Posts Tagged ‘Studio’

Well, the season is upon us. I am, of course, talking about the annual appearance of multitudes of tiny toads around our property. Every year around this time, a new generation of toads emerges from our pond and begins a migration with an instinctual drive that drives in a radiating arc from the pond. These little guys, maybe about 1/4″ in size, are suddenly everywhere, thousands and thousands of them.

Maybe millions. All racing blindly to some unseen destination. I often wonder how they know when to finally stop to make a new home.

It’s really something to see, this frantic drive to survive come to life in the form of these little hopping creatures. There’s something joyful in the whole thing. On the flipside, it makes you appreciate what these toads have to endure to wind up living under a fallen tree in the woods. They are the target of a host of predators who see them as being shrimp in nature’s all you can eat buffet. There are spots where I can see several crows on the ground along our driveway next to the pond for most of the day, along with our resident flock of wild turkeys.

Plus, these tiny toads have to simply survive crossing the driveway. Going up and down our driveway becomes a long slow journey this time of the year as we creep along in our vehicles, hoping to give the little guys a chance to avoid the crush our tires. Walking to the studio starts to feel like I am walking through a minefield. As I begin to lower my foot, the ground beneath it suddenly comes alive with a bunch of these guys bouncing in all directions. The short walk through the woods becomes a halting slow slog.

I guess I could just look straight ahead and let the chips(or toads in this case) fall where they may. But I appreciate their journey, their will to survive and the benefits of the natural pest control they provide by eating so many insects. When I come across a large mature toad now, I have a lot of respect for it, knowing how much it has endured to get to this place.

Actually, on another subject, the term toady has been in the news lately as the G20 Summit is taking place in Tokyo. Our representative, the president*, has forsaken our normal role as the leader of free democracy in the world since WW II and taken a more subservient role to the autocrats and dictators he encounters. He jokes about interfering in our elections and getting rid of journalists with Vladimir Putin, a man who heads a regime known to be responsible for the deaths and disappearances of journalists as well as overt cyber warfare– an actual act of war– on our election system. He kowtows to the Saudi prince, defending him against the UN charges that he is responsible for the gruesome death of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi. And he tries to rekindle his sophomoric bromance with the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un by offering to meet him for a handshake with him at the DMZ between North and South Korea.

Maybe they should meet on top of the Empire State Building on Valentine’s Day?

So, you can see where toady might come up. It’s a term that comes from the 19th century when charlatans were traveling around the countryside peddling questionable tonics and remedies. The medicine man would first have an assistant eat a toad because they were widely believed to be poisonous. He would then drink the tonic to show it’s wondrous ability to stave off the toad’s poison.

Thus, the term toady was born.

Synonyms for the term include: sycophant, obsequious, creep, crawler, fawner, flatterer, flunkey, lackey, truckler, groveler, doormat, lickspittle, kowtower, minion, hanger-on, leech, puppet, stooge and spaniel.

They all seem to fit our fearless leader in Tokyo.

Sorry to editorialize this morning. Now, I am off to work. Or maybe I will go out and watch these tiny toads. Either way, it’s better than being a toady.

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To have a sacred place is an absolute necessity for anybody today. You must have a room or a certain hour of the day or so, where you do not know who your friends are, you don’t know what you owe anybody or what they owe you. This is a place where you can simply experience and bring forth what you are and what you might be.

–Joseph Campbell


I was thinking about my studio and how it shapes the work I do. It’s size sets some limitations on how large I can work and I sometimes wish I had twenty foot ceilings where I could do massive canvasses. But that mild complaint does little to take away from how wonderful a space it has been in which to work on a daily basis.

It is comfortable and warm with views that look out on a very private yard with mature trees, several huge rhododendrons and a constant parade of wildlife. It has room to work with a large, well appointed basement for framing and prepping my surfaces. One of the three bedrooms serves as a library and the other two hold paintings and papers. The stone fireplace that I face most of each day in my main space gives me an elemental, grounded feeling and the light that streams muted by the trees provides a coolness to play off the warmth of the space.

The seclusion it offers is all I could ask for. My large front window looks out on the driveway that curves gently in and whenever I see anyone coming in, it almost feels like an affront, like an invasion into my private world. A private world that is an extension of the internal one that provides the landscapes I paint. My studio complements that inner world so well, creating a sacred space for me to hopefully bring forth what I am and what I might be, as Joseph Campbell points out in the quote at the top.

It might be the one place on this earth where I feel completely at ease. Not always, but most of the time.

I thought I’d share a shot today of the studio, my sacred space, in all its cluttered glory. It has come to reflect me and I, it.

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This morning, I was looking at the wall in my studio that is directly in front of the desk where I write this as well as the easels where I paint. It’s a large stone fireplace that is about fourteen feet wide made from local creekstone. There are bookshelves built into the wall, the shelves formed by thick slabs of bluestone. There are also three half round ledges that jut out from the wall that were obviously placed to show off tchotchkes.

I have a number of personal things littering the wall. There are several of the carvings from the years before I began to paint. An old snowshoe. A carved crow from a well known regional sculptor shares one of the half round shelves with a cheap carving of Don Quixote that my sister gave me as a Christmas present when I was still a kid . There’s a Buddhist prayer wheel given to me by a friend along with a thumb piano made from koa wood, picked up on a trip to Hawaii many, many years ago.

But in the center is a painting from a few years back, an abstract comprised of colorful blocks. I knew when I did this piece that it was strictly mine and wasn’t surprised that it didn’t find a home. There are several such pieces here in my main painting space. Maybe it’s the fact that I did them just for my own satisfaction that make them favorites of mine. I know this painting catches my eye several times a day and there is definitely a sense of satisfaction in each glance.

Even with that, I don’t know that I would do such a piece again. If I did, the scale of the painting would be much larger, maybe four or five feet square, so that its colors and forms had the size to make a real statement. A bold yelp whereas this small painting is a whispered wish. But that whisper is mine and I wish on it every day.

Below is a post from back when it was made. The quote totally aligns with how I see the key to creativity– finding that medium and process that corresponds with the way one thinks and feels.


GC Myers- Jazz ( Song One)The artist is a man who finds that the form or shape of things externally corresponds, in some strange way, to the movements of his mental and emotional life.

Graham Collier 


I have been working on dream inspired patterned forms, as I’ve noted here several times recently. I have been incorporating into the layers that make up my skies in simple landscapes where they serve to give added depth and texture. It works really well in that context and it would be easy to just use it in that way.

But there is something about some of them that make me just push them to the forefront alone without masking them with any representational forms over them. Something beyond narrative. Elemental. Like it is somehow tied to my own internal shapes and forms and patterns.

I was thinking this when I came across the quote at the top from the late jazz musician/composer Graham Collier. It made so much sense because I think that is, in general, the attraction of art  for me– it’s an external harmony of internal elements.

I didn’t know much about Collier who died in 2011. He was a bassist/bandleader/composer who was the first British grad of the Berklee College of Music. He played around the world and also wrote extensively on jazz but he still wasn’t on my radar. While I like jazz, my knowledge, as it is in many things, is pretty shallow. So I decided that I should listen to some of Collier’s music.

The first song I heard was titled  Song One (Seven-Four) and it just clicked for me. It was so familiar and seemed to be right in line with the piece at the top, a 12″ by 12″ painting on masonite panel. It made me think about the connection with music, how sounds often take the form of shapes and colors in the minds of both musicians and listeners.

Again, very elemental.

So I began to think of these newer pieces as music. It creates a context that makes sense for my mind, one that gives me a way of looking at the work without seeking representational forms. It’s an exciting thing for me and I look forward to some newer explorations in this realm in the near future. For Graham Collier’s clarification, I am calling the piece at the top Jazz ( Song One).  Here it is :

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Pileated Woodpecker DetailGC Myers Tree Near  Studio 2016I posted a picture on social media a few days ago of a tree that had been recently visited by one of the several large pileated woodpeckers that reside in the woods around my home and studio.  Earlier that day I had been coming through the woods to the studio in the early morning,  As I passed this tree I stopped because it looked like the tree was casting a shadow in the moonlight which wasn’t unusual except for the fact that there was no moon out.  The light around the base of the tree turned out to be a large piles of woodchips created by the woodpecker.

A lot of people were surprised by the apparent damage done but for us it’s nothing new or unusual.  We’ve lived in these woods for going on twenty years and the sound of the woodpecker’s distinct cackle and hard pecking rings through the forest regularly.  We often see the very large birds at work and in flight with their strange up and down motion– each upstroke of their wings lifts them while each downstroke sees them seemingly pulled down by their sheer weight.

GC Myers Tree Outside Studio 2016In the first few years we lived here they seemed very evasive and we seldom caught sight of them but as we settled in and they grew accustomed to us, the sightings increased.  I think they see us now as part of the forest and we definitely see them as an integral part of the woods.  And while they appear to inflict damage on some of the trees of the forest, we know that the trees they work on are already being damaged and destroyed from the inside by boring insects, most often carpenter ants.

One way or another, these softwoods are in natural peril.  We view the woodpecker’s work as being simply collateral damage.  Although there are times when we wish their work wasn’t quite so close to our home or my studio.

GC Myers Tree Near Studio 2016

These twisted trees and vines just outside the studio are not the target of our woodpeckers, I just found them interesting and wanted to share them.

These twisted trees and vines just outside the studio are not the target of our woodpeckers, I just found them interesting and wanted to share them.


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GC Myers- Wish I Was a River smThere are some pieces in  my studio that will always be with me , some because they are very personal pieces, virtual parts of my memory.  Others because they are somewhat lacking and I wouldn’t want them out in the world.  Then there are some that stay simply because I want them here.  This piece is one of those.

It is painted on a piece of our old upright piano , the lid that opened on its top.  It’s about 8″ tall by 62″ long.  You might think that this painting is about the  heavy clusters of Red Roofs but for me this is a piece of escape.  That cool blue ribbon of water that cuts through this painting, shown only in snips, is freedom to me, a rushing current to carry me away from the noise and chaos of the gathered village.  Or better yet, I could become the river and move easily and forever– hopefully– through the land, joined with the other waters of the world.

I find myself thinking a lot when I look at this piece, which I do most everyday as it is mounted above the large window in my studio.  It gives me pause and makes me think about being quiet internally, stilling the spinning wheels.  But most of all, it makes me wish I was that river.

I call this piece Wish I Was a River, sort of after the Joni Mitchell song, River.  However, her chorus goes “ I wish I had a river…”  Maybe I’m being greedy here but I want to be the river.  Maybe I’d let her skate away on me.  I don’t know.

Here’s the song from Joni Mitchell.


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Artist Charles Felu Photo by J. MaesThis is sort a continuation of yesterday’s post where I was going back through images of my older work  in the aftermath of a show, something I often find necessary in order to find some balance and assurance that I am still connected to my true self .  I think the idea of connection is probably the important part here as sometimes I often feel a bit disconnected after a show, which I know sounds counter-intuitive. You would think the feeling of connection would be at its highest degree.

Besides scanning my old work, another thing I do to find connection is to go through other images as well, either of other artist’s work  or the artists themselves and their environments.  In their work I am  looking for a voice or expression in their work that is similar to my own, as though finding this common ground will somehow bind me to the greater continuum of  artists.  The same holds true for seeing artists in their studios or at work.  The common experience of creating provides a connection that makes me feel less out of the loop.

In doing so, I often come across interesting images that provoke thought and,occasionally, new directions.  For example, one image that caught my eye is the one above of Belgian painter Charles Felu, who was born without arms and painted with his feet, working in the last half of the 19th century.  Seeing this connects me to that need to express oneself, that driving  force  that has kept me pushing ahead for most of my life.  So many people have overcome  great obstacles to have their voices heard that it makes me grateful that my own obstacles are relatively small and easily overcome.

Artist Georges Braques in Paris studio 1948Sometimes, there is inspiration for new work in these photos.  For instance, when I saw this photo of Georges Braques, the Cubist innovator whose quote– There is only one valuable thing in art: the thing you cannot explain— was a rallying cry in my first efforts as a painter, I was taken not so much by the man or his studio but by the smaller framed piece to the left of his feet and the shield-like piece on the wall to his right.  Just a glimpse at both had my wheels instantly turning, the shapes and flow of these pieces translating into my own vocabulary. Instant inspiration.

Artist in Japan by T. Enami ca 1915-1928Another was this colorized image of a Japanese artist at work in the early part of the last century.  There is a great serenity in the space,  in his pose and even in the elegant manner in which his work tools and materials are arranged.  The beautiful cooper pot of water feels like a meditative pool here instead of merely a place to clean your brush.   It has an immediate calming effect on me, something that is often needed in the days after a show as I struggle to regain my footing.

Even as I am writing this, I am feeling the effects of these images, beginning to feel a connection once again.  I feel a bit of inspiration and calm, both greatly needed for me to create.  This is already turning into a good morning.

Got to go…

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Here’s the excerpted clip of my segment from the WSKG-TV program Artist Cafe that originally aired on May 26.

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