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Posts Tagged ‘Red Tree’

Painting Workshop 2018

Like most Americans, I have found the last couple of days have been exhausting. My reasons are most likely different than most other Americans. I was fortunate in not being able to watch the proceedings surrounding the Supreme Court and instead spent the last two days leading a painting workshop up in Penn Yan.

Tiring but not maddening. I feel so fortunate.

It’s a two day workshop and these people do an amazing amount of work in a very short time. Probably too much. Working off a piece that I am painting in front of them, they basically finish two decent sized paintings in two days, start to finish. The last half of each day is a flurry of activity as each of them moves quickly to bring the painting to state of completion.

There is little time to consider each movement. Just paint.

At the end of each day I am always stunned by how well they have adapted to techniques that are not easy and require a bit of practice, more than the short time in this workshop affords, in order to have any degree of mastery. I look at the work completed and realize that what they have done is much more than I do normally do in any two days in my studio. I am not sure they even realize how much they have done.

Hopefully, they take some small bit of the experience with them. Maybe look at the pieces they’ve done and say Wow, I did that!

It was great group and I feel fortunate to have gotten to now each of them a bit more. I am sincerely proud of each of them and how much they have done in the short time we worked together.

But like I said it’s exhausting, a lot of work and anxiety for a guy whose real comfort zone is in my studio tucked away from the rest of the world. I am not sure if I am going to do it again but if I do, it will be because the folks who come each year treat me so well. I think if I do opt to do it again, we would only work on one painting and work at an easier pace where they can take more time to consider what they are doing.

But that is the future. As to the present, many thanks to to the great folks I spent the last two days with. It was my pleasure.

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Good day yesterday. My Gallery Talk at the Principle Gallery went really well, with a great group of folks that made the task much easier for me. Lots of familiar faces of friends that I have seen many times before and plenty of new ones as well. They all made me feel comfortable and had lots of interesting and well thought out questions. The hour flew by and I only stumbled once or twice. We had some laughs and I hope everyone walked away thinking that it was time well spent.

I know that I enjoyed myself. That’s not something I have always said after some of these talks. I often anguish over things I have and have not said, over those folks I didn’t get to say more to, over the flop sweat that I can feel seeping out of my pores when I suddenly go blank. Things like that. But yesterday didn’t hold a lot of regrets for me.

I felt very free to be open and honest with these folks.

Thank you to everyone who was there for giving me that freedom. I can’t fully express my appreciation for the sustenance that it will provide me over the long days ahead in the studio.

And a very warm thank you to Michele and the gang at the Principle Gallery for the continuing support you offer me after the 21+ years we’ve worked together. I appreciate all you do for me but more than that, I value the friendship and trust you have shown me over this time.  Thank you, as potent as those words are, seems insufficient. But you know what I mean, right?

Hope we can do it even better next year!

For this Sunday morning music here’s something from a favorite of mine, the great Rhiannon Giddens. It’s called Hey Bébé and it has a nice, jaunty feel to kick off the first Sunday of autumn. Have a great day.

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Creative scientists and saints expect revelation and do not fear it. Neither do children. But as we grow up and we are hurt, we learned not to trust.

― Madeleine L’Engle

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This new painting is called Found Truth. It is a larger piece, 36″ by 36″ on canvas, and is part of the group of new work that will be traveling with me on Saturday down to the Principle Gallery for my Gallery Talk there.

This is a painting that very much speaks to me personally. Its scale and the initial impression it makes whenever my eyes look its way give it a sense of strength, of bold statement. And I think that is exactly what it is for me– a statement piece.

Maybe that is why I see it having a title that deals with the idea of the revelation of truth. It could the revelation of one’s inner truth or any number of other truths that make up our reality. Or maybe it is all of them because perhaps all truths are part of one larger truth.

I don’t really know. I’m still waiting for that moment of revelation.

I’m no saint so maybe I am a creative scientist, as Madeleine L’Engle writes above, because I do not fear it and do expect it. Oh, there are days when I revert to a more closed off stance, stepping back from that mound where the Red Tree stands, that spot where I have been completely exposed and vulnerable. The problem is that in order to receive revelation you have to make yourself vulnerable. In this open state you are susceptible to being hurt but, more importantly, you are in position to recognize and accept revelation.

That place of vulnerability is a spot many of us avoid, certainly as L’Engle points out, because of being hurt once or maybe many times before and the distrust this has fostered in us. None of us wants to be hurt and exposing yourself to the world creates that possibility.

So we harden our attitudes and our hearts, closing ourselves off. But in the process we also pull back from the light that nurtures us, that feeds our growth. The light that reveals the truth that we once sought and expected.

That’s how I see this painting, the Red Tree being exposed and vulnerable atop that mound. The clouds represent the perils of being there but beyond them is the light of self revelation– the reward of persevering one’s own vulnerability.

This all somehow makes sense in the small space of my mind. Hope you see it somewhat the same way in your own.

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Reminder:

Gallery Talk at the Principle Gallery in Alexandria, VA this Saturday, September 22 at 1 PM.

Painting(s?) Giveaway, Prizes, Good Conversation, Some Stories and Some Laughs.

 

 

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This is a new painting that I am calling Culmination. It is 36″ by 12″ on canvas and is headed to the Principle Gallery in Alexandria next Saturday, September 22, where I will be giving my annual Gallery Talk.

This painting satisfies me on many levels. First, there is a density in its color and composition that I find very appealing. Now, density is not always a quality I seek. Sometimes, I am looking for a lightness or an airiness. But here there is a denseness and weight that gives the piece its presence. I believe this comes from the deep red color ( that perhaps symbolizes the blood that has flowed through us since time immemorial?) and the compacted composition that dominates most of the picture plane.

I also am drawn to the meandering path that wends its way to the top to the top of the hill. The  shorter paths that branch off on either side give it the feeling of a tree making its way toward the sky or an artery going up through one’s body.

The tree analogy is important for me. I see this painting as being about how each of us is a culmination, an end result of all our ancestors who have come before us. I often think about that when I am looking over genealogy charts that show the generations spreading out behind the present generation. It makes me think how amazing each of our lives really is when you consider how many obstacles had to be overcome for us to be here in this moment.

Looking at those charts, I think about treacherous childhoods of earlier times when families often lost multiple children to illness. My own grandmother had three siblings who died before she was born. Or the many long and treacherous trips and voyages, over land and sea, that it took to place us in our present locales. Or I think about the many great-grandfathers and great-uncles in my line who fought in the many wars of this country or in those of their original homelands many generations before, many who died far from their native soil. Or the many who worked in dangerous conditions. Doing my wife’s and my own genealogy, I am struck by how many relatives were killed by logging accidents.

These are just a few examples but the fact that a life force somehow wound its way through the pitfalls of life through hundreds of generations to create us is, in many ways, a miracle. Each of us is the result, the culmination, of a journey from the beginning of time. I think we sometimes take this life for granted– both our own and the lives of others– and don’t see the sheer beauty in the miracle of our mere existence.

And that is what I see in this painting. The Red Tree at the top is at the terminus of its journey, standing at the convergence of the past, present and future. It owes a great debt to those who persevered to bring this miracle, a debt that will be hopefully paid through living a life of honor and respect.

I could go on but I think you get the point.

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As I said, this will be at my Gallery Talk at the Principle Gallery next Saturday, September 22. The Talk begins at 1 PM and there will a painting, Deep Focus, given away along with some other neat things. It has all the earmarks of being a good time. Hope you can make it!

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Art is not a handicraft, it is the transmission of feeling the artist has experienced.

-Leo Tolstoy

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I don’t know about the accuracy of this quote. Tolstoy did write about art and the transmission of emotion through it but I can’t vouch for the precision of the wording in the widely accepted quote.

But I do heartily agree.

Craftsmanship– handicraft– definitely has a part to play but that alone cannot transport the viewer to that inner spring from which their emotions flow. Something might be beautifully crafted but unless it is constructed from the empathy, the love, the awe, the wonder and the wide assortment of feelings that define tour humanity, it remains just a lovely object.  Beautiful but coolly devoid of feeling.

And there is nothing wrong with that.

But the aim of the artist, at least to my mind, should be to engage the the emotions of the viewer ( or listener or reader, whatever their medium might be) with their own. To create a sort of communion of feeling between the artist and the recipient.

Can this be taught? I don’t know. I try to tell students to read, to look, to listen, to practice a sense of empathy in their daily lives. Widen their view and become a fuller person. I think art comes from an equal blend of one’s handicraft and their sense of humanity.

That’s just my opinion and it may be as flawed an idea as the mind that thinks it. But I can stand behind that thought and hope, in some small way, to achieve that blend in my own work.


The painting at the top is Find Your Light, a 36″ by 36″ canvas, that is a central part of my show, The Rising, at the West End Gallery that ends tomorrow.

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A few weeks back, we had the pleasure of seeing a series of three one-man shows at the Shaw Festival in beautiful Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario. They were written and performed by writer/actor/comedian Stephen Fry who you may better recognize from his longtime partnership with Hugh Laurie (House) in the comedy team Fry and Laurie.

The performances were based on Fry’s recent book Mythos which contains his droll retelling of the classical Greek myths. The shows were divided into different segments: God, Heroes, and Men. God dealt with the stories of Zeus and the other surrounding gods. Heroes dealt with the epic tales of Odysseus, Heracles and Theseus. The final show, Men, told the stories of men and their interactions with the gods. All were highly entertaining.

I was pleasantly surprised that during Men, Fry chose to tell the tale of Baucis and Philemon, a story that I have retold here a number of times and one which I also have used as the basis of a series of paintings over the last several years, including not too long ago with a favorite of mine, Nuptiae. It is the story of an old couple in a poor town who share their hospitality with Zeus and Hermes who have been treated poorly by all the other townspeople.

Fry’s retelling had a bit of a different ending than the version I knew, one that I believe is based more on that from Ovid and his Metamorphoses. In the version I know, the ending is a bit happier with the couple living out their lives together as priests in the temple of Zeus and together in death as two separate trees– a linden and an oak– growing from a single trunk.

Fry’s is a bit harsher, related in many ways to the biblical story of Lot and his wife. In Fry’s retelling, Zeus tells Baucis and Philemon that they shall be spared from the terrible wrath he is setting loose upon the other townsfolk. He instructs them to walk up the hill and not turn back. But hearing the great storm and the horrible sounds coming from the village, they agree to turn back to look together, whereupon they are transformed into linden and oak trees, much as Lot’s wife was turned into a pillar of salt.

I still prefer the version I first knew but it was great to hear a variation on this story. That is the beauty of storytelling and art– it takes what we believe we know and reflects it back at us in a different and sometimes revelatory manner.

The painting at the top is a new painting from my West End Gallery show that opens tomorrow, Friday, July 13. Titled The Belonging, it is a 36″ by 24″ painting on canvas that is my most recent interpretation of the Baucis and Philemon myth– the version I knew before the Mythos shows.

These pieces may be my favorite to paint. The intent to paint them, that beginning point in their creation, has a certain feeling that pleases me and sets the tone for the whole piece. The paintings that spring from this starting point seldom disappoint me or fall short of what I hope to see. This piece very much lived up to the story for me and is one that never failed to stop and make me look when it was with me in the studio. The combination of the story and the colors, shapes and textures of the painting come together, for me at least.

Hope you can come out and see for yourself at the West End.

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When I discover who I am, I’ll be free.

― Ralph EllisonInvisible Man

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I think of many of the paintings that I do with the Red Tree situated very much front and center as being a portrait of sorts. I see a face and head and shoulders set against the background. Sometimes I see the familiar faces of others in them and sometimes they feel like self-portraits.

I definitely this painting, a 36″ by 36″ painting on canvas that is titled Find Your Light, see as a self-portrait. If someone asked for my picture I would prefer giving this image rather than an actual photo of myself. Maybe I am being vain in thinking that it resembles any part of me but I can at least hope it represents the better part of me because there is a lot that l like in this painting.

I like the field of colors that acts as a garment shrouding the chest and neck of this portrait. I like the burst of brightness that comes from the center set against the multitude of deeper colors that surround it. And I like the bands of blue-green hills that seem like a coat loosely draped on the shoulders of the portrait’s subject. And the layers of color within the clouds and the soft glow of blue that surrounds them.

All these things combined with the impact of the painting’s size give it a quality that appeals to me, one that feels like a sense of self being clearly and confidently stated. That’s a quality that I hope for myself and for my work. I guess that is why I see it in some way as a self-portrait.

Maybe you see yourself in it? That would equally please me.

This painting, Find Your Light, is now hanging at the West End Gallery as part of my solo show, The Rising, which opens Friday, July 13.

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