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Posts Tagged ‘Quotes’

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Then very slowly I go to slightly lighter colors until little by little, the forms begin to take shape and I start to see what is happening. Since I never plan in advance, I simply let myself be led by instinct, taste and intuition. And it is in this manner that I find myself creating visions that I have never before imagined. And little by little certain color effects develop that excite me and I find the painting itself leading me on and I become only an instrument of a greater, wiser force…or being…or intelligence than I myself am.

–Eyvind Earle

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I wasn’t going to post anything as my time is very short this morning. But I took a minute and pulled down a book from my shelf and gave it a quick look. It was one of a beautiful two book set of the works and writings of Eyvind Earle, the late artist/illustrator who is best known as one of the lead artists for several of the early animated classics from Walt Disney.

There’s much I am drawn to in the graphic works from Earle– the colors and the rhythm of his landscapes, for example. But today I came across the short piece of writing above that I had somehow overlooked before that gave me some insight into my attraction.

As he described his process, I was struck by how similarly we describe how we work such as not planning anything in advance, working from light to dark colors and following the excitement of certain colors until the work seems to be taken out of our hands.

Until we become instruments.

I have described the process and the final creation as being beyond me, the whole of the piece being more than the sum of of all the parts I call myself. I have also described the sense of purpose I feel from these pieces, how I feel connected to something greater. I can’t ever recollect using that term, instrument, before.

It sounds a little presumptuous but it does align with what I have described in the past. And to see that Eyvind Earle felt much the same way about his work  is comforting, especially on those mornings when I feel far removed from anything close to a greater force. Just knowing that the work might take me to that point where I transform into an instrument for something beyond myself makes the day seem easier to begin.

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I am really busy this morning but wanted to replay the post below from a few years back. I am currently at a point where I am just emerging from a period of great uncertainty and doubt, which had me questioning the path I had followed. But with each painting comes a bit more confidence, a bit more energy and a renewed sense of purpose. It makes me realize once more that the work itself is a sort of perpetual motion machine– it produces energy beyond that put into it.
The trick is in simply trusting the work and just doing it. Which is what I must do right now.

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

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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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Joan Miro, Constellations 1959

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The older I get and the more I master the medium, the more I return to my earliest experiences. I think that at the end of my life I will recover all the force of my childhood.

–Joan Miro, from 1960 at age 67 

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It’s the young people who interest me, and not the old dodos. If I go on working, it’s for the year 2000, and for the people of tomorrow.

–Joan Miro, from 1975 at age 82

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There are two quotes here from the great Spanish painter Joan Miro (1893-1983) that really strike a chord with me. Both come from him when he was older and both speak very much to the way I feel about my own work.

In the first he speaks about gaining more mastery over the medium through the years while simultaneously moving closer to the vibrant energy that one has in their youth. I have felt the same feelings. The more one gains control over their form of expression, the more they are freed from the constraints of conscious thoughts and decisions. The work becomes reactive to the feel and emotion of the moment.

Now, I will add that with this acquired mastery there is also a new barrier erected to overcome. Well, at least, in my experience. I have found that with years of work, which is, in effect, rehearsal and practice, there is sometimes a loss of spontaneity and passion in the actual making of the marks. They become a little too precise, a little too mannered and a bit too clean and neat. They don’t have that feeling of wanting to burst off the surface. I have found ways to get past this–using bigger brushes and making strokes quicker with more urgency, for example– but every so often I will get near the end of a piece and it just feels too neat, too precise, for the underlying emotion.

It needs the innate exuberance of a child at play.

The second Miro quote, made when he was 82, speaks of painting not for those of his age but for the younger and the future generations. I certainly understand this sentiment. I am most thrilled when children react to my work, knowing then that it is speaking to the aforementioned innate exuberance.

It means I am not dealing with intellect or acquired knowledge or conscious thought. It is a pure and uninformed reaction. It means the work is communicating emotionally across and out of time.

And I think this is important because I believe most artists wants to break free from their own era, to not be consigned to any single period of time. To be known for what they were at their inner and eternal core, not where or how they were categorized in their time.

Maybe like the Miro painting at the top, a single small voice among the multitude of stars and constellations in the universe.

I don’t know but that might be my primary goal in doing what I do.

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 I will give a proof to demonstrate with facts that there are no rules in painting and that oppression or servile obligation of making all study or follow the same path is a great impediment for the young who profess this very difficult art.

–Francisco Goya

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The great Spanish painter Francisco Goya (1746-1828) is one of those artists whose work doesn’t always move me, especially that work that came before he was fifty year old and was serving as a Court Painter to the Spanish Crown. That work is fine but remains, for me, unremarkable. It feels academic and restrained and not unlike the work of any number of other Master painters.

It adhered to all the rules.

But with an illness in 1793 that left Goya with the deafness that profoundly affected him, his work began to move in an altogether different direction, one that would mark him as one of the great transitional artists in the move from the Old Masters to the modern era.

The work began to grow darker and was not centered around portraiture and genre paintings that would please the upper classes. The work from this time dealt with themes based on mythology, superstition and witchcraft, and the wars and political upheaval in the Europe of that era. It is often disturbing work that often eschewed the traditional rules of painting and created a new art form would come to define his name. One of his most well known paintings, The Third of May 1808, shown at the top, is considered a groundbreaking work in that it left behind many of the ideas that had ruled painting before it.

No Rules is an idea I have tried to embrace throughout my career. It’s nice to know that someone like Goya was one of the first painters to embrace it.

Here’s another thing that Goya said that strikes close to home for me:

Fantasy, abandoned by reason, produces impossible monsters; united with it, she is the mother of the arts and the origin of marvels.

Reason in painting is a quality that is not often discussed. But I believe that there has to be a sense of orderliness– reason— in painting that allows the viewer to connect with it, even if they don’t always fully understand why. Even the seemingly most chaotic abstractions usually possess a rhythm and sense of reason that allows an interaction.

I have really come to admire Goya’s work more and more over the years. The more I look the more I like. His work has directly– my Outlaws series came about as a result of seeing a group of his miniatures– and indirectly, with his words and thoughts, influenced my own work. Here are a few of my favorites. I encourage you to look on your own. Here is a link to a site with 700 images of his works.

 

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“What does that represent? There was never any question in plastic art, in poetry, in music, of representing anything. It is a matter of making something beautiful, moving, or dramatic – this is by no means the same thing.”

 Fernand Leger

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I found it hard to believe that the French artist Fernand Leger (1881-1955) hadn’t shown up on this blog before. I’ve always enjoyed his work, especially his use of simplified forms, visible line and dark-tinged color. These were qualities that I knew I wanted for my own work in the early days when I would look at his work and that of a few other artists. I liked most of his work, from his early Cubist inspired abstractions and his later more figurative work.

But I really identify with his words above. The idea of painting moving past the idea of pure pictorial representation into something more like the expressive phrasing of dance, music or poetry is an idea that has clanged around in my head for a long time.

It is to look at a painting of a cow, to use an example, and feel the same sort of response which comes with experiencing the grace of a dance or the beauty of a musical passage.  The gesture of the painting, its movement and rhythm, and the emotions that it evokes have transcended the apparent subject it portrays. The cow as the subject of the painting is replaced by the emotional response to the forms, lines and color in the painting. That response becomes the subject and that cow becomes less of a symbol for a cow and more of a representation of the emotions that the painting brings forth.

Some magical cow, huh? Don’t know why I chose a cow as an example. It was the first thing that came to mind and it is early, so bear with me.

The point is that I see often this in Leger’s work. I feel an emotional response to some of his work without even recognizing what might be considered the obvious subject on the surface.

It’s something I desire for my own work. I would imagine that most other artists do, as well. But I don’t know if there is an actual way of ensuring that it takes place within one’s work. Maybe it’s either there or it’s not. Maybe it has to come without conscious thought, from a clear and empty mind.

I don’t know. But I can hope.

Here’s video slideshow of some more of Leger’s work.

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I do not believe in the art which is not the compulsive result of Man’s urge to open his heart.

–Edvard Munch

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Edvard Munch, the Norwegian painter who lived from 1863 to 1944, is best known for his painting The Scream. Unfortunately, that’s the only painting of his most folks can recall. But he had a long and very productive career, creating work that was often dark and filled with anxiety. But it was always his own, pulling deeply from his own inner life and emotions.

His work may not resonate with you– not all of his work hits the mark for my own tastes–but there is no denying that it has the emotional power that can only come from an opened heart that seeks meaning in life, his ultimate goal as an artist.

Or as he said: In my art I have tried to explain to myself life and its meaning. I have also tried to help others to clarify their lives. 

 

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Lee Krasner- Night Creatures

My own image of my work is that I no sooner settle into something than a break occurs. These breaks are always painful and depressing but despite them I see that there’s a consistency that holds out, but is hard to define.

Lee Krasner

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I’ve been in a funk with my work lately, one that makes it hard to even want to pick up the brushes. It reminds me of the one I felt at this exact time ten years back. My Archaeology series emerged from the depths of that funk so even though there is general sense of blah, I am optimistic.

Part of my process in clawing out of a funk is looking at work– my own and others– and reading on the experiences of others. I came across the quote above from the late artist Lee Krasner (1908-1984) and it spoke to how I have been feeling as of late. I spent a little time looking at her work and chose several that sparked my interest immediately.

Now, I am not well schooled on Abstract Expressionism so I am able to speak with any authority on her work or on her place in art history. But I do like these and a number more by her, finding something in them that inspires me with their rhythm, forms and composition. Born into a Jewish family in what is now the Ukraine, many scholars find elements of Hebrew script in the forms of some of her works.

Most of you, if you know her name at all, recognize her as the wife of Jackson Pollock.  It’s unfortunate that she is mainly known in this way because her own work has had an enduring power that has been sometimes overshadowed by Pollock’s notoriety. She is an interesting figure in modern art. Take a look sometime. Here is short video with much of her work.

Lee Krasner- Untitled (Little Image)

Lee Krasner- Noon

Lee Krasner- Composition 1949

Lee Krasner- Promenade

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