« On Painting

Simplicity & Order

June 29th, 2009

(The painter’s Desire Part II)

It is necessary to first read or reread my previous article "The Painter’s Desire". What follows is the result of some reflective thought following this article.

As a young man I found motocycles and airplanes to be on a higher order in terms of function and aesthetics. In both cases their highly refined function results in designs highly pleasing to our senses. When young I begin riding a motocycle and continue to this day. Why would a person devoted to an artistic path do such a thing? I should add that the motocycles that I ride are very fast motocycles. To me they do not make sense otherwise. For a couple of years, early on, I raced them. I quickly determined that this was a bit too dangerous for my taste.

Before my racing days, a friend had dubbed me the wild one-half. This was not long after Marlon Brando”s movie, "the Wild One". In order to be the wild one, first of all, a man must be a joiner. This I was not. I was not out to make a social statement, nor be part of a group large or small.

To maintain integrity as an artist or as a person is not an easy thing. If we react we lose our integrity. Likewise in going along with the croud. Simplicity and order is the pathway we follow to find a place where we can be of one piece. In this way we begin to hear that small fragil voice within that gives us direction in life as well as in art. Otherwise we are like the stupid fish asked to describe water.

Published in french as Ordre et Simplicité

The Painters’ Desire

May 30th, 2009

"Spring Meadow", oil on mat board, 20cm x 16cm, 2009
"Spring Meadow", oil on mat board specifically prepared for oil, 20cm x 16cm, 2009

What are the effects of the painter’s desires? What about the motivations leading to the perceptions and execution of a particular work. At what point do conviction and a sense of purpose come into play?

In asking these sorts of questions we come to realize that we cannot separate the painter from life. The life of the painters, their thinking and ideas, what they eat for breakfast and so on come first. Technique and style we find to be of only secondary concern.

A painter arrives at the moment of making a brushstroke as a consequence of living. The past that constitutes that life invokes itself in the stroke. If the painter is of one piece each of these brushstrokes contribute to a painting that speaks to us as a complete statement. That is to say we have then something felt and seen as a unified whole.

It feels strange to write these words. Is it not self-evident, these things? Well, no. They are routinely overlooked and misunderstood even as they appear to have been questioned in depth.

Read the rest of "The Painters’ Desire"

Rules for Painters

Originally posted on April, 17, 2009

"Ventoux Spring", oil on canvas, 30cm x 24cm, 2009
"Ventoux Spring", oil on canvas, 30cm x 24cm, 2009

The rule that there are no rules is the appeal of what some understand as the Zen approach: the anytime anything goes ethic, or non-ethic as it were. We get into difficulty, it seems to me as painters by applying this “beat? philosophy (i.e. this is not classic Zen) in a rigid manner. Properly understood the Zen perspective gives the latitude to “think? in terms of right and wrong in a limited domain such as painting; This, even though the world at large is seen to be beyond right and wrong when it is not put into a frame. But without some form of intellectualizing each painting’s outcome is as precarious as a throw of the dice.

“The superior man understands what is right, the inferior man understands what sells.? (Confucius)

In the changing conditions of today, there are certainly no silver bullets. Things have been difficult for painters for some time and will continue for the foreseeable future. All is not doom and gloom however. Think back to the adverse conditions which the impressionists faced: having to flee France for safety, the destruction of paintings, extreme financial conditions and so on.

Galleries in France seem to be threatened by the internet. I have not had this expressed directly by gallery owners. It is simply an observation of their reactions when I bang up the subject. As difficult survival has been for most of them recently this reaction is easy enough to understand.

I hold out hope that I’ll find that one gallery that I want to associate with. I believe it is best to work only with a single gallery. Also, it is important that the relationship is a good fit. It will not work otherwise.

Published in french as Règles pour les peintres

Provence Paintings

Originally posted on April, 13, 2009

"Walk to the Ventoux" oil on mat board, 20cm x 16cm, 2009
"Walk to the Ventoux" oil on mat board specifically prepared for oil, 20cm x 16cm, 2009

With the explosion of visual images over the last one hundred and fifty years it is as if our brains moved from the cortex to the receptors in our eyes. Like it or not the holographic reality that we live in is created visually. From cradle to grave we are nurtured in a way so seductive we gladly give our all to it. Long live the zietgeist!

I can remember clearly as a young boy the time and place this state of affairs became evident to me. This occurred in a very personal and intimate way. It changed my life and I have not been the same since. I was 4 months past my 13th birthday. Certain areas in Provence around Mount Ventoux trigger the emotions associated with this understanding. It is a very comfortable mental place for me. As I get a better grasp of its meaning I become even more comfortable. And so it goes.

My apologies for the rather ecliptic manner of expressing these thoughts; it is unfortunate that in this area our limitations in verbal expression become most acute. Visually I’m slowly approaching these feelings, very slowly. Expressing this in terms of paint will no doubt involve much work and certainly some grace from the powers that be. Please wish me well.

Each year in March, my wife Françoise and I head south. The last three years we went to Picasso country on the Midi. Going and coming there we would stop for a couple of days close to the Mount Ventoux. This year we spent 3 weeks there. Even though the weather could have been more cooperative I came back with a lot small paintings, sketches and photographs which will help me develop some themes I have begun working on. I have found that for me it takes a long time before I do a good work motivated by a particular area. (It is just like that for me, but this is a subject for another time.) In the coming weeks I’ll share some of the paintings. The one shown here is quite small. I have found that if you are going to stretch your creativity one of the best way to do it is to work either much smaller or larger than your normal “comfortable? sizes. It forces you to both look and work differently. For me it is all about finding that fine edge between reflection and experience. As we better understand the relationship between things we understand that our painting has little to do with these things. It is about relationships.

Published in french as Peintures de Provence

« On Painting