A Year of Creating Dangerously, Day 163: Rage, Rage…

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“Rage, Rage…” Mosaic on canvas, Craft foam and coloured burlap , 2017

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Dylan Thomas and one of my favorite poems inspired my latest artwork. I have been into the mosaic form of late, trying out some new things, experimenting a bit. I had purchased what I like to call “Wal-Mart Art” from a second-hand store in order to use it for artwork but didn’t really know what I was going to use it for. By “Wal-Mart Art” I mean those factory-produced pieces you can purchase at a store for home decorating. I know that sounds demeaning but, honestly, if you’re going to spend money on art, buy some made by a local artist, not a your local Ikea or whatever. That being said, I appreciate that someone originally bought that so that, eventually, I could buy it and turn it into something else!

Ah, life is full of ironies…

I recently came home with a book of poetry (also purchased second-hand… I sense a theme here) in which I’ve been discovering or re-discovering some amazing works. The Thomas poem “Do Not Go Gentle Into that Good Night” resonated with me strongly, probably more so now that I am into my 50’s, dealing with some physical and mental strains, than back in my 20’s when I first studied the poem in college. As I thought of those powerful words of the poem, “Rage, rage against the dying of the light” and my work in mosaic of late, I decided to combine the two.

First, I painted the entire “Wal-Mart Art” piece black (start humming the Rolling Stones tune… now!). I then did some sketching out of how I wanted to space the words. I cut out some templates for the bigger words to make sure everything fit and drew some light outlines of them on the canvas. Then I chose what colors and what shapes I wanted to use, sliced and diced my craft foam and colored burlap, got out the Modge Podge and went for it.

I didn’t do a great job of photo-journaling the process, but below are a few pics to help you see the start-to-finish of this work. First, I’ve printed the Dylan Thomas poem again:

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

 

 

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A Year of Creating Dangerously, Day 151: Silence the Voice

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“If you hear a voice within you say ‘you cannot paint,’ then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.”

I came across this quote by Vincent van Gogh today. For so many of us, especially those with that drive to create, there is that voice within. It is not a kind voice. It is judgmental. It is negative. It is cynical. And it is always spoken with our tone, our inflections, because it is always our voice.  It is very rarely the people around us who discourage and deflate; almost always it is us, snidely dismissing our own desires to paint, draw, dance, sing, act, write… create.

Of course, we will exercise confirmation bias when it comes to the feedback of others. If we don’t receive the enthusiastic response we were hoping for, or we get critique, or we get very little input at all, the voice chimes in immediately, “You can’t do this. You’re not good enough. Give it up. You’re just fooling yourself.” Artists crave a response partly because we create to share with others but also because we are so desperately insecure about our art.

I’m sure Vincent felt this way. In fact, I’m convinced of it. He received very little in the way of support for his art in his lifetime. No one bought his stuff, as hard as that is to believe today. His style was seen as undisciplined, manic, childish, messy, unskilled. Yet today we venerate Vincent, as we should, as the genius he was. Thank God he would not let the inner voice or those outer voices stop him. Thank God he picked up the brush and attacked those canvases in order to silence those voices.

If you are a creative, it is almost a guarantee that you know exactly what your inner voice sounds like. I certainly do. You and I need to heed Vincent’s advice. What am I telling myself I can’t do? What are you telling yourself you can’t do? We’ve just got to go do it, and prove ourselves wrong!

I came across this quote among 25 quotes from artists about art on mymodernmet.com. Here is the link below. Keep creatin’, y’all.

http://mymodernmet.com/art-quotes/

 

 

A Year of Creating Dangerously, Day 118: Self-Portrait on the Cheap

Self portrait in craft foam 2017

Self-Portrait in Craft Foam, 2017

Happy Friday, everybody! True to form (or foam), whenever I’m trying out something new, I often try it out on a self-portrait.

I decided to create some kind of mosaic with craft foam we had hanging around at work. Not knowing what I would make, I chose my fall-back subject matter: Me. This is truly a self-portrait on the cheap as the foam and school glue used to affix it to paper were all purchased at a dollar store. I was very limited in my color choices but that just made the whole thing more challenging and fun.

The mosaic style has always fascinated me: How our brains take shapes and colors, laid out on a flat surface in some pattern, and turns them into something that looks like something we can recognize! On one level, it is just rough, geometric shapes sitting close to each other on a piece of paper; on another level, it’s a portrait of a dude with a beard that kind of looks like me, even if there is quite literally no color in the image that corresponds directly to the colors you would see when looking at me in real life.

Art and its ways of lying to get at the truth never ceases to fascinate me.

A Year of Creating Dangerously, Day 110: the Creative Personality

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In lieu of my own thoughts on the subject, in today’s post I’ve simply given you a link to a great Psychology Today article about the Creative Personality. It is a fairly lengthy article but illuminating. Among other things, it reminds us that the Creative Personality is by no means limited to the Arts. And if you are a creative person, you may discover some explanation of your quirks and idiosyncrasies!

https://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/199607/the-creative-personality

 

A Year of Creating Dangerously, Day 79: I’m a Clueless Creative

Part of creating dangerously, I’ve discovered, is going public even when you have no idea what you’re doing. It is the shameless act of being the Clueless Creative.

I am a creative person, I freely admit that. Acknowledging that fact has helped me better understand myself in many ways. But I also admit that I do not always have a clue about what I am creating or how I am expressing myself as an artist. Like so many creative types, I am drawn to many forms of art. By that I don’t mean I just appreciate different forms of art; No – by that I mean that I try to do many different forms of art. I’m not just talking visual art; for me it has also been music and acting and writing and poetry and photography.

The irony? I don’t really know what I’m doing when I’m doing them. Take playing the guitar, for example. When people say to me, “Oh, I didn’t know you knew how to play guitar!” I often respond by saying, “I don’t!” I am friggin’ clueless about the guitar, really. Whatever I do on it is based on a combination of the most rudimentary knowledge of the instrument plus a heaping helping of making-it-up-as-I-go-along! You may think I’m just being humble, but whenever I get in a conversation with a real guitarist, or they ask me to play along with them, it becomes abundantly clear that I have no idea what I’m doing.

But I do it anyway! What is wrong with me? Why do I do this? There are many people who hide in their basements, strumming guitars, who will never, ever play in public, who are far, far more skilled on the instrument than I. Yet here I am, “playing” the thing in front of people: Chopping away at the twelve chords or so I know, moving that capo up and down, following no discernible strum patterns, having not the foggiest clue about music. I can’t even change the strings on my guitar. Really, if there was a law, they would never give me a license for the thing.

What is this strange impulse to create even when clueless? How to explain it? The same is true in other artistic endeavors I’ve pursued. I also “play” the drums but I often feel like one of those wind-up monkey toy percussionists. My style is so primitive I make Meg White look like Neil Peart (I may not know the drums but I know my drummers!). And acting? I have taken the stage without any knowledge of the craft; actually gone on stage in front of lots of people and pretended I could do this thing (and on more than one occasion, done so in drag)! And writing poetry? I’m sure a poetry professor would skewer me for how I’ve mangled that art form.

I have training in the visual arts. My Bachelor of Fine Arts degree must be good for something, I suppose. But I went about twenty-five years between my art school days and a recent resurgence in creating more art. I feel like a beginner again, in many ways. But when I got back into it, the drive to show others what I’ve done, to make art for others, to be public even with my sketches and works-in-progress, returned with a vengeance. What makes me do this?  And to you other creative types reading this blog, nodding along, also feeling clueless but creating anyway, I ask: Why are YOU doing this?

I have thought about this a lot and there is only one answer I can come up with: Because I have to. No other answer fully satisfies. “Because I can” – well, not really, not all of it; not in any accomplished, fine-arteest way, that is. “Because it’s fun” – that’s close but there are many not-so-fun moments in the act of creating that they would seem to keep me from continually trying. “Because I make a living at it” – Well… BWAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!

Ok, get a hold of yerself, Ron…

I have to create. I have to create whether I think I’m really great at it or not. And I have to share it with other people. I think that is a very important part of the equation. In fact, it may be that part that separates the person dabbling in an art form and the person driven to create. You feel that it is a necessity to make your art for public consumption, for public enjoyment, for public rejection, for public shaming (okay, maybe it isn’t that bad).

This is the dangerous part for most creatives, the riskiness of it all: Being willing to be vulnerable, to be naked with your emotions (or another’s emotions) hanging out in front of the crowd. The funny thing about this fact? You really want to. It freaks you out but, dammit, you really want to share your excellent, mediocre or half-baked gifts with other people. Why? Because you realize that this is one reason why you do it in the first place. And, ultimately, it is why you are here on this little greenish blue globe spinning through space.

The people sharing the globe with you need you to keep creating, even when you don’t feel like you have a clue. That’s the beauty of it. The contributions of Creatives are so necessary to creating empathy, to building bridges, to speaking the unspoken, to wrestling with monsters, to giving channels for laughter and tears and anger and sadness and joy to flow unhindered across borders and barriers and over walls.

It truly would be a hell on earth here without creativity, be it masterful or be it clueless, be it professional or be it child-like. I’m okay with being a small part of making it more of a place called home, instead.

 

 

A Year of Creating Dangerously, Day 73: The Art and Artist Drowned Out by “The Scream”

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The Scream, Edvard Munch, 1893

When does iconic become too iconic?

“The Scream” is much more than the masterpiece of Norwegian painter Edvard Munch (1863-1944). It is so familiar to us in Western culture that it has gained a status beyond artwork. Like the Mona Lisa or “Starry Night”, it has taken on a life of its own and gained its own fame seemingly apart from the person whose hands crafted it in the first place. The sign that this is true is the thousands of parodies and allusions to “The Scream” in our popular culture. We may not be able to name the painter, but we all know that painting. It has become part of the visual lingua franca of our times.

Its too bad, really, because Edvard Munch was a wonderful painter in his own right. He painted hundreds of works in his lifetime and most of them were donated to the Norwegian government after his death. “The Scream” is so important as one of the most powerful examples of Symbolism in art. Symbolists painted the inner workings of their subject matter and were unconcerned with an exact representation of the outward appearance. As Munch himself put it, “Nature is not only all that is visible to the eye… it also includes the inner pictures of the soul.” To that end, Munch created some of the most visceral images in art history. As his own story includes the death of his mother when he was just a boy and his father’s own battle with mental illness, much of Munch’s work is disturbing. But his portrayals are eerily accurate of the state of mind, the anxiety of the heart, fear and loathing, and general angst of the human condition.

“The Scream”, however, is his painting that has become iconic. So iconic, in fact, that much of his other genius is forgotten. Even at school in my art history classes, it was “The Scream” we talked about and maybe one or two of his other works. It makes sense as that was his great contribution to the history of art and culture. It is profound and therefore should be studied and remembered. However, sometimes a work of art takes on such significance that the very significance of its creator seems secondary.

On a recent visit to the National Gallery here in Ottawa, Canada, I saw a work of Munch in the Contemporary gallery that is part of their collection. It was a simple scene of a farm house that looked a lot like something Vincent Van Gogh or Henri Matisse would have done: bold shapes and colors, inviting and accessible, warm and alive with motion. It made me desire to find out what else Munch had painted besides “The Scream”. What else defined the man and his art besides the “inner pictures of the soul”?

Thanks to the Interwebs I could easily discover the answer to my question. I am happy to present a small gallery of works by Edvard Munch that are beautiful, poetic, inviting, peaceful and full of real emotion. He was a lover of the works of Claude Monet and Vincent Van Gogh, this you will clearly see. And he was a true artist who drew inspiration from all of life and all that was around him. Enjoy…

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View Over the Rover at St. Cloud, 1890

 

spring-day-on-karl-johan-street 1891

Spring Day on Karl Johan Street, 1891

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Moonlight on the Shore 1892

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Moonlight, 1895

young-woman-on-the-beach 1896

Young Woman on the Beach, 1896

girls-on-the-bridge 1899

Girls on the Bridge, 1899

the forest 1903

The Forest 1903

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From Thuringewald, 1905

the sun 1909

The Sun, 1909

the-yellow-log 1911

The Yellow Log, 1911

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Winter Kragero, 1912

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The Haymaker, 1916

A Year of Creating Dangerously, Day 44: To Be Nobody but Yourself

As I was looking over my blog posts from the past, I came across this article which seems so apropos for my 2017 goal of posting some daily creativity. I wrote this almost three years ago and am happy to report that I am still on this path… and still winning this fight.  

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My wife bought a piece of artwork with this quote on it for me many years ago. She knows me very well. She understood then and she understands now that the “hardest battle” of my life has been the fight to be truly myself. She loves who I am and wants me to experience that and, more so, wants other people to experience who I am. Yet there are times I’ve felt crushed by the weight of other people’s expectations. And times when I’ve felt that who I am was slowly disappearing.

A friend of mine recently commented to me that it seems I’m going through a “mid-life revival”. I really liked that sentiment. He was referring to the fact that I have been delving back into artwork, posting my creations on Facebook and also writing the very blog you happen to be reading right now (thanks for that, by the way).  Edging closer to 50, I am putting myself out there more than ever and expressing myself in these ways more than I have for many years.

I am an artist. And like so many artists, I’m not content to stick to one area of creative expression but tend to dabble in multiple areas when I get the chance. I have always felt most fully alive when I am making visual art or making music or acting on stage or writing prose. I made the decision to enter the blogosphere because I wanted the impetus to get back into writing for the shear creative joy of it.

For many artists, the act of creating is almost as natural as breathing. But it has not always been so for me. I have had long stretches in life where I felt I was becoming someone else and that artist side of me was fading, fading away. There are a number of factors that contributed to this but most of it had to do with a Twofold set of realities in my life: (1) I am a Christian; and (2) I am a Pastor.

The evangelical Christian world is not always the most welcoming and accommodating world for the artist. Artists, when they are remaining true to their creative impulse, like to push the boundaries, ask the tough questions, challenge themselves and others to view their world from different angles and in different tones and hues. This impulse is not generally encouraged or fostered in the evangelical Christian setting. The mysterious, the mystical, the grey areas, the fringes – these are not places where the Evangelical mind and spirit tend to go. Yet they are precisely where the Artistic mind and spirit go on a regular basis. The Artist doesn’t mind ambiguity, uncertainty. The Evangelical minds it a great deal and much prefers clarity and certainty.

I am generalizing, of course. But I stand by these generalizations because they are so often the way things play out. And so often the Artist feels very much a stranger in a strange land when he or she dares dwell among the Evangelicals. I have dwelt in that place and felt strange indeed. I have sensed the tension. When I did have the Jones to create, I’d find myself self-editing, concerned that I might offend someone. Or I’d have to defend myself for acting in a play in which the character I was playing said “Oh my God.” Or I would get the less than enthusiastic responses that spoke quiet volumes of displeasure about something I had created. And often I found myself tucking the artist in me deep down somewhere where it would not rock any feathers or ruffle and boats.

Yet, ironically, I ended up in Christian ministry, a Pastor. I won’t get into how that all happened because, frankly, after almost 20 years I am still bemused by it. Imagine, if you will, already feeling on the margins of Christian life and then ending up as someone who people look to for leadership in that Christian life. My artistic sensibilities took a beating from my own sense of responsibility to “the Call” and from the expectations of the Flock. When these things conspired together the Artist in me became almost undetectable and I no longer felt the natural impulse to create. I would continue to be creative, of course, and find avenues to do so, but it became a sidebar to my life, not a main part of the story.

I was doing good things for people and trying my best to remain faithful to what I felt God was asking me to do. But my wife could see that who I am and what made me feel most fully alive were not being given adequate expression. So when she came across the quote above, she thought of me.

I do not blame my Christianity or my role as a pastor in the Church for this fight to be myself. If anything, I have found over the years that I have no one to blame but myself. It was my choice to hide things away, to bury the Artist deep within; no one forced me to do these things. If anything, this Mid-Life Revival is showing me my own responsibility in all of that and also challenging me to no longer allow that to happen in my life. And it is my faith, and the belief in a God who created me exactly the way I am supposed to be, that gives me the motivation to be nobody but myself. In fact, I have begun to see that it was the Artist in me, the part of me that liked to push the boundaries, ask the tough questions, not be content with simplistic answers, and continually embrace challenges, that has made me most effective in my years of Christian ministry. I look at the Bible and my faith from odd angles, as an artist would, and that has given a distinctiveness to what I do as a pastor.

To any of you out there who also exist in this tension-land of Art and Faith, I would ask you to take heart. You do belong. You do have a role to play. People will not always understand you. You may offend some. You may confuse others. And there may be times others question your faith or you yourself do the questioning. But as artists we’re here to give expression to alternate realities, to be on a continual quest for compassion, to make people feel a bit uneasy in order for them to see God where they hadn’t seem him before.  That is a scary but fabulous calling.

The Great Artist made you an artist for a reason. So be that artist.

To those of you who are not artists, know that we will sometimes freak you out, whether you are a Christian or not. We will sometimes offend you. We will certainly confuse you. But if you let us speak, sing, act, write, draw, paint, sculpt, dance – create – you will be opening yourself up to a much bigger world. And that expanse in your spirit and mind and heart will make it that much easier to embrace all of Creation. You, too, are unique and uniquely gifted. And you, too, help people see God.

From now on until I die, I want to be unashamedly myself. I still have a lot of work to do but I feel I’m on the right track. I have steeled myself for the fight. Bring it on!

A Year of Creating Dangerously, Day 31: No Boundaries, No Walls

asghar-farhadi“Art removes boundaries and makes the world brighter. It is the common language for people all over the world. But politics are the opposite completely. Politicians, their very meaning is based on the lines they draw.”

Asghar Farhadi is an Oscar-winning film director (“The Separation”, 2012). His movie “The Salesman” has been nominated for an Oscar at this year’s Academy Awards. But he will not be attending. Asghar Farhadi is living in Iran and he has been banned from coming into America. Despite his U.S. Green Card, despite his reputation and regard as one of the most influential and creative people in the world; despite his work to promote empathy and compassion and commonality across cultural, religious and political lines – Asghar Farhadi is not welcome.

Artists must stand with artists. We are all about removing boundaries and making the world a brighter place. And we will continue this fight. Not walls, not bans, not prejudice, not deportation, not torture, not intimidation, not hatred, not fear – We will still be standing when all of that and the evil behind it is ancient history.

Art endures. It endures because it challenges convention, promotes empathy, confronts injustice, gives dignity, invites dialogue, welcomes collaboration, destroys barriers and builds bridges. Art is the antithesis of division and tribalism.

Artists – we need you now more than ever. Keep doing what you’re doing. Go public. Don’t be afraid. The beauty and ugliness and joy and pain and wonder and sorrow you present in your art reminds us of our shared humanity, our common planet, our unity of spirit.

Go and create!

 

 

 

A Year of Creating Dangerously, Day 24: The Creative Process

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So often, works of art come to us as fully formed creations. Whether it’s a song we hear on the radio, a play performed, a painting on a wall or a movie on the big screen, art is usually experienced by most when it has reached that nebulous moment of “completion” and has gone public. Of course, we have more access than ever before to the creative process behind so much art on display. In some ways, it may remove some of the magic. But I believe getting an inside glimpse can also help you see all those mysterious bits and angles, those unexpected and unplanned moments, that creep into any artistic endeavor. It’s not so much seeing the “man behind the curtain” as seeing the muse behind the creation.

Part of the joy of creating is going through the serendipitous happenings and the “oops” that become a key part of what you’re making. That is certainly the case for me, though I don’t always take note of it the way that I should. Or, perhaps, there are so many little moments that add up that it is hard to keep track. However, for my latest artwork, I decided to pay closer attention to the stages it went through and how I responded to those stages. Below is the finished product, which I posted here last week Friday:

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“Divisible” Mixed Media on Poster/Canvas 2017

I’ll now take you through the process, beginning with…

The Angst – I know, I know- “Angst” is a horribly over-used word when it comes to creating art. It has been so over-used and over-done that it has become cliche. But I use it here in good faith and with the meaning of the word fully intact: A feeling of anxiety, apprehension, or insecurity (Webster’s Dictionary definition). I don’t believe every work of art begins here but the artwork above most definitely did.

Though Canada has been my home for over sixteen years, I am an American, born and bred. I don’t need to rehash all the news from the past year that was hashed to death, suffice to say that I am no fan of Donald Trump. In fact, in his campaign and demeanor, in is words and actions, I was appalled that he got so far as to be a candidate for the presidency. I am not a fan of Hillary Clinton, either, but the prospect of her being president did not fill me with dread. As I considered the concept of a “President Trump” I could only see the various divisions in my home country getting wider and wider; I could only see the hatred and extreme rhetoric growing and growing; I could only see families turned against each other, neighbors fearing neighbors, and the weak and vulnerable suffering. My heart was so full of this angst that the slogan “Make America Great Again” attached to such a person and his political agenda seemed a sick joke. Would the healing flow unhindered in the wake of a Hillary Clinton presidency? Of course not. The damage in the U.S. is too dire for one person, administration or political party to fix. But at least there would be some semblance of decency and attempts at unity. In Trump, I saw the total opposite. Like so many millions and perhaps billions of people all over the world, when America cast their vote and it became clear who the winner would be, it felt as if someone had died. I was angry and I grieved.

I do not state the above to get into a political argument with anyone. I simply state it as the reality of where my heart was at as we approached Inauguration Day. My heart was with people, people I love and people who I believe in and still believe in: the Americans I know in the America I still love. That is the “soil” that was prepared in me.

The Inspiration – There are those who would think this is the beginning of the creative process but I would argue that is not the case. The soil needs to be there before seeds are planted. An artist tends to be an open soul, that is, someone who wears their heart on their sleeve; someone who is very sensitive to emotions, happenings in their world, and to how things are effecting them and those around them. Inspiration grows from the soil of empathy.

In the case of my artwork “Divisible”, the inspiration I received came from an unexpected source. For the last few years, I have worked at a day program for adults with developmental disabilities. It is an environment where we provide skill building and employment opportunities to give people purpose and meaning in their lives. We have a number of small businesses including a woodworking shop, a jewelry making business and a pottery studio. I work in an art studio at the day program. There we give people the chance to express themselves individually, on paper or canvas, and then make their work available to the public through art shows and markets.

It was in the context of this studio that I received my inspiration. One young man we support wanted to make a painting a couple of weeks ago. He asked specifically to paint a picture of an American flag. Now, understand, I don’t believe this request was at all politically motivated. I know this individual well and have never heard him talk this way at all. Perhaps he heard staff talking about the coming Inauguration Day or about Donald Trump, or perhaps he just caught a sense of the general zeitgeist of the moment. Whatever it was, he wanted to paint the U.S. flag. So I got him a canvas and some appropriate paints, printed up a picture of the flag for him to see, and the below is what he created:

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I found this work to be amazing. His choice to make the Stripes of the Stars and Stripes veer upward, the expressionistic energy of the brush strokes and stark simplicity was quite profound. It is one of the best things he’s ever painted. And as he was doing it, I began to draw. I drew my own expressionistic, stylized American flags. I ended up drawing four of them, all in oil pastels, all on the motif of the flag. Here are those drawings:

At first I just drew because I felt like drawing. But as I drew an idea started to form: Take these drawings and turn them into one, big expressionist American flag. In doing so, maybe I could recreate some of that angst I was feeling, maybe exorcise some demons, maybe work through the anger and grief and get on with life. I wanted to convey the division I felt ripping through my home country and the pain that rift is causing so many people who really do love America. As so many artists have felt over so many thousands of years, I just had to get this out.

The Pre-Creation – In so many cases with artwork, the real job is in the pre-creation: that time of preparing and planning for what you hope the final product will look like. For the first step, I decided to tear my drawings apart and reassemble them on a canvas surface, preferably with a background of color and texture. With that thought, I set out to find that background. I decided to search my usual haunts: the second-hand stores where you can often find large canvases for little money. I searched through a couple of stores without finding anything suitable. On my way out the door at my local Salvation Army store, I saw the pseudo-artwork below, just sitting on the floor, leaning against the glass of the entryway to the store:

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I am not trying to be mean in labeling this “pseudo-artwork”. But the truth is that it is a pre-packaged item of moody colors and fake textures on a poster stretched over a canvas frame. It’s not a painting, it just looks like it from far away. It is “art” for those looking for something to match their decor and maybe lend a faux-hip vibe to their home. It is Wal-Mart Art. But for my purposes, it was just about perfect. It’s shape was flag-shaped. It was fairly large. And it had a dark background that would make a great contrast to my bright oil pastel drawings. It even had a slight hint of the same lines of an American flag already in it. This was an incredibly serendipitous moment and I knew instantly when I saw it that this artwork of mine was meant to happen.

I set about finding a time that I could complete this piece, knowing I’d need a couple of hours to paste my drawings scraps to this poster/canvas I had discovered. While I was biding my time, I was using my woodless colored pencils at work. When I sharpened them, I noticed how much color was in the shavings. I decided to save the shavings, not really knowing what I was going to do with them, but feeling that they might just come in handy.

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The Creation – The time came free for me to get to work and make this idea a reality. Armed with my scraps of paper, my background, my pencil shavings and my glue, I got busy…

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In the end, I slathered the glue over the top of all the bits of paper I had assembled and stuck on the background, then I took those pencil shavings and literally let them rain down on the artwork; wherever they landed is where I let them stick. Through the whole process I tried to act on instinct and keep a sense of motion and emotion. I didn’t think too much about where the paper scraps were laid down (only to keep a motif of the American flag somewhat in mind) and wanted to leave room for the unexpected to happen. Here is the finished product one more time:

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“Divisible” Mixed Media on Poster/Canvas 2017

The Aftermath – This is a bit of a misnomer, as I didn’t just have thoughts about this piece when it was done; things were occurring to me all during the creation of it. But the pondering of what you’ve done brings to mind all the stuff you didn’t plan; at best, maybe you allowed for the unexpected but it still brings amazement when things happen you didn’t intend.

First of all, I was struck by how the human mind works. This artwork looks nothing at all like an American flag. But our brains reassemble it for us so that when we look at it, we see that iconic image we know so well, regardless of the colors being off and the lines of the original going helter-skelter all over the place. What the viewers’ brain will do is the secret weapon of the artist.

Secondly, I thought about the four original drawings and how they were all different in character. It made me think of how there are so many Americas in the perspectives of so many people, both inside and outside the country itself. We all think we know what the U.S.A. is but, really, we don’t. It is so many different things to so many different people. It seemed fitting that I used those original drawings to craft something that hung loosely together.

Thirdly, despite the title “Divisible” – a title I chose as a direct contradiction to the “indivisible” line of the Pledge of Allegiance – there is still a unity that holds the piece together. It is chaotic and messy, jumbled and frustrating, especially to the orderly-minded, but there is still things that hold it together, despite all of that. There are still things held in common; still things that are shared and valued together.

Fourthly, the colorful pencil shavings I spread all around the piece reminded me that the tapestry of people, cultures, traditions, beliefs, etc. of American people are the highlight of the nation. Often, these things are hidden, sometimes on purpose, sometimes not, in the quest for a unified vision as a country. But diversity doesn’t have to mean division. An understanding and empathy of those different from you gives strength, not weakness. That is a fine quality of the U.S.A. that should not be forgotten.

Fifthly, an “oops” was a large pile of shavings landing on the bottom right portion of the artwork. As I look at it the now, however, the shape seems almost human; more so, it looks like someone walking down a path, maybe moving on; maybe moving forward.

Overall, I realized that what was intended at first to express angst ended up expressing a lot of hope. It ended up being about love, not anger or fear.

That is my interpretation, anyway. Perhaps you see something entirely different or you don’t see anything at all. That is okay. Art is meant to be laid out for public viewing and public scrutiny; it will speak to some, scream to others, and be completely silent to others still. That is both the joy and agony of creating for the artist.

There you have it. I don’t believe this to be any kind of masterpiece. But it is worthy because I offer it to you.

 

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”