titled Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell.  He states that a common trait among highly successful people is the 10000 hour principle.  To reach the farthest reach of their talents, each put in 10000 hours at their skill, making the absolute most of their abilities.  He uses examples such as the Beatles, Bill Gates, and others.  There may be flaws in the premise and in the book itself but I think the principle is a good example of Wolfe’s quote.


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