Sunday, May 30, 2010

Oil Painting, Art, and Presence

Should I paint today or take the car to be serviced?  Maybe I should empty the cat box, or pay my bills, or answer emails, or play computer chess, or check the price of gold, or go to the gym, or have the doctor check the mole on my ass, or maybe just make my wife happy for once--maybe just stay in bed all day watching classic movies?  I know!  I'll just put in some chew and pee off my second story studio deck!  I love the simple things most anyway--I can paint later.  What did happened that is interesting and profound is that I discovered today, 6/1/2010, that it makes absolutely no difference what I do next--with a few tiny exceptions.

Have you ever been doing one thing and wishing you were doing something else? Have you ever been with somebody while thinking of another?  How about being in one place wishing like crazy you were somewhere else?  Most of my life is spent being three places at one time--pretending to be listening, hoping she would just shut up--painting while wishing I was on the golf course, being on the golf course wishing I was painting--saying one thing while meaning something else.  I could make this list a mile long!

Do you know what I am describing?  I am describing your life my dear fellow artist!  O yes I am!  Now come on--who loves ya?  Hell--you probably don't even know--you're so distracted!

I have just painted a picture of living in hell. I know about this because I have spent decades in a semi--no complete--State of Non.  Did you know that Non is a state?--its capitol is Everywhere, and its zip code is 12345--ready, set, go--non-hearing, non-presence, non-passion, non-art, non-life.

I have lost fortune, family, friends, fame, face, fraternity, and other things beginning with "f" from fleeing focus and friendly forces and following instead fiendish fettishes feigning friendship--finished?--foowey!  Well fine! Yeah, right--you didn't do this because you read the book and went to therepy and became a Buddist--not so fast, Bucko!  If I think I am imperfect and have not lived a perfect life--then think how much I believe you are not perfect and have not lived the perfect life--are we still friends?--hope so.

 Several things  come to mind here.  Sorolla said he was doing art all the time--even while in conversation with an interviewer.  Robert Henri said that the person, not the painting, is the art.  Oral Hershiser said he was singing Amazing Grace while on the mound pitching for the Dodgers in the world series--which they won.  Sergei Bongart said--"...don't think, just paint."  What do these things suggest?

I am not sure what they suggest--sorry. They may suggest that more is happening than meets the eye--something very profound and wonderful may be happening that is multi-layered--I don't know. One thing is fairly clear to me, however--time, aging, events, Jesus, the Holy Ghost, and the Virgin Mary are converging in my life--showing me that my time is short and that the Second Coming is in the present--that it has already occured---that I have already been included in the rapture and, most of all, that the time is now for this stuff--what stuff?

Well I don't know all about the "stuff", but I do know where it happens for me--it happens in my existence--in my real life here and now, in the moment second by second--in an existence interrupted, nudged, whispered to, invaded by something that is mysterious and faint (yet screaming)--intersected  by something that interrupts the train of all that is selfish, self absorbed, self indulgent, self destructive, and dangerous--this something I did NOT create, can't control, can't exploit, can't begin a start-up with or make money off of or hand to you free of charge.

It seems that an intersection occurs in the moment, and can be grasped internally by any man, any time, in any circumstance.  An "intersection"--that's as good as I can come up with.  Is that oblique enough for you?  You took Philosopy 101--right?  You read the book, took the class, went to the ashram, heard the sermon, watched Dr. Phil, Oprah, Tony Robbins,  and that other asshole whose name slips me at the moment.  OK--then why hasn't anything changed?  Why are you so absent?  I am not begging the question here--I am just being rude!  It comes naturally for me--remember?

Well, this "stuff",  this "intersection" happens to me--in my life, my time, my heart beat, my bones, my art, and my soul--while I still have breath.  I know that this sounds very Californian--more like Southern Californian--where preoccupation with the self is a cultural trait.  But what I am suggesting here is that art, success, meaning, satisfaction, healing, pleasure--even glory confront every man.  Presence, not transcendence, is every man's heritage--no matter what his circumstances.  Presence mingled with irony, mystery, and confusion--this is the ticket to heaven.

Many believe that your life is what you make it, and that the great game of chance leaves some in and some out.  Make hay while the sun shines, keep your hand on the plow, your ear to the ground, your head up and your mouth shut--try to play golf in that position--hell with'em! 

What about that little boy or girl playing in the garbage heap in the third world, what about the stroke patient that requires three aids for a butt wipe, what about the baby born with no cranium to protect his  precious little new born brain?  We are better off than they--maybe.  Maybe not.  Since you are so sensitive, so smart--you tell me.  Since I am writing this--I will venture a few closing (thank God) thoughts or ruminations on the above profundities.

I'll make is simple.  If you are profoundly present in your own life, in the moment--a moment that is open to intersection with mystery, irony, and confusion--then you are an artist.  It doesn't matter if you paint, sculpt, change transmissions, farm, shovel manure, teach school, are a nanny or the president--or live on a pile of dung that is your life at the moment--art is happening.  You see--art is not what you do--its what happens to you--you don't do it--it does you--you don't create it--it creates you--you are the art, silly.

So, then, whatever you do for the rest of the day--art is going on.  If you get to paint a little--then you get to leave a record that others may see and think--another human was here and left us this nice record of her journey--wow!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Only One Spirit

There are many spirits so-called in the world.  I like to think that there is only one spirit,  and that is the Holy Spirit.  Spirit of this--spirit of that--especially art spirit--what a waste!--the Holy Spirit is the only one I trust, and I think She is a beautiful woman who carries a flaming, razor sharp, two edged sword ready to cut down anything that would hurt Her babies.  I have heard that prayer changes things--foowy!  Prayer changes the prayee--the world only changes secondarily.  Half--no, more than half--of the things we pray for would kill us if they were granted.  I think God only answers prayers that keep us safe and whole.  I am becoming an old guy now (63 today), and all I really want to do is to die in peace and unafraid.  The problem is--I won't get the grace to do that until the time comes.  I wouldn't miss dying--the notion of a sudden exit from the ground to meet Jesus in the air, as some believe, is scary as hell itself--like Freddie Krugar, the chainsaw killer.  I have had sex, learned to drive a car, flown an airplane, had grandkids, been married three times, gone bankrupt, been forclosed (rather modified), hit one home run in Little League, and made touchdowns on the football field--what's left?  I have been so happy lately that I can hardly stand it.  My art career is in full gear at long last.  I feel that great things are about to happen to me--like finding a chewing tobacco that won't make me sick--I can't wait.  I am trying to cut some deals with the Holy Spirit as I write that will help me sink 4 foot putts--keep me in your prayers.

Here is  portrait I did for a friend.  It is kind of tight, but what can I say--I am not perfect--Don

Thursday, May 13, 2010

For All You World Weary Bastards

God's Grandeur

     The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man's smudge and shares man's smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs --
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

Gerard Manley Hopkins

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Faithful Ponder As......

Hatfield Wanders

My Demo At S-12 Still Life Workshop

 I thought it was time to establish or to re-establish some bit of credibility with my students so that they would be inclined to listen to what I say.  I have taught as a sub from K through 12th grade during graduate school in Pasadena,  and have taught college level History, Sociology, and Philosophy of Religion at Allen Hancock Junior College in Santa Maria, California.  I am aware of just about all of the blockages that occur when students are summoned to sit and listen to a teacher,  and I try to override these blockages with dirty jokes, hugs, prayers, enlightened content, entertaining antidotes, candy, soft rock....

Anyway I wanted to illustrate some points relating to the "big mass" approach to oil painting.  Specifically the technique of holding off on the final color, final notes and accents, final rendering, and final anything else you can throw in--until the big masses within a painting are correctly placed, unified,  and adjusted for color/value.  Paint the forest before the trees--the dog before the fleas.  Don't shoot too early for final effects,  develop the whole canvas at one time, keep the initial vision alive til the end--so on and so on.....

I don't employ books, charts, templates, recipes, or anything related to abstract answers to the question--", how do you paint."  I point students to sources of oil painting instruction that are universally available.  I  admonish those who look to me for artistic advice to seek God, take serious vows of poverty, let goods and kindred go, get into rehab,  and buy good brushes and paints.  I also show them how I do it through live demonstrations accompanied by all of the above knowledge and techniques--except one!--at least so far.