When Amy Sherald was growing up in Columbus, Georgia in the 1970s, her dentist father encouraged her to go into medicine. “There was this attitude of, ‘The civil rights movement was not about you being an artist,’ ” she remembered. But as an introvert, Amy enjoyed painting and running and, unsure of what else she was good at, she felt drawn to a life in art. “I don’t feel like I chose to do it,” she said. Near the end of her MFA, during a medical check-up, Amy’s doctors told her that she had a barely-functioning heart and that she would eventually need a transplant. She was 30 years old.
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Every once in a while some experts will have a conference and announce that painting is now dead. They are usually referring to somewhat realistic paintings that depict something or other that a more or less average person can understand.
I’m painting in a place called Treguier in Brittany. About a hundred meters along the quay, another man is also painting. As it’s time for a Pernod, I take the opportunity to have a look.
A question appeared in the inbox recently, and I’m wondering what you think: A brother and sister inherited two of my dad’s paintings and devised a plan for how to best enjoy them. They decided to each keep one painting and wrote to ask if they could make two giclées — high quality digital copies, most likely on canvas, made on an inkjet printer. This way, brother and sister could enjoy both paintings in each of their homes.
In the new pile of books brought by Santa and others, I noticed an early edition of The Inner Game of Music. Written in 1986 by Barry Green, former Principal Bassist for the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, “The Inner Game” explores how musicians can temper the hang-ups that stymie heightened creative expression. After researching the nuts and bolts of peak performance with his co-author, sports psychology coach W. Timothy Gallwey, Green determined that performance techniques used by tennis players might also be applied to the arts. Artists, like athletes, while chasing flow and the truth, can instead be bound up with fear, perfectionism, rote ad bad vibes.
Amid 20th Century masterworks here at the Art Gallery of South Australia glimmers a collection of small watercolour landscapes: delicate white ghost gums striped in creeping shadow, wisps of desert brush and tumbleweed, weighty, dirt-red hills under distant clouds. Unlike the museum’s flashier acquisitions, the landscapes hint at timeless spaces, their strokes describing light and leaves, inviting us in with a quiet ease. I drag my nose through a plump, dauby stand of sap green gums, whispering aloud, “Who, what, when, where?”
“Pride,” said Alexander Pope, “is the never-failing vice of fools.” This certainly applies when we kid ourselves that something we’ve done poorly is somehow worthy. Fact is, pride’s always suspect, even dangerous. Religions warn against it. Along with envy, gluttony, lust, anger, greed and sloth, pride is one of the Seven Deadly Sins.
In 1970, Geoffrey Bardon was teaching elementary school art in New South Wales when he could no longer ignore the emotional struggles of his Aboriginal students. In an effort to gain insight, he applied for a teaching post in a remote government assimilation centre 240 kilometres west of Alice Springs. In his diary, he described Papunya as “a hidden place, unknown on maps, considered by officials as a problem place,” where 1400 people had been gathered from scattered tribal groups, having been forced from their land and way of life.
In 1954, when Ernest Hemingway learned that he had won the Nobel Prize for Literature, he remarked, “This prize belongs to Cuba, since my works were conceived and created here, with the inhabitants of Cojimar, of which I am a citizen.” Attracted at first by marlin and swordfish, Hemingway fell in love with Cuba and moved here in 1939.
For Hemingway, Cuba meant new scenery, new people and a clean start.
Artists and art-material suppliers come together at Pearl Paint’s Great American Art Event in New York. “Secrets” here are bought, sold and given away. Popular instructors demonstrate “trees, rocks and water” or “fruit, vegetables and lace” or “how to paint ‘itty bitty’ paintings” or “how to master abstraction.” With lots of free paint, brushes, stretched canvas and art boards, it’s a creative rummage. For many, the gods are in the equipment. Others come for motivation or inspiration. Most are looking for techniques to match the quality of today’s materials.
A subscriber wrote, “Do you ever get stuck? I’m not producing, yet I have endless ideas. I have a studio doggie, take walks in nature, eat well — all the right stuff — but I’m still stuck. There’s some kind of block when I come back to the cabin. Any ideas?”
n addition to the pillars of a studio dog, a daily walk and a quality snack, one other mysterious component could perhaps aid in the recovery of the blocked artist.