Hope as I may, changing my view of landscape (and life) isn't happening in what I would call a timely fashion. I'm little Miss GO GO GO! and being patient and going through processes doesn't suit my nature. Landscapes feel so calm, so peaceful, so patient...
I'm a google/research (ha) junky so I decided to search for landscapes that don't bore or annoy me. To me, this collection of landscapes is interesting and beautiful. I really enjoy the one by Tim Dolby that is made of 40 separate pieces. I hope you enjoy this collection of images and I hope that I can find some way to inspire and create interest in my own work by studying them.
I don't know what possessed me to sign up to paint landscapes. This is not my thing. I don't enjoy them - not even to view a really well crafted piece by someone who does enjoy landscape.
I'm reading "Art as Therapy" by Alain de Botton. This book came to me as a gift - it was a total surprise and means a great deal to me. de Botton starts out describing what he views as the "seven functions of art" - remembering, hope, sorrow, rebalancing, self-understanding, growth, appreciation. In describing hope, de Botton discusses landscape. He states:
The most perennially popular category of art is the cheerful, pleasant and pretty kind: meadows in spring, the shade of trees on hot summer days, pastoral landscapes... This can be deeply troubling to people of taste and intelligence.
This pretty much sums up my response to landscape - they are troubling. They are too pretty, too simple, too perfect in most cases. de Botton goes on to state:
The worries about prettiness are twofold. Firstly, pretty pictures are alleged to feed sentimentality. Sentimentality is a symptom of insufficient engagement with complexity, by which one really means problems.
Problems... That is what art has become to me - a means with which to address my problems. I rip things up to get out my frustration and reassemble them to produce something less ugly. I paint objects in solitude to ease my loneliness. I compose scenes where the shadows have more life than the subject because I giving more energy to my sadness than to my life... To the viewer, the work may come off as pretty, but to me, there is always some disturbance being addressed.
I think I have avoided landscapes for the entirety of my artistic life because they always felt so simple. They are what they are. I fail to see the mystery in creating a scenic picture. I fail to see the symbolism in creating an iddlic scene. I fail to enjoy the "real thing [pretty pictures] represent."
So here I am, trying to paint landscapes... and at the same time, trying to learn to hope again. I have avoided "taking too rosy and sentimental a view" and most definitely have "suffer[ed] from excessive gloom" in recent months, and really, throughout my life. I have spent an excessive amount of time consumed with thoughts of all that is wrong and have forgotten to appreciate what might be right if only I took the time to hope and think positively.
I'm trying. There is always something to learn and through landscapes I guess I will explore the lighter side of life. I "hope" to be moved by that which is simple and pretty rather than always being consumed by that which is difficult and sorrowful.
I've experienced a ton of introspection lately. Who am I kidding - this is a constant! I spend almost equal time searching myself for answers and asking others for insights.
Art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable."
I've always loved this quote but never took the time to find out who said it. Asking google reveals some controversy - some sources suggest Banksy, the London-based street artist, is the source of these words while others suggest Cesar A. Cruz, a Mexican poet, is the original source for these words. Beyond these two men, there is also evidence that the phrase may actually be a variation on the saying "comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable", attributed to Finley Peter Dunne, a 19th century humorist and newspaper columnist. His words are often claimed to be a commentary on the role of the ministry and God but is actually Dunne's view on the role of the newspaper...
Regardless, this quote moves me. When I am uncomfortable, disturbed, afflicted, I am most productive. Being creative comes easily to me when times are tough. Making art is cathartic, it is a release, a calming influence on me during tough times. I find that viewing art during these times is also a great comfort. When life is smooth, easy, comfortable, I don't feel the same urge to make art. I don't feel as inspired and I am never as productive.
My most recent subject, the dead rabbit, has definitely brought this quote to the forefront of my mind. Viewer reaction ranges from great appreciation to serious disturbance. I find myself calmed more by the painting of, and viewing of, the dead rabbit pieces than by any of the previous subjects. I felt driven during the ceramic/glass pieces, on a mission to figure something out, whereas with the dead rabbit, I feel like I understand the subject and what I need to do and how I need to do it is very clear. The ceramic/glass objects felt foreign while the dead rabbit feels connected.
To those of you who are comforted or intrigued or appreciative of the dead rabbit images, I'm glad that you are enjoying the work. I think you get it - and for that, I am grateful.
To those of you who are disturbed by the dead rabbit images, I'm sorry my work is challenging your comfort. I don't think you get it. I know that when I feel challenged I try to figure out why and overcome that challenge - not move away from the challenge in fear.
I'm not trying to tell you what to do or how you should react to my work, I'm just some artist who likes dead things. What do I know about life?
Rabbits... Sometimes I prefer to call them bunnies... I'm shifting my obsessive painting from the little bird to the bunny and have some great stories that explain my fondness for this animal as an image source.
First, as a child I loved the story of the Velveteen Rabbit. This is one of the few stories I remember reading as a child, or having read to me as a child. For some reason I think it was my paternal grandmother that shared this book with me - but I don't know if this is true. There are other fictional rabbits that stick out in my memories - Peter Rabbit and the White Rabbit from Alice in Wonderland come to mind first.
Second, two bunnies served as my first pets; Thumper and Princess. They lived in a hutch outside and would come in the house to play. All I really remember is how soft they were and how they would always poop on the floor while hopping around the living room. Then, Princess, or was it Thumper, bit my mom. This caused a panic of "is the rabbit rabid?" and the next thing I knew, my bunnies were going to "live on a farm" despite the fact that I lived on a farm... Years later I learned the truth about the fate of those bunnies - let's just say it wasn't pretty and the poor thing lost its head over being in heat...
Third, I recall having a thing for rabbit's feet as a kid - I must have bought a dozen disembodied feet in various colors from Santa's Secret Workshop in elementary school. I find this really odd since I also had live rabbits and clearly this was a foot from a once living animal.
Fourth, the first time I remember visiting the Philadelphia Museum of Art I was drawn to the Neoclassical still life collection - specifically the compositions that included dead animals like rabbits and birds. Still life that include dead animals remain some of my favorite images in all of art. This really isn't a morbid fascination, it is a long standing tradition in art - here's some PROOF!
Lastly, and possibly most oddly, for some unknown reason when I was a senior in high school, I started sleeping with three pastel-colored Beanie Babies bunnies. I took those bunnies with me to college and always made sure they were in my bed. I took those bunnies with me to my first home, where I lived with my now ex-husband. The bunnies are not the reason I am now divorced, but wouldn't it be nice if they were? I have no idea where these bunnies are now.
I recently asked google about the symbolic meaning of the rabbit and I find the results fitting. There's also an interesting article about the use of the rabbit as a symbol in art. The rabbit is said to symbolize:
Apparently I am not the only artsy-type who is thinking about rabbits, and once again I find myself in pretty good company while I explore my current obsession. Check out this article on rabbits in art if you would like to see more examples of the rabbit as an image source.
I don't always know how I feel about my approach to painting. Painting the same object, day after day, feels less like "real art" and more like academic study. Though my goal was to explore composition and light, I have found myself going down the rabbit hole of self while I work on this series.
In the history of "real art" there are a ton of examples of artists who use the same, or similar, subject matter in their work over and over. Degas is best known for his ballet dancers. Keith Haring brought the same outlined figures into much of his work. O'Keeffe revisited the skull and bones again and again in her work.
These three artists, three of my personal favorites, reassure me that as I repeat myself in each painting, I'm in good company. However, I'm left wondering how these artists felt about their subject matter. Were these images a source of comfort or a source of angst? Did they love the act of revisiting these forms or were they trapped by the form and desperate to move forward? Personally, I wish I could get out of this rabbit hole.
This bird has always been around. It belonged to my grandmother and it has been in my mother's possession for years. I never really thought much on what kind of bird he is. I've just thought of him as "little bird" for all this time.
I did a little google search for Lenox birds and came across several ebay postings for "Lenox Sparrow Figurines". Turns out, Lenox created a few different poses of the sparrow that sold in different time periods. They came in a few different colors - including pale green and pale pink. I'm thankful my grandmother had the more common white version.
I also asked google about the meaning of the sparrow. This is what I came up with from a site dedicated to "Animal Spirit Totems":
Sparrow aids in opening the eyes to our self-worth and instills dignity and empowerment. He teaches the importance of voice and communication and the timing of exertion and retreat. It is time to sing your song in all that you do. Sparrow teaches cooperation and sharing responsibilities whether at home or work. Are you helping or should you be helping or working more in some area of your life? Sparrow aids in survival instincts by sharpening intuition to make proper choices. He will bring to awareness any old tendencies so that you can realize the newer more conducive means of being. Sparrow teaches assertion so that you may survive in spite of any circumstances with a balance of joy and empowerment. Are you ready to be like Sparrow?
I've painted this little bird, this sparrow, 34 times. I plan to keep painting him until I'm ready to be like Sparrow.
I'm reading tonight. This line from the book "Wonder" by R.J. Palacio is quite perfect.
"...(she) reminds me of a bird sometimes, how her feathers get all ruffled when she's mad. and when she's fragile like this, she's a little lost bird looking for her nest. so I give her my wing to hide under." (p. 203)
Little birds... They are so beautiful and playful as they dart around. They are strong and graceful on the wind. They are fragile and delicate, they break so easily...
Artist. This term, this label, I never felt it fit until recently. It's a big term, it says a great deal about who you are, how you think, how you function, how you experience the world. The senses are heightened. The experiences are all more intense. The responses are amplified. It's not easy being an artist, seeing things differently, feeling everything more profoundly, seeing everything as a symbol with meaning... The regular world misunderstands the frenzy they see. As an artist you produce work that both takes from you and gives to you. It is hard to maintain this balance, hard to let the world that cannot understand in...
During my undergraduate studies, I spent a great deal of time in the painting studio working with traditional oils. Teaching middle school art for the past 12 years has taken me away from those roots. This "one a day" project is aimed at re-inspiring that creativity and technique.
Other "one a day" painting blogs to check out:
Kellie Marian Hill
The usual Subjects