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Posts Tagged ‘Victor Hugo’

GC Myers- The Sky Is Always the Sky 1995 sm



There is one spectacle grander than the sea, that is the sky; there is one spectacle grander than the sky, that is the interior of the soul.

Victor Hugo, Les Misérables



Thought I’d share another older piece, one that also never found its way out of the studio. Some times the reason they stay with me is obvious and other times not so much. This small piece falls in the not so much category.

It’s from mid 1995, not long after I first started showing my work publicly. Across the bottom of the piece of watercolor paper on which it is painted is the title The Sky Is Always the Sky along with the date it was painted in 1995.

Looking at it now, I can’t figure out why I felt it wasn’t worthy to show at that time. I am actually pretty pleased to be able to show it now. It has much in it that I wish would show up in my work now, twenty five years later.

For example, its utter simplicity and the gracefulness of its linework. Well, my definition of gracefulness, anyway. There’s also the way the layers of color go together so well with the grainy pigments of the cobalt blue settling into the shallow pits of the paper above a sepia underlayer.

Looking at it, I realize that many of the changes that took place in the following years in my work were material related. A few years after this I went from employing traditional watercolors in my work to acrylic inks. The difference is that the inks have a more and finer pigments which make their colors more explosive, more impactful. There is a difference in the more subtle aspects of the watercolors that is hard to replicate with the inks. This piece is an example, at least by my analysis.

Another difference was that I also began using a gessoed surface a few years later which also brought dramatic changes to the work. The positives of using gesso outweigh not using it for me but the beauty of cotton watercolor paper and its tactile appearance is undeniable.

The other difference was that the brushes I was using at the time were  wonderful Winsor & Newton round brushes that have long since been discontinued. These round brushes had a different brush profile than almost any other round brush I have been able to find since that time. I use a round brush almost all the time in my wet work even when a flat brush might sometimes be a more obvious choice. I like the organic quality it gives the work and the linework it produces. Brush choice has a big impact on how the work appears and I am still trying to find brushes that have the same qualities as those old W&N brushes.

Anyway, looking at this old piece again so closely gives me inspiration, makes me want to revisit those elements that make it work so well for me. We’ll see

Here’s an old Chris Isaak song, a favorite that is centered around a particular blue sky. It’s the tone I would like for this piece. Here’s Blue Spanish Sky.



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Poetry is an echo, asking a shadow to dance.

–Carl Sandburg

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I like this line from poet Carl Sandburg. I think any artform acts in that way, as an echo of the person who formed it trying to bring that created remembrance forever to life. I often write about trying to see that sense of life in my work, that quality where the work has a feeling of movement–life— and seems to speak with its own voice.

What it is saying is an echo of what I was feeling in the moment it was created. And if I have done my job well, it sets these echos, these shadows, dancing. A reverberation from the past, the creators own echo sent into the future. A voice that will continue to speak, to echo, long after its creator has gone.

Or as Victor Hugo similarly stated: What is history? An echo of the past in the future; a reflex from the future on the past.

Maybe it’s too early on a Sunday morning to try to work on logic that is somewhat circular. I think I’ve said what I want to say here but the better part of it might still be in my head. Alas, that’s the way it will have to stay.

For this Sunday morning music here’s a fittingly titled song, Echo, from the celebrated British folk trio, Talisk. It has a building intensity that I very much like. Give a listen.

The painting at the top is a new piece  whose title is A World of Mystery, an 18″ by 24″ on canvas. It is headed to Alexandria with me next Saturday, September 22 for my annual Gallery Talk at the Principle Gallery. The talk, which starts at 1 PM, features a drawing for a painting of mine as well as several other goodies. Hope to see you there.

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GC Myers- Freed ThoughtThe omnipotence of evil has never resulted in anything but fruitless efforts. Our thoughts always escape from whoever tries to smother them.

Victor Hugo

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I call this new painting, 10″ by 20″ on panel, Freed Thought.

Like many people, I am concerned with what is happening in this country and around the world as ideas such as nationalism and authoritarianism take hold in more and more places.  That is a scary thought when you consider the horrors that took place in the first part of the last century–world wars, civil wars and genocide– as a result of these ideologies.

Perhaps we are just far enough removed from that time that we allow ourselves to conveniently forget that bit of history. Or think that it doesn’t apply here and begin to believe that this time will be different, somehow treating us to a much more pleasant result.

I think a lot of people fall into that second category, the It Can’t Happen Here camp. That is easy to understand and easy to swallow, not requiring much work or thought.

Keep your head down, don’t make waves or ask too many questions, and it will all be fine.

Unfortunately, that is the fodder for those with evil intent.  To those who seek control, who want to rule over— not govern–people, this unquestioning attitude is as enabling as the ardor of their most loyal adherents.  They are the most easily managed and most easily convinced because they don’t want to stand out alone, away from the others in any way.

Those with evil intent then try to keep this easily led herd away from those who disbelieve, who choose to remember history and see the ghosts of the past in the actions of the present.  Those who would stop them from achieving their goals– both publicly stated and those whispered in the darkness. This is done by controlling the message, creating false realities and fostering doubt in one’s own observations and beliefs.  Destroy trust in all institutions and all information except for that coming from the singular ruling voice.

Oh, it can happen here.

But I take some solace in the words above from Hugo and from history itself. Every movement, however powerful and far reaching, that is based on the darker angels of greed, deception, and exclusion eventually fails. An empire based on falsehood is unsustainable and will eventually succumb to truth. Truth and thought can never be fully controlled. They will always find a way to break free.

The downside in all of these cases is that many, many people are ultimately hurt along the way. And I worry that this is the direction in which we are headed.

That is why it is so important to come clear of the other trees that shade your views.  Stand freely and ask the questions that need to be asked and answered.  Remember that every evasion from a question is a step away from the truth. The truth has nothing to hide, doesn’t need to be concealed or evaded.

A thought based in truth will always stand tall and will not be obscured.

So, for god’s sake, ask the questions and demand the answers. But most of all, use the power of thought and think.

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GC Myers- Secret of All TriumphsPerseverance, secret of all triumphs.

–Victor Hugo

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Sometimes sticking with a piece that is in trouble pays off.  The painting shown at the top, a 20″ by 20″ canvas that is yet to be titled, was started several weeks ago.  All of the major forms, including the deep blue sky, were blocked in the transparent colors that I use in my wet or reductive work–that is where the paint is put on thickly then absorbed off of the surface until it reaches a tone that fits my eye.  But it just didn’t ring out, had an awful flatness that just made the whole thing dull.  The colors in the foreground were muddied and blah.

I looked at it for weeks.  Actually, I didn’t look at it that often because it just didn’t have anything to pull me to it.  I got to the point that I avoided looking at it at all.  Finally, I decided to scrap the whole thing.  Paint it over in black and start with an empty slate.

Tabula Rasa.

So I took it down into the basement of my studio where I do apply my gesso and do other sloppy work.  I pulled out a thick brush of black paint and slapped it across the sky and worked it back a few times.  The strokes didn’t go into the lower sections of the painting, remaining only in the sky.  I stopped and took in it for a second, the black brush poised to swat across the center now.  The contrast of the black against the colors made the fields pop a bit, gave them a little life.

Just a little.  Maybe there was something there, a flower that could blossom if I just stuck with it a little longer.

So finished the sky in black and in a few days brought it back to the easel.  Each stroke of color that went against the black surface of the sky brought it more and more to life.  When the sky was close to being finished, I went back into the lower fields, glazing them with new layers of color that took away some of the dullness that had plagued them.  The sky had a pop now and the lower fields were catching up to it.  But the central field between the curved horizon and the large mound on which the Red Tree would stand was still an awfully dull green that sucked the life from both the top and bottom.  A sucking vortex.

Maybe this wasn’t going to work after all.  One element so out of kilter could kill the entire thing, break its fragile life force.

After a while I thought that the black had worked so well in the sky, why not break it out in that central field.  Go completely in a different direction with it– make it a red field that would pop in the center of the piece and give contrast to both top and bottom.  Instead of sucking life from it, it would now give it life. And sure enough, it brought everything together.  Even before the trees made an appearance, it was ebbing with life. And when they did appear, it felt complete and alive.  All that I can ask of it.

Now I can’t stop looking at this piece that once made me grimace.  Perseverance pays off in the end, as it usually does.

PS:  Now that I look at this piece after writing this, I believe I will title this painting Secret of All Triumphs. Thanks for the inspiration, Mr. Hugo.

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