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Posts Tagged ‘Painting’

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Art lives and dies in the unique heart of he who carries it, just as all feelings only live and expand in the souls of those who feel them. There is no history of art — there is the history of artists.

Marianne von Werefkin

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Marianne von Werefkin is a name that often catches my eye when I am digging around for art online. It always stands out even though I don’t have any knowledge of her work so at some point I finally looked closer at her work. And, like so many little known artists that I come across, I have to say I was pleased by the work I found.

Marianne von Werefkin Self Portrait

She was born in Russia in 1860 and died in Switzerland in 1938. Throughout her life she was associated with several important painting groups and movements in Europe though she never achieved widespread recognition for her work, certainly nothing close to that of her peers such as Kandinsky and Klee. It was difficult for a woman to stand out in the male dominated world of art at that time. Fortunately, that has been changing over the past century though I am sure not as quick as it should.

I am very taken with much of her work, especially the compositions and the way in which she expresses her self in forms. I also have enjoyed a few quotes and other writings she left behind, which like her compositions line up with my own viewpoints.

Here are a couple of other examples;

All bores me in the world of facts, I see an end, a limit to all things and my heart thirsts for the infinite and for eternity.

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The artist is the only one who detaches himself from life, opposes his personality against it, he is the only one who orders things as he wishes them to be in place of things as they are. Thus, for him life is not a fait accompli, it is something to remake, to do again.

I know I am not giving you a lot of info here today outside a few quotes and images. But take a look and in it strikes you, dig a bit deeper for yourself. I think you will be rewarded. I see her work as just good stuff. And for me, that is a high compliment.

DGA510708 The Black Women, by Marianne Werefkin (1860-1938), gouache on cardboard, 1910; (add.info.: The Black Women, 1910, by Marianne Werefkin (1860-1938), gouache on cardboard.
Artwork-location: Hanover, Sprengel Museum Hannover (Art Museum)); De Agostini Picture Library / M. Carrieri; out of copyright

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The painting above is The Sea, Watched from artist Jamie Wyeth. I came across the quote from Wyeth that is  below the image and it really struck a nerve with me, especially in the moment.

Being back in the studio after the Gallery Talk at the Principle Gallery, I am conflicted by two desires. One is to just be bone lazy and do nothing, to simply enjoy the good feelings generated by the talk and my own sense of my work at the moment. The other is to dig back in with even greater fervor, to move the goalposts ahead and begin the next step towards reaching those goals. What exactly those goals are is yet to be determined but I do know they are there.

I do feel that I do have to move forward, to not be lazy and rest on the work that is out there at this point. Part of that comes from doing these talks and getting real feedback on what I have done. I don’t want to come before these folks next year and have nothing new, no advancement in the body of the work, to point to.

That is the one of the addictive parts of this painting thing– a fear of falling short.

But sometimes the lazy part is appealing. I look at the work so far and I feel good about it. I tell myself to take it easy. Relax. Coast for a while. That would certainly be easy to do.

But part of me knows that’s the wrong way to go. If for some reason my career ended today, I can’t say I would be satisfied with what I have done. I don’t feel that my story is completely told yet, that the work hasn’t yet revealed all that it has to yield.

So, I dig back in.

I was asked after the talk the other day if I planned to retire and I laughed. First, I said I couldn’t because all of the paintings I have given away at these talk represented my retirement funds. But I said I couldn’t imagine not doing this to the day I either die or become incapacitated in a way that would prevent me from picking up a brush and making a mark.

Realistically, I figure I have a good twenty five years in which to be productive. And if I am fortunate and take care of myself, maybe thirty. I notice more and more older artists working into their 90’s and beyond, producing new work that are exclamation points on long careers.

That would be good. But it won’t happen if one lets laziness creep too much into the equation. Fortunately for me, the credo, “Live to work, work to live,” is not a scary or depressing idea.

So, that being said, I’ve got a lot of work to do. Have a great day.

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Baziotes

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.Each painting has its own way of evolving. When the painting is finished, the subject reveals itself.

–William Baziotes
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William Baziotes is another painter you probably don’t know. He had a relatively short life, dying at age 51 in 1963 from lung cancer. His work has garnered a following over the years with some of his work approaching the million dollar pricetag at auction yet his name most likely is not known to but a few.
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He was born in Pittsburgh and worked throughout his career in NYC. He started as an abstract expressionist but transitioned into primitivism and automatism, which is attempting to paint completely detached from conscious thought. I like that idea but don’t think one can ever fully separate the mind and the work.
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There’s a lot I like in his work, especially the quality and complexity of his color. As for the quote above, it’s a thought that I firmly believe. Sometimes, even when starting with a goal in mind, you have no idea what a painting is truly about until the final stroke has been placed and you step back. Only then does it reveal what it has to say. Sometimes it is quite different than you thought it might be while working on it.
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And that is sometimes a welcome revelation.
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I have finally chose the painting that will be given away at this coming Saturday’s Gallery Talk at the Principle Gallery. It is called Deep Focus and is 18″ by 18″ on canvas. It has been around for several years now and each time it returns from a gallery I am surprised because it is a real favorite of mine, hitting the mark for me on so many points. I think you can see my feelings for this painting in the post below that I wrote when it was first painted.

So, if you would like to have a chance ( decent odds, too!) at taking this favorite of mine home with you, come on out to the Principle Gallery  in historic and beautiful Alexandria, VA this coming Saturday, September 15, for my annual Gallery Talk that begins at 1 PM. There will be some other surprises as well.

Hope to see you there!

Meditation brings wisdom; lack of mediation leaves ignorance. Know well what leads you forward and what hold you back, and choose the path that leads to wisdom.

–Buddha

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This new piece, 18″ by 18″ on canvas, is titled Deep Focus. This was one of those pieces that just seemed to fall out with very little inner wrangling or consternation. Once I started, it was off and running with what seemed very little assistance from me.

It was immediately clear that this painting was going to be about focus, about looking deeper and deeper into the canvas. Built from the bottom, each layer pushed the eye further inward. About halfway into this I began to think of the title for this as being AutoFocus, just for the ease with which it was emerging. But I finally opted for Deep Focus because of the depth I was seeing in the picture and the way everything seemed to gravitate toward the central point of the sun that is peeking over the distant hill.

This piece seems to have a very meditative quality, a placid feeling that goes well with the ease of the piece. Or at least, the ease that I felt in its creation. Sitting here now, taking it in, its construction seems simple, almost naive. Yet there is a feeling of opulence that I think comes from the colors and curves of the landscape that sheds this naivete and gives it a feeling of deeper knowledge. Or a way to deeper knowledge. Far from naive.

Years ago, I had a hard time trusting the validity of pieces that fell so easily from my hand, believing that  struggle must be part of making a painting come alive. I was almost embarrassed by the ease with which some pieces came. But over time, I have come to believe that it is this effortless work that is the goal, the work that is true and has the authenticity that I seek. This piece is a testament to the trust in my intuition that has come with time.

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To desire and strive to be of some service to the world, to aim at doing something which shall really increase the happiness and welfare and virtue of mankind – this is a choice which is possible for all of us; and surely it is a good haven to sail for.

-Henry Van Dyke

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This is a new painting that is part of a group of new work that will be going down to Alexandria with me next Saturday for my annual Gallery Talk at the Principle Gallery. I call this 16″ by 20″ painting Striving on the Wind.

I really enjoy painting these pieces with sailboats even though I must confess that I know practically nothing about sailing or boats in general. But the nature of the compositions with the bands of horizontal color  and the lure of the wide open sky along with the captured movement of the boats on the waves and in the sails makes it a tremendously appealing subject. Billowing sails on the waves under a big sky is a thing of beauty, even to this landlubber.

Plus, these pieces come with the inherent concept of the journey, the idea that there is an intended goal toward which the boat is headed. They have a built in sense of purpose. I can only imagine that sailing to a far destination is an act of total purpose, requiring the sailor’s complete focus and unwavering attention to keep the boat on course and afloat.

A sinking boat has lost its purpose.

And that sense of purpose is important to me, something I have always wanted to recognize in my own life. I think it must be equally important to many other folks out there. And I think that symbolism comes through in these pieces. Hopefully, the words at the top from author Henry Van Dyke align with that sense of purpose.

As he said: surely it is a good haven to sail for.

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Striving on the Wind, along with a number of other new paintings, will be at the Principle Gallery next Saturday, September 15,  where I will be giving a Gallery Talk beginning at 1 PM. As is now tradition, there will be a drawing where one of my paintings will be awarded to someone in attendance along with some other neat prizes and plenty of good conversation. Hope to see you there!

 

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I really just wanted to share one of my favorite Edward Hopper paintings but the message attached really speaks to my own thoughts on painting. The painting is his Early Sunday Morning from 1930.

I like that it seems so still, so static, yet it is filled–at least for me– with tensions and deep emotional content. That reaction is my own imagination reacting to the elements of the painting. Hopper created an armature, a framework, that gives shape to the emotional response of the viewer without filling out all of the details.

You look at it and there are guides in place that gently direct you to Hopper’s own emotional location. But it never spells it out in great detail, never tells you what you should feel. It relies on your imagination to fill in the voids, to fill it with details to which you can personally relate. You are no longer a mere viewer, you are an emotional participant.

That’s how I think a painting should work, as a sort of active terminus where the work of the artist and the imagination of the viewer meet.

Sometimes, it works that way. Sometimes, it doesn’t. I think this Hopper definitely works in this way.

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If you begin to understand what you are without trying to change it, then what you are undergoes a transformation.

Jiddu Krishnamurti

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The painting, Apex, as shown above on the left had been bouncing around galleries for quite a few years. It was one of those pieces that kind of gnawed at me after awhile. There was so much that I liked about it and it felt complete yet I began to feel that something was lacking.

The color bothered me. It looked washed out and pale. Now, I have done pieces with that sort of color and it can be very effective but in this instance the lack of intensity in the colors seemed to handicap the whole painting. The more I looked at it over the years, the more I saw the blue of the sky looking dull and lifeless.

And it felt like the trees on the ascending path were too sparse. I don’t know much about musical composition, can’t tell a quarter note from a half note, but when I looked at the hill with the trees I felt like I was looking at a piece of music and some of the notes were missing. It wasn’t saying what it should be saying.

And the central character, the Red Tree at the top, felt dark and small, not bursting forward as it should, at least in my mind.

The whole thing just felt like it was on life support– barely alive but but with no vigor, no spark.

But it was still alive and there seemed to be something in it that really pulled me in, I decided I needed to intervene, to either reinvent it or completely kill it. So I went in and deepened the colors of the sky and the hill dramatically. This created a nice contrasting tension and made the tree that were added to the upward path stand out more. The Red Tree grew larger, brighter and bolder while the clouds in the sky slimmed a bit.

It was  dramatic transformation. It was like Charles Atlas’ 97-pound weakling transforming, with the aid of his patented Dynamic Tension, into a beefy he-man who takes on the beach bully and gets the girl. I know that last sentence means next to nothing to those of you under the age of fifty but if you ever saw those old magazine ads, you’ll get it. You can click here to go to an old blog entry that shows that ad.

That might be a goofy comparison but as I sit here and look at the transformed painting, it’s hard to imagine that that it once was that old version of itself.

And it all came about thanks to Dynamic Tension. Thanks, Charles Atlas!

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This reinvented painting will be with me at my Gallery Talk at the West End Gallery in Corning this coming Saturday, August 4. The talk begins at 1 PM and it should be a good time. In addition to the great conversation and plenty of prizes, I have also procured a monster truck act– Truckasaurus Rex— as well as a T-shirt cannon.

Okay, maybe that’s not quite accurate. Or true in any sense of the word. You’ll have to come see for yourself. 

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