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.
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.”
“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.