Approaching cold front. Ouch!
Winter is really upon us now! This photo shows the scene that greeted me today so I think I will be painting indoors this weekend. However for you folk living inland (and the intrepid folks on the west coast) you may find this article interesting. It is a demo on keeping warmth in your painting even though icy conditions may tempt you to keep things cool. read more
Being an artist is a way of life. It kind of takes over and you catch yourself sometimes rambling on about art (I am risk of that now too). It made me smile the other day driving around the countryside when I heard myself saying things to my wife like: "look at how the light shines on those trees" or "look at the yellow field against the purple sky". Funny thing is that she has also started looking and appreciating these moments too.
Have a go at filling in the blank space. You know you are an artist when ...
I am fascinated by shadows. How to paint a shadow that suggests and beguiles the viewer. I have not come across a full description of how to go about painting them. The truth is that every artist has their own way through trial an error. There are a few guidelines to follow which are helpful. Take a look at my latest notes on My Studio page where I tackle the subject of shadows. Please send me any tips you find useful too.
My contemplation of art and the creative spirit has made me realise that there is much to be grateful for. There have been many moments in my past career that have given me sleepless nights, cold fear and despair. It was probably inevitable that art would resurface and take me to a better mindset.
I loved art from an early age. Painted throughout school and considered art as a career. Instead I spent twenty years in full time law practice. In truth I suppose I took the safe option and law has certainly given me opportunities and a strong stomach! But it has taken much too and left with me with a severe imbalance in my life. It is strange how we let these circumstances take us over until our real characters are masked. For example you may remember yourelf as a cheerful person, always laughing at the antics of your friends – I mean really laughing from the core – not the forced laugh of a repressed spirit. After years at “the career” you realise that true laughter is now the exception and real friends? Are they out there? Sounds grim alright, but truth is that far too many people live like this out of fear of not surviving in this hard world.
A few significant events changed this for me. I realised that material success just did not have any substance to it. I was happier with far less in my late twenties. But this was still a vague idea and the comfort zone was too well established to challenge. Next moment was dusting off my paint brushes and knocking off a few acrylic paintings. No thought to it – just for the heck of it on a boring public holiday. I cannot say how I felt about it – I just did it and kept on painting week after week then day after day. I have not stopped since many years later. Like a dam that works it way through the cracks of the wall until eventually the wall breaks. I could then look at myself and welcome back the artist. The battle is not over and it takes discipline to believe in my art when the world is geared for materialism.
Am I a better person for it?
I have leant about keeping a balance in life
Losing my cynicism
More family time
My children only ever wanted time with their old man
Recognising what living in the present means
Continue to meet generous creative souls
No longer worry about trading in the car
Watch less TV
It is a work in progress and there is no going back!
Where Are the Artists?
I have recently spent some time at the Grahamstown Arts Fest wandering around and looking at the creative work on display. A visit to the Village Green Market is essential and always attracts thousands. Being a painter myself I tend to focus on this niche and concluded, incorrectly, that here are only a few artists this year. Where are the artists? All around us as it happens. To be an artist is a state of mind. You live it by how and what you do and think. When I opened my eyes I saw artists everywhere. I looked at those people closest to me that I take for granted and saw great art too. My wife for instance can create fantastic clothing, crochets art works that boggle my mind, bakes artisan quality bread daily and finds time to homeschool our children using all manner of creative methods. She is an artist. I love her very much. To be human and present means being creative. It is as close as we can get to the Ultimate Creator. So take a moment to look around you and see the artists and most importantly acknowledge them and then join them. Creation is our calling – we need to listen.
I feel as though I haven't seen an object until I actually start painting it. (Janet Fish)
I could paint these mountains the way they look, but it isn't how I see them. (Justin Beckett)
These quotes stood out for me because they both point to what art is about - painting what you as an artist can interpret using your senses, emotions and understanding. To truly see in an artistic manner is to see yourself. A collector can also see themselves in a painting because he or she understands that they are not just looking at an object, but a sensory experience. It is a shared experience but also different from the artist's. Once this realisation is made a true work of art will come alive for both the artist and the collector. It is not an easy thing for someone to go beyond the superficial. This is not TV. It takes commitment and trust when going deeper into art for artist and collector alike. When I refer to collectors I do not mean investors. That is altogether different. A collector is looking for a spark - a connection and when found a unique shared experience takes place with the artist.
To simplify a scene by squinting is a critical skill for the landscape artist to master. In fact any time you want to identify the main shapes and lose distracting details then this is a handy way to do it. Check out my latest article on My Studio page for a short demo on this topic.
A book Review
Written by Steven Pressfield. Published 2002. 192 pages. It is conveniently available as an e-book on Amazon for about R65.00.
Ever considered dusting off the easel or ever wanted to start writing but never got around to it? Had yourself talked out of a creative pursuit? You have been taken out of the game by Resistance. This is the term used by Pressfield in his excellent book. The author divides his book into three sections. First is focused on Resistance. Second: Defeating Resistance and third: Accepting your muse.
Pressfield, a writer by profession, asks what stands between the life we live and the unlived life within us. The answer is Resistance. It is the toxic force that defeats us every time. It is that which stands between our calling or any creative endeavour that does not involve instant gratification. Resistance repels, it is negative, distracting, cunning, a liar and self-generated. The enemy within. You cannot bargain or reason with it. It is like a shark with you as its main course! Resistance is supported by its henchmen, Rationalisation and Procrastination. Be aware of them every day Pressfield warns or you will not stand a chance. This section of the book struck many chords with me and I must confess that I could not put the book down. Knowledge is power as they say and it helps to recognise the enemy within.
Part two was equally compelling. The author proceeds to tell us how to defeat Resistance. Go pro! By becoming a professional we can win the battle and pursue the creative process. By professional the author means that we have to change our mindset and approach. Failing that you will remain a hobbyist. A professional gets to work every day. It is full time. It is about committing for life because you love your calling so much. Resistance hates it when you turn pro! A pro does not wait for inspiration - he gets to work because that is when inspiration arrives. It is a daily process. I like what Pressfield says about the difference between what is urgent and what is important. Important comes first. Urgency is often Resistance in disguise. Your work is important so do that first.
Part Three is about listening to your muse. "The noble effect of heaven-sent madness". (Socrates)
The artist, relying on technique alone, will not succeed without the inspired madness of the muse. Without this mysterious heaven-sent inspiration would there be the Parthenon, a Fifth Symphony or Nude Descending a Staircase? Time can only harm our body, but not the immutable spirit within that inhabits the space between nucleus and electron - the universe beyond the material. Listen and answer. It is this third part of the book that will test your resolve. If you persist you will succeed.
Read this book. After three months read it again.
(Daniel Novela with some bloke)
My family and I were fortunate to get some time off this weekend to visit the Grahamstown Arts Festival. As always a weekend is not enough to take it all in. There is a risk of sensory overload. However after a day or so the sights and experiences filter a bit and I am left with a sense of gratefulness that I share a creative spirit with artists. I am also grateful that so many artists take the time and effort to show their work. Make no mistake it is not an easy business.
I was happy to catch up with Daniel Novela who is exhibiting his paintings at the Albany Museum. Daniel is a firm believer in outdoor painting and outdoor references to give his paintings energy. He has a keen perception for nature that can turn the most bare highveld scene into a beautiful sight. A nicer chap is hard to find so pay him a visit if you are in town.
Grahamstown is cold this time of year so I was happy to acquire this portable "heater" from the village market. It was put to good use both outdoors and in! Mr Shapiro from Cape Town makes these ceramic stoves which are truly functional artworks.
As the title suggests it was also a time to take a break from the business of art, get my thoughts together and get back to painting this week. Inspiration visits when work begins. The arts fest does remind me that whatever creative direction we may follow we are all in good company.