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Posts Tagged ‘Quotes’

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“You know that great pause that comes upon things before the dusk, even the breeze stops in the trees. To me there is always an air of expectation about that evening stillness.”

H.G. Wells , The Time Machine

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The painting shown here, about 15″ x 24″ on paper, is titled Working to Stillness. It is included in my upcoming solo exhibit, From a Distance, that opens next Friday, July 17, at the West End Gallery.

I debated quite a bit over the title. I had read a letter of advice from the poet Rainer Maria Rilke that spoke of the great movements of activity that take place within us when we are still, sometimes resulting in great works at a later time. That made me think of making the title this painting Working From Stillness rather than To.

But I thought of the stillness that comes at the end of those days of great activity, of toil both physical and mental. When the tasks have been completed and set aside for the day, there is a sense of relief and satisfaction that sets upon the body and mind. Stillness arrives.

It’s a good feeling for me and one that I look forward to most days. I often think of my days as working to this stillness.

This piece captures that feeling for me. It has great warmth and an abundance of strength. I think I used the term muscularity when I was talking about it when I delivered the show to the gallery yesterday. It has that kind of physicality to it. I don’t know how to really describe what I mean by that but it sounds right. Maybe it comes from what I see as the strength of the colors and forms in this piece.

Whatever the case, it’s a piece that has great and undeniable presence in its setting. Maybe that’s the part that speaks most to me in these times where we all feel a need to have our voices heard. This one demands that its voice be heard.

Even in its stillness.

 

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It has bothered me all my life that I do not paint like everybody else.

–Henri Matisse

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Well, Mr. Matisse certainly did not paint like everybody else and I, for one, am glad of it.

But I believe I know what he is saying. As an artist, you’re always torn between poles of confidence.

When it is at its highest point, you believe so strongly in what you are doing that it doesn’t matter what everybody else’s work is like.

But at the low points, you lose confidence in the credibility of your own voice and vision. At these low points it seems like it would be easier to have the comfort of being able to judge your own work against others who do the same type of work so that you could gauge whether your creations were worthy of notice.

I certainly have swung wildly between these two poles and have at points wished that I painted more like other artists, as though I would somehow benefit from their credibility. I know that this sort of thinking is misplaced and the result of low self-esteem in that moment, but it happens. And on a more regular basis than one might think.

But the work itself is usually the voice of reason, the thing that brings me around once more. Just getting lost in the creation of a piece and sitting in front of it in the aftermath, still fully immersed in the life force it then exudes, washes away that need to be like everybody else.

But even in that moment, I know that nagging feeling, that desire to be like everybody else, will still be there waiting for me when I inevitably swing back to that other pole.

So, Mr. Matisse, thank you for not being like everybody else. I know how hard it sometimes must have felt but we appreciate you staying true to your own voice.

Here are a few more of his interiors, a group of his work that I really love.

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“He who does not understand your silence will probably not understand your words.”

― Elbert Hubbard

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The painting above is called Endless Time, from back in 2008. It’s what I might call one of my Big Quiet paintings. Just color and forms. No central objects to garner the focus. No Red Trees or Red Roofs or Red Chairs. Not even a far point that seems like a destination.

I am not passing through, not heading anywhere past this point nor concerned with paths to follow.

In this piece, I’m just there. Now.

It’s a place without words. Pure silence.

The Big Quiet.

I would try to describe it further but unless you know or seek the Big Quiet yourself, as Elbert Hubbard points out above, you probably won’t understand.

Silence and quiet is a subjective thing as our recent isolation has proven. For some, it is a glorious thing without the sounds of traffic and crowds. For others, it is horrifying, maybe a reminder of the stillness of the grave.

We all experience the silence differently.

I think you know where I stand on the Big Quiet.

Enough said.

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If necessary, I would even paint with my bottom.

Jean-Honore Fragonard

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I can’t say I am a fan at all of the work of Jean-Honore Fragonard but the quote above made me laugh this morning. I think some folks believe I’ve been painting that way for years now. Sometimes, I believe it myself.

But his point, while humorous, makes a vital point.

I know I have been asked what I would do if I suddenly couldn’t paint anymore and I always answer the same way:

I’d find a way.

Whatever obstacles arise, there is usually a way to be found around or over or under them. Hopefully, it doesn’t come down to painting with my bottom but if that’s the way it must be, so be it.

Now, let me share just bit about Fragonard, the French painter who lived from 1732 to 1806. He painted in the Rococo style, one which never really appealed to me. It’s very

the French painter who lived from 1732 to 1806 and worked in the Rococo style, which has never really appealed to me. I have a hard time even describing it except to say it’s busy and soft and often has the feel of a bad romance novel book cover. Rococo paintings might look fine and in their proper place in a highly decorated chateau in the Loire Valley but they just don’t translate well for me personally.

But that’s just my take.

Fragonard dies in 1806 as an almost unknown painter. He had achieved fame and notoriety as a painter earlier in his career, painting his elaborate pieces with a hedonistic feel for the upper classes of French society. Unfortunately for Fragonard, the French Revolution effectively wiped out most of his patrons, most either guillotined or sent into exile.

His style of painting was not appreciated and he went into hiding of sorts. For the last fifteen years or so of his life, he was off the radar completely. This extended for another sixty or seventy until his work underwent a reevaluation and rebirth. He has since been hailed as one of the masters of French painting.

So, his work lives on and he never had to paint with his bottom, to the best of my knowledge.

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Stuart Davis- Swing Landscape 1938

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For a number of years Jazz had a tremendous influence on my thoughts about art and life.

-Stuart Davis

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I wrote yesterday about how as an artist I am influenced by many things other than the paintings of other artists. I thought I’d share some paintings from artist Stuart Davis (1892-1964) whose work itself is considered a huge influence on the Pop Art movement of the 1960’s. I’ve been a fan of his for many years, particularly after seeing how his work evolved through his career from a Robert Henri trained Modernist whose early work echoed the influence of Van Gogh through a Picasso inspired Cubist period into his own style with its own vocabulary that was largely inspired by the Jazz of the time.

I also always keep something in mind he said when I am at work: Always remember that in a painting, color has a position, and a place, and it makes space. As a result, I try to make color a vital element in my paintings, sometimes more important than the actual subject of the painting.

But, this morning let’s just look at a few of Davis’ Jazz inspired paintings and take a look and a listen to the great Duke Ellington‘s Jazz classic Take the A Train. I get the feeling Stuart Davis might have painted a bit to this track.

I am not sure but the video here looks to be a Soundie, which were short, well produced music films that were played on video jukeboxes in bars and clubs the late 1940’s. They mainly featured popular black Jazz musicians, giving these often musicians, who really didn’t have an many outlets for their music as their white counterparts, an exciting venue that really spread the popularity of their music.


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Édouard Vuillard – Landscape at Saint-Jacut

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To say that a thing is beautiful is simply an act of faith, not a measurement on some kind of scale.

–Édouard Vuillard

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If you asked me about my favorite painters, Édouard Vuillard (1868-1940) is not a name that would come to mind. In fact, I never even gave much thought to his work and didn’t have much of an opinion on it. I knew a little bit about the interior scenes for which he is well known but if you asked me to name or even describe his best known work, I would be at a loss.

But the more I look and the more I see of his work, the more of a fan I become of Édouard Vuillard. There is such a wide array of style in the body of his work that shows his exploration and growth.

The interior scenes I once shrugged over now seem to be wonderfully dense explorations into abstraction, pattern and color. There is so much to latch onto in each piece that a cursory glimpse doesn’t often suffice. I now see his work with a bit of a sense of awe and can honestly take that leap of faith and say that I see them as beautiful.

I even like a few of the things from him I have read, like the words at the top. Beauty is indeed subjective, not measurable with any set scale. My sense of beauty may well differ from yours. You may be moved by things that do nothing for me and vice versa. I don’t know that there is any one things, any one piece of art, that is absolutely beautiful to everyone.

Maybe there is. Who knows? Certainly not me.

He also wrote: I do not belong to any school, I simply want to do something that is personal to my self

These words depict that need to create something that is only mine, not something instantly attributable to a school or movement or any other artist, that has always been the driving force behind my own work. I don’t know that I have always been successful but I can say that Vuillard definitively did create a distinct body of art, beautiful work that is all his own.

Just good stuff. Here are a few examples from a sea of choices.

 

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Peter Doig- Swamped 1990

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I sometimes wish I had never had to sell a painting. Every painting you make represents the time it was made and how you were feeling and what your influences were… You are never going to feel that way again, so you can never repeat it…

–Peter Doig 

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I shouldn’t make such a blanket statement but I doubt that most of you out there know the name of the contemporary artist Peter Doig. I know that I wasn’t fully aware of him until a decade or so back and even then only on a passing basis where I would stop and examine his work when I would come across it in an article. The piece at the top always made me stop and look a bit closer.

But the fact of the matter is that the Scottish born Doig (b. 1959) is perhaps the most sought after living artist working today with works selling for the tens of millions at auction. Of the 9 paintings shown here, only one sold for less than $10 million at auction. The most expensive sold for over $ 28 million. I won’t tell you which is which. There were many others on the auction sites that sold for between 1 and 4 million that I didn’t include.

These prices always open up a debate with lots of questions on the relative value of artwork. What makes a work worth $28 million? Does the auction value of the work determine its importance or does its importance determine its value? Is the working and thinking process of this artist that much different than that of an artist that sells for tremendously less?

You might think from the direction this seems to be heading that I am decrying Doig’s work selling for what I believe are ludicrous sums. I am not. I very much like and admire his work. I can see those elements in it that make it distinct. It is good and great work and might very well be among the most important work from this time. If his work can bring in that kind of money, I applaud him.

I am, if anything, criticizing myself for not having the ability– or knowledge or audacity– to command such prices. I know that the price of a piece of art sometimes determines how serious collectors view it and that a great piece can be overlooked simply because it is too inexpensive, at least by the standards of collectors.

That has happened to me at times.

In some galleries, my works sits at the top end of their market and in others, in the middle or near the bottom of their price ranges. While I am satisfied with that, I firmly believe that my work is greatly undervalued across the board, that it should be demanding much higher prices.

Now, that sounds like confidence, doesn’t it? Maybe even overconfidence?

Actually, it is the opposite of that. It is a lack of confidence and a bit of fear that keeps the prices of my work in the range where they are and have been. While I have the belief in the relative value of my work, I just don’t have the guts to make that jump.

I have been poor in my life and it wasn’t that long ago that I was dead broke and I think that tempers my ambitions, as far as pricing my work is concerned. I like to have my work sell and make a living from it. I take pride in being able to live off of the product of my own thoughts and imagination. And I find a sense of security in being able to provide what I consider high quality work at prices that make it obtainable for more people than if it were in a much higher range– it’s undervaluation generally means that the work will sell eventually.

Maybe I am too comfortable and seeing Mr. Doig’s prices just nudges me a bit, telling me to be less comfortable, to be more proactive.

I don’t know. Just thinking out loud this morning. I wrote this because much of what I have read about and from Doig jibes with my own experiences, including the quote at the top. For all the talk about prices, every real piece of art represents a certain time and place for that artist, one that is distinct and not repeatable. I know that I will sometimes look at a piece and remember the days I spent in front of it while painting it. That time, that thought process is burned into my psyche and will never happen again in the same way.

Anyway, lets’s push aside thoughts of money for now and just look at the paintings of Peter Doig a bit more.

Peter Doig- Rosedale 1991

Peter Doig– Red House 1995

Peter Doig– Island Painting 2000/01

Peter Doig– Grasshopper 1990

Peter Doig — Daytime Astronomy 1998/99

Peter Doig– Charley’s Space 1990

Peter Doig– Forestia 1996

Peter Doig– Almost Grown 2000

 

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The Seven Social Sins

1- Wealth without work.
2- Pleasure without conscience.
3- Knowledge without character.
4- Commerce without morality.
5- Science without humanity.
6- Religion without sacrifice.
7- Politics without principle.

–Frederick Lewis Donaldson, Westminster Abbey sermon, March, 1925

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The list above has been attributed for years to Mahatma Gandhi who published this same list later in the year in 1925 but it first came from a sermon given by Anglican priest, Frederick Lewis Donaldson, at Westminster Abbey in March of that year.  Gandhi published it in his newspaper, Young India, in October, stating in a very short commentary that the list was sent to him by a “fair friend,” adding “Naturally, the friend does not want the readers to know these things merely through the intellect but to know them through the heart so as to avoid them.”

Though Gandhi may not have originated the list, his reputation sent the message worldwide.

Reading the list early this morning, I was struck that the entirety of the list could be applied to many of those who wield the power of government, most notably the person(?) who sits in our white house. He is devoid of all the positive social attributes on the right side of this list, existing without conscience, character, morality,humanity, or principle. Nor is he unwilling to work or sacrifice anything of his own to make the world better for those beneath him in the social pecking order.

Based on his comments stating that traumatic head injuries suffered by our soldiers weren’t real wounds, I think you can throw empathy and a few other positives into the list of things missing from his being.

In short, he is a hollow man.

A husk.

And the more we follow his lead, giving in to his twisted and selfish worldview, the more hollow we become as a nation. You can easily see it in the way he has affected the republican party which has many members in power who, like him, are crossing off more and more items on the list above. They have become a husk of a political party, one without conscience or principle or shame of any sort, all too willing to carry the water for the hollow man.

As a result, he is going to be acquitted in this trial. That’s a forgone conclusion.

As Marcus Tullius Cicero wrote over two thousand years ago: “Here is a man whose life and actions the world has already condemned – yet whose enormous fortune…has already brought him acquittal!

Some things remain the same. That doesn’t make it right nor does it undo the harm already done and the damage yet to come.

And the more hollow we become as a nation, the more of these sins that we normalize, the less able we will become to recover when that damage fully arrives.

We must ask more of our leaders. And ourselves.

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Vincent Van Gogh- Memory of the Garden at Etten 1888

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My aim in life is to make pictures and drawings, as many and as well as I can; then, at the end of my life… looking back with love and tender regret, and thinking, ‘Oh, the pictures I might have made!’ But this does not exclude making what is possible…

–Vincent Van Gogh

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Love this painting from Vincent Van Gogh with its wonderful color and the abstraction of the forms that comes from eliminating the horizon line. It was a piece that came to mind when I ran across this passage from Van Gogh. The words reminded me of something else, a thought that has been on my mind in recent times.

I was asked at my Gallery Talk at the Principle Gallery this past September if I ever had thoughts of retiring from my painting career. I think I made a bit of a joke about it, saying that I would no doubt die working away at a painting.

And that’s most likely true. I couldn’t imagine ever saying I am done as a painter.

It goes back to Van Gogh’s words above. I still see my artistic future brighter than my past, still envision important projects and better works to come. I still see my best work as being in the future, not dwelling in the distant past.

I can’t imagine that feeling ever changing. I can see myself on the day of my death, if I am capable of taking a moment to reflect on that day, will have that same regret that Van Gogh expressed: Oh, the pictures I might have made!

That being said, I must get to work. I am not retired yet and there are pictures to be made. The future is calling.

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GC Myers  1994 Early Work Illustrative Styling

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To exist is to change, to change is to mature, to mature is to go on creating oneself endlessly.

~Henri Bergson

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If you have read this blog for some time, you probably have noticed that I periodically like to revisit old work, especially those early pieces from when I was still in the process of finding voice. It’s an interesting period for me to look at because the changes were coming fast, sometimes on what seemed to be a daily basis, as new things were tried, some sparking new directions and some being quickly set aside.

It was a much different set of circumstances than the way I currently work. It was a period of fast and furious fireworks, little pops and crackles with every step forward where today it is quieter for periods of time followed by louder booms. I don’t know if I can explain that any better and am pretty sure it means nothing to anyone but that is the nature of this whole endeavor– trying to make sense of something inexplicable.

I was looking at some early pieces and stopped on this one at the top for a bit, looking at it closely for the first time in many years. It’s from around 1994 and was at a point where I was still trying to figure out things. It was very illustrative– I could see it being used in a kid’s book– but there were things I took from it. The treatment of the sky, for instance, presaged the way my process evolved. It’s a pleasant little piece but it is far from where I wanted to be and even back then I knew it when I finished it then set it aside. It was not an emotional carrier for me at the time and that was what I was seeking.

The piece below, Into the Valley, was from around six or seven months later, in early 1995, and shows the changes that were taking hold in my work.  It is simpler in construction yet seems to say more for me, seems to have some more fundamental thought and feeling in it. GC Myers Into the Valley 1995

I usually take something from these little visits back in time. The changes become more evident as the style matures then levels off, becoming a bit more subtle, less drastic but more confident. But always changing, always recreating itself as it matures.

Or so I hope…

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