Sunday, November 20, 2016

Autumn Oak 1; Henry Moore; The secret to happiness.

Autumn Oak 1 
oil  16" x 20"

"The secret to happiness is to have something in one's life that one cannot possibly do,
yet one cannot stop being dedicated to trying to do it."
Henry Moore

How can one land on what is important in life and what can be held at bay? What is it that keeps us going - a source of our happiness? Henry Moore spoke to the answer eloquently, to work at something we love with a goal that cannot be reached. The task of making painting for me is one of confronting a complex, chaotic visual reality and struggling to bring a cohesive understanding out of it. Sometimes the things most dear, the everyday things one is most comfortable with regain their newness or we regain the wisdom to see them anew.   These ancient oaks stand all around our home and over 200 years or so they have been witness to the history of this place. I walk under them every day that I go over to the studio. This fall I have a new respect for living things with such a long lasting perspective. So I will do what I do - try to bring my vision of these things that anchor me and that bring me happiness found in the all encompassing process. Enjoy!

Friday, September 23, 2016

September Woods; Victor Hugo; Emily Dickinson; "Tell all the truth but tell it slant,"

September Woods
 oil  6" x 8"

"It is by the real that we exist; it is by the ideal that we live."
Victor Hugo

"Tell all the truth but tell it slant,
Too bright for our infirm delight,
The truth's superb surprise."
Emily Dickinson

Every painting is a balance between Victor Hugo's 'real' and his 'ideal' - and has to be by the nature of the painting's hand made quality. there are those who strive for absolute photographic truth in painting but that is simply a compromise of a particular kind. Make no mistake, every painting is a balancing along the fine razor's edge between the real and the ideal; the human mark measured against or in cahoots with the perceived reality. The task therefore, is to find the cohesive and expressive 'slant' that best bring us to the essence of what was found by the painter, while avoiding sentimentality or cliche - that allows viewers to experience the painter's discoveries. Perhaps most effective are those who trust the viewer enough to allow participation in deciphering the mystery rather than dictating the terms - telling it slant to match our infirm delight. Enjoy!

Autumn Gold
oil  8" x 10"

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Winchester, Abandoned: Wisawa Szymborska; "the depths of unfathomable life."

Winchester, Abandoned
oil   6" x 8"

"For all its charms, the island is uninhabited,
and the faint footprints scattered on its beaches
turn without exception to the sea.

As if all you can do here is leave
and plunge, never to return, into the depths.
Into unfathomable life."

Wisawa Szymborska

No matter what sort of subject, it seems I am drawn to try for a feeling that the place has been witnessed, even altered, by those no longer present. The only way to avoid a weakness of sentimentality is to abandon imitation of place and fully commit to the shape, space, color which in turn, if one is fortunate, gives a sense of light falling across surface at a particular time of day. In a kind of quiet solitude one must plunge into unfathomable life.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Morning Stream; "But of a beautiful, unheard of kind", W.B. Yeats; Andrew Wyeth

Morning Stream
 oil   26" x 28"

"Time is holding it's breath for an instant - and for an eternity. That's what I'm after - that's what I'm trying to paint."
Andrew Wyeth

"It is love that I am seeking for,
But of a beautiful, unheard of kind
That is not in the world."
W. B. Yeats
from "A Shadowy Water"

A painting of a stream, of any moving water is tricky business. As soon as one declares for painting water the painting is lost. Instead one must take time to look at what is happening in abstracted shape on the surface, below the surface, and on the bottom - not as you assume but as you see it. The action of the water will repeat itself in a general way and the painter must seek patterns in reflection, in movement, in shadow, in light. In those patterns or what Degas called,"the repeated motif," will one begin to understand the task. This happens all before one makes a mark - but once decided, plunge in with confidence and a bit of bravura - too much care will dry the stream out. 
Yes, in order to paint water one must never paint water.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Server Study; Emily Dickinson, "Dwell In Possibility."; Simone Weill, "the rarest and purest form of generosity."

Server Study
 oil  11" x 14"

"Dwell in possibility."
Emily Dickinson

"Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity."
Simone Weill

I'm not certain if I've posted this Server or not in the past. It is from a year or so back. I don't often do still life but this old dented silver plate server posed too much of a delicious challenge to ignore. So, being perverse in my avoidance of normal procedures, I set my self a  task I used to assign students: No edges allowed, no preliminary drawing. Simply use shape next to shape to create edges - value and temperature from a limited palette to create form. This way of working, usually just in an exercise or study, requires the utmost attention to the location and scale and value of every mark - as each one depends on the previous and the next to hold its place in the structure. Accurate seeing must be poured onto the subject and transferred to the painting requiring a kind of meditative state. 
    Beyond these impositions there are things required that are necessary in every painting, no matter the technical approach. The idea behind Emily Dickinson's quote - a painter must constantly take a leap of faith that process will end in a record of exploration and the essence of the sensations produced and the attention paid - learning to "dwell in possibility" enough to abandon themselves every day to the process. If one works regularly, with good craft and intelligent process, something worthwhile may be the result. 

Passage, Bears Den;R.M. Rilke; Edward Hopper; the wordless meditation

Passage, Bears Den
  oil   9" x 12"

"Therein lies the enormous aid the work of art brings to the life of one who must make it - that is his epitome; the knot in the rosary at which his life recites a prayer."
R. M. Rilke

"If we could say it in words there would be no reason to paint."
Edward Hopper

I sometimes wonder at the way I feel compelled to paint every day. Indeed, if I don't get to messing around with my brushes and paint I'll soon become hard to live with (just ask Paula). Is it born out of habit already established so it is missed like other daily habits? I don't think so though the habit does reinforce other feelings. Is it a part of enjoying placing new limitations and visual problems and finding visual solutions? Yes, that is part of it. 
I knew a smart and fine painter who cautioned to always leave a little something left to do so one got back at it the first thing the next day. Good advice but I haven't purposely done that in years.  I think the answer lies in each of the quotes above; each one reflecting the personality of the speaker. Hopper, in his dour manner, has come at it from a limitation - we paint because we cannot otherwise capture and express our notions or feelings. Rilke has the metaphor that best describes the outward, reassuring nature of painting - "the knot in the rosary at which ones' life recites a prayer."   It is a kind of wordless statement, a meditation on the wondrous discoveries made when one commits to non object driven seeing - a process of joy and difficulty that draws one in always, each day. Enjoy!

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Over The Edge; Paul Cezanne; Claude Monet; realizing one's sensations; "An Image"

Over The Edge
  oil  11" x 14"

"Painting from nature is not copying the object; it is realizing one's sensations."
Paul Cezanne

"For me, a landscape does not exist in its own right, since its appearance 
changes at any moment."
Claude Monet

"An image.
Each one is an elusive possibility,
with a dog-jaw grip on my days,
vicious, head shaking,
that won't let go.

One cannot
forget in the struggle what
inspired the bite.

Always it is the light,
always the light."

from,  Hedging My Bets
Dean Taylor Drewyer

It has been taught me by the process, every time out, that one must discover the poetry of the visual incident - and hold on by one's fingertips as the act of painting and the chaos of one's surroundings do their very best to shake one loose. Throughout the process step back and let go of objects in order to return to the poetry, the essence. The subject of the work only can exist in the record of one's sensations and all the painter's tools and skills 
must be directed thus. Enjoy!

Friday, September 2, 2016

Summer Evening Fields; Albert Einstein, "Two ways to live your life"; a rollicking adventure

Summer Evening Fields
 oil on canvas  24" x 28"

"There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. 
The other is as though everything is a miracle."
Albert Einstein

Lucky are the painters in this world for they tend to agree with the second way of living - walking about, enamored with small miracles at every turn. How else to go back every day and fight the good fight with shadow and light; warmth and coolness; shape and space; all to be discovered as one abandons objective knowledge and leaps into the unknown - accepting the confrontation at the end with the recorded evidence. One must be in love with the chaos and chance, the poetic visual incident based on seeing; the not knowing. My gosh it is a rollicking adventure! Enjoy!

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Sunday At Pemaquid Light, Samuel Becket and "Dispassionate acceptance", Rocks At Quoddy Head

Sunday At Pemaquid Light
oil on panel   11" x 14"

"A kind of petrified insight into one's ultimate hard irreducible inorganic singleness. 
All handled with a dispassionate acceptance."
Samuel Beckett 
writing of the paintings of Jack B. Yeats

In the end, painting is coming to grips with one's shortcomings in the face of an impossibility - the capturing of light and the compression of time. The bracing energy found in that attempt is found in its honesty, 
in its immersion in all the swirling chaos of nature. 
Nothing will point all of this out to the painter more clearly than trying to paint the sea and rocks along the Maine coast. The rapid tides coupled with the ever changing sky and fogs and wind will seem a harsh test. That is until one accepts the conditions as part of the deal - the place gives off so much visual energy that it will pull one in
 almost like a rip tide. 
There is nothing in nature I've found that exhibits one's "hard irreducible inorganic singleness" as that crashing surf and jagged rocks.   The petrified insight and dispassionate acceptance are a necessary part of trying to paint there - understanding how the light and elements are constantly in flux the painter has to land on a visual incident rapidly and surely. Then, using every ounce of seeing skill, recording dexterity and memory, the painter has to cling to the original poetic vision. In the final measure one accepts and plans the next foray into such a contest 
that is in itself a reward.
The painting, 'Sunday At Pemaquid Light', was done about a week ago, accompanied by a painter friend of skill - we began in sun and clarity and ended with fog rolling and the light squelched. We had difficulty scrambling over rocks and finally retreated. Below is from a year ago near another lighthouse at Quoddy Head, further up the coast. Enjoy!

Rocks At Quoddy Head
 oil on panel  10" x 10"

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Salt Air, Cutler, Maine; Bob Franke; exhibit information

Salt Air, Cutler, Maine
 oil on canvas  32" x 32"

"What can you do with your days but work and hope
Let your dreams bind your work to your play
What can you do with each moment of your life
But love tip you've loved it away
Love til you've loved it away."
Bob Franke

For anyone in the Northern Virginia area, here are the particulars 
of this week's opening of my show.

Dean Taylor Drewyer
Recent Paintings 2014 - 2016
The George Washington University
Loudoun County Campus
Enterprise Hall, 44983 Knoll Square
Ashburn, Virginia 20147
Opening Reception
Thursday, 26 May, 6:00 to 8:30 pm

New Wave; Theodore Roethke, Fairfield Porter; "To move among mysteries."

New  Wave
 oil on canvas  32" x 32"

"Those who are willing to be vulnerable move among mysteries."
Theodore Roethke
"I think it is a way of making a connection between yourself and everything."
Fairfield Porter

A new way of looking at a familiar visual incident leaves one exposed to doubt and questions. At the same time it is a source of joyful engagement - a kind of 'lets see if we can go down this path.'  That feeling of engagement and doubt is a driving force in getting me up and out to the studio or in the field each day. The possibility of moving among mysteries while through vision and hand and heart, connecting myself to everything.
Now, seeming much more vulnerable, I will have on display to the public a set of paintings representing the last two years' work. The most difficult aspect of this is the interruption from my working routine. I eagerly await the day after opening night when I can get back to my work at finding ways to engage with the visual world.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Rollers, Outer Banks; Martha Graham, "Blessed Dissatisfaction"

Rollers, Outer Banks
oil on canvas  16" x 24"

"When I see my work I take for granted what other people value in it. I see only its ineptitude, inorganic flows, and crudities. I am not pleased or satisfied."
"No artist is pleased."
"But then there is no satisfaction?"
"There is only a queer divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others."
Martha Graham's advice to dancer & choreographer Agnes de Mille

To conjure an image
first we must see
down to the bones discovered
and sinews holding tight
to secrets hard won and unkempt.

The eye informs the heart
to bring forth a shimmer memory
as long as magic convinces
shape and form and space
to meld mystery into one.

The imagined will find 
a source in the true
but cannot stop there,
for our hearts need both
to embrace the sky.

Here's to each one of us and our own version of that 'blessed unrest!"

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Anne Dillarrd, the discoveries in art; Crumpled Brown Paper Studies, hard won stages of painting

Crumpled Brown Paper 4
 oil  11" x 14"

Crumpled Brown Paper 3
 oil  8" x 10"

"In art the discovery is often gradual - a process of minor discoveries, in fact - riddled with uncertainties and the potential for making that which is discovered 
vanish before your eyes, like a mirage."
Anne Dillard

In a way, that threat of all one has discovered suddenly disappearing, is the thrill that attracts. Can one beat the inevitable? Are you good / focused / driven enough to maintain material and mind with the intensity of observation required. Anyone painting long enough has felt it happen - that extra touch, the distracted moment and the structure goes flat, the air leaves the atmosphere, the color gets dirty. One of the earliest learning events is the simple recognition that it has happened. A hard won skill is figuring how to try to get back to the original crisp and poetic vision. A much later and more difficult skill is to stop and see and restrain the need to do more, to sustain the original vision. When one can get to that place of seeing and knowing and recognizing the poetry - the feeling is so wondrous and and exalted that it will keep you late at your work and awaken you early the next day.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Pisarro; Diebenkorn; Gallon Pickle Jar

Gallon Pickle Jar & Brown Paper
 oil on panel  11" x 14"

"Blessed are they who see beautiful things in humble places 
where other people see nothing."
Camille Pissaro

"My freedom will be so much the greater and more meaningful, the more narrowly I limit my field of action and the more I surround myself with obstacles."
Richard Diebenkorn

Why brown paper and a jar? First, I was entranced by the fall of light and shadow across the surface of crumpled brown packing paper. The brown paper also offers a possibility of various color schemes to create a neutral gray while allowing pure color to escape into the shadows. The jar was added as an element completely opposite in terms of handling and surfaces and transparency. These all being fascinating problems to solve with thick, opaque paint. Perhaps that is the key to how I happen upon subjects, where ever I find myself - the seduction of technical difficulty or problems to be solved and overcome - combined with the emotional original connection - the poetry. The poetry of a given subject is what Pissaro refers to - the curious turn of mind that allows the discovery of the fascination, the beauty of ordinary subjects. I have found in 40 years of painting, the fascination of visual exploration is of the greatest satisfaction. Enjoy!

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Marcel Proust; Fairfield Porter; Stormfall

 oil on panel  16" x 16"

"I think it is a way of making the connection between yourself and everything. You connect yourself to everything and that includes yourself, by the process of painting."
Fairfield Porter

"I must ask my mind to make one further effort, to bring back once more the fleeting sensation."
Marcel Proust

This painting came from a walk in a wild park not far from where we live littered with cut up and broken trees from a severe storm that had passed through the area a couple of years ago.  I can't walk through chaos without wondering how order or understanding might be discovered within. I have developed over 40 years of making paintings the understanding that held within that search for form and coherence lies my interest and energy and joy. 
It contains that "connection to everything" of which Porter wrote.
But then, this work was so complicated that it required an extended look and rework in the studio, away from the original subject. It is then the painting reveals what it needs and how to proceed - when I have to make that extra effort, "to bring back the fleeting sensation."

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Crumpled Brown Paper; 'like children at a game;

Crumpled Brown Paper 1
 oil on gesso panel  11" x 14"

Crumpled Brown Paper 3
 oil on gesso panel  6" x 8"

Children At A Game

Perhaps it is just as well,
what with the Terra firma
shifting as it does,
most unexpectedly, 
that we are without
the warning of a
dawn's early light 
leaking from a break at the milky horizon,
allowing our small preparations
for the terrible days.
How can we know, confronted
with the everlasting silence,
what to say?

Like small children at a game,
everyone pretends to have a scheme
to get home at the call,
"all-ee all-ee in free."

Mine is a near blind reach,
for any fugitive light,
drawing a path out of darkness.
Images left behind as hopefull markers,
like breadcrumbs scattered
through the forest.

from Hedging My Bets
by Dean Taylor Drewyer

Crumpled brown paper under a spotlight, perhaps not your usual subject. It's just paper some supplies came wrapped in, far superior to little styrofoam popcorns or bubble wrap. I was searching for a trigger to get the winters' painting started and saw the paper under a light and was blown away. I'm a week in and see no reason for escape - sharpening my senses to shadow and light; directional movement; dynamic space; warm and cool nuanced color. Fun and games and wonder. Enjoy!