Saturday, August 10, 2013

Between a Rock and a Hard Place (And a Healthy Dose of Art Philosophy and a Shadow Shot too!)

6" x 6" acrylic on board.  "A Dog's World" Click here to purchase.  $100.00
In "Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee", Seinfeld's online series, which is just about the Best Thing Ever ( I like the episode with Michael Richards), Seinfeld asks Chris Rock who it is that he likes, and Rock responds, "I admire people that have breakdowns.  Because once you have a breakdown, you can clear the slate."


Try as I might, I am incapable of having a breakdown.  I can metaphorically break a leg (see the last post) and put my blog into virtual paralysis, but between down periods and angry spells and  confusion, my mood eventually buoys like a beach ball in water.  And that, I suppose, is a good thing.  Despite the fact that I will never have the admiration of Chris Rock.

But there has been this kind of inadvertant virtual summer sabbatical.  The precipitating event is not the worst thing that has ever happened to me, not by a long shot, but it was indeed traumatic and had elements that have called into question perspectives that I have held for nearly half a century.  I am not the same.  I will not write about it directly.  But my soul has been stirred - even my feelings about art.  And I consider this blog to be a reflection of my soul.


From my moleskine this month.
Also in my moleskine - true, isn't it?
Despite the pause in blogging, I have continued painting.  I touched up an older painting, yet to be posted, and have almost completed another series painting.  I have wrestled with another wolf painting - and the wolf appears to be winning.  But I will continue to try to tame the beast. 


And during this virtual absence I decided to emulate the daily painters.  I painted six small acrylic paintings in quick daily succession.  The first, of a dog, is above.  I will post them all as this blog continues.

But all of that is beside the point.

I was pleased with the results of each of these works.  But in a way, surprisingly, I was dissatisfied as well with each and every one of them.  My springboard for these, as with virtually all I have painted before, has been "every day matters" - my fascination with all I see around me.  But I have begun to seriously question the premise.  I think painting what you see may not be enough.  To show the reality of the everyday I am thinking a painting may need to include what lies behind - the unseen.  And how do you depict that?  That is the question.


I am wondering whether this is what modern painters are attempting to show, an internal sense that there is more to the world than what is being observed.

A Shadow shot for "Shadow Shot Sunday" - it's been a long time..

Periodically there have been times - uplifting, invigorating, happy times - that seemed to be of high velocity, but that have come to a sudden, shocking halt.  A human life can be like that when it is tragically cut short.  In a poem I wrote after my daughter's short life and dramatic death, I likened the experience to a "roof unmoored by hurricane winds."  There are also times that the apparent surface events conceals the reality.  And sometimes we are fooled, and shocked when the reality is revealed.  And how do you depict that? 

My drive to draw and paint is as strong as ever, but what and how I paint in the future may change.  I have outlined for myself elements to include in future works, devices for showing the unseen in the observed, the hidden, the profundity, and I have an idea for paintings in this regard.  Will they work? Again, I don't know.  It is a hard place to be in.  And I may not have the skills to do it.

These are my thoughts for what they are worth.  Again, I don't want to be a talker, I want to do.  I am too much of a talker.  In art, my drive is to do.  But I want to share my thoughts, even with the risk that none of it may ever materialize.

Prologue  - [Sigh, I can't stop] but for me, this is the most interesting part:

After I wrote the above, and then saving the post for a week as a draft - wondering if all of the above was premature to say - I was mulling over painting ideas and noted that one image was awfully like a Magritte.  It made me wonder about the philosophy behind his works (beyond that of his famous painting of the pipe).  Lo and behold, when contrasting his art with the pop artist's "mistake" of painting "the world as it is", he contrasted their attention to the passing moment with his concern for portraying "the feeling for the real, insofar as it is permanent."

This led me to the photographer Duane Michals, who was influenced by Magritte.  You can see much of his work here.  In 1987 he gave a lecture which is here.  (It is funny that in that year, because it was recorded by cassette tape, only half of the talk was recorded because they forgot to turn the tape over!).  Key phrases, for me, from this talk are:

When looking at a picture:  "I don't want to know what I know.  I want to know what I don't know!"

"People are not what they seem."  And he said, and it's true, that one can't even know one's own parents.  [Recent events, for me, have called into question the entire premise of my "At First Glance" series.  Fortunately the series is aptly titled, because the idea of capturing someone's soul is a fool's errand.]

And, significantly:

"The most important things in life are invisible."

And how do you portray that?!

41 comments:

  1. As always, you give me food for thought. Thanks.

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  2. I LOVE that painting and the line you quote: "I don't want to know what I know. I want to know what I don't know!" which can apply to everything. I'm checking out Comedians Getting Coffee now. I've had my share of meltdowns, rather than breakdowns.

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    1. Firstly, you have a great blog - and thank you so much for citing this blog there! I like your lists of clever and interesting observations. Thank you for considering what I say so deeply. And I hope you liked the Comedians.

      Meltdown is a good way to put it.

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  3. So glad to see you back, Dan--a hearty welcome to you! Thanks for the shadowy shot, as well as your philosophical ruminations. (Someday, I'm sure, you'll learn how to portray the invisible!)

    Shadowed Windows

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    1. Ah, my mystical haiku guru, when I can snatch the pebble from your hand I will know that I can portray the invisible.

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  4. Glad to hear your passion for painting is still there! Seeing inside to someone's soul is difficult, as we're only allowed to see what they want us to see.

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    1. Yup. It's not that I didn't know that. Just hadn't been floored by it before, by a soul so well-buried and concealed and distorted in outward appearance.

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  5. Dan, Somehow, someway, your paintings here are better. Is more of your soul evident? Perhaps I'm just imagining that, but it would appear so to me.
    Your talking, writing, is also a large part of who you are as an artist. I use to think an artist had to choose, but I've changed my mind on that. An artist is whoever he is, the seen and unseen.
    Don't fret too much about not joining in the breakdown club. When you are inside it, it's a rather lonely place. I don't think you need to visit there to understand what moves you in life.
    Your shadow shot is spectacular.
    A wonderful post Dan. It's real, it's artistic, and meaningful. I would say Welcome Back but you never really left. You just changed a little.

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    1. I recognized early on about the talking/writing being part of my "art" - that is why my words are displayed on a canvas as well.
      Breakdown - I feel like I'm going there, then I rise up, then fall and then rise again. No it is not bipolar disorder - it is dealing with life, really. I'm not sure what a breakdown is. Meltdown is closer, as colleen said.
      And you put it simply - a little change.
      And change is good. (Though maybe not for those around me. Hah!)

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  6. Love the play of shadows in your image. What seems ordinary becomes extraordinary. I too ride the waves of artistic questions, and sometimes find my best work in photography and writing somehow poses more questions and leaves the answers for those who seek. Hope that makes some kind of sense. Enjoyed the journey of your thoughts in this post.

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    1. It makes total sense! That is what I am talking about. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with me.

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  7. Art isn't what you see when you look at a painting, it's what you feel when you look at what you see in the painting. Your painting of the dog lying on the floor made me feel sadness, a sense of loss. It made me remember my dog, long passed, when he would look that way-- rejected, neglected --sad that I wouldn't play. His look always got to me. i would stop whatever i was doing and get down on all fours to creep up on him and the game would begin of who gets that ball? Not you, it's mine! A painting relates differently to different people. How it's painted also relates something to the viewer. I can't stand photographic realism. It's too &$?@!$@ perfect, which means the style is inappropriately named. It should be Photographic Unrealism, for there is no perfection in life. There's mistakes and unfairness and indecision and regret and a sad dog whose best friend won't play ball. So pick up the ball Dan and play with your dog. Then get on your bike and ride it till your shirt stinks with sweat, go home, shower and paint what's in your heart. We'll see it; I saw it. Great photograph of shadows, exacting rhythms, perfectly placed shades of gray, the real colors of life. I say you captured the invisible.



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    1. Wow! What a comment! Thank you, thank you.

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  8. dan...we've missed you. such an expressive painting. thanks for sharing!!!

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    1. Thank you for missing me. I'm not sure I'm wholly back yet, but I'm trying.

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  9. I think L.W. Roth nailed it Dan. Who you are shows in your work. Someone told me no one can paint the same object exactly the same as someone else and I think they were pretty close to the truth that who we are WILL come through in how we deal with a subject, what medium we use to portray it and so on. You did capture that dog very well and it makes me feel guilty as two of mine are laying here looking at me as I type this (the pup is chewing on a bone). You are a moody person and it shows in your painting whether you realize it or not. Some are freer or happier looking than others and some of your paintings have a serious tone to them. You are portraying more than the object or person. Even your At First Glance sketches show more since you have taken them out of their surroundings and just put the person out there for us to guess what is going on with them - we have to get involved and make the story for each of those people. That's art. That's soul. Be easy on yourself. You are an artist (probably why you keep wondering whether what you paint is good enough :) ) and it shows not just in your works but in your essays you write here about your feelings and process. You know why you have so many commenters while others don't? Because both your paintings and your writings are good! They are real but not perfect. We can connect with them and if that isn't "soul" I don't know what is. The whole point of Jesus being one of us was to share the experiences we have, the "soul" of our lives rather than staying "up there" and away somewhat from what we go through and feel. You are doing it Dan. Keep on keeping on PLEASE! It's working whether you feel it or not.

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    1. Thank you. You've given me much to think about. The idea that what I want to show is already in my pictures. I'm not sure I agree, but it is nice to think so.

      And thank you for saying both the paintings and writings are good! Love that. I've often thought that the writing brought folks here, and the painting was beside the point. I have a ways to go, and hope to get at least part of the way.

      Such a heartfelt comment, Timaree, thank you.

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  10. First off, I'd say this is one of your best paintings ever...It touches us--those sad eyes. I don't often write about it on my blog...but I have huge doubts about everything all the time. Sometimes I let my in-real-life art friends know some of these doubts. One of them (the best artist in my circle) said to me recently "Just make ART, Celeste." (Emphasis on ART). Well, isn't that what I'm doing--I thought---or isn't that what I am "trying" to do??? (Operative word, trying). I think what this masterful artist was counseling me about is that making art as opposed to planning a good product or outcome are two different things. I am guilty of often setting out to simply make a good product. But, there is the craft part of art (learning and practicing skills) and then there is the heart part--which you refer to in this post. In the end, the viewer can usually pick up on the intent of the painter. In your case what usually comes across is optimism and a curiosity. The dog is a departure...but I see him as that best friend who will be there no matter what. The best thing about art is that the viewer decides the story. Is that best friend there yourself? Are you your own best friend? I hope yes....! I am very happy you are back ....and painting too! :)

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    1. Thank you so much Celeste. I have never thought of you in connection with doubt, and I appreciate you letting me in on this. It helps. I see your journey and it is always an inspiration for me. You are an inspiration for me, always - doubts or no.

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  11. Dan, We've missed you. I loved your portrait of the puppy and your deep thoughts.
    The photographer's page was good too.
    Keep coming back!
    Jane Young (EDM)

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  12. So glad to see you back again!!
    So much food for thought here, and I really enjoyed reading it (made me think and the part of "I don't want to know what I know..." its how I see pictures and paintings, I never read the title before I look at a picture because that gives me what I should think or know, but instead I want to know what I see and find and feel when I see the work). The painting of the puppy, oh my the eyes and that side way look. Love the light in it and the emotion it brings. Its the very same look I get from my Charlie when I cant pick up and play with him right at that very moment he brings me a toy, he just gets down and looks up at me and I don't even have to know what he thinks in words. Its almost as they paint with their eyes, that very raw and fresh feeling for that very moment. I love how they live for the very moment... Right now Im getting the look from him "Im tired, time for bed"...
    Love the painting, Beautiful!!

    And the second one is very interesting and to me its kind of how I feel these days, constantly in the wish and hope that there will (has to be) be a light in the end of the tunnel. I have to keep hold of that feeling or other wise it would be super hard... Great post Dan, really enjoyed it!

    Thank you so much for your super comments you have left in my blog, and listen I hear you about the emails... No worries, it has been the same around here. Tomorrow is going to be rough, but hopefully we are so much closer to find out why it has been the way it has been now for over a year and half. Hopefully the light in the end of that tunnel will be brighter and a bit bigger.

    Super to see you back!!!

    Mari

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    1. I remember my dog used to look at me like that. For sure. This was derived from a creative commons picture. I was supposed to reference the photo - but cannot find the paper to do so!

      I am glad you find the chart interesting - we share too much. In a perfect world, we would have nothing to talk about but art!

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  13. Welcome back, Dan! I like it that you are letting the questioning and chaos show through. I predict yet another change or paradigm shift that gives mening to this one.

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    1. I'm still floundering, but the journey is oh, so interesting.

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  14. I look forward to seeing where this curve takes your art. A lot of crap can be hidden in paintings; only you will know. You can look at them later and know exactly what you were feeling.

    So far, I've avoided the breakdown club. I attribute that to art--many of my paintings and drawings are just for me.

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    1. I thought of your art several times when I was making a chart notating ways to show the reality behind the reality. I understand your art just a tad bit better. And all of the surrealists.

      Yes, re the breakdown. Thank goodness for art!

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  15. Dan, I am not sure what's up with you but you need to post more! And BTW, that flowchart is awesome! The only problem with people is that, when they're unhappy..they tend to complain a lot and do absolutely NOTHING about it to change the situation. People sometimes forget that they HAVE a choice....whether to be happy or not.

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    1. Easy to say. I agree we have a choice, but sometimes the pressures make it seem otherwise. Hope all things continue going well with you.

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  16. wow I'm not sure I'm awake enough to take that all in.

    I try to interpret everything I draw (I can't see the point in hyperrealism - take a photo) but not to the point of capturing the soul, although I try to capture the essence of places, so maybe we are on similar wavelengths?

    Good luck with whatever direct these thoughts take your art in.

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    1. Essence is a good way to put it. I painted a face the other day. And when I was done, it reminded me of your old men! Similar wavelengths for sure, half a world a way doesn't seem to make a difference.

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  17. I came her via Colleen's link from her blog. You have written so much to digest, and thus with time I hope to be back.

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    1. Thanks so much for coming, Tabor, and for alerting me to Colleen's link. I was so honored!

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  18. Hi Dan, My initial thought ("at first glance" or read)upon reading your article was "from great discontent can come discovery, growth and something new"! I'm interested to see what direction(s) you grow in. I particularly liked the statement "don't show me what I know, show me something new". Gotta remember that one! Now, I'll go look at the other comments. I hope you're OK/fine!

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    1. I'm okay. Living in interesting times. Thanks!

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  19. I didn't miss you, Dan!! I was AWOL myself. I'm not an artist so I don't intend giving a point of view for the sake of it, instead I leave it to Celeste, above, who I admire greatly. My problem is that I'm painting pictures, but not making art, it will be a long while before I get there. So I guess the turmoil lies ahead! I'm going to try oils soon!

    It sounds banal, but I love the puppy and I love the series - nice to see them all together in an earlier posting. Simple as that.

    Hope your beach ball bouys you.

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    1. Uhhumm. Clearing my throat. NOT AN ARTIST?! Give me a break.

      And..if you don't mind me saying, you can miss me even when you are AWOL - lol.

      The beach ball's a'bouncing!

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  21. Reminds me of one of my favorite quotes from Charles Bukowski: "Some people never go crazy. What truly horrible lives they must lead." Right along with Yeat's "nothing can be sole or whole/that has not been rent."

    Well, I dont think you have to snap completely to have a "breakdown"-- or maybe its more accurate to say a partial "melt down"--and from there comes the repurposed material for change.

    Great post, great blog...i love the koi painting and accompanying poem too.

    thank you for your visit to my blog too, btw, and your comments.

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  22. Reminds me of one of my favorite quotes from Charles Bukowski: "Some people never go crazy. What truly horrible lives they must lead." Right along with Yeat's "nothing can be sole or whole/that has not been rent."

    Well, I dont think you have to snap completely to have a "breakdown"-- or maybe its more accurate to say a partial "melt down"--and from there comes the repurposed material for change.

    Great post, great blog...i love the koi painting and accompanying poem too.

    thank you for your visit to my blog too, btw, and your comments.

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