A recently retired schoolteacher shared her career-long response to students complaining of boredom: “Only boring people are bored.” I strained to think of an artist who had ever complained of being bored. I wondered: Are artists innately gifted with a love of time? Are they anointed with savvier powers to daydream, to reflect, to be curious, inventive, doodling and self-reliant? Do they possess a diminished need for pastimes and entertainment? How did they get here? Are artists born not bored?
Depending on your point of view, he was either one of the world’s most important painters, or the original amateur. J. M. W. Turner (1775-1851) influenced many artists, particularly the impressionists. (Monet and Pissarro were knocked over by his work) His paintings of luminous vapour have etched their way into the popular imagination.
One magic day years ago I stood in front of the real stuff at the Tate in London. Ever since then I’ve been wired for Turner — both the artist and the art. I always feel I owe him a visit.
Liz Reday of Southern California wrote, “What do you do with all the extra art? Especially after fifty years of painting? How do I build a storage shed that will adequately protect the paintings and get them out of my now cluttered studio? Yes, I intend to destroy a number of the unfortunate unsuccessful ones (note I don’t call them “dogs”) but we can’t burn outside here in Southern California. Is a raised wood deck archival for storing paintings or is it better to have a concrete slab? Do your readers have any suggestions?”
These days the wind blows on this island from the northwest, fluttering hard the worldwide flags of the beach-cottagers. Clouds form over the distant coastal ranges, building among the highest peaks. Then they move out into the great gulf and rise to pass overhead. Effortlessly they form and reform. They have their early character and their late. In the morning: blue-gray, transparent, understated. In the evening: warm, purpled, energetic, dramatic. These clouds present the perennial quandary: Do I redesign them to suit a composition — to add control and solidity to the work? Or do I go with the arbitrary mystery of the vapour — the magic of hiding and transformation?
In July 1977, a broke and couch-surfing screenwriter was sparked to action by a book of paintings by a Swiss surrealist. He called the artist in Zurich and invited him to work on some concepts in Hollywood. The artist, an insomniac who suffered from night terrors, was also afraid of flying, so they agreed instead on England, where for 11 months the artist lived above a pub in Shepperton, Surrey. There, he built a prototype out of Rolls Royce parts and reptile vertebrae, working only from a brief sent in the form of a letter from Los Angeles
Last weekend I attended an exhibition of the work of a wide range of painters. A lot of it was photo-derived — some of it really crackerjack — others not so hot. Why is it that some people can take photographic reference and make it exciting, while others only succeed in reproducing a photo?
A lot of it has to do with the analysis that an artist gives to the reference prior to picking up the brush. Here are a few ideas you might find useful
Near Sydney’s Circular Quay, a set of stone steps wanders through the historic foundations of Australia’s first European settlers. Here, convicts and pioneers of 1788 erected new lives amid gum trees and sandstone. “The Rocks” or “Tallawoladah,” as the Aboriginal Cadigal people called it, swirls today with ice cream lickers and city slickers, though its colonial past still pokes from behind the doorways of its remaining terrace houses. Across from the cutting-edge Museum of Contemporary Art and its Aboriginal masterworks nods the dusty entrance to the Julian Ashton Art School.
Every few days someone asks me to send a personalized checklist of things they need to do and think about while they’re painting. As everyone’s creative concept is really quite different, this is a tough order. Even though I may have looked at the work, their continued flourishing depends on a unique vision and a sense of individual entitlement. We are all specialists of some sort, and specialization demands we make our own checklists. In our game there’s no silver bullet, no one size fits all.
An artist who wishes to remain anonymous called to say he’d fallen out with his creative partner. As a result, he was bogged down with disappointment, bad blood and a logjam of paperwork needed to release a big idea, now begging for a clear-headed, singular captain. Apparently, this idea was special enough to be fought for, but mourning, reworking and cleansing it has drained his bank account and put a hold on other creative options, paralyzing his happiness and momentum. At the risk of simplifying his problem, I suggested he get to work right away on something else.
Near where I live there passes an ancient pathway called the Semiahmoo Trail. It was first used by native peoples — the Semiahmoos — then by gold seekers, and later — not much more than a hundred years ago — by the first settlers in our area. Much of it has now been overtaken by urban sprawl. Some sections have been designated a heritage trail, bike path or nature walk. In some places it calls for a strong heart — small posts mark kilometers and encourage citizens to use it to increase their heartbeat.