A Year of Creating Dangerously, Day 21: Saturday Life Quote #3

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“Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.”

This Saturday’s Life Quote comes from American abolitionist and humanitarian Harriet Tubman. Born a slave, after she escaped she became responsible for freeing dozens of slaves, taking them along the “Underground Railroad” north to Canada. A truly remarkable and heroic person, she was also part of the women’s suffrage movement. The one they called “Moses” is forever a symbol of freedom.

A Year of Creating Dangerously, Day 19: Paul Klee

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“Senecio”

“A drawing is simply a line going for a walk.”

Paul Klee (1879-1940) was a Swiss-German artist with a unique style and a broad influence. He was a master of color and taught at the legendary Bauhaus school. As a teacher he was as inventive and progressive as his art, teaching his students to study the movement of fish in a fish tank or to draw the circulatory system. Today I want to share with you some of his work along with some of his words.

“Color possesses me. I don’t have to pursue it. It will possess me always, I know it. That is the meaning of this happy hour: Color and I are one. I am a painter.”

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“Castle and Sun”

“One eye sees, the other feels.”

“Everything vanishes around me, and works are born as if out of the void. Ripe, graphic fruits fall off. My hand has become the obedient instrument of a remote will.”

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“Insula Dulcamara”

“Children also have artistic ability, and there is wisdom in their having it! The more helpless they are, the more instructive are the examples they furnish us; and they must be preserved free of corruption from an early age.”

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“Cat and Bird”

“When looking at any significant work of art, remember that a more significant one probably has had to be sacrificed.”

“He has found his style, when he cannot do otherwise.”

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“Heroic Roses”

“To emphasize only the beautiful seems to me to be like a mathematical system that only concerns itself with positive numbers.”

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“Death and Fire”

“The art of mastering life is the prerequisite for all further forms of expression, whether they are paintings, sculptures, tragedies, or musical compositions.”

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“Red Balloon”

“Art does not reproduce what we see; rather, it makes us see.”

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“Landscape with Yellow Birds”

 

 

A Year of Creating Dangerously, Day 18: Sincere Flattery Gallery

The saying goes: “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”. It also happens to be a dynamite way to re-educate yourself in art!

About 25 years elapsed between the time I graduated from Calvin College with a Fine Arts Degree to when I began to seriously make art again. I had dabbled in things, of course. I drew cartoons, did the occasional artwork for some church event, whipped out a drawing for my kids to color, etc. but to actually sit down and draw for drawing sake… it had been a loooooong time. So I set about putting myself through some basics of art education. One of my favorite things to do was look up famous portraits by the masters and attempt to copy them. Now “copy” sounds like I was sharpening my forgery skills. No – I was looking at the Greats in order to teach myself more about color and form, the use of line and shade, and all those things that flow so much better when you haven’t been NOT doing art for a loooooong time! I wasn’t trying for exact replicas and  was using cheap oil pastels and pencil crayons on lousy paper. Basically they were ramshackle sketches of masterpieces. But I enjoyed the process and the results gave me confidence to create again.

Here is a gallery of of my Sincere Flattery and my sincere attempt to get my Art-Jones back again! It probably goes without saying but the original is on the left! And if you want to know the artist and artwork, the caption is supposed to pop up when you put the cursor on the portrait (at least it did for me – sorry if it doesn’t work for you). All of my copies are done in oil pastels with some pencil crayon touches. The one just below was done with a $2 set of pastels from a teacher’s supply store! Enjoy.

A Year of Creating Dangerously, Day 17: Jesus, Jesus

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“Washing Feet” by He Qi

At the house concert I was a part of last weekend, I was struck by a song called “Jesus, Jesus” by Noah Gundersen that my friend performed. I had never heard it before and didn’t know the artist. Turns out he’s a 20-something guy from Washington. Home-schooled and now a folk musician,  Noah fronts the band called The Courage. This song comes from his solo album called “Saints and Liars”(released in 2009). The lyrics are stark and direct. Really the song is a prayer of someone overwhelmed by the wrong in his world, which makes it so appropriate for many who enter 2017 with anxiety and deep concerns.

Noah’s words are below, followed by a YouTube lyric video so you can hear him performing his song.

Jesus, Jesus by Noah Gundersen 

Jesus, Jesus, could you tell me what the problem is
With the world and all the people in it?
Because I’ve been hearing stories about the end of the world
But I’m in love with a girl and I don’t wanna leave her
And the television screams such hideous things
They’re talking about the war on the radio
They say the whole thing’s gonna blow
And we will all be left alone
No we’ll be dead and we won’t know what hit us

Jesus, Jesus, if you’re up there won’t you hear me
‘Cause I’ve been wondering if you’re listening for quite a while
And Jesus, Jesus, it’s such a pretty place we live in
And I know we fucked it up, please be kind
Don’t let us go out like the dinosaurs
Or blown to bits in a third world war
There are a hundred different things I’d still like to do
I’d like to climb to the top of the Eiffel Tower
Look up from the ground at a meteor shower
And maybe even raise a family

Jesus, Jesus, there are those that say they love you
But they have treated me so damn mean
And I know you said ‘forgive them for they know not what they do’
But sometimes I think they do
And I think about you
If all the heathens burn in hell, do all their children burn as well?
What about the Muslims and the gays and the unwed mothers?
What about me and all my friends?
Are we all sinners if we sin?
Does it even matter in the end if we’re unhappy?

Jesus, Jesus, I’m still looking for answers
Though I know that I won’t find them here tonight
But Jesus, Jesus, could you call me if you have the time?
And maybe we could meet for coffee and work it out
And maybe then I’ll understand what it’s all about

A Year of Creating Dangerously, Day 16: Benevolent Alchemists

 

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MacGyvered Capo, House Concert rehearsal, photo by Christina Stapper

“One good thing about music, when it hits you feel no pain” – Bob Marley, “Trenchtown Rock”

I found a t-shirt at Value Village with that quotation on it.  I snatched it off the rack quicker than you could say, “Ya, Mon”! So many things have been said about music by some of the greatest artists in history but this statement by Bob, written into the lyrics of one of his songs, nails it for me. As the Man in Black says in The Princess Bride, “Life is pain, highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.”But music can knock the hell out of pain. Music is not to be trifled with. Music can take that savage beast and body slam it.

Last Saturday evening I had the pleasure of attending a house concert in the cozy confines of my friends’ home. I also had the privilege of playing three songs that night, though my jangly sloppiness seemed almost sacrilegious compared to the esoteric, beautiful and heartbreaking offerings of the other performers – songs by Leonard Cohen, the Wailin’ Jennys, Ryan Adams, Alison Krauss, Ricky Nelson – It was a fine time. And music did its work on me again. I came there tired, worn out from a headache I had battled all day, and not very enthused about my part in the evening. But quite literally within the first few moments of the first song of the night, the music hit me and I felt so good. The pain dissipated, the weariness lifted, and it felt good to be alive again.

I know there are scientific reasons for this; releasing endorphins or endolphins or some such thing. Whatever. All I know is that music has done this for me time and time again. When I am at my lowest, when I’m feeling depressed, or when things just are not that great, I’ll be driving in my car, a song I love will come on the radio and I’ll start singing, maybe even shimmying a bit in my seat (ever done the driver’s seat boogie before?) and my day is transformed into something else. It is magic, science be damned. It is like being given some elixir from a benevolent alchemist; you drink it down and – Voila! You are made new again.

I was reminded of this on Saturday night in that warm and welcoming living room, full of people there to enjoy music and share music. I was reminded about the role artists play in the lives of others. By willingly giving their gifts, they bring healing; they sow joy; they take your barely livable life and make it exceptional and make you so grateful to be alive. Talk about alchemy! It made me very thankful to have so many benevolent alchemists in my life, either those known to me or those who I know only by their art.

These thoughts made me realize the part that I can play in people’s lives. It renewed my thankfulness for my own gifts and talents. So often I disparage them and feel that they are inadequate. It seems a common trait of artists to think whatever they offer is not quite up to par, not as good as the next person, and therefore unworthy to be shared. But the truth is that creating something and offering it to others for their enjoyment or to challenge or to inspire, is a sacred thing. As a sacred thing, what you offer as an artist, crafted distinctly from who you are, is never unworthy. It is magic. And the world always needs more magic.

Always.

 

 

A Year of Creating Dangerously, Day 12: Chagall, the Real Asher Lev

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Self-Portrait with Seven Digits, 1912-13

Artists inspire artists, art begets art.

As I continue to consider a crucial novel to my own artistic journey, “My Name is Asher Lev”, I was led to the real life artist that inspired, at least in part, the story by Chaim Potok. That artist was the Russian-French master Marc Chagall (1887-1985). Chagall was born and raised in modern day Belarus in a Hassidic community by devout parents. His gift was something so strange and unique to arise from his small-town, Jewish context. Chagall himself claims he didn’t even know what drawing was until he enrolled in a non-Jewish school.

The expression of his incredible gift was equal parts faith-inspired and  avant-garde. His use of color and dreamlike images influenced countless other artists, especially those of the Surrealistic movement. He and Pablo Picasso are considered by many to be the greatest painters of the Twentieth century. Picasso himself said, “When Henri Matisse dies, Chagall will be the only painter left who understands what color really is.” His use of crucifixion imagery in telling Jewish stories was revolutionary and directly influenced Potok’s story.

Below is a small gallery of some of my favorite Chagall paintings. See if you are observant enough to notice which painting inspired the musical “A Fiddler on the Roof” 😉

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White Crucifixion, 1938

 

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The Praying Jew, 1915

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The Blue Circus, 1950

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I and the Village, 1911

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The Lovers, 1913-14

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Solitude, 1933

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