I previously wrote about creating the the image above. However, I felt that the picture could change in compelling ways. The blue and green colors set an evening atmosphere and I imagined the light and color changing. I also could see a time when the child is no longer the center of the landscape. First other colors were sampled. I was searching for an intuitive balance. The result is a composition with more elements contrasting and thus a busier looking image.
I created another version in with a similar blue and green palette. This time the center is more open. At first I wanted to leave the center ’empty’ (i.e. lacking figures, trees or other elements). However, the maximalist in me could not let this happen. Rather, I settled for a scene where not much is happening.
A fourth version was created in an attempt to focus colors on a day time color scheme.
By re-making the image several times surprises were found, comparisons were made, and reappraisals became possible. The transformations of this image were limited. Thus, re-exploring the image felt akin to going for walks in the same forest but at different times of the day, at different temperatures, or in different seasons. There are times when repetition is drudgery. However, usually there is an opening to see something new and it could come from a small change in procedure or perspective. The walk might be the same but the opportunity to reflect holds possibility. Paradigm shifting ideas are rare, whereas incremental adjustments are available and the results can reach further than expected.
A while ago someone told me that “winners never quit”. This stuck with me because the same person also had an inability to quit arguments. The need to supply the last word can be powerful. While determination is a good quality, there are times when a single minded determination causes a breakdown that is either personal or related to others. More often than not, never giving up in the context of an argument or debate brings a measure of failure.
There are many kinds of wins and losses. Some losses are inevitable. For example, we all lose aspects of ourselves with the passage of time and ultimately we lose our life. Both wins and losses almost always come with the help of influences outside of our control. Furthermore, it is impossible to truly have one without the context of the other. Winning and losing are bound together and require a perspective. Without perspective there is little judgement and little learning. A person who believes he or she never loses is a person in denial.
As challenging as some losses are, and there are many we do not want, greater reflection and learning usually comes from these circumstances. Sometimes the loss is so great that we need the strength of others. This is not weakness but rather growth. We become bigger people, in a spiritual sense, by reaching out to others. While experiences differ, there is always someone else in the same boat and many others with special abilities (e.g. a nurturer, a listener, an organizer etc.). Finally, while the phrase “winners never quit” can be attributed to a self help author and later associated with a football coach, it may be clever to keep reading for more balanced wisdom.
Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after. – Henry David Thoreau
Many of us have little time for home life. We are busy working and taking care of our basic needs. However, what we do with our extra time largely defines us. When life is busy, time spent making art or even looking at art becomes precious. If we can grasp a little time, then we may end up with something more valuable then we expected.
Recently I made a picture that I felt more specifically addressed time. Working on what I could when I could, I picked away at the drawing. I started by looking at Brâncuși’s sculptures, in particular his series Bird in space. I imagined the birds that may have inspired him. Building on this, I thought of all the things that fill the sky and what I might see if I looked long enough or if I had a little more time. I remain unconvinced that if I had more time I would use it more wisely. Fitting in what is possible with what we have seems to be more important. While I have always found ways to make art, it is harder now and the intervals are longer. Regardless, I am gaining a better understanding that there is never a better time than now.
The image featured here was built from a collection of inspirations. While chance is a part of almost every decision, when an artist starts to add more than one subject within a drawing or painting chance becomes a unifying force. In other words, I can say where one part of the image comes from. However, as a whole it is much hard to estimate a complete meaning. While words can not complete the picture, we can have a sense or have a visual understanding about the sum of the parts. This is facilitated by the pattern of decisions that the artist infuses into his or her work.
The pattern of artmaking is often discussed among other artists as a strategy. Because there are many potential choices involved in creating art, limiting certain options creates a focus. Even the most chaotic art has a strategy. Lacking other structure or stated meaning, there is always a place where the artist started and then stopped working. This picture employs a color strategy. While not totally blue, there is an attempt at a dominate blue image with a focus on cool colors. The effect gives the picture a sense of the evening. For me the graphic drawing and the color choices feel like two different animals or like trying to work with both left and right hands. One hand is always a bit more adept then the other, and at times we have to struggle with the hand we are less use to using.
While using hands as a metaphor for balancing abilities, they are also a central element in the picture. It is not apparent that the central figure can see all the elements around him. However, he is reaching and trying to feel his way in a world with many moving elements. In a broad sense, this is also what art allows us. That is, to feel with all our limitations, and reach for a higher order.
Notes: While the subject of color is vast. I was introduced to it in a formal way by Richard Cramer. Later I came across a wonderful book Color in Contemporary Painting (Watson-Guptill Publications, 1991) by Charles LeClair.
Over the past few years, I have received calendars that hold images of artwork found in Polish church collections. One painting that I found depicts Kyiv Pechersk Lavra, a church monastery in Ukraine, as well as its founders Saints Anthony and Theodosius. I responded to the picture because of the way the figures mirror each other. Perhaps this is symbolic of the way saints closely match each other in their words and deeds. I was also curious about the background buildings and was surprised to find that the depiction was of Ukraine and not Poland. With the current war initiated by Russia, it is hard to know if sacred places such as Kyiv Pechersk Lavra will remain safe. However, the image and the idea of place provided a point of focus to pray for Ukraine.
While the image above comes from a 2020 calendar, nearly two years later the war reminds us that in a heartbeat lives are changed. Hopefully, the madness will end sooner than later and there can be renewed work toward peace and prosperity.