Bring Life To It

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Endeavoring to open eyes, [Josef] Albers created narratives, metaphors, and myths to help his students see what was before them, and that pointed the way to a reality far beyond the facts. Fact: Lines, shapes, and colors are set down on paper. Myth: The lines breath, the shapes dance, the colors sing together. ‘The aim of life,’ Albers wrote, ‘is living creatures. The aim of art is living creations.’ That creations were not creatures made them no less real. The concern of the artist and the poet was not objective reality, but the experience of the reality. To transform fact into myth is to get at how things are experienced. By restoring the miraculous to the real, Albers sought to work magic on his students as well, to refine them — an alchemist turning lead into gold.
— from Josef Albers: To Open Eyes

Awe & Wonder

What stirs awe and wonder in people today is a sense of belonging and of participation in the great cycles of Nature, an awareness of oneness with life that does not shrink in terror from life’s natural completion in death. What inspires them is not the hope of a final separation from the realities of nature, life history and time, but a conscious and delighted participation in these realities — not the promise of salvation, but the reality of the homecoming.
— John Michael Greer

Words To Paint By


“The earth remains forever,
the eye never has enough of seeing.” 

– Ecclesiastes

Just the other day I learned that all the blood in your body filters through your eyeballs every three hours. Why? The UV rays in sunlight kill pathogens that otherwise continue to cycle around in your bloodstream, leaving your body to find another way to rid itself of them. Crazy, right? The human body is just so amazing. The line above is a line that I've always inscribed on the back of all my paintings -- with the exception of the 4x4's because they don't allow enough space. I started doing this all the way back in high school. At the time I had my reasons, but now I continue to write this quotation more as a riddle and a tease, to both myself and others. This fact about eyeballs, blood, and sunlight though...it occurred to me that it's part of the mystery of this riddle, one of the many reasons renewed truth and vitality is being found in ancient wisdom and spiritual text through science. Seeing -- looking at the world, the earth, its woods and waters and sunlight, looking at it through our eyeballsthe physical act of seeing -- is a vital act. Now when I inscribe these words on my paintings I will smile at the wonder of it, at the wonder of what it is to be in this body and to see through these eyes.

“A painter should have a clear mind and a strait eye.” 
– Josef Albers

It Is The Love

It is the love that comes through when the mind gets out of the way.... 
Do not make a picture of something. Make something. It is not the something, it is the looking. Painting is looking slowed down.... 
Paintings are not finished, they are stopped.... 
When working from life you take a fragment of the world then attempt to make it whole by making sense of the loose ends left when it was torn from the world.... 
Having painted awhile there is more to unlearn than to learn.... 
What is created is the real thing. The rest is the world. What is a picture of the world? Nothing.

– Ken Kewley

Focus

People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the things I haven’t done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things.
— Steve Jobs

Foresight, 4" x 4" oil on panel

Not All Apples & Nipples

The quotation of the week from Painting: The Power of Observation:

What does it mean, "abstract" ? Does it mean to abstract from something— to start with an image and transform it into essentials, like Mondrian’s tree series? Maybe it means some kind of freedom from the image so we can get directly to the serious part and not get lost in apples or nipples. Maybe it means the big idea itself— painting as physics or philosophy. Maybe it means to be purified or to be closer to concrete essences. Maybe it’s a formal design strategy with invented rules, a graphing or charting of information. There is no guarantee of freedom in abstraction ... The painter Max Gimblett says "The impulse moves between the instant and the gradual... In alertness and attention. In silence with the paint. Painting is inherently mysterious, it’s a state of being where there is no recognizable ‘Mind’..."

From Everything is Finished Nothing is Dead, an article on abstract painting by Chris Martin

Three paintings by Emil Robinson, whose work I've been looking at over the past few days:

Polar Bear Club,   2015, oil on linen, 72x96

Polar Bear Club, 2015, oil on linen, 72x96

Obannon  , 2014, oil on panel, 36x48

Obannon, 2014, oil on panel, 36x48

Winter Morning 2  , 2014, acrylic on paper, 16x14

Winter Morning 2, 2014, acrylic on paper, 16x14

As Monet Said, Famously...

"Try to forget what objects you have before you — a tree, a house, a field or whatever. Merely think, ‘here is a little square of blue, here an oblong of pink, here a streak of yellow’, and paint it just as it appears, the exact color and shape."

Here are three paintings I've been looking at this week (clicking on an image will take you to the artist's website):

David Campbell,  T  ouching My Wife's Hair While She Sleeps , 13 x 16, 2012

David Campbell, Touching My Wife's Hair While She Sleeps, 13 x 16, 2012

Erin Raedeke,  Refuse 1 , 12 x 16, oil on board, 2013

Erin Raedeke, Refuse 1, 12 x 16, oil on board, 2013

John Lee,  Dead Hall , oil on linen, 2014

John Lee, Dead Hall, oil on linen, 2014

Working Days: John Steinbeck & the Art of Discipline (yes, my brain has been picked)

Just set one day’s work in front of the last day’s work. That’s the way it comes out. And that’s the only way it does.

I found great encouragement in Maria Popova's recent Brain Picking about John Steinbeck's diary, kept while he wrote his masterpiece, The Grapes Of Wrath. All creatives share the same basic struggles. Amazing. True. 

Popova writes, "Particularly of note is Steinbeck’s relationship with distraction, which encompasses everything outside the work — both positive and negative interferences. Life itself is a distraction from the living world he is writing into existence — visits from friends ('Sue and Bob showed up this morning. Had to kick them out. Simply can’t have people around on working days.'), outings on the town ('Good time but Jesus how the work suffers.'), rest periods ('Always on week ends I have the feeling of wasted time.'), his own body ('I’m a little sick today… It is time to go to work and that is all there is to it.'), the dentist ('I go to the dentist at four. After which digression, get back to work.'), and even something as neutral as the seasonality of summer ('Exciting but I can’t allow excitement. Leave that for this winter.'). The diary becomes his voice of reason, in which he is constantly counseling himself on retaining focus, as he does in this entry from late August: 'I must re-establish the discipline. Must get tough. So many attractive things are happening that it is difficult.'"

Taylor [Ed. — next-door neighbor] just rakes his yard and putters. But he would probably do a better job of this than I am doing. More ship-shape. I wish I were he sometimes. Just rake the yard and mix a little cement. How did I ever get started on this writing business anyway? To work.
When I think how I am not following orders to do what people think I should do, I am scared, but then I think that it is my own work, if anything, that will be remembered. I can’t work for other people. I don’t do good work with their ideas. So I’ll go on with my own.