Sunday, November 30, 2008

A few good ideas...

Stacey mentioned, "I like to think of it ( painting )as less "reporting" and more "poetry"."

In light of that, I wanted to share a few quotes and a book that many of you have probably read, but for those who haven't, I recommend it as a 'must read'.

The book is "Art & fear", 'Observations On The Perils (and Rewards) of ARTMAKING', by David Bayles and Ted Orland. They call it an Artists Survival Guide, and it asks questions like these....

-What is your art really about?

-Where is it going?

-What stands in the way of getting it there?

This is part of what they write in the intro-

"It is about committing your future to your own hands, placing Free Will above predestination, choice above chance. It is about finding your own work"

Here's a sampling of some of their words to the! ;-)

"In large measure becoming an artist constists of learning to accept yourself, which makes your work personal, and in following your own voice, which makes your work distinctive."

"Making art provides uncomfortably accurate feedback about the gap that inevitaly exists between what you intended to do, and what you did. In fact, if artmaking did not tell you (the maker) so enormously much about yourself, then making art that matters to you would be impossible."

"...The best you can do is make art you care about-and lot's of it!"

"...the first few brushstrokes to the blank canvas satisfy the requirements of many possible paintings, while the last few fit only that painting-they could go nowhere else."

"A finished piece is, in effect, a test of correspondence between imagination and execution."

From Ben Shahn, "The painter who stands before an empty canvas must think in terms of paint." :)

"Fears about yourself prevent you from doing your 'best' work, while fears about your reception by others prevent you from doing your 'own' work."

On talent-
"By definition, 'whatever' you have is exactly what you need to produce your best work. There is probably no clearer waste of psychic energy than worrying about how much talent you have-and probably no worry more common. This is true even among artists of considerable accomplishment."

*Have you ordered the book yet??????*

"What you need to know about the next piece is contained in the last piece."

On finding your work-
"If, indeed, for any given time only a certain sort of work resonates with life, then that is the work you need to be doing in that moment. If you try to do some other work, you will miss your moment." (That is pretty heavy if you think about it. Not sure how to know that, but it makes sense.)


Okay... enough of my tease. There are a few books that we as artists need to have on the shelf. 'The Art Spirit' by R. Henri, 'Hawthorne on Painting', to name a couple of books for thought, and these two. That's my 2cents.

This is a great $10.00 book of only about 120 pages. There is a companion book written by Ted Orland "The View From The Studio Door: How Artists Find Their Way In An Uncertain World", which I just got and have not read yet.


Kim VanDerHoek said...

A lot to think about in this post. I've been thinking about how to paint a landscape that conveys emotion. I'm still very conscious of the painting process itself and am not sure where my feelings about what I'm trying to convey come in. It was interesting to read these quotes with that on my mind.

Marc R. Hanson said...

Hi Kim ( I took a peek at your web site, nice work:)... In my opinion, this is why we do this for a life time. This is why we don't 'conquer' painting at 23 and quit. From what I've read and learned, it takes a LOT of painting so that the 'process' isn't noticed.

I'm trying to learn to play an instrument...okay...the mandolin. Only because I love how Jimmy Page plays it, and a bunch of other musicians who I've discovered since starting this quest, who play the mandolin in a way that speaks to me. Renaissance mandolin music from Italy, and frankly a lot of blue grass, doesn't get much of my interest. But David Grissman (mandolin) and Jerry Garcia playing Grateful Dead tunes together makes me want to play! I will never, repeat...never, ever....again...ever be able to play that instrument like those guys do. They play so well that the technical aspects of playing the thing are moot. They are taking the instrument and bending it to say what they want to say as artists.

That's what I dream about being able to do as a painter.

That's what we need to learn to do as painters/artists. That's the goal that leads to a lifetime of learning about painting. Not to become the best 'renderer' as is possible (not for me anyway), but to become such a good technician that we don't have to think about how to paint, but what to say with it.

The authors of this book are saying that we think too much about what we do. That we'd be better off to crawl into our own interior more and work from that viewpoint, and not to worry about comparisons with others, the public or anyone BUT our own ideas and visions. There's more there than I can recount now. It's really a good read and worth the money.


Marc R. Hanson said...

By the way, I cannot play anything else musical...:)

Solvay said...

I liked best:
"...the first few brushstrokes to the blank canvas satisfy the requirements of many possible paintings, while the last few fit only that painting-they could go nowhere else."

Solvay said...

mandolin - I forgot to comment on that part........
are you taking lessons or teaching yourself?
do you find one hand easier than the other to learn - how's the timing between the two coming along?
lots of interesting questions, here, as you can imagine.

here's a quote for you, roughly: music is made by the silences between the notes. Claude Debusey (though I commonly misspell his last name.......)

Janelle Goodwin said...

Marc, I feel this is just the nudge I needed. As SOON as I leave this page, I'm going to Amazon to order Art and Fear. It is a lot to think about but it makes perfect sense to me that making a painting is all about the idea and getting in touch with our authentic selves. This is what makes each painting totally unique and that is what shows through to the viewer. Thanks for your thoughtful post.

Marc R. Hanson said...

Solveg... The book is for All artists, writers, musicians, painters, photographers...all of us. They include the various disciplines in all of their discussions throughout the book.

I'm teaching myself to play the mandolin. So you see the trouble I'm in! ;) I'm completely enjoying it and the calluses are getting tougher by the day.
I used to read music and as a youngster tried to play the guitar. So this part, the beginning stage, isn't that unfamiliar to me. I'm already further along than I ever made it with the guitar. I'v always said that I wasn't musical, like people say "I can't draw anything but a stick figure!". I'm out to prove myself wrong, and they should too. :)

Marc R. Hanson said...

Good Janelle! We've probably all read, thought, heard or instinctively know these things already. Always good to renew the 'purpose' amidst the chaos of daily work and life. It's good with coffee or tea. :)

Solvay said...

I've never met an unmusical person. That unmusical thing comes from hideous elementary school music teachers. Maybe not everyone is a virtuoso violinist but EVERYONE is musical. Hah!
: )

And, I'm GLAD you're teaching yourself. That's what I was hoping, actually...

You'll be excellent!

If you have any questions (since mando and vio are exactly the same in the left hand) maybe I can help.

William R. Moore said...

I use to sell art books on ebay and I found the following site was best for locating the best prices.

Amazon does not always have the best prices.

I just puchased a good copy for $1.28+$3.49 S&H. ($4.77)

Frank Gardner said...

That is a good book Marc. I have borrowed it, but don't have it on my shelf for picking up once in a while. I think I should get a copy.

Your blog is chock full o stuff these days. Is it cold up there or something?
I came back to comment on the painting below and you have a new post again.

Oh, and the mandolin... I love the sound so good luck with that. J Page really can make it sing.
Note to you AND Solveg. I am NOT musical and can't even teach myself to play my neighbor's Guitar Hero. LOL

Anonymous said...

Hey Mark,

I'm really impressed with how often you're posting. It's great to see what you've got on the blog, whether its more paintings or more thoughts. Your paintings are beautiful. I really enjoy your work. Great paint handling and lovely color.

I also find your writing really worthwhile. Thanks for sharing so much about what's in your head. I like hearing what other painters have to say about art, and specifically the psychology of being a creator. I think the technique is the easy part to learn, compared to all of the swirling confusion and ego stuff that goes on in my head. (technique isnt' really easy either, but keeping my head level about my work can seem much more complicated... maybe just harder to control. In some ways they are both linked together, technique and idea.)

I really enjoyed that book, "Art and Fear." It tells you alot of things you already may know, but forget. Alot of these books are so helpful as reminders of what we should and could be doing with our art. And isn't one of the writers a pianist? or a musician? The more I read and learn, the more it seems like all of us creators are dealing with the same problems, but through different mediums.

Thanks for the post.

Solvay said...

Frank: you are TOO musical. I can prove it. If you come up here to CO-HO-HO-HO-LD Minnesota, I'll treat you to some piano lessons and you'll see that you are WRONG. HA HA HA! Or, here, I'll teach MARC some free piano lessons, and then he can go to WA-AH-AH-AH-RM Mexico and pass it on to YOU.

Thanks, Marc, for the space - you're welcome to chat with Frank over on my nonblog blog, any day!

ha ha ha

Stacey Peterson said...

Thanks for posting all of these quotes Marc - I'm going to have to dig up my copy of Art and Fear and reread it. I confess that I bought it a few years ago when I was still too concerned with learning how to put paint down to think about anything much deeper, and so I don't think I enjoyed it as much as I would now. This is a good reminder to read it again!

Marc R. Hanson said...

Solveg, you haven't met me... or Frank it sounds like! :) I can love music galore, but so far making it is like I said, "I can't draw a stick man!!! " I can't carry a tune! Really, it's a BIG challenge for me. I'm always up for a challenge, so we'll see what happens.

Well, that's the good part. I've heard that if I can learn fingering and notes on the mandolin, as you say, that I could play the (sorry) fiddle. I would like to be able to play the Hardanger I know I've lost my mind.


Marc R. Hanson said...

William thanks for that, seriously. But... do you know how to buy a house for about $150.00? That I could really benefit from! ;)

Marc R. Hanson said...

Frank it's 14˙F and dropping. Just not quite as nice as it was in July to go out painting.

I'm with you musically. I can listen real good and sing in the shower.

But you know, I see people who "want" to learn to paint struggle through classes and persevere and feel good about it. So I'm giving it a shot.

And besides, it's a cheap hobby, one that I can afford!

Yeah, I've heard about this book for a long time too. But just recently saw one on the shelf at B&N and picked it up. I'm glad I did.

PS...I think it's the fourth track on the Eddie Vetter sound track, 'Into the Wild'...the song is ...'Rise''s almost all mandolin and it makes me want to play one. Worth a listen if you haven't heard it.

Solvay said...

If I knew your phone number I'd call it up and listen to your outgoing message to hear if you have inflection in your voice - if you have any at all, you can carry a tune.

Solvay said...

For anyone wanting to hear that mandonlin song, Rise, here's a link to it:

: )

I will also put it on my blog playlist....

: )

Marc R. Hanson said...

Hi Colin. I appreciate what you've said...big time!

Thank You.

I went over to your website, which I had bookmarked at some point in time, and poured through your paintings and writings. Though not enough and will return.

You're doing great things there and I will be a frequent visitor.

I struggle constantly with the ''why's''... not in a serious emotional way... but in the daily grind of what I do as a painter. There's a dichotomy, in my mind, between the physical, day to day act of painting...and the act of being, saying, and doing something creative with my time spent 'painting'.

We All go through this time period of learning how to use the materials, and it takes a LONG time no doubt. Longer for some than others (I'm one of the 'longer for some' painters...:), but in every single case many years and long hours must be spent on the 'craft' of painting as the foundational tool that makes it possible for a painting ( or craft ) to evolve into Art... I believe anyway.

In my mind that's where the struggle to become independent, in a way, from your skills begins, once the craft has become second nature. I don't know if everyone will agree with the word 'craft', but anyone can pick up paints and learn the ABC's of how it is used. I don't want to alienate any particular activity, that some might be called artists for doing, or to sound arrogant about what I (we here) do. But IMHO there are activities that people do using the same materials that you and I and other artist use that are not 'saying' anything about their world in personal way. They're probably saying something about their world, now that I think about it, but not on purpose!

I'm one of those ( you ) people who can not exist without painting. Painting is life, day in and day out, no matter what else happens. It's been that way since I was young, though I had a lot of other interests and thoughts about what to do in life (outside influence, and some of the options would have been a lot of fun :)..), painting made it obvious that it would not let go of me. As I started having and raising children, being involved in all of the activities that occupy one's time as a parent and in a marriage ( paying bills for instance ), and as I go through all of life's episodes still, painting has been my identity as a person and the one constant in life no matter what else is taking place.

Well, this is getting too serious. I agree though, it's good to listen to and read about other artist's ideas concerning the 'struggle' of the Artist. It let's us all know that we are in the same game, it's not different because we use paint, or steel, or musical notes, or a keyboard (replacing pen and paper...:).

Thanks for the thoughts Colin.

I remember hearing when I was starting to seriously learn about materials that it takes artists many, many years before they're considered matured. I thought then that they meant it took that long to learn to use the 'stuff' in a masterful way. Now I understand, it meant that it takes a long time to learn to 'speak' with the materials you use.

I can't wait till that time arrives, if it ever does! :)

Marc R. Hanson said...

Stacey I hear you. I had the Art Spirit, Carlson's Guide to Landscape Painting, Harold Speed's "Oil Painting Materials and Techniques", and his "Science of Drawing' for years before it made anything but noise in my head. It's so true, we have to be ready for these things.

I'm still uncovering what some of my instructors meant in art school. Dan McCaw gave so much valuable information that was waaayy beyond me at the time. And my color theory classes, whew... I thought I'd never understand what was being said. Only now is some of it making sense. I'm probably exposing my 'slowness'... but that's fine. At least it is finally making sense to me...I'm finally ready to hear it.

These books are like that to.

Happy reading.

Marc R. Hanson said...

Thanks for the link Solveg. I Love that song!!! That entire CD actually. The movie was pretty cool too.

Marc R. Hanson said...

One more thing, opinion of mine, about mastering materials vs saying something with them.

There are a lot of VERY good "hands", as I like to call them, out there painting.

They can paint ANYTHING that they want to paint and do it absolutely expertly.

But... I find that a lot of that kind of work leaves me cold, not knowing what the point is other than to fill square inches of space with masterfully handled paint, for instance.

To clarify... I am not talking about a landscape painter like George Inness ( in his middle and later period of painting ), or a figurative painter like Sorolla or Repin, or a modernist like Kline or Pollock. Those painters said something like it or not.

As a painter, those are lives well lived IMO.

Off to paint.

Jala Pfaff said...

I loved this book too. It packs a powerful punch in so few pages.

Marc R. Hanson said...

Jala... I'm about to read it again. I really appreciate others being able to verbalize what we all think about in our own time.