Fifty Years Drawing Trees

Trees, as a continuing subject of interest, have accompanied me through my life as an artist. I think it was Basil King, an older, more experienced artist and my informal mentor in the early 1970s who suggested I go out into the street and find some trees to draw.

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I was reading John Elderfield’s excellent book, “The Drawings of Henri Matisse,” and came across a Matisse quotation that attracted my attention. Matisse said that In his earliest works he
“found something that was always the same which at first glance I thought to be monotonous repetition. It was the mark of my personality which appeared the same no matter what different states of mind I happened to have passed through.”

Finding and then defining this “monotonous quality” is not an easy task.

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It is alone that I most enjoy visiting the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Roaming through the large domed rooms and long corridors excites in me the same feeling as standing in the center of a dark field under a starry sky; one feels minuscule, solitary, but also acutely aware of the transcendent powers of human intelligence. True, one is never alone at the Met but the presence of others need not be a hindrance. Rather, the comings and goings of others, their preoccupation with family and selfies, provides continual insight into human nature.
As a solo traveller, I have friends scattered throughout the museum.

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Chatting with Images

Chatting With Images

When Gauguin left for Tahiti (1891 and 1895) “ he took with him a trunk full of photographs and reproductions of art and artifacts that he admired, as well as books, sketchbooks and manuscripts… a portable reference library he would continually turn to for inspiration” (Gauguin, Metamorphoses, MOMA, 2014). He wrote, …”I am taking a whole little world of comrades who will chat with me every day.”

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Franz Kafka is reported to have called Fate anything that cannot be avoided, that which is inevitable. The first thing we think of, of course, is death. This may sound grim but I find humor even in inevitability. It is an ironic, cruel humor. We make elaborate plans, and “Poof.” The juxtaposition of forethought with a lack of control creates a psychic shock. Momentarily, our plans are dislodged and we are imbalanced.

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After a time, making art becomes intuitive, meaning that most of the thinking that takes place is not rational or linguistic. Art is, after all, a visual medium not a linguistic one. But language is so deeply allied with thought that we often think in words. However, we are always using all our senses, and this form of thinking occurs “below” the linguistic level. An intuitive visual art process does not need words. Getting beyond words requires confidence in one’s perceptions and feelings. 

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How Do You Begin A Painting?

This is an even more common question than "how do you know when a painting is finished?" My answer, without trying to circumvent the question, begins before I ever squeeze a tube of paint on my palette. In fact, it begins with the ritual of cleaning up after yesterday's efforts. I like to start each day with a clean slate regardless of whether-or-not I was successful the previous day. 

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