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"