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Posts Tagged ‘Quotes’

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Charles Burchfield- Sun and Rocks- Albright-Know Art GalleryAn artist must paint not what he sees in nature, but what is there. To do so he must invent symbols, which, if properly used, make his work seem even more real than what is in front of him.

–Charles Burchfield

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I am a big fan of the work of Charles Burchfield (1893-1967), a western  New York painter who lived and painted in the Buffalo area for most of his life. His work was decidedly visionary in its scope, taking the environment that he knew around western New York and embellishing it with a life force and energy that he sensed beneath the surface. That’s what he was referring to in the quote above– taking what you see around you and not simply recording it but painting how it moves you emotionally. To me, his work is as emotionally charged in the same way as that of Van Gogh.

Charles Burchfield- An April Mood- Whitney Museum of American ArtCreating symbols, as Burchfield refers to in the quote, has been a big part of my work. I have long emulated his use of creating a visual vocabulary that moved through a body of work. It becomes a sort of language of its own  that people who take it in and understand it find easy to read and absorb as they move from picture to picture. Those who can’t read it find less in the images and feel less drawn into them. In an earlier post featuring Burchfield, I wrote about an artist friend who just didn’t get Burchfield’s work in any sense.  He just one of those people who couldn’t read the language clearly written in the work.

I also have been influenced by the way Burchfield would constantly go back to earlier work and use it as a new starting point, as though the added knowledge gained through the years would take this work in a new direction. I often do the same thing, constantly revisiting images and motifs from years ago looking for a thread or path to follow anew.

Even this post is a revisitation, going back and looking at an influence, trying to pull that original inspiration from it. With Charles Burchfield, that’s always an easy thing to accomplish.

Charles Burchfield- Childhood's Garden

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Ansel Adams- The Tetons and the Snake River

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Millions of men have lived to fight, build palaces and boundaries, shape destinies and societies; but the compelling force of all times has been the force of originality and creation profoundly affecting the roots of human spirit.

-Ansel Adams

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While I recognize the necessity for a basis of observed reality… true art lies in a reality that is felt.

–Odilon Redon
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Love this quote from the French artist Odilon Redon (1840-1916). His work certainly reflected this thought, most generally having deep emotional tones.
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I first came across his work in the form of a book of his drawings. I thought that was his dominant form of expression until I began to look deeper into his paintings. The boldness, purity and harmonies of his colors struck me. The colors alone carried the emotional weight of many of his paintings, seemingly allowing the viewer to sense its tone and message in a single glimpse. Longer observation is rewarded as one better sees the subtlety in Redon’s expression.
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I am definitely a fan of Odilon Redon and,  even though our styles and methods greatly differ, try to carry that idea of felt reality into my own work. Here’s a video that gives a nice overview of his paintings.
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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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