Posts Tagged ‘Quote of the Week’

Lawren Harris- Ice House, Coldwell, Lake Superior 1923

Lawren Harris- Ice House, Coldwell, Lake Superior 1923

Art is the distillate of life, the winnowed result of the experience of a people, the record of the joyous adventure of the creative spirit in us toward a higher world; a world in which all ideas, thoughts, and forms are pure and beautiful and completely clear, the world Plato held to be perfect and eternal. All works that have in them an element of joy are records of this adventure.

Lawren Harris


I love this quote from the great painter (please note that I didn’t preface it with Canadian) Lawren Harris.  I know that whenever I am working and am excited with the joy of what is unfolding before me, I feel closer and more connected to some sort of power that is beyond my knowledge.  It’s as though I feel tapped in to that winnowed result of the experience of a people as Harris puts it.  That is a great feeling, exhilarating and calming at the same time.  It is ultimately the feeling that brings one to art, both as a viewer and a creator.

Unfortunately, in the course of creating, it is sometimes a feeling that is forgotten, put aside for ends other than this element of joy.

It’s easy to do, believe me.

But rediscovering that joy is like coming across it for the first time.  Even though you know you have experienced it before, it feels all new and shiny, full of promise.

Effervescent– that is the word that comes to mind when I think of these moments of joy.

So, let me stop right here.  I am close to my own joy and don’t want to delay it for another minute.  Effervescence will not wait around too long, you know.

Hope you find some of your own today.

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Georges Rouault -Christ in the Suburbs 1920-24I am a believer and a conformist. Anyone can revolt; it is much more difficult to obey our inner promptings.

Georges Rouault


I’ve been a big fan of French painter/printmaker Georges Rouault  (1871-1958) from the moment many years ago when I stumbled across Miserere, a book of of his etchings.  It was raw and expressive work often dealing with religious themes and those inner promptings, as he calls them in the quote above. It was  a work that was very influential on my early Exiles series.

His paintings also possess the same rawness and expression of his etchings, maybe even more so, and I find myself immediately drawn to the dark line work and deep colors within them, not to mention the pure emotional feeling of them.

Now, if only I can obey my own inner promptings…

Georges Rouault Sunset 1937 georges-rouault-christ-and-the-fishermen-1939- Georges Rouault The Old King

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Paul Gauguin- Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?What still concerns me the most is: am I on the right track, am I making progress, am I making mistakes in art?

Paul Gauguin


At one of my gallery talks a year or two ago, I was asked about confidence in my work.  I can’t remember the exact wording but the questioner seemed to imply that at a certain point in an artist’s evolution doubts fade away and one is absolutely certain and confident in their work.

I think I laughed a bit then tried to let them know that even though I stood up there and seemed confident in that moment, it was mere illusion, that I was often filled with raging doubts about my voice or direction or my ability.   I wanted them to know that there were often periods when I lost all confidence in what I was doing, that there were days that turned into weeks where I bounced around in my studio, paralyzed with a giant knot in my gut because it seemed like everything I had done before was suddenly worthless and without content in my mind.

I don’t know that I explained myself well that day or if I can right now.  There are moments (and days and weeks) of clarity where the doubts do ease up and I no longer pelt myself with questions that I can’t answer.  Kind of like the painting at the top, Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?, the masterpiece from Paul Gauguin.  Those are tough questions to answer, especially for a person who has little religious belief.

And maybe that’s the answer.  Maybe my work has always served as a type of surrogate belief system, expressing instinctual reactions to these great questions.  I don’t really know and I doubt that I ever will.  I only hope that the doubts take a break once in a while.

There was another quote I was considering using for this subject from critic Robert Hughes:

The greater the artist, the greater the doubt. Perfect confidence is given to the less talented as a consolation prize.

I liked that but it felt kind of self-serving, like saying that being aware aware of your own stupidity is actually a sign of your intelligence.  I would really like to believe that all those times when I realized I was dumb as a stump were actually evidence of my brilliance. I think many of us can  claim that one.

Likewise, if Hughes is correct  then I may be one of the the greatest artists of all time.

And at the moment, I have my doubts…


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

-Pablo Picasso


True.  Enough said.

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Odilon Redon- The Cyclops 1914I am certain about what I will never do – but not about what my art will render.

–Odilon Redon


When I came across this quote from the great French Symbolist painter/printmaker Odilon Redon, I found myself nodding in agreement.  There are many things I know that I will never do with my work mainly because these things don’t inspire me to take the time to make the effort.  But about those things where I do make the the effort,  I am never quite sure where they will take me or how they will surprise me or how they will reach out to others in ways I never imagined.

And that is the thing, the driving force, that keeps me coming back to this studio each morning: the hope that this will be the day that brings that next surprise, that next thing that remains a wonder to myself.

By the way, you should really take a few moments and check out the work of Odilon Redilon.  He was one of the most influential painters around the turn of the 20th century and set the groundwork for a lot of modern movements.  Plus, his prints and paintings are just plain interesting to take in, with a mysterious twist and symbolism that feels both psychological and spiritual.  The eye in the sky is a recurring form in his work as you see in the painting at the top, The Cyclops.  His one-eyed creature has a different feel than that of the more terrifying one in Homer’s Odyssey.  Redon’s has an almost protective, paternal feel.  It feels odd but inviting.

Here is a site ( click here)with most of his known paintings although not much if any  of his print work.  It’s worth a look.

Odilon Redon - Eye  Balloon-1898 Odilon Redon Flower Clouds 1903

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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


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.


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Henry Moore SculptureIt is a mistake for a sculptor or a painter to speak or write very often about his job. It releases tension needed for his work.

Henry Moore


Came across this quote from the great British sculptor Henry Moore and it struck me on two accounts, both in the words about an artist talking too much about his job and the other in the need for tension.  I am aware and worry about both things quite often.

Talking and writing about my work has been a normal thing for me for years now and, while I think it has helped me express myself in many ways especially in the way it acts as a confessional in which I can air out my anxieties, I have often feared that my willingness to be transparent will detract from my work in some way.  In times when I am less than confident, I fear that my words will somehow expose me as a fraud or, at least, point out the more obvious flaws in my character.

Even as I write this, I am questioning the very act of doing so.

But I do it.  And will probably continue to do so.  It’s become part of who I am at this point, even on those days when I find myself questioning the wisdom in it.

As for tension being needed for the work, that is something I have believed for myself for a long time.  Tension pushes me, makes me stretch forward out of my comfort zone.  Tension has been the igniter for every personal breakthrough in my work, creating an absolute need to find new imagery or new ways to use materials.

There are times when I feel that I have become too comfortable in the materials and processes that I use and that people have become too accustomed to seeing my work.  I feel stagnant, stalled at a plateau.  It is in these times when tension, even fear, begins to build in me and I begin to scan in all directions for a new way of seeing or a new material in which to work.  The tension becomes a burning need to prove myself.

This tension is not a comfortable thing.  But I know it is a necessary condition in order for my work to continue to grow, which is what I want and need.  To the casual observer it would seem to be a good thing to reach a point where you are comfortable and satisfied in what you do but when I don’t feel that tension I begin to worry.

Odd as it may seem, I see that anxiety as a path forward or an open door to be found.  It ultimately shows something.

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GC Myers- CandleThere are two ways of spreading light… To be the candle, or the mirror that reflects it.

–Edith Wharton


This is a new piece,  8″ by 10″ on paper, that I am calling Candle.  Working on this painting, I determined that I wanted to keep the composition very simple and stark.  There was so much energy in the radiating forms that adding anything beyond the blue panel at the bottom would change the whole feel of the piece as I was seeing it.  The blue provides contrast and forms a horizon line that gives the whole image a measure of inward depth without detracting from the simplicity of the image, which I see as being essential to the strength of this painting.

Simplicity, as is often the case, translates as grace.  And grace of some form was what began to show in this piece as it unfolded.  I was reminded as I worked on this of the great (in my mind, the greatest British artist) JMW Turner‘s reputed dying words: The sun is God.  There is a spiritual element in how the sun is depicted in his work and I often feel that I am representing something more than a source of physical light and energy when I paint these sun orbs in my work.

Perhaps that something more is a presence beyond the physical.

I don’t know.  But for a moment, my uncertainty is relieved and I feel connected with the warmth and light from the presence that is the sun in this piece.

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Lawren Harris- Mountains in Snow 1929

Lawren Harris- Mountains in Snow 1929

The power of beauty at work in man, as the artist has always known, is severe and exacting, and once evoked, will never leave him alone, until he brings his work and life into some semblance of harmony with its spirit.

Lawren Harris


The more I look at the work and read the words of the great Canadian painter Lawren Harris (1885-1970), the more of a fan I become.   His work was never about  capturing the physical reality of place.  No, it concerned itself with capturing the emotional response to the and harmony and spiritual nature of place, to evoke that power of beauty that has moved him.  It reminds me in that sense of  Edward Hopper’s work.

I am totally enamored with his paintings of the great white north in fantastic colors and forms but have been recently looking at his more abstract work and find then every bit as beautiful and engrossing.  They possess that same degree of feeling of his more representational pieces yet move into an even more internal space.  I find them intriguing and inspiring.

There is a book on the work of Lawren Harris coming out in a few weeks, co-authored by actor/comedian/art collector Steve MartinThe Idea of North: The Paintings of Lawren Harris,  that will be attempting to take Harris from being portrayed as  just a Canadian painter and place him highly in the larger context of all art.  It’s a book to which I am looking forward.

Lawren Harris The Spirit of the Remote Hills 1957Lawren Harris - abstractLawren Harris- Abstract #7 Lawren Harris- Abstract Painting #20 Lawren Harris abstractlawren harris-mt-lefroy LawrenHarris-Mount-Thule-Bylot-Island-1930

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GC Myers-  The Satisfaction smSatisfaction lies in the effort, not in the attainment. Full effort is full victory.

Mahatma Gandhi


I often paint the rows of a freshly cut field in my work.  While this creates an interesting visual effect with its pattern of alternating colors, it also satisfies my own need to express the importance — and necessity–of effort for myself and for my work.

I have often pointed out at gallery talks that I spend huge amounts of time alone working in my studio, well over 50,000 hours in the past fifteen years.  I usually make a joke of this, saying that I just tell people I am hard at work during my time in the studio so they will not bother me and that its really not that much work.  Okay, maybe there is some truth there as far as not having people bother me.  But the fact remains that while I find my time in the studio enjoyable as well as enlightening, it requires great effort and work.

And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I guess that’s because there is usually a moment after finishing a piece or a group of work for a show when I stop and look at the work in its state of completion.  In this moment there is a great sense of satisfaction at the result of my full efforts.  And that full effort gives the results a sense of completeness and their completeness brings me my own completeness, a fulfillment of some small purpose that I find necessary in order to persist in this world.

That small moment of satisfaction makes all the work, all the frustration and missteps, fade away and that which should have depleted me now serves as nourishment.  I find myself strengthened for another day.

Maybe that what I see in this new painting, an 18″ by 18″ canvas which is headed out to California.  It is called The Satisfaction, of course.  It very much reflects what I have written here, with the Red Tree representing someone looking back on the results of a long day of labor.  And again, they feel uplifted rather than worn down.

I know it’s not always that way.  There have been times when work has been very draining, definitely in my past and occasionally even now.  But knowing that  special moment of satisfaction that comes along every so often is out there makes me look forward to the task and the effort ahead.

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