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Poem is Coconut

A poem inspired by reading Octavio Paz beneath the palm trees in Mexico
Yelapa: En Edible Poem
poem is coconut
poem is sea salt
poem is margarita salt
poem is sunscreen
poem is dinner two hours from the now
            of sun and blue & bird
            & ocean licking beach
            in a tidal hunger
poem is hunger
poem has nothing to do with the tongue
poem has everything to do with the tongue
(poem tastes like luz y luna)
poem eats itself and is also called “poem”
poem climbs the palm three
            cuts its green fruit
            throws them to the ground
            lets gravity & distance break them open
            releasing milk & meat
            & both are sweet
poem is coconut

To manifest life

Ryan Adams, a while ago

Ryan Adams, a while ago

You get the sense from some creative work, Proust’s maybe more than anyone who ever lived, that the author of the work considered everything in some sense magically interesting or valuable–and this is where language offers no adjective for what a work of art actually conveys, the isness of things. It isn’t that what’s being represented is valuable, or marvelous, or (pick any other available adjective.) It’s something else. What you sense from looking at a Van Gogh or reading Swann’s Way is how the individual who created the work had what the fellow I’m going to quote below called a total appreciation for life just as it is-with nothing left out, including the crime and the evil and the horrible suffering and injustice. Bruegel has this quality–there’s nothing that isn’t worthy of being painted, and when he paints it, it’s suddenly (again, try to imagine that non-existent adjective or noun). There’s no word for what’s going on in that transformation or disclosure that happens in art. Language has no verb for the work being done by the painting or the novel. Celebrate, affirm, savor, appreciate, cherish–sorry, no. Below are seemingly extemporaneous observations that attempt to express (bumping intentionally up against the limits of language and showing how words fail to capture what’s going on) the urge to create something that will condense life itself into some created thing, or (what amounts to the same thing) alchemically make something inanimate appear to come alive. In a way, the urge to create is something like the will to be so aware of everything that you yourself are fully alive. These are remarks from the singer Ryan Adams, talking with Bob Boilen in the most recent episode of NPR’s All Songs Considered. It gets close to showing how impossible it is to say what’s really happening in great creative work, in any medium:

You manifest a meaning from a thing to yourself, in whatever format, a painting, a poem, a song, an article, or a novel or a note to a friend or a drunken text or email or spray painting on brick walls or inappropriately decaling your car. You conjure this feeling. There’s this thing inside of human beings, this total appreciation of being alive. It’s so profoundly in our gut. Even all of these people who would seemingly be horrible people, somewhere in there there’s this longing, this reaching up, and in the right way if it’s channeled, there’s some kind of a notion in them of “I have to document this thing that I saw” that becomes these songs, or these poems. We’re all in the high school of life and waiting for the teacher to turn around so we can take that pen we’ve been chewing on long enough that it’s got a sharp enough end that you could scratch your initials into that ventilator in gray/blue paint over by the window. It’s the same thing as those beautiful drawings in caves, where you see pictures of horses and wild game they were hunting. That person that day was either thinking of how beautiful those animals were or how it felt to be out there with them that day.

Iluminations of illuminations

Sweet Kate, In for Repairs, Ray Hassard, oil on canvas

Sweet Kate, In for Repairs, Ray Hassard, oil on canvas

I came away from the current show at Oxford Gallery craving more excellent oils from Ray Hassard. His pastels are masterful and the latest work he’s been doing in Florida may be better than anything he’s done in the past: the way he captures the light so that it gives a sense of depth and even immense volume to the space in these small landscapes is remarkable. Yet, maybe because I’m an oil painter, my favorites are the oils in the current Oxford show. Like a number of other Oxford artists—Chris Baker and Matt Klos—he’s fascinated by the most commonplace scenes. Beyond the immediate pleasure offered by the color and the play of light and shadow, he conveys a sense of completion and harmony in scenes that invites you to look again, in a fresh way, as if for the first time at scenes you otherwise might not even notice. Hassard picks the least auspicious subjects: a leftover holiday decoration on New Year’s Day, a crossing guard brandishing a stop sign, or someone nearly lost in shadow cleaning and repairing an old boat in storage. My favorite painting of Hassard’s was in a previous show at Oxford, a small image of a parked pickup truck, a view one could enjoy of thousands of trucks parked in small towns and villages anywhere in dozens of states—and you would never give any of them a second look if you passed them on the way to somewhere else. The light, the color, and the abbreviated rendering with assured brushwork—he could have done the painting in a single sitting, en plein air—concentrate energy and a sense of ease in Hassard’s execution. Bill Santelli and Bill Stephens joined me at Oxford to see the new work and Santelli pointed out how Hassard again and again composes an image, like Diebenkorn, so that smaller areas of comparatively intense activity are clustered close to a top edge, with a more uniform expanse of color beneath it—a field, a floor—creating a tension between the complexity of form against an open void below it. Hassard’s real subject is the unity and uniformity of the light, rather than anything it reveals in particular. My favorite in this show is Sweet Kate, In For Repairs, his view of an old boat maybe being readied for another launch. It’s actually one of his least colorful, a field of neutral tones with a few small notes of muted orange, blue, green and a tiny stripe of red. In the foreground: a trash barrel with a loose load of scrap jutting out in all directions like a month-old bouquet, and a narrow, tall pylon. All the activity he depicts, the subject of the work, is just visible, pushed to the background, half-hidden in shadow. The worker, up on a ladder, is barely indicated, perfectly done, with a few patches of color, tucked away, almost out of view, like an Easter egg. The light is modulated gently throughout the entire scene, and even the higher reaches of the repair shop are dark but still dimly illuminated, with the darkest shadow reserved for small pockets of space under the boat. You feel the day, the season, a world in which the boat repair is neither more nor less interesting than the trash in the barrel—it’s all good and essential to the whole.

IMG_1100In reproductions, it’s hard to recognize how masterful Barbara Fox’s work is in reproduction. Her images of scattered glass balls resting randomly on illuminated manuscripts are stunning, not only in how perfectly she captures the behavior of light, but also in her handling of oil. There’s a double-entendre in that word “illuminated” in her work: the calligraphy itself suggests pages from the Book of Hours, but these pages are, as well, illuminated by an angle of light she returns to again and again, falling across the page, and through the orbs, from the upper edge—from above, given the viewer’s frame of reference. So these are illuminations of illuminations, and what at first seems puzzling and restrained, the way in which Fox paints almost the same image again and again, begins to feel like a disciplined, repetitive meditation. When you stand close to one of these paintings, the way Fox applies oil confirms and strengthens the sense of perfection she achieves—from a few feet away you have the sense that her script and orbs are as crisply defined as a hard-edged abstract, but up close there is a feathery quality to her lines and edges from the way her paint rides the fabric’s texture. That painterly quality is part of what makes the image glow. In one of the most impressive paintings, the largest canvas, A Sense of Possibility, a translucent ribbon falls across the page on which someone has written words that take a while to decipher—you see them from the front and the back, so without a mirror handy, you have to create a reverse image of the cursive writing in your head. Bill and I finally cracked the code even though we had to guess the two key words, given the angle of the ribbon: “If you want to be happy, practice compassion.” Happy and compassion are almost missing, but enough of the second word is visible. The words of the manuscripts beneath her orbs hide their meaning, unless you’re fluent in Latin, but even this wisdom, revealing and yet withholding itself simply by holding its curve, makes you work to understand it. As all wisdom does. Once you do, it feels almost like a commentary on all of Fox’s work: it’s a practice to achieve a stillness that serves as the home for that compassion, and the happiness that flows from it.

 

Memory Drawing: An Essay on a Form of Memory Drawing With Examples

Thinking About Memory Drawing.

I have been thinking lately about memory drawing. The topic was sparked by one of the books I’ve been reading about drawing by the director of The Arts Student’s League of New York City. The book is “The Visual Language of Drawing” and is by James L. McElhinney and several of the instructors at the League.

Memory Drawing: Still Life With Toy Pony Series

“The Natural Way To Draw”, Kimon Nicolaides.

At one point in the book, Mr. McElhinney mentions the 1930s instructor Kimon Nicolaides and his approach to teaching drawing.  As a point of reference, the book  “The Natural Way To Draw” is derived from the teaching notes of Mr. Nicolaides. James McElhinney lists some of the exercises that Nicolaides had student do and it includes  “memory drawings”.

Now then, my copy of “The Natural Way To Draw” is stuck away in storage. However, when I was starting out on my drawing and painting path, I read through Nicolaides book. At the time, I did not have access to a life drawing class and was struggling to find a way to start developing my artist’s skills. When I reached the memory drawing exercise I thought “Aha! This is something I can do anywhere, anytime!” And, so I did the exercises, or  at least my version of Nicolaides memory drawing. I would say that memory drawing lead to my eventual “Peggy” style drawing which is a blend of memory and imagination.

The first “Still Life with Toy Pony Drawing, March 2009.  I drew this version from life and imagination.

Intentions.

From time to time fellow artists have asked me how I come up with my designs, especially for series like “Still Life with Toy Pony”.  Oddly enough, that is a hard question to answer.  But, drawing from memory is a start toward explaining the process.  If such a question interests you, please read on.

Other times, people just like and enjoy to see the drawings and paintings.  In which case, the narrative about memory drawings may not be so relevant.  Instead, I hope you will find the works shown here interesting and enlightening.

What Is Memory Drawing?

So, what is memory drawing? Its a way of drawing without direct observation; that is to say you are not looking at a model while drawing.  So, this is what I learned and remembered from Kimon Nicolaides’ book.

Sidebar: Disclaimer!

Disclaimer time first, though! I ought to mention that this is how I interpreted the lesson.  If I read the book today, I might interpret it differently.

Memory Drawing Exercise.

In any case, here is the gist of the exercise: draw something you see during the day from memory; not from life. You might want to set aside say 20 minutes a day to do this type of drawing. Maybe you draw a car door handle, or a person opening the car door. Another idea might be to draw a person you meet on the street, in a coffee shop, or on a bench at a bus stop. And, the subject doesn’t have to be people. It might be a cat crossing the street; a horse in a field, or a plaster cast angel in your neighbor’s yard.  Or, it could be a still life arrangement you find or set up.

Memory Drawing, Still Life With Toy Pony Drawing 60

This is drawing number 60 of the Still Life with Toy Pony series. By this time, I was drawing exclusively from memory and imagination.

How I Did It.

Back to my personal experience and perspective. My routine has been to go out and do a jog most mornings. I have been doing this for years. After reading Kimon Nicolaides book, I thought I might pay attention to the people I pass while jogging. I would look at someone then try to remember an impression of the person.  Then, I would set aside 20 minutes after breakfast and get to work drawing the person I’d seen while jogging.

Results:  What I Learned.

As you might imagine, at first the figures were stiff. The label “not very good” would have been appropriate. But, what I learned was that I became better at the memory drawing over time, especially if I saw the same person doing the same action – say walking down a beach.

I would like to share what happens. Each time you see someone doing the same action, you take better mental notes. You see “what the legs do”, in other words the shape legs create while they are walking. Another day, you notice how the arms swing naturally while a person is walking. Next, you might notice the tilt of a head or how a jacket bunches up at the elbow. Each little observation becomes a mental note that helps you with your next memory drawing.

Oh, and, yes, the first memory drawings I did are stuck in storage along with my Nicolaides book.  But, the process took!  I still do this type of drawing when I start a series.

Drawn from Memory and Imagination

Variations on a Theme: Drawing #22

Life Drawing.

Now, for those of you who like to draw from life, remember this is an exercise. And, life drawing is a form of memory drawing. Consider this, drawing from life is “look, remember, draw, look, remember, draw” and repeat. Unless you are doing a blind contour drawing, it might be said that you are doing “memory” drawing pretty much anytime you draw from life. In this case, you are holding a bit of information in your memory for a short time rather than the time I took to do my 20 minute memory drawing.

Abstract Drawing.

Since I mentioned life drawing, I thought I’d talk about abstract drawing for a paragraph. Drawing from memory is one way to “abstract” the essence of the subject.  You simplify; you remember the main movement, gesture, color, or shape.  That something that you remember can become a point of departure for a stylized, abstracted design.  The memory of people, nature or things observed in life becomes the source of inspiration, improvisation and intuition.

How Memory Drawing Influenced My Artwork.

So, how did this memory drawing have an effect on my artwork? After awhile, I found that I saw interesting shapes while drawing. I gradually freed myself from trying to recreate my subject and started experimenting. Drawing became a type of dialogue between me, my memory, my drawing and my imagination. I can best describe the process as a “push and pull” type of drawing: pushing lines and shapes one way; then pulling them an opposite. I work this way until I gain traction and the drawing emerges on the paper.

Memory Drawing: Design 4, Still Life with Toy Pony

Variations on a Theme.

This type of “seeing, remembering, exploring” drawing is perfect for variations on a theme. That is to say, you start from what you see in life, then draw variations, allowing memories and imagination to influence your drawing. If you get stuck, you might go back to drawing from life.

For me, this was a great way to get started on developing my drawing skills. All I needed was a sketchbook, a pencil, a kneadable eraser and off I went. OH, yes, you may erase. I did because it helps to push and pull the drawing into shape! And, another rule I employed for myself, don’t give up until you have given the drawing a serious try!

“Still Life With Toy Pony” Series.

OK, nice, all these words.  But, how about results?  I have attached some of the drawings and paintings from my “Still Life with Toy Pony” series.  The series was started by a drawing from life.  As I started working variations, I worked from memory, then I transitioned to imagination.  Imagination, in this case, might be said to be a modified form of memory drawing too.  I incorporated what I remembered from the original still life plus all sorts of other ideas that popped into my head while drawing.

The “Still Life with Toy Pony” series marks a leap forward in my drawing, composition and painting skills.  I’ve worked on it periodically over a six year period.  And, who knows, I may yet re-visit the theme!

Still Life With Toy Pony Design 32: Memory Drawing

How About You?

Do you do a form of memory drawing?  What are your experiences?  Please feel free to share and add a comment.  Thanks!

Update, February 13, 2017.

I found more about drawing from memory on a website:  Studio Rousar.  Artist Darren Rousar has written a book titled “Memory Drawing”, plus he has several exercises and insights available for you.  His exercises are different from mine and, incidentally, I thought I try a few out myself.  Thanks!

 

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Doppleganger

B

Bill Santelli, Untitled

Work in progress from Bill Santelli, for the upcoming Doppleganger group show at Oxford Gallery. I’m half done with my offering for the show, and the undone half is making me nervous. Maybe that’s fitting, given the theme.

The truth and the lie

Piero della Francesca, Madonna and Child with Saints, Brera

Piero della Francesca, Madonna and Child with Saints, Brera

The hardest task in life is to know yourself. In his essay on Piero della Francesca’s Resurrection, which Huxley called the greatest picture in the world, he makes this astute observation, but he saves his greatest wisdom until the end. The last sentence should be tacked to the wall of every painter’s studio:

“Is Fra Angelico a better artist than Rubens? Such questions, you insist, are meaningless. It is all a matter of personal taste. And up to a point this is true. But there does exist, none the less, an absolute standard of artistic merit. And it is a standard which is in the last resort a moral one. Whether a work of art is good or bad depends entirely on the quality of the character which expresses itself in the work. Not that all virtuous men are good artists, nor all artists conventionally virtuous. Longfellow was a bad poet, while Beethoven’s dealings with his publishers were frankly dishonorable. But one can be dishonorable towards one’s publishers and yet preserve the kind of virtue that is necessary to a good artist. That virtue is the virtue of integrity, of honesty towards oneself. Bad art is of two sorts: that which is merely dull, stupid and incompetent, the negatively bad; and the positively bad, which is a lie and a sham. Very often the lie is so well told that almost every one is taken in by it–for a time. In the end, however, lies are always found out. Fashion changes, the public learns to look with a different focus and, where a little while ago it saw an admirable work which actually moved the emotions, it now sees a sham. In the history of the arts we find innumerable shams of this kind, once taken as genuine, now seen to be false. The very names of most of them are now forgotten. Still, a dim rumor that Ossian once was read, that Bulwer was thought a great novelist and ‘Festus’ Bailey a mighty poet still faintly reverberates. Their counterparts are busily earning praise and money at the present day. I often wonder if I am one of them. It is impossible to know. For one can be an artistic swindler without meaning to cheat and in the teeth of the most ardent desire to be honest.”

–Aldous Huxley, “The Best Picture”, 1925, from The Piero Della Francesca Trail, John Pope-Hennessy, 1991

Paintings Showing At Downtown Starbucks

Starbucks In Ashland, OR.

Showing at Starbucks has been a goal of mine since I painted my first “coffee cup” series painting some nine years ago!  Finally, I have just the opportunity to do so!

Starbucks Show

Three paintings showing at Downtown Starbucks, Ashland, OR.

I am pleased to say that I am showing three of my paintings at one of our local Starbucks coffee houses beginning Sunday, January 29th 2017 through April.  There are two Starbucks in Ashland and the specific location of the coffee house is at 120 East Main Street, downtown Ashland, OR.

Art2Business

Most importantly, I’d like to extend a special thank you to Wanda Pepin of Art2Business (Artist Services LLC) for coordinating this venue for me.

Business Hours:

You are invited and welcome to come by during normal business hours and enjoy the paintings.  Business hours are as follows:

  • 5:30 am to 7:00 pm Monday through Thursday;
  • 5:00 am to 8:00 pm Fridays;
  • 5:30 am to 8:00 pm Saturdays;
  • 5:30 am to 7:00 pm Sundays.

Purchasing Information:

All paintings showing are available for you to collect.  To purchase, please contact Ms. Wanda Pepin, Art2Business (Artist Services LLC) at phone number 541-261-9794.

My prices include the matting and framing.  Shipping and handling costs are extra, if necessary.  Feel free to contact me either through the contact page or by leaving a comment below.  Please be aware that the prices are good through the end of the show at Starbucks.  I may increase prices at a later date in the future.

Should you have any additional questions about the paintings, feel free to comment below or send me an email.

About the Paintings.

Starbucks Show

Old School, New School.  

Watercolor; $800 Framed; 2015; Inventory #445.

“I am amazed at the growth of personal digital media in our society.  Laptops, cell phones, tablets and digital books are so common place. In this painting, I wanted to portray new media next to old media.  Two friends are at a coffee shop and they are enjoying a reading break.  Old school is reading a traditional hard cover book; new school is reading on her laptop screen.  As an echo, I added two different kind of coffee cups: the old school porcelain cup and the new school paper cup.”

The Watercolor Society of Oregon juried accepted Old School, New School into its 2015 Spring Aqueous Media Juried Exhibition where it was awarded fourth place. 

Starbucks Show

Coffee Break Conversations.

Watercolor; $800 Framed; 2015; Inventory #444.

“I had a moment of inspiration while visiting a niece in Athens, GA.   To explain, my niece, husband and I were having coffee in a cafe and noticed two young couples came in.  The couples sat down to a table and each of them immediately brought out their smart phones.   The three of us looked at each in awe and amusement.  You see, it seems that the people on the other end of the line were as much a part of the conversation as the people at the table.”

The Watercolor Society of Oregon accepted Coffee Break Conversations into its 2016 Spring Aqueous Media Juried Exhibition.

Starbucks Show

Cafe, Espresso & Daisy.  

Watercolor & Acrylic; $800 Framed; 2008.  Inventory #212.

Café, Espresso and Daisy is one of a series of paintings exploring the theme of coffee and an espresso café.  The daisy was inspired by a particular arrangement I saw in a Portland, OR, café.  The cups, chairs and composition come from my imagination.  I tipped the table top up for fun and because of the shape.  “Café” is the French spelling for coffee.”

I have had the honor of having Cafe, Espresso and Daisy in two Juried shows:  Associated Arts of Ocean Shores 2008, Ocean Shores WA; and Collective Visions Gallery 2009, Bremerton WA.

Thank you and Enjoy!

Most of all, I do hope you will go by the Ashland Starbucks downtown and see these three paintings.

Stermer-Cox Showing At Starbucks

Three Paintings At Starbucks, Downtown, Ashland, OR.

 

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Submission

 

michel-houellebecq-700x357 2

Reading this passage recently offered me a slightly different way to think about the title of Houellebecq’s latest and more compelling novel, Submission. The word “difficult” here worked like a droll, understated punch line, which is how most of the wit works in Houellebecq. From The Map and the Territory, Michel Houellebecq:

Many years later, when he had become famous—extremely famous, truth be told—Jed would be asked numerous times what it meant, in his eyes, to be an artist. He would find nothing very interesting or original to say, except one thing, which he would consequently repeat in each interview: to be an artist, in his view, was above all to be someone submissive. Someone who submitted himself to mysterious, unpredictable messages, that you would be led, for want of a better word and in the absence of any religious belief, to describe as intuitions, messages which nonetheless commanded you in an imperious and categorical manner, without leaving the slightest possibility of escape—except by losing any notion of integrity and self-respect. These messages could involve destroying a work, or even an entire body of work, to set off in a radically new direction, or even occasionally no direction at all, without having any project at all, or the slightest hope of continuing. It was thus, and only thus, that the artist’s condition could, sometimes, be described as difficult.

A minimalist Turner

Tree, Jake Berthot

Last week, two days before the Inauguration, I somehow managed to fly into Washington D.C. and then back home the same afternoon without seeing any signs that our new President was about to ascend to his office. It was an uninterrupted ride from Dulles to Embassy Row, near Georgetown, where I had a meeting with one of Eastern Europe’s ambassadors to the U.S. to talk briefly about working with him on a book project. But our lunch plans were interrupted by a delegation of his countrymen who were insisting on attending the Inauguration. While he attended to his guests, I was happy to amuse myself for an hour before we were able to meet. His administrative assistant was incredibly solicitous and offered to keep me company until he was able to return, but instead I wandered around Embassy Row, had a quick salad at Pizzeria Paradiso on Dupont Circle and then realized the Phillips Collection was a couple blocks away.

It had been years since I’d visited the Phillips, which I recalled as one of the best art-viewing days of my life, the permanent collection was so good. I was able to spend only about twenty minutes there this time, most of which I invested in the rooms where the institution’s large holding of Jake Berthot’s paintings was temporarily on view. I moved quickly past the earlier paintings until I came upon a fairly recent one of a lone bare tree. At first sight, it was remarkable, and the longer I stood before it, the more it offered up–I’m repeating an observation that has been made before about his work, that after long viewing what you see in his work becomes increasingly rich and subtle. His work ranged from nearly pure abstraction to his minimal, often Turneresque evocations of the natural world around his Catskill studio. His engagement with heavily-layered paint brought to mind Stanley Lewis and even Auerbach, though Berthot’s accretion of thick oil feels more tranquil. There’s a dark serenity in his images, a truce–or perhaps a productive trade agreement–with mortality. His work resonates more with the Taoist void, a sense that form in nature rises up out of something inexpressible and inchoate, but intensely alive. Even in that very short window of time, I felt I’d discovered work both remarkable and masterful. A very serendipitous encounter, thanks actually to Google Maps, which–when I routed my walk back to the embassy–had helpfully pointed out that the Phillips was only a short walk from the bar where I was finishing lunch, and only a block from my appointment.

Hyperallergic interviewed Berthot a few years ago, not long before he died, and it was a revealing conversation. He was mostly self taught, though he did some coursework in his youth, and over the years he groped toward his final approach in fits and starts. For a while, early in his career, he found himself doing constructed canvases and then painting them in a single sitting, until he realized he’s reached a dead end, working from ideas rather than feeling. He found a way out as he stood before a De Kooning, when one aspect of the painting opened up the approach his used from them on, which sounds akin to Agnes Martin’s methods in much of her work. He started to rely on an idiosyncratic grid as the seed for everything that followed–not as an aid for drawing a subject, but as a catalyst for feeling his way forward with the application of paint, creating a field of tensions and a sense of volume that guided how he applied his oil. The interview is fascinating.

JS: Yes. You made abstract paintings for many years before you started landscape-based paintings. The shift was received as very dramatic, but did it feel dramatic to you?

JB: Yes. It was huge. I was a cowboy-boot-wearing New York painter. I’m not a New York painter anymore. I am living in nature as the subject. The way I felt earlier could be summarized by de Kooning’s comment, “I wouldn’t paint a tree if you gave me a million dollars.” And for a year after I moved upstate, I was still doing the paintings I had been doing in New York: abstract paintings.

In my early days in Soho, a businessman who visited the studio remarked of a painting, “That looks like the most beautiful landscape on the worst possible day to see it.” I had titled the piece, Pennsylvania Road Trip. It was abstract, and I would have denied that it had anything to do with nature or the landscape. But it was inspired by this long bus trip I took to Pennsylvania. I was just blown away by nature as I looked out the bus window.

But living here (Catskills), I realize that I didn’t have a choice. I didn’t want to disguise nature. I realized that these spaces kept coming up in my work, and I had to go there. Young painters now know me as a representational painter. Many of my peers wonder what happened to the abstract painter. No matter what, I am still the same painter.

Even though my work now is landscape-based, it is more abstract than it was a few years ago. It is dealing with the space in the middle. At first I was painting the volume of the tree in space. Next, what I felt was that space itself has volume. And now, it is the light that has volume.

There is a phenomenological truth that exists in nature. Some days it is totally flat, other times and days, filled with endless voids and volume.

I never thought, because of my age, I would have enough time to shape, build and work with nature’s complexity. Now, I don’t want to depict nature; I want to paint nature’s phenomena. The painting is always the boss. I go where it says to go; it is endless. That’s the beauty of painting. That is its freedom. It all leads back to the horse.

If you want to understand the reference to the horse, read the interview, when he talks about his parents and the drawing of a horse his mother kept on the back of a picture of the Last Supper in their dining room. The relationship of form to void in that line drawing–his first exposure to art–prefigures the essence of what he was trying to do in his mature paintings.

Motivation – What Gets Me Going & Keeps Me Going

Motivation – That Which Keeps Me Working.

Hi!  I have been wondering how personal motivation contributes to overcoming artist block.   Put another way, I would like to examine what motivates me and keeps me plugging away at my art.  By looking at what motivates me, both positive and not so positive, I might learn something about making art and life in general.

Coffee?

I was thinking  about how to tackle this idea of motivation.  During a little brainstorming session, I asked myself “what gets you out of bed in the morning?”  Perhaps not such a good question after all since the first thing that popped into my brain was “coffee”…and then maybe some more coffee.

Motivation; Study: Egg Not Fried

One motivation – learning something new to me. “Study, Egg Not Fried” done in acrylic during Gabriel M. Lipper’s still life class.

List of Motivators.

Pulling back from my personal narrative for a moment, I started wondering what might be some things to motivate people to make art and be “artists”.  Here’s a few of the ideas:

  • Money… as in income, award or the joy when someone purchases our work.
  • Prestige and fame; this can be local or on the big scale!
  • “Talent” – being good at something.
  • Discovery – examining the world around us.
  • Because we love art so much we need to try it ourselves.  In other words, learning something new.
  • Oh, and because a parent or parents were artists.
  • Maybe we have art materials and wanted to play in order to see what will happen.
  • To maybe “touch the gods” – that is to say that we begin to understand the Masters of art by experience making art ourselves.
  • The process of putting paint on canvas, engaging oneself in the act of drawing and painting is deeply satisfying.
  • And, then on the negative side
    • If not now, when?
    • What will I feel like if I never get around to the business of drawing and painting?

Motivation Defined.

Come to think about it, how do we define “motivation”?  In my mind, I’m talking about the inner, personal reason(s) to do something.  I checked the on-line Webster’s dictionary and it said pretty much the same thing; its about the reasons we are caused to act.

All of the reasons I gave above have influenced my motivation to draw and paint at some time or other.  As circumstances change and evolve, motivations change.

Current Motivators.

So, what is my current motivation to draw and paint?

  • If not now, then when?
  • Understanding and discovery.
  • Fun; that is to say being in the groove and focusing on the act of drawing or painting.
  • Mastery.  I really want to be “good”, or improve.

I came to the realization that this is what motivates me today indirectly.  It was while looking at Diego Velasquez’ portrait painting, Juan de Pareja, that the light went on.  There is so much to learn and experience in this world of drawing and painting.  I have just begun to scratch the surface and I want to learn more!

Motivation. Study, Asparagus

“Study, Asparagus”; Acrylic. Another study done in Gabriel Lipper’s class.

About the Paintings.

Local artist Gabriel Mark Lipper gives mini workshops at Enclave Studios and I jumped at the chance to take one.  It is a still life class that he titled “Classical Drawing, Vicious Painting”.  The title alludes to the painting fast and furious approach to still life painting. Put another way, “direct painting” – or lay the paint down and move on.

My usual mode of painting is layer upon layer; more of a sneak attack that takes a LONG time.  Its been a fun and interesting challenge to try to paint more directly.  I am definitely out of my comfort zone.  But the class fits the personal motivation of learning something new and challenging.

What Next?  Goals?

NPR had an article about a writing assignment that changes lives.  It talked about writing down what motivates you (me) and linking it to goals.  The article sites research that shows that this can be a powerful method for achieving personal goals, etc.

So, I’m thinking, the logical next step for me is to work on updating my goals.

How About You?

Please feel free to share your thoughts on what motivates you and how you link it to your goals.  Thanks!

 

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