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Posts Tagged ‘Pablo Picasso’

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How often have I found that wanting to use blue,

I didn’t have it so I used a red instead of the blue.

 

–Pablo Picasso

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This year’s edition of the Genius series begins this coming Tuesday on the National Geographic Channel. This well done series premiered last year with a season dramatizing the life of Albert Einstein. This year it focuses on the life of Pablo Picasso, with Antonio Banderas portraying the artist. Given Picasso’s knack for pushing boundaries and stirring the pot, it could be an entertaining series.

He is probably the most quoted of artists, though many things are mistakenly attributed to him. It’s a case that if it sounds interesting and you’re not sure who might have said it, you credit him or Shakespeare or Lincoln or some other iconic figure.

But I have a feeling that the quote I chose here today is actually his. I can’t see Lincoln saying it.

I certainly know the circumstance to which he refers.

Been there, done that.

In a pinch, you just make do with what you have because you can’t always wait until you have perfect conditions, all the materials you desire and a moment of inspiration are in complete alignment. Sometimes inspiration is there and you don’t have what you would ideally want to use but you still want to make that mark.

A number of years back, I was having some real back problems. I had to that point always painted in a standing position but the pain forced me to sit. I found that there were points where I would reach for a color that I would normally use in certain instances and find it out of reach, across the room. Instead of straining out of my seat and limping to get it, I would take whatever was within my reach and try to either replicate the color or completely substitute another color.

In many ways, it was a good experience. Where I had used reds before, there were blues or greens. Turquoise tended to turn to purples and maroons.

Because my work doesn’t depend on accuracy in depicting natural color, it actually stretched the work a bit more and reinforced that idea that one must make do with what one has at hand. It’s something I have often tried to impress on young artists, that they should never use not having everything they think they need to start as an excuse to not start.

If they have a real creative urge, then they will make do, they will find a way.

The results may exceed what their mind had imagined.

 

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Art is a lie that makes us realize the truth.

Pablo Picasso

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Many of my favorite artists worked and produced their greatest works in times where the world was under great stress. World wars and– in the case of Picasso’s painting, Guernica, shown above– Civil Wars. The Great Depression. Times of social transformation. Even when the work didn’t overtly deal with the events of the day, much of the work reflected on the collective consciousness of that time.

I think that is so because art is, just as Picasso so succinctly states, a lie that makes us realize the truth.

Artists fabricate, often creating work that is on its surface pure fantasy with little relation to the world as others might observe it. But their fabrication is made up from everything that impacts them– their knowledge, their observations, their opinions and emotions. Artists take in the world and create something that seems like a pure fabrication.

A lie.

But what seems the lie often proves to be built of ultimate truths, just constructed in a manner that allows others to see this truth clearly.

I don’t know that we artists always succeed. I certainly don’t feel that I do as often as I would  like. But so long as we feel deeply and create our lies, we will at some point reveal a truth.

Got to get to work now…

 

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“There is only one valuable thing in art: the thing you cannot explain.”

 — Georges Braque

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This is a quote from artist Georges Braque that I used on the first artist statement I ever wrote many years back. It still pops up in my mind on a regular basis, especially at times when I find myself looking at a just finished painting, wondering what is there that is triggering my emotional response to it.  These words from Braque reminds me that what I am trying to capture is not the subject matter, not a mere representation of reality.  I am trying to capture an indefinable feeling or spirit that is not calculable or even visible.

Definitely beyond the reach of my words.

It is the sum of color and light.

And texture and line.

And the spaces in between.

It is of the spirit and the life force.   When it is there, it is obvious and undeniable. And though I can’t explain it, I can see the purpose and value of that work.

And that is a good day…

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I have never really focused here on the work of George Braque (1882-1963) who is mainly known as one of the major artists, along with Picasso, of the Cubist movement. His work, through all the differing phases of his long career, is always impressive. I thought I’d share the video slideshow below of his work. It’s set to Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 21, better known as the Elvira Madigan concerto, which makes it a most pleasant and calming thing to spend a few minutes with on the first cool morning of November.

 

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Yesterday I wrote about how the truth, particularly as it applies to the news, has become a subjective item.  It seems to be more about how we feel about something rather than what the facts provide. This in turn allows falsehoods to become accepted as truth in the eyes of some despite all evidence to the contrary.  It’s an unfortunate scenario that may have already affected us  and may create awful consequences at some point in the all too near future.

But you can’t judge the facts like you’re judging a piece of art.  The facts should not be affected by how you feel about them or whether you like or dislike them.  They stand as they are.  Can you imagine being innocent and on trial?  All of the evidence and testimony proves your innocence but you are convicted because the jury felt that you were nonetheless found guilty.  The jury just didn’t like something about you.

Unfortunately, that’s not that far-fetched an analogy.  

I thought I’d run the post below from a few years back that talks about how the emotional subjectivity is appropriate in art, where your feeling is as important as the facts.

Painting is a blind man’s profession.  He paints not what he sees, but what he feels, what he tells himself about what he has seen.

–Pablo Picasso

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I love this quote from Picasso.  I think that is what all art really is– an expression of  feeling.  Emotion.  I know my best work, or at least the work that I feel is most directly connected to who I truly am as a human being, is always focused on expressing emotion rather than depicting any one place or person or thing.  At its best, the  piece as a whole becomes a vehicle for expression and the subject is merely a focal point in this expression.  The subject matter becomes irrelevant beyond that.  It could be a the most innocuous object,  a chair or a tree in my case.  It doesn’t  really matter because the painting’s emotion is carried by the painting as a whole-  the colors, the texture, the linework, the brushstrokes, etc.

In other words, it’s not what you see but what you feel.

I think many of  Vincent Van Gogh‘s works are amazing example of this.  They are so filled with emotion that you often don’t even realize how mundane the subject matter really is until you step back to analyze it for a moment.  I’ve described here before what an incredible feeling it was to see one of his paintings  for the first time, how it seemed to vibrate with feeling, seeming almost alive on the wall.

It was a vase of irises.

A few flowers in a pot. A floral arrangement.  How many hundreds of thousands of such paintings have been created just like that?  But this Van Gogh painting resonates not because of the subject matter, not because of precise depiction of the flowers or the vase.  No, it was a deep expression of his emotion, his wonder at the world he inhabited, inside and out.

I also see this in a lot of music.  It’s not the subject but the way the song is expressed.  How many times have we heard overwrought , schmaltzy ballads that try to create overt emotion but never seem to pull it off?  Then you hear someone interpret a simple song with deep and direct emotion  and the song soars powerfully.  I often use Johnny Cash‘s last recordings, in the last years  and months before his death, as evidence of this.  Many were his  interpretations of well known songs and his voice had, by that time, lost much of the power of his earlier days.  But the emotion, the wonder, in his delivery was palpable.  Moving.

Likewise, here’s Chet Baker from just a few months before his death.  He, too, had lost the power and grace of youth due to a life scarred by the hardship of drug abuse and violence.  But the expression is raw and real.  It makes this interpretation of  Little Girl Blue stand out for me.

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Three-Musicians-By-Pablo-PicassoFor those who know how to read, I have painted my autobiography. 

-Pablo Picasso

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True.  Enough said.

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Dorothea Lange Next Time Try the TrainTo know ahead of time what you’re looking for means you’re then only photographing your own preconceptions, which is very limiting, and often false.

Dorothea Lange

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As a fan of Dorothea Lange’s photography, I was very open to her take on what an artist–  in her case, a photographer– is seeking.  I’ve written a lot here over the years about searching for something  in my work but what that thing is, quite honestly, I do not know.  I know that it is not something I can find without releasing a lot of myself including my fears and preconceptions.

Lange’s idea of preconceptions being limiting is one that rings very true to me, coinciding with my constant chorus that  painting is best done without thought, without having an idea of where it might end up.  Preconceptions create expectations and these too are limiting.  The best work often comes when there are no expectations and no idea of what I am trying to accomplish.  Well, it holds true for my painting, at least.

Her idea ( and mine, I suppose) of searching is so devoid of planning or purpose that it actually reminds me of Picasso‘s thoughts on searching:  I have never had time for the idea of searching. Whenever I wanted to express something, I did so without thinking of the past or the future.

They both very much say the same thing but in differing ways.

And I agree with both.

dorothea-lange-depression-inspiration-tractored-out-childress-county-texas

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pablopicassoskeletonYour willingness to wrestle with your demons will cause your angels to sing.

August Wilson

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As the post below from back in August of 2010 points out, most years I struggle with the month of August and this particular one is no different.  The doldrums set in and I am filled with an anxiety and a stifling restlessness that combine to create a sense of desperation within me.  If I hadn’t experienced this before, this feeling would seem unbearable.

But it’s not something new so I realize that it’s just a matter of hanging on and letting it pass, all the while trying to pull something from it that will show itself in my work.  I have found that such keen desperation is often the source of great work, much as playwright August Wilson a fitting first name!— points out so eloquently in the quote above.  So, while I find myself fighting through the cruel days and demons of August, I do so as I listen for the song of angels to begin.

And from experience, I know they will begin soon enough.  Sing, angels, sing!

From August 18, 2010:

This print from Picasso [ Above] very much sums up my feelings for the month of August. 

I have never been a fan of August.  Memories of the so-called dog days of summer spent as a child.  Hot from a relentless sun.  Bored.  Burnt grass crunching underfoot.  The coming school year hanging overhead like the sword of Damocles.

August has always had a faint aura of death around it for me.  I remember the death of my grandfather in ’68.  My beloved dog Maggie years later.  Several friends over the years, from a variety of causes. Elvis.   The bright glare of the August sun seeming to taunt the grief of the moment.

August.

We were watching something on television the other night, perhaps Mad Men– I can’t really remember.  Anyway, the character in the scene that was on said , “I hate August.” 

It made my ears prick up and I couldn’t help but mutter, “I’m with you there, brother.”

August.

Well, I’ve got a lot to do this August  morning.  It takes a lot of work to keep busy to ward off the cruelty of  August…

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