Sunday, March 28, 2010

Day's End
10 x 12 Oil on Panel

Each time an artist paints he is born and he dies. The artist that is painting today is not the same one who painted yesterday. Each day he brings something new to his work. Everything he has done and everyone he has met since he stopped painting has an effect on what he will paint next. His painting reflects the sum total of his being on that day, everything he has been, seen and done, everyone he has touched and everyone who has touched him. A new person will work on the painting he started yesterday and someone else will work on it tomorrow.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Easter Sunday
30 x 34 Oil on Linen

In a recent post I noted Chopin's 200th birthday. Now, 20 days later, it is the 325th anniversary of the birth of Johann Sebastian Bach. I will spare you a list of Bach's extraordinary compositions and his influence in the world of music. He was such an enormous talent, so well known and loved, that I will move right on how his music has affected my painting. When I listen to other composers I often find myself noting a beautiful passage or a lovely melody, but when I listen to Bach I am unaware of any part of the music but rather immersed in the whole piece. The music progresses with such fluidity that to stop, even in appreciation, would ruin the experience. I go into a kind of meditation. Unity. Harmony. Continuity. It would be wonderful if we could go to our local art supply store and pick up a couple of tubes of harmony and unity, but then there's no challenge in that. So how does an artist create the kind of continuity that sends the viewer into a meditative state? By not letting their eye wander about the painting noting a beautiful passage here or a lovely color there. By having control of the palette, moving deftly from light to dark, in and out of color, warm to cool, subtlety to intensity, so that the viewer is given no place to rest. No one part of the painting is more magical than another. No stroke, no color calls attention to itself but serves to enhance the whole. To have such balance in all aspects of the painting, composition, color, massing, light and shade, that the painting can be taken in in a moment. And that one moment becomes a lifetime and contains all the mysteries of the universe.....

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

20 x 24 Oil on Linen

Sometimes the artist and their gallery see each other as opponents rather than teammates. Tension creeps in and strains the relationship. I've given this a bit of thought over the years so maybe I can help each side to understand how the other is thinking. Let's start by defining why each one exists. The gallery is a for profit business, the artist prizes aesthetics above all else. Galleries are not museums, if the artist does a masterpiece that doesn't match the gallery clientele it is still a masterpiece but of no use to the gallery. Now, if the artist is resricted to painting only what matches the gallery clientele he begins to feel like he is doing factory work and his creativity suffers. The fairest compromise I've seen is that the gallery starts by showing only what the clientele wants, then gradually slips in something different as the clients gain confidence in the artist. I like to use this waiting period to show what the gallery isn't ready for in juried exhibitions. Juried exhibits want to show masterpieces and if your work is really good you might win a prize. Another area of conflict is exclusivity. I understand that a gallery does not want their clients walking down the street to buy the artist's paintings at a rival gallery after they put time and money into promoting his work. The artist, however, feels that he needs to have as many people as possible see and buy his work and wants to hang it everywhere that is available. The solution here is quite simple. If the gallery sells everything the artist gives him there will be no question of exclusivity because the artist will have no work to give to anyone else. Otherwise, more people will see the work if it is spread out over a larger geographic area so the artist should respect the gallery's space and send their work a bit farther away. Both sides get what they want with this arrangement. Many other problems can arise but I'll address them in another post. If galleries and artists can each put themselves in the position of the other, understanding and compassion will have them working on the same team.....

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Evening Stars
16x 16 Oil on Panel

Last week was the 200th anniversary of the birth of Frédéric Chopin and to my great delight his music has been playing frequently on the radio. Not an hour goes by without a nocturne or an étude, a mazurka or a polonaise. Anyone who plays the piano knows his music well, and many professional pianists have made recordings of their favorite Chopin pieces. I've heard a variety of interpretations of his work over the past two weeks and frankly some were much better than others. The music is so glorious that even the more mundane performances were beautiful. Some musicians seemed to feel that the music speaks for itself and played the notes as precisely as they could while others sought to bring out the meaning of the score. So I began to ask myself why one performance made my heart soar while another did not. Then of course, because I cannot take a breath without thinking about painting, I began to wonder how this applies to good painting. There are schools in painting that agree with the first group of pianists, who feel that the subject matter speaks for itself and the artist should render it as accurately as possible. Others feel they can add to their work by expressing something more than just what they see before them. I belong to the latter group. I happily paint what I see before me but I also paint what I perceive. I cannot see space or weight yet they are important to my interpretation of what I am looking at. I can't see character or personality but they are vital to a good portrait. I might draw a head correctly and copy the color perfectly but that doesn't mean that my portrait will make make my heart soar. Consequently my poor students have had to endure me saying over and over again "Don't just paint the notes, paint the music".....