Category Archives: An Artist’s Life

Pearls from artists* # 276

The West Village

The West Village

* an ongoing series of quotations – mostly from artists, to artists – that offers wisdom, inspiration, and advice for the sometimes lonely road we are on.

 A long time later, after I  became a novelist, I realized that the ambiguities of the human mind are what give fiction and perhaps all art its power.  A good novel gets under our skin, provokes us and haunts us long after the first reading, because we never fully understand the characters.  We sweep through the narrative over and over again, searching for meaning.  Good characters must retain a certain mystery and unfathomable depth, even for the author.  Once we see to the bottom of their hearts, the novel is dead for us.

Eventually, I learned to appreciate both certainty and uncertainty.  Both are necessary in the world.  Both are part of being human.  

Alan Lightman in A Sense of the Mysterious:  Science and the Human Spirit

Comments are welcome!

Pearls from artists* # 274

Barbara’s studio

Barbara’s studio

* an ongoing series of quotations – mostly from artists, to artists – that offers wisdom, inspiration, and advice for the sometimes lonely road we are on.

“Beauty is never enough,” he said.  “Meaning is more important.  If something catches people’s eyes enough to make them move around it, they will build a story around it.  And that will not just be about beauty.”

Eric Charles-Donatien in Feathered Glory:  In a studio in Paris, an old craft is given new life by Burkhard Bilger in The New Yorker, Sept. 25, 2017

Comments are welcome!

Q: Do you lose yourself in your work?

Barbara at work

Barbara at work

A:  Of course!  When I am having a productive day in the studio, I am completely present and focused, fully immersed in solving technical problems and trying to improve the painting on my easel.  I barely notice the time and have to remind myself to take a break or stop for lunch.  Nothing else exists except the painting and my relationship with it.  The rest of life completely falls away from my consciousness.

I believe most artists regularly experience this feeling of ‘flow.’  It is a state of being that is inherent and necessary to creative work of all kinds.

Comments are welcome! 

Pearls from artists* # 273

The Lighting Field

The Lightning Field

* an ongoing series of quotations – mostly from artists, to artists – that offers wisdom, inspiration, and advice for the sometimes lonely road we are on.

The night sky was clear, too many stars.

Satellites described distinctive arcs, moving too fast for

nature across our broad field of vision.

The desert floor was drenched with rainwater, and our boots

suctioned the mud.

The moon’s shy face revealed only a sliver, but the starlight

was strong enough for the poles to pick up its silver.

We watched time, light, and distance compress over The

Lightning Field.

The dome of the sky was palpable,

papered in stars.

How long ago did  the light that reflected in the poles leave

its source?

Laura Raicovich in At The Lightning Field

Comments are welcome!

Q: On an average day in the studio, how much of your time is spent in the physical act of making art?

Working

Working

A:  My typical studio day is from 10:00 to 5:00.  When I arrive, I often read for half an hour.  Reading helps me relax and focus and get into the mindset I need to do my work.   While I read, I look at the painting on my easel, assess it’s current state, and decide where to begin working.

Then I work until lunch time, generally around 1:00.  After lunch I work for another five hours or so, taking a break whenever I want.

This has been more or less my schedule for five days a week for years.  At an earlier point as I was developing my craft, I would work 9- or 10-hour days and six days a week.

My creative process is relatively slow.  In a typical year I create five  new pastel paintings.  This year I am right on schedule.  I have completed four and am working on a fifth.

Comments are welcome!    

Pearls from artists* # 272

Barbara's studio

Barbara’s studio

* an ongoing series of quotations – mostly from artists, to artists – that offers wisdom, inspiration, and advice for the sometimes lonely road we are on.

One important distinction that can be made between physicists and novelists, and between the scientific and artistic communities in general, is what I shall call “naming.”  Roughly speaking, the scientist tries to name things and the artist tries to avoid naming things.

To name a thing, one needs to have gathered it, distilled and purified it, attempted to identify it with clarity and precision.  One puts a box around the thing and says what’s in the box is the thing and what’s not is not…

… The objects and concepts of the novelist cannot be named.  The novelist might use the words love and fear, but these names do not summarize or convey much to the reader.  For one thing, there are a thousand different kinds of love…

… Every electron is identical, but every love is different.

The novelist doesn’t want to eliminate these differences, doesn’t want to clarify and distill the meaning of love so that there is only a single meaning… because no such distillation exists.  And any attempt at such a distillation would undermine the authenticity of readers’ reactions, destroying the delicate, participatory creative experience of a good reader reading a good book.  In  sense, a novel is not complete until it is read.  And each reader completes the novel in a different way.     

Alan Lightman in A Sense of the Mysterious:  Science and the Human Spirit

Comments are welcome!

Pearls from artists* # 271

Barbara's studio

Barbara’s studio

* an ongoing series of quotations – mostly from artists, to artists – that offers wisdom, inspiration, and advice for the sometimes lonely road we are on.

The following quote is so true for artists also!

Without a powerful emotional commitment, scientists could not summon up the enormous energy needed for pursuing an idea for years, working day and night in the lab or at their desks doing calculations, often sacrificing the rest of their lives.  It is little wonder that such a personal commitment sometimes causes the scientist to defend his or her beliefs regardless of facts.     

Alan Lightman in A Sense of the Mysterious:  Science and the Human Spirit

Comments are welcome!

Pearls from artists* # 270

Barbara's studio

Barbara’s studio

* an ongoing series of quotations – mostly from artists, to artists – that offers wisdom, inspiration, and advice for the sometimes lonely road we are on.

As Charlie Parker quipped, “If you don’t live it, it won’t come out of your horn.”  And it won’t register in your bearing:  this is the earned credit for trying to walk the daily tightrope and tell your story when you get to the other side.  

Joel Dinerstein in The Origins of Cool in Postwar America    

Comments are welcome

Q: When you are in your studio working on a pastel painting and pause to consider what you have done, do you ask yourself, “Is it good?”

"The Champ," soft pastel on sandpaper, 26" x 20" image, 35" x 28 1/2" framed

“The Champ,” soft pastel on sandpaper, 26″ x 20″ image, 35″ x 28 1/2″ framed

A:  Certainly, I do.  In addition, I ask myself some other important questions:  

Is it the best I can do?

Is it exciting?

Is it surprising?

Is it idiosyncratic and unique to me?

Is there anything I can do to improve it?

Does it meet (or hopefully exceed) the exacting technical and formal standards I have set for my work?  

Will I be proud to finally see my signature on it?

Comments are welcome!

Pearls from artists* # 269

"White Star," soft pastel on sandpaper, 38" x 58"

“White Star,” soft pastel on sandpaper, 38″ x 58″

* an ongoing series of quotations – mostly from artists, to artists – that offers wisdom, inspiration, and advice for the sometimes lonely road we are on.

In an artistic sense, cool came to refer to someone with a signature artistic style so integral as to exude an authentic mode-of-being in the world:  Miles, Bogart, Brando, Eastwood, Greco, Elvis, Lady Day, Sinatra.  Such a person created something from nothing and gave the world some new artistic or psychological “equipment for living,” to use a phrase of Kenneth Burke’s.  A signature style is yours and can only be carried by you:  it cannot be abstracted except through dilution and commodification since it reflects an individual’s complex personal experience.

Joel Dinerstein in The Origins of Cool in Postwar America    

Comments are welcome