How Other Artists Inspire Me

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How Other Artists Inspire Me

photo of Brian Rutenberg's painting "Late Pond," 2012

Late Pond” by Bri­an Ruten­berg, 2012

In my last post, I men­tioned my thrill at meet­ing Bri­an Ruten­berg, one of my favorite artists. For me, Bri­an has become a men­tor of sorts, even though I know him only on Face­book and from his great series of videos.

photo of Wolf Kahn painting, A Yellow Glimpsed, 1930

Wolf Kahn, “A Yel­low Glimpsed,” 1930

Anoth­er favorite artist is Wolf Kahn. He too is a men­tor, although he has no clue about that. I own his books and many cal­en­dars and box­es of cards that con­tain his art­work. I’ve enjoyed read­ing his perus­ings on art as well as watch­ing videos of his lec­tures and inter­views. I’ve copied his paint­ings to learn from him, and one still hangs over my bed as a way to inspire me first thing upon wak­ing every morn­ing.

photo of Joan Mitchell painting, La Grande Vallee

La Grande Vallee by Joan Mitchell, 1983

Joan Mitchell has also become a recent favorite. Anne Packard, too. I fell in love with a video in which she dis­cuss­es her art jour­ney lat­er in life. It’s well worth the 30-minute invest­ment: her guts and pas­sion and insis­tence on get­ting her art out to the world, begin­ning with sell­ing it out­side of her home to tourists in Province­town, are all a big inspi­ra­tion. (We have to keep the women noticed, folks. I’ve been despair­ing a bit about my slow real­iza­tion at how under­rep­re­sent­ed women are in the art world. That’s a future post.)

When I see the images of my favorite artists, and I think about what they say, it helps me to crys­tal­lize that inner voice, vision, and urge inside me. I notice that what I’m drawn to is vivid col­or. But not just that. I’m drawn to an ener­gy as well, a mood, an emo­tion that the com­bi­na­tion of col­or and shape and com­po­si­tion con­vey. It can be the huge, thick, bril­liant shapes of Rutenberg’s can­vas that can some­times remind me of chunks of stained glass allow­ing me to see nature through its win­dow, or the sooth­ing round­ed or diag­o­nal shapes and I’m-going-all-out col­ors of Kahn’s work, or the sym­phon­ic, ener­getic move­ment of Mitchell’s. All of them stir me in the same way: I am moved; I am excit­ed; I feel awe. That feel­ing is what keeps me com­ing back to the can­vas, day after day. That awe is pro­found. That search for anoth­er kind of beau­ty is impor­tant. Dammit, it makes life worth liv­ing.

After my post about Bri­an Ruten­berg, I went to my stu­dio in the after­noon, as I usu­al­ly do after I’m done with my oth­er work for the day as a graph­ic and web design­er. I was so inspired by see­ing Brian’s paint­ings at an exhib­it that I played through his series of videos on YouTube and lis­tened as I worked. I remem­bered him answer­ing one of my ques­tions about his process when I went to the exhib­it. “I lay one col­or down,” he said. “And then anoth­er. And anoth­er.”

photo of "Autumn Hymn," original oil by Dawn Boyer

Autumn Hymn,” a recent­ly com­plet­ed paint­ing by yours tru­ly

OK,” thought I. “I’ll give it a go and see what hap­pens.” Some­thing about hear­ing his words and see­ing his glo­ri­ous images swirled into a cre­ative surge for me. I found myself let­ting go and let­ting the paint­ing be. The image at the top of the page is what result­ed from two ses­sions of doing that. I decid­ed to call it “Autumn Hymn.” I was stirred by that par­tic­u­lar time of day between after­noon and evening, and that par­tic­u­lar time of year between sum­mer and autumn, where a shift occurs in the light, and it flash­es a fierce bril­liance yet some­how also gives the poignant sig­nal that things are wind­ing down to an inevitable close. I love that ten­sion. The hymn part comes in because hymns talk about life and death, strug­gle and tran­scen­dence. The paint­ing is big—24 x 48 inches—but I’m find­ing I love to work on a big can­vas, because I can move. Rhythm is impor­tant to me. Some­thing about hav­ing to use my entire body as my arm and hand bring the brush or the knife across the can­vas pulls me into a hyp­not­ic state that makes me one with the paint­ing. It sounds strange, but it’s a pret­ty cool expe­ri­ence.

I got excit­ed about this paint­ing. It’s anoth­er break­through for me, a step clos­er to where my inner vision wants to go. Look­ing at it now, I can see Mitchell and Kahn and Packard and Ruten­berg all play­ing a part in it, and I thank them. I also thank Dirk Slone, the col­lec­tor who con­tact­ed me after I post­ed the image on my Face­book page. Before it was even fin­ished, he asked if he could have it. I deliv­ered it to him on Wednes­day night, and I know it will have a good home. Just goes to show what can hap­pen when you learn from the greats, and then let go and let the paint­ing be.

By |2017-03-02T20:20:58+00:00October 4th, 2014|Artists I'm Influenced By, Musings on Painting|0 Comments

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