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Posts Tagged ‘Quote’

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Do not try to paint the grandiose thing. Paint the commonplace so that it will be distinguished.

William Merritt Chase (1849-1916)

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Love these words from the great American painter William Merritt Chase. I echo the sentiment whenever I get a chance to speak with art students, telling them to focus less on subject and more on how they render whatever they choose to depict. Most of the greatest paintings are of very common things, people and places. It is how they are painted that lifts and distinguishes them.

Chase was one of the dominant figures of American art in the late 1800’s. He was a prolific and renowned painter and among the first American Impressionists as well as an influential teacher who established a progressive art academy in NYC, The Chase School, that today is the Parsons School of Design.

Some of Chase’s best known work is a great example of his words above. He painted the gamut of subjects– landscapes, portraits and still lifes– and is well known for each of these fields. His still life paintings with fish were among his favorite subjects, one that he often employed for painting demonstrations for his students. These pieces were done in a fast, wet into wet technique that relied on extreme contrasts of dark and light , setting aside detail for gesture and impression.

I don’t know how many of these fish pieces Chase painted but it appears to be quite a large figure. A number of years back, the Principle Gallery had one of his fish pieces in the gallery for sale and I remember being very impressed because whenever I thought of Chase his fish paintings always came to my mind.

Here are just a few examples.

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To appreciate a work of art, is it okay to like what you like, and the heck with the art critics and experts? Absolutely.

–Thomas Hoving

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I came across this quote from the late Thomas Hoving and thought it would be a good opportunity to show off an illustration of him done by the late David Levine, the famed illustrator/artist whose distinct caricatures adorned the New York Review of Books for many years, along with many other publications. The original drawing now hangs in a corner of my studio, obtained from the estate of Thomas Buechner who was friend to both Levine and Hoving.

Hoving was primarily a museum director. Now that sounds pretty blasé on its surface but among his peers he was a rock star,writing bestselling books and ushering the Metropolitan Museum into a renaissance of sorts as its director. He was big personality in what is often a low key position.

His words above definitely ring true as good advice to anyone who has ever felt anxious about purchasing or even sharing their opinion on a piece of art. Feel free to buy and admire work that speaks to you, regardless of what critics might say. Art is based on an emotional elicitation and nobody can dictate how anyone should respond to any one piece of work. A critic may have a response to a work of art and write effusively about that work, perhaps even making cogent points about the validity of the work. But if I don’t feel that same emotional response, all the eloquence in the world telling me why I should like it cannot make me suddenly adore that work.

In short, we like what we like.

I’ve seen people in high powered positions, people who normally ooze confidence, suddenly turn to jelly when trying to decide whether they should buy a piece of art. Art is such a nebulous and subjective thing that many of these folks feel a bit lost and out of their depth. They are afraid of making a mistake and lose all trust in their own opinion. They forget that they should simply like what they like and trust that feeling.

So, if you see something you like sometime, don’t be shy about showing your admiration for it. Maybe that means purchasing it or maybe it’s just letting the artist know that it moves you somehow.

Both are appreciated by every artist I have ever known.

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Jack Shadbolt- Presence After Fire – 1950

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An artist is no bigger than the size of his mind.

–Jack Shadbolt (1909-1998)

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I have to admit that I knew little of the Canadian painter Jack Shadbolt before this morning. But I was immediately taken by his use of bold colors and forms along with an interesting use of symbolism depicted in a blend of representation and abstraction. I was also impressed with the scale of his many triptychs, their size giving the work greater weight. Just interesting work to put it simply.

There is a good short bio of Jack Shadbolt that you can read by clicking on this link. It gives you an idea of the forces, such as his World War II experiences, and people–his friendship with iconic Canadian painter Emily Carr, for example– that shaped his work. It also makes clear the influence his work has in his homeland.

One thing I discovered was that as Shadbolt was suffering at the age of 89 from congestive heart failure, his wife brought him home from the hospital. She set up a hospital bed in the center of his studio in British Columbia so that he might be surrounded by his paintings and be in that place where he had spent most of his time at his life’s work. He died there in his studio several days later.

I thought to myself that would not be a bad way to go. That is, if for some reason I decide to die someday.

But the focus today is on the short quote above, one with which I heartily agree. Whenever speaking to students I try to stress the need to grow their mind, to become an interesting person with something to say. To read more. To watch and listen more. To simply think and continue to learn.

Technique without an active mind behind it bears lifeless work.

At least, that’s my opinion. And Shadbolt said that beautifully and succinctly.

Now, take a look at some of the work of Jack Shadbolt.

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There is always hope, as long as the canvasses are empty.

–Gustav Klimt

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This quote from Klimt made me smile this morning, a little knowing smile. When I am getting ready for a show, such as I am now, the studio is initially filled with prepared empty canvasses of a wide variety of sizes, coated with layers of gesso and topped with a thick layer of black paint. They are everywhere, all propped up against any available surface that will support them.

Having them around is comforting, representing possibility. It is the hope of which Klimt speaks. Each blank canvas has the possibility of being a whole new world, a new experience, a new revelation. There is almost a hum of potential life coming from them.

But as the weeks and months pass and many of the canvasses are painted, taking on their new identities, the supply of blank surfaces dwindles down to the point where there is now only a smattering of blank canvasses scattered around the studio. It is at this point when I get anxious, most likely from no longer being surrounded by those empty surfaces that have come to symbolize hope and potential for me.

It is at this point that I can begin to see the end of this painting session, that soon I will have to stop for a bit to ready the work, to photograph, to stain frames and varnish paintings to make them presentable for the show. This makes makes me a little glum because I am usually very hyped up and wanting to do even more, to further explore all the new avenues that are opening up before me in the paintings in which I am working.

Looking around now and seeing just a few empty canvasses is a reminder of that coming point. It makes me pause in for a moment, anticipating that coming shift of gears, and for that moment I am a bit down. But reading Klimt’s words makes me smile, knowing that I just received a new shipment of canvas the other day which is waiting patiently downstairs to be prepped so that it soon can carry all my hopes and possibilities.

And the glumness fades.

 

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The art of an artist must be his own art. It is… always a continuous chain of little inventions, little technical discoveries of one’s own, in one’s relation to the tool, the material and the colors.

–Emil Nolde

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I totally agree with the words above from Emil Nolde, the German Expressionist painter who lived from 1867 to 1956. The artist’s personal relationship with their materials defines their creative voice, giving it distinguishing characteristics that allow it to hopefully stand clear of the work of other artists.  The way one handles and choose their paint, the way they treat their surfaces, how they define space and form in the picture plane, how traditional methods are altered and adapted to their own way of seeing and thinking– all of these and so many other elements make that creative voice unique. It is these things that make an individual artist’ work distinctly recognizable.

That’s the truth part of this post. Below is the deception.

Now, there’s nothing controversial in this sentiment but I was hesitant in using the words of Emil Nolde, who has been the subject of much scrutiny lately as his past associations with the Nazi party in Germany have come to light.

Nolde’s situation was an unusual one. He was a well established Expressionist painter in his 60’s when the Nazi’s came to power in Germany in the 1930’s. While he was an ardent supporter of the party and a fervent anti-Semite who flew a swastika flag above his home, Nolde’s work was deemed degenerate by the Nazis and was very much disliked by Hitler. I am not sure but he may well have been the only party member to have his work shown in the sweeping Nazi exhibit of  degenerate art.

During the war, Nolde was forbidden from selling his work without the permission of the Nazi party. But Nolde took that caveat and portrayed it as a complete prohibition of his work and himself, which it was not. He was still able to work and he was not persecuted in any way. Nolde created a series of small watercolors which he claimed were ideas for paintings that he was forbidden from painting. It became the basis for a celebrated show, Unpainted Pictures. This idea of a persecuted artist creating a body of forbidden work in his head became a symbol of artistic resistance that sustained his legacy for many years after the war, a story pushed by the foundation he had formed to manage an archive and museum of his work.

But it was a false story.

Nolde and his foundation hid his Nazi past and his anti-Semitism for decades. Passages from his memoirs that spoke of his complicity with the Nazis and his anti-Semitic leanings were excised and stories that portrayed him as a victim were embellished.  This went on until 2013 when the foundation’s new leadership, sensing that the previous administrators had laundered a dirty past, pushed for transparency and released the entire archives, previously under wraps, to the public.

I am not sure how Nolde will be portrayed or judged going forward, whether it will be on his paintings or on his actions before and during WW II. There was a good article recently on this story in the New York Times. I urge you to take a look as it tells the story much better than I can here.

 

 

 

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Satisfaction lies in the effort, not in the attainment. Full effort is full victory.

Mahatma Gandhi

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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 very hard in my studio, well over 70,000 hours over the past twenty-plus years. I usually make a joke of this, saying that I enjoy these long periods of solitude and tell people I am hard at work during my time in the studio so they will just leave me alone. Okay, there is a lot of 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 does require 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  that brings me my own sense of personal 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. 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, a 24″ by 24″ canvas which going soon to Alexandria, VA for my upcoming solo show at the Principle Gallery, which opens June 7. It is called A Sense of 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 as a reward makes me look forward to the task and the effort ahead.

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The post above was written several years back was written about an earlier painting with similar receding fields rows in its foreground. I felt that the message from that earlier post applied equally well to the new painting at the top so I borrowed much of it for today’s post, with a few edits.

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The way of the Creative works through change and transformation, so that each thing receives its true nature and destiny and comes into permanent accord with the Great Harmony: this is what furthers and what perseveres.

Alexander Pope

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I am moving toward final preparations for my annual show at the Principle Gallery which opens five weeks from today, on June 7th. This year’s show is titled Redtree: New Growth which references my first solo show, Redtree, at the gallery way back in 2000. I thought invoking the Redtree label was appropriate as this is going to be my 20th solo exhibit at the Principle and the Redtree has certainly remained a vital part of my work.

There is no getting away from that.

But the addition of New Growth is important, both for this show and for myself as an artist. The Redtree is still present in my work but there is also a need to evolve it, to keep moving away from any sort of static position. A need to not settle for what I am now but, instead, to aspire and move to become something more.

Change and transformation, as Pope put it.

There is a constant need to have that which he describes as my true nature and destiny move closer to that Great Harmony.

There are moments when I am at work when I feel I am close to that point, that I am looking at my real essence, my true nature. They are rare moments but there in no mistaking those instances of clarity. I have felt that a few times in prepping this show and am grateful for these occurrences because even though they are fleeting, they leave me with a desire to push my own boundaries and expectations.

Looking back on the prior 19 Principle Gallery shows, I can see evidence of other times when I was experiencing this same feeling. They showed themselves as moments of growth that standout to me. There were years that stand out for me, where the work jumped forward in bounds. And there were years where there was an evident pause in the growth of the work, where I almost seemed to be complacently resting.

Maybe a bit too satisfied with where I was? Probably. Or maybe I was wary of moving because I was afraid there was nowhere to go, that I was as far in my journey as I was able to go? I can’t say for sure.

But this year’s Principle Gallery show challenged me. That is was my 20th show there seemed like such a milepost for me that I became concerned that it was becoming an endpoint with nothing beyond it. That produced an almost feverish desire to create work of a truly essential nature.

I won’t know whether I actually succeed in this quest for a few years as I am too enmeshed in the work now to be objective. But I feel as strongly about this work as any I have ever done and if my emotional reactions to it are any indicator, it will age well.

The painting at the top is the title piece for this show, Redtree: New Growth. A 36″ by 24″ canvas, it has a sharpness and clarity that just feels right for the moment. This painting aligns perfectly, at least in how I view it, with Pope’s words above.

It furthers and perseveres.

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