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Posts Tagged ‘Painting’

I have written a little in the last week or so about the wildfires that are devastating the landscape, people and wildlife of Australia. It’s on a scale that I don’t think we can really envision. I saw the diagram above that allowed you to move a circle the approximate size of the acreage  that has burned in Australia over a map so that you can see how it would affect an area that you might recognize.

The image above is from an area that encompasses my home, extending all the way to NYC, covering all of the Pocono Mountains along with most of the Endless Mountains and the Catskills, most of central and eastern Pennsylvania and northern New Jersey, down to Philadelphia and into Delaware. If you’re familiar with this area, you know that it’s a substantial area.

Imagine, one day as you drive to NYC, that everything is suddenly gone. Every tree burned and every inch of ground scorched. The once verdant valleys that extend off of the highways for miles and miles in all directions stripped of all life. And not for just a short stretch of highway but for the entire drive.

Hour after hour of a suddenly empty, barren landscape extending as far as you can see.

There are no animals. There is nothing– no food nor shelter–there for those that may have somehow survived. And nowhere to go.

That’s pretty much the scenario that is taking place in Australia.

They are saying that perhaps a billion and a half creatures have perished in the fire. That is an incomprehensible figure, one that makes any effort to help seem so small, so insignificant.

But that is what it takes to recover from such a great blow– one small step to begin. Instead of wringing our hands and saying that there’s nothing we can do, we can do one small thing. A lot of people doing seemingly small things suddenly becomes a large and effective thing.

I don’t have many resources but what I can do, my small step, is to auction off a painting and direct the funds to a wildlife charity in Australia that is deeply involved in the rescue and rehabilitation of the affected wildlife in Australia. My research has led me to the organization, Wildlife Rescue Australia or WIRES as they are known. They are largest wildlife rescue organization in Australia. Though they are especially suited to this mission, they are in need of all the assistance they can get. This will require years and much effort to restore the environment and animals to this land.

The painting I am auctioning is below. It is titled A Clearing Comes and is a piece that is a favorite of mine, one that I had to convince myself to part with. I also think it’s one whose message and feel is relevant to this circumstance. I see the crow in the dead tree as being symbolic of the wildlife enduring the devastation. The sky, while dark and portentous, is clearing and the Red Tree and the richly colored fields in the distance represent a better, more hopeful future.

The painting is on paper and is matted under glass in my standard hand stained 16″ by 20″ frame. It has a value of $1600. The bidding starts at $500, please. I will end the auction at once if there is a bid reaching a maximum $1750. You can bid in the comments section or, if you desire privacy, you can email your bid ( please put AUCTION in the subject line) to info@gcmyers.com. I will ship the painting at my expense and will include a few additional doodads and geegaws to the winning bidder. Unless someone bids the maximum $1750, the bidding ends Saturday, January 18, at 12 noon EST. I will provide proof of all funds being donated to the winning bidder, as well.

I will post updates throughout the next few days.

So, if you can, take a step and help in some small way.

9:45 AM Update: There is a bid for $500.

10:15 AM Update: Current bid is now $1000.

A Clearing Comes- Auction for Australian Wildlife

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Rene Magritte- The Empire of Light – Guggenheim Museum

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Life obliges me to do something, so I paint. 

–Rene Magritte

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I wasn’t sure what this post was going to be about when I started. Still don’t know, to be honest. I was simply going to put up a short quote with a painting or two by an artist, as I sometimes do. In this case the artist was the famed Surrealist Rene Magritte.

I liked the quote above. Simple. Concise. Right to the point.

Plus, I think it lines up with an answer that I sometimes give when someone asks how I became a painter. I will answer, “Hey, everybody has to do something.

That opens up what could be a whole philosophical discussion about what our obligations really are in our lives as humans.

Are we really obliged to do something?

I don’t know.

Maybe. I guess not doing something is, in it’s own way, doing something. I know that when I am not a painter I am, among many things, sometimes a lazy slob.

Life obliges me to do something, so I do nothing.

That doesn’t have quite the same cache as Magritte’s statement but it is sometimes true.

But for the most part, when life obliges me to do something, I paint.

Not like Magritte. In my own way, at my own pace and of my own choosing.

Hey, life can push me around but only so far.

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PS: I was going to write about the painting at the top which is one version of a painting, The Empire of Light, that Magritte painted fourteen times. The subject was not going to be about the night scene of this painting with a blue sky above. Rather, it was to be about the repetition of forms by artists, a subject to which I am well acquainted. Maybe next time.

Now, let’s look at some other Magritte paintings.

Rene Magritte- Decalcomania – 1966

Rene Magritte- The Mysteries of the Horizon 1928

Rene Magritte- The Son of Man 1964

Rene Magritte- The Beautiful Relations 1966

 

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I have posted This description of one of the process for one of my paintings, followed by a short video showing its evolution from start to finish, a couple of times over the past nines years.  I thought it might be a good time to revisit it as there are many new readers who may not be familiar with how my work comes together. I paint in two distinctly different processes, one being a reductive process where I put paint on the surface then remove much of it and this process that is additive, with layer after layer of paint building up. Here’s what I wrote in January of 2011:

I worked on a new piece the last couple of days, a large canvas that is 24″ by 48″. I had already gessoed the canvas with a distinct texture and applied a layer of black paint. I had vague ideas of where I thought the painting might go from a composition standpoint but knew that this was only a starting point in my mind. Like most of my paintings, the finished product is often drastically different than what I imagined at the beginning. As I paint, each bit of paint dictates the next move and if I don’t try to force in something that goes against these subtle directions given to me by the paint the piece usually has an organic feel, a natural rhythm in the way the different elements go together. A cohesion of sorts.

Knowing I wanted to use a cityscape in this piece, I started in the bottom left, slowly building the city with geometric forms and rooflines in a red oxide paint that I use to block in my composition. I prefer using the red oxide because it gives a warmth under the layers paint to come that shows through in small bits that are almost undetectable at a quick glance. 

At this point I still am unsure where the painting is going. I have thoughts of filling the canvas completely with the cityscape with the smallest view of the sky through the buildings but am not married to this idea. The paint isn’t telling me enough yet to know. But it has told me that I want a path of some sort- a street or canal- through the composition. I make room for one near the center before starting on the right side with the buildings there. I go back and forth between the right and left sides as I build the city, constantly stepping back to give it a good look from a distance to assess its progress and direction. 

 At a point where the city is nearing the halfway point on filling the canvas, I decide I want this piece to be less about the cityscape and more about how it opens to the open sky beyond it. I extend the road that started at the bottom and twist it upward, terminating it at a bend in what will be now a field beyond the city edge. The sky, though still empty, is pushing me ahead, out of the city. The piece has become about a sense of escape, taking the street from the cityscape and heading upward on it towards the open fields and sky. Painting faster now, another field with a bit of the road appearing is finished beyond the first lower field. I have created a cradle in the landscape for the sky to which I now turn my brush.

There’s a certain symmetry at work here and I decide I want the central focus of a sun in this composition. I roughly block in a round form, letting it break beyond the upper edge of the canvas. I pay little attention to the size of this sun except in its relationship to the composition below it. My suns and moons are often out of proportion to reality but it doesn’t matter to me so long as it translates properly in the context of the painting. If  it works well,  it isn’t even noticed.

I finish blocking in the sky with the red oxide, radiating the strokes away from the sun,  and step back. [The video below basically begins at this point in the process] The piece has began to come alive for me and I can start to see where it is going. The color is starting to fill in in my mind and I can see a final version there. This is usually a very exciting time in the process for me, especially if a piece has a certain vitality. I sense it here and am propelled forward now, quickly attacking the sky with many, many brushstrokes of multiple colors. working from dark to light. 

There are layers of a violet color in different shades that are almost completely obscured by subsequent layers. I could probably leave out these violet layers but the tiny shards that do barely show add a great depth to the flavor of the painting for me and to leave them out would weaken the piece in a way. 

I have painted several hours on the sky now and still have a ways to go before it reaches where I see it in my mind. There are no shortcuts now. Just the process of getting to that final visualized point. But it’s dinnertime and my day is now done. I pick up and step back to give it one final look before I head out into the darkness. This is where the painting is at this point, where I will start soon after I post this:

GC Myers Process jan-2011-pt-2 In the blog post with the final version I then wrote:

Above is the tentatively finished version of the painting I started earlier this week, a 24″ by 48″ canvas that I am considering calling Escape Route. I showed the first few steps of the painting process on this blog two days ago, ending with the sky being near finished and the composition blocked in. I’m not going to go into all the steps and decisions that went into completing this piece. Instead, I put together a short film that shows the painting evolving to the finished product.

I will say that the final version is much different in many ways than I first envisioned with the first strokes of red oxide that went on the canvas. Each subsequent bit of color, each line that appeared, altered the vision in my head just a bit, evolving the piece constantly until the very end of the process. Even the last part, where I inserted the treeline that appears on the farthest ridge, was not seen in my mind until just before the decision to proceed with them was made. I decided to go with this treeline to create a final barrier for the road to break past on its way upward toward the sky. A final moment of escape.

This painting has given me a great sense of satisfaction after finishing it. I spent much of the late afternoon yesterday just looking at it and taking it in. I don’t know if it will translate as well on the computer screen but this piece has substantial size at 24″ by 48″ which gives great weight to the blocks of color from the buildings and the light from the sky. There is a sense of completeness here that I could  only struggle to explain, but as I said, brings me great satisfaction. I feel as though the evolved painting has exceeded what I imagined when I first started this piece. While I can’t fully explain that, it is all I can hope for from my work.

I will spend some more time over the next several weeks looking at this painting, determining if anything should be tweaked or altered.  A highlight added here, a line made crisper there. But as it stands, it feels as thought it has taken on its own life and I will probably leave it alone as it is.

 

991143 Escape Route 2011

And here’s the video, only about a minute long, that shows how the piece came about.

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Every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future.

–Oscar Wilde

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Yesterday, I wrote about trying to go back through my work from the past decade and choose pieces that best summed up each year. It’s a difficult, if not impossible, task. There are often many different directions that the work moves in over a given period of time or sometimes pieces that strike a chord most for me may not represent the larger body of my work for that time period.

This past year, for instant, had many tentacles. The landscapes began appearing with multiple beds of flowers. The sailboats took on larger and more expressive waves. A new female figure emerged to paddle across flat waters. And, of course, the faces from my Multitudes series began to appear.

All of these elements will no doubt remain in play for the near future and maybe well beyond that. Who knows? And who knows what new things will emerge to grab my focus?

I sure don’t.

The piece shown here, Saints and Sinners, is from this year’s Multitudes series. It’s a favorite of mine, one that I might consider as a piece to represent this past year, at least for its particular tentacle. It’s a painting that I think works well for ending this year and welcoming the next. It has a feeling of looking backward and forward. Of examining what we have been, what we are and what we might someday be.

As I like to say: What I was then is not what I am now and what I am now may not be what I will be in the future.

None of us are fully saints or sinners. There may be a few who are fully sinners well beyond redemption ( ** comes to mind) but most of us are in that boat that drifts between the two opposite shores.

I am hoping that we drift closer to the saintly shoreline in 2020.

Have a good and safe New Year’s Eve.

 

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In my picture of the world there is a vast outer realm and an equally vast inner realm; between these two stands man, facing now one and now the other, and, according to temperament and disposition, taking the one for the absolute truth by denying or sacrificing the other.

Carl Jung

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Time flies.

We’re looking at another decade slipping away. I originally didn’t give much thought to any way of marking this but in recent days began looking back at work from the past ten years, trying to to see if there was a single piece that summed it up for me.

That is really difficult. Even trying to choose a single painting that sums up a single show or year is often near impossible. There are favorites, pieces that speak to me more personally than others, but they often don’t reflect the body of work as a whole. But choosing one that stands as a symbol for ten years of hard work seems out of the question.

But I tried and came up with a few that stood out as possibilities. The painting at the top, for example. It’s The Internal Landscape from 2012. It’s a large piece, 4 1/2′ by 7′, and was the titular centerpiece of my show that year at the Fenimore Art Museum in Cooperstown, NY.

It’s a painting that has meant a lot to me, as far as building a confidence in myself that my work had lasting value that might carry it into the future somehow. I had been a full-time artist for about 14 years at the point that this was painted yet I still wasn’t confident my own evaluation of my work. I felt that it was a real expression, not mere decoration. It was my inner reality and like, Jung’s words above, I often found myself torn between this inner realm and the outer realm of the world. I knew this as a real world but I didn’t feel that I was qualified to say if this reality was enough, that it transcended what it meant for myself.

But this painting and its acceptance by the viewers of that show made me realize that my work’s effect could move beyond me.

And that was vastly important to me in doing this thing that occupies my days and nights.

Now, I can’t say this painting fully sums up the decade for me but it may come as close any other piece I might choose. It occupies a wall in my studio now and I take moments now and then to take it in. Its size makes it an embracing piece, one that makes me feel as though I am stepping into it with the warmth of the colors and shapes wrapping around me. It’s easy to spend time in front of it and let my mind wander among the fields and hills.

I don’t know that it will ever find a home outside the studio and that is fine with me. It feels like family, like a part of me now.

 

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Wyeth/ Balance

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It’s all in how you arrange the thing… the careful balance of the design is the motion.

-Andrew Wyeth

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I read this quote from the late Andrew Wyeth then looked over a large group of his work, examining each piece with these words in mind. I could really see the importance of the placement of the elements in his work, how it was the characteristic that truly defined his work. It was this that gave his work a poetic feel.

His use of negative space is masterful, the empty areas taking on an important role in the overall feel of the work. Placing the central character, the focal point of the picture, in any in any other spot would change the whole piece, would make it feel less.

It would feel off balance, at least in the form that Wyeth defined it. That balance is his signature.

And I think that is true for many artists. This idea of balance and motion makes up the artist’s eye. Every artist has a slightly different way of seeing things which creates their own unique visual voice.

Myself, when I feel stuck or blocked or feel that I have painted myself into a creative dead end, I look back at older work. It is often the balance and motion with the composition that affect me the most. It serves as a reminder to not lose sight of this idea of balance, to not focus too  much on other parts of the painting that, while important, may not have as much effect on the overall impact of the piece.

Balance in the design creates motion. Good advice from Mr. Wyeth.

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Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people’s hats off – then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can.

–Herman Melville, Moby Dick

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I’m no sailor but I know that feeling, that drizzly November in my soul as Melville wrote. A glumness descends accompanied by an anxiety that cannot be quelled and the idea of being around people sets my jaw hard with my grating teeth. If people still wore hats I am sure I would be aiming to knock them off their heads.

Or worse.

I can’t head to the sea to alleviate my hypos as Melville describes this feeling which I believe is taken from the word hypochondria. No, for me, it is time to try to barricade myself in the studio and pick up my brush which is my equivalent to hoisting the sail.

With brush in hand there is a freedom with no boundaries that can hold me. No rules to follow, no one to tell me what I can or can’t do.

A brush loaded with paint is like a sail filled with a strong wind that will take me anywhere I want to go.

I can create my own sun when it’s gloomy outside or my own moon and stars to guide me through the dark. I can look out on a landscape free of all traces of people and if I occasionally want to see one I can make them far away from me, small and distant.

That keeps me from knocking off their hats.

The hypos seem to be getting the upper hand of me so I think it is high time to pick up my brush and set sail.

But if you see me on the street in the meantime, hold onto your hat.

 

 

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