« On Painting

Freedom from Content

Originally posted on January, 7, 2008

"Purple Pool", watercolor, 38cm x 28cm, 100% cotton paper, 2005

On the main page in the gallery section of my website there is a short introduction: “Somehow I have recently gained a certain distance and freedom from the content of painting…? I have just recently acquired this sense of distance. The paintings I am now doing speak to me of it. Understanding is slowly following.

Since the dawn of modernism almost all of the critical writing has been concerned with the question of decadence. Who are the bad guys and who are the good guys? As long as this state of affairs continues the health of our culture is compromised. There are many more important things to talk about. And where are all the people who used to appreciate painting? For the artist painter today, he has the additional challenge of working in a vacuum. These things come to mind because if as an artist painter we are to have any freedom from the content of our paintings they are important considerations.

Recently, I have been reviewing some of my older painting. I’ve selected a number of paintings done over the last ten twelve years to put on the web site. In the course of doing this I thought quite a bit about content. Paintings done close to 10 years ago were a turning point for me. Before that time I had been struggling with the act of painting. Learning “how”? to paint is one thing. This is something different. For some reason you just begin to relax and enjoy the process of painting. The relationship with the tools, the paint and so forth changes. And choosing what to paint becomes much easier. Everything becomes easier. There is freedom from the content 10 years later. The questions of questions: could this sense of freedom happen at any time? Do we all have to convince ourselves that we deserve it? I certainly hope not.

Denis

Published in french as Liberté vis-à-vis du contenu

Beyond How to do Watercolor

Originally posted on December, 17, 2007

The logical question following how to paint watercolor is what to paint. Bearing both questions in mind at the beginning helps accelerate the learning curve. I’ve given these questions of the budding artist painter more than just a little reflection. Advice has been asked by many other the years. Subsequently, there were many days and hours of talking with them about becoming a painter as well as much painting together. In the end teaching and learning become indistinguishable and I fondly remember these encounters.

Hopefully, if you can bear my rambling, I can offer some thoughts that may help. Recently, on the post Painting the Universe, there was a painting titled “Man and Nature? (See also the older paintings). This was painted 10 years ago at a time I was still very much fixated on watercolor. I had reached several years earlier the understanding I must concentrate on learning the materials (pigments, papers, brushes, etc.) in order to become free from them. We all have to experience in our own terms this inner necessity to learn the materials. The artist, as it is said is a person in love with his tools.

Back to the painting: this painting and others of this period were for me pivotal. I was experiencing some freedom and was fully conscious what was taking place. I’m an intuitive, so a conscious understanding of the process does not come easily. To become lost in the process and to then, literally, to find yourself is what it is all about. Some months ago I wrote about learning to paint watercolor. The advice about materials was broadly given. There have been so many good books and magazines devoted to this that I did not see the point of adding to them. But if I can help encourage you to absorb them and move past this concern… then I’ve done something.

I will answer e-mails from anyone engaged in the work of doing this.

Keep your brushes wet,

Denis.

Published in french as Dépasser le comment faire pour peindre à l’aquarelle

Are painters rational?

Originally posted on November, 30, 2007

To the extend that an artist painter is intuitive and instinctive, he does not favour his intellect. This is not to say that he cannot express him/herself logically. It is simply not the priority. Creative expression is often at the top of the list.

This inclination towards creative work has been leading our cultural heritage down the primrose path to oblivion. Any artist, not only the artist painter is not inclined to argue with the self appointed art police. There is simply not the time. More important, to enter into the fray is spiritually regressive. Moreover, if enlightened values of truth are to prevail; indulgence in secondary causes are not an option. Freedom is a state of mind, first and foremost.

If it is true that we paint who we are, these points are important. Only an artist can pass judgement on creative work. We begin by passing judgement on our own work. This is not a rational pursuit. It requires direct soul searching honesty. And there we find our moment of truth, as well as humility.

Published in french as Les peintres sont-ils rationnels

Painting the Universe

Originally posted on November, 22, 2007

"Man and Nature", watercolor, 52cm x 37cm, 100% cotton paper, 1998.

The uniqueness of the pre and early 60’s San Francisco art movement was …. How to put this? Let me put it this way: at a certain point, it was well understood that those who remember the 60’s were not there. The “scene? if it was anything, was a life changing experience. It changed people. It connected them, in a way, to the entire universe. This was not, of course, the popular “hippie? experience thing. What I’m talking about was the experience of a unique way of experiencing in an intellectual and artistic sense: An intellectual pursuit somewhat removed from rational thinking and directly concerned with the experience of life. Above all it was freedom … freedom to have an individual understanding of our relationship with life. Jung’s work on psychological types helped me a lot in this area. Viva la difference.

Long after the 60’s I began to think about the “pioneer spirit? in this context. Well, thinking is not the correct word. I intuited that the people who were the early workers in this art movement were infected with something. This something has been labelled the pioneer spirit. It was a subtle psychological shift in people’s relationship to nature and the entire world, the universe. These people began to experience themselves as an integral part of the whole thing. Struggle and hardship taught them to engage the world intimately. Intimately because in fact you experience yourself as a part of it!

At first glance it seems so obvious that we are part of the world. But European and hence American culture has been conditioned for centuries with an egocentric anthropomorphic view of the world. The pioneers (who a generation or two before headed west in covered wagons until they reached the Pacific Ocean) were no doubt unconsciously seeking a new view of things. And this new view was consciously engaged in the beginning stages of “avant garde? art in California.

Comments about my painting are always welcomed. Creativity does not take place in a vacuum It is none the less amusing to me what many people comment on the lack of people in my landscape painting. For me, there is simply no need to put people into a landscape. We are already there. No separation exists visually, mentally, or emotionally.

Published in french as Peindre l’univers

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