May 12th, 2012
A long time friend of mine had a serious heart operation in November and it was touch and go for about a month. While recovering she told me that while in the hospital, even though she was heavily medicated, she kept thinking about the paintings she would create when she was back home. “I knew I would make it, I still have too many more paintings yet to do” she told me while we painted together over the winter.
From the time I arrived in December until I left at the end of March I saw her come back to the living and the old spark was gleaming in her eyes again. She started teaching again and with each passing week she became stronger and healthier; which made me stop and think about other times when I have seen this happen with some of my students. Some were depressed; some were going through health problems; others grieving from the loss of a loved one. All of which over the course of time were healed.
Art has a way of healing the Soul and the Spirit.
Often when a person is depressed they are encouraged to take painting classes. The reason for this is simple; if you allow yourself to focus your energy on creating something it will give you an emotional outlet that is more positive. Even if what you are making will never grace the inside of an Art Gallery it is the process of making the art that is important rather than the finished product. The therapeutic value of getting your emotions out far out weighs the artwork and can often give you a channel for letting out your repressed feelings.
And besides that it’s fun!
If you are more inclined to take up acting or singing go for it! The time spent being creative with others is a journey back to the best part of being a kid, you remember, mucking in the paint with your hands; singing in a choir or make believe role playing adventures with your friends. Somehow when we connect with our inner child we can’t help but have fun.
It’s not all fun and games making art and for that reason it is therapeutic in a different way. Frustration and anger that has been suppressed will have a new way of being vented. It’s better to fling a canvas across a room than hit someone I always say. That is of course as long as you don’t aim the canvas at the instructor’s head. Anger, fear and trauma can also become art itself as you tell your story and share your pain.
It is for this reason I am angered and ashamed of our governments (at every level) just dismissing the Arts and the programs attached to it as expendable. We are all under stress in this Country and it is no different in the world in general; we are dismissing and cutting funding the very thing that will give the masses a venue to let the stress out.
When will we, the people, stand up and say enough. Feed my soul; Feed my Spirit; Give us more Art programs!
February 10th, 2012
The Passionate Artist
Since I have been spending time in the Southern United States I have had the opportunity to visit several of the Art Galleries both in North and South Carolina. Not major Galleries but important to the local artists and the Tourists visiting. The Galleries were both large and small; artist run or full service Galleries with framing and art classes as well as a large selection of art. For the most part the south boasts of watercolour artists that follow the traditional style that has been around since I have been hanging out down here and before that for sure. There are a few oil painters and some experimental work but I am sad to report that although the art is beautiful and well executed I am having a hard time getting excited about it. My mentor felt the same as I did, wall after wall of ho hum art. So we asked ourselves why?
Then we walked into the Burrows & Chapin Art Museum in Myrtle Beach and had our socks knocked off.
After we managed to pick our chins up off the floor we sat for a very long time in front of a large painting that just exploded with raw passion, colour and texture but mostly passion. This was the work of a local Artist, Brian Rutenberg, who moved to the Big Apple to pursue creating his art. His work would be described as abstract expressionism using nature and landscapes as his subject but the excitement is in what he does with that subject. You can see Brian Rutenberg’s work at the following website: www.brianrutenbergart.com
We finally had our answer, passion. This is what will make art better no matter how good you really are; no matter how experienced; no matter what your education level. Passion is the great equaliser. Actually I miss spoke, it is what will raise you above the others.
Think about the passion of the work of Van Gogh; the singing of Janis Joplin; the guitar playing of Jimi Hendrix and I will never forget the on stage presence of Christopher Plummer in Oedipus Rex. They made their art with passion! Even recently I saw Chris Plummer in a movie and the man still has it, raw and unmistakable he loves what he does. Do you?
If you do great! If you don’t, you have a problem, one that you must fix as soon as possible. First try to identify what it is that has taken the passion out of your art, is it life’s obligations, too many disappointments or maybe it is just that you are in a rut. Whatever the reason you must accept this one important fact, without it you will lose your edge.
So what do you do to get the passion back? Without over simplifying it, remember why you wanted to do this art in the first place. Most of you won’t come up with an easily defined answer and it will distill down to a simple “Because it is who I am” or “What I always wanted to do”. If you think about it at some point in your childhood you saw or heard something that struck a note deep into your core being and knew that no matter what this was what you wanted to do. So go back to that place, go to a concert, watch a theatre performance, look at the work of some of the great ones and feel the need to make your art.
It just might be the spark you need to reignite the fire of passion in your Artistic Soul.
January 24th, 2012
The Rules for Painting and Life
Years ago when I starting going to college and taking workshops I discovered that each teacher I encountered had a set of beliefs or rules that they expected the students to follow and to deviate from these rules would be met with a firm reprimand. The strange thing was often one teacher’s rules contradicted another’s which became quite a challenge to keep them all straight when it came to handing in assignments. As a result I came up with a set of rules of my own which I will share with you.
I introduce all of my students to these rules and encourage them to embrace them above all the previous rules they may have heard before. They go like this:
Rule #1 – There are No Rules! Just really good advice.
It almost sounds crazy to have a list of rules and the first rule is that there are none. In actuality we are a society made up of many rules from the moment we wake up until we close our eyes to sleep. We are expected to be able to perform certain tasks and to follow rules for acceptable behaviour either in public or alone; we almost need to give ourselves permission to let go of the need for them. Hence rule number one.
Rule number one is more than just words it should be your mantra. Everything you are taught or shown as to how to do this or that, must be tested and if it works for you great, if it doesn’t forget it. The one thing that stops progressive thinking is caring about all the rules. So if we take the rest of the rules on the list into consideration we can look at everything we learn about creativity as really good advice that may or may not apply to you.
Rule #2 – If it works, keep doing it.
Rule #3 – If it doesn’t work, stop doing it.
Rule #4 – Get a second opinion
Rule #5 – Knowledge doesn’t guarantee results
Rule #6 – Creativity needs the company of Creativity
Rule #7 – Challenge yourself and you will grow
Rule #8 – Creativity needs exercise daily
Rule #9 – If you think you know it all, sorry you don’t! There is always more to learn.
Rule #10 – Believe in your Dreams
These rules have been the philosophy behind my weekly columns and foundation behind my upcoming book. So in the weeks that follow you may see where these ten rules may be the focus of each column. I welcome your feedback and thoughts and encourage you to not only adopt these rules for yourself but to add a few more of your own to keep you from getting off track when it comes to your creative self.
July 4th, 2010
Recently I took a vacation with a few of my favorite people (other artists) to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina where my mentor and long time friend, Elaine Bigelow lives. Elaine Bigelow also has a webpage on fine art america please visit her site.
While there we met up with other outdoor painting enthusiasts in the area and spent the month of May exploring all the beautiful areas in that region and painting, painting, painting. The photo I've included shows a local Myrtle Beach group called the Back Porch Painters.
We decided as there is strength in numbers we would start to organize a outdoor painting group or Plein Air painting group as we call it in Canada and make a commitment to painting outdoors regularly in our area. From this the "Plein Air Junkies" were born.
Now picking a name is a chore in itself, but with all things considered the word "Junkies" seems to sum up the feeling of outdoor painting. Being outside in nature is a bit of a "High" and even though it can be a little cold, uncomfortable, hot, buggy, windy some how we don't care the feeling we get from a day of outdoor painting makes the effort to do it worth it. Not to forget the origin of the word Junkie comes from the work Junket or to take a short trip and that says it all.
I hope that if you are in the Cornwall, Ontario Canada area and want to join us you will pack up your gear and do so. Check out the Plein Air Junkies blog for dates and places we will be painting.