Category Archives: 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.
What do we carry forward? My family lived in New Jersey near Manhattan until I was ten, and although I have enjoyed spending my adult life as a photographer in the American West, when we left New Jersey for Wisconsin in 1947 I was homesick.
The only palliative I recall, beyond my parents’ sympathy was the accidental discovery in a magazine of pictures by a person of whom I had never heard but of scenes I recognized. The artist was Edward Hopper and one of the pictures was of a woman sitting in a sunny window in Brooklyn, a scene like that in the apartment of a woman who had cared for my sister and me. Other views resembled those I recalled from the train to Hoboken. There was also a picture inside a second-floor restaurant, one strikingly like the restaurant where my mother and I occasionally had lunch in New York.
The pictures were a comfort but of course none could permanently transport me home. In the months that followed, however, they began to give me something lasting, a realization of the poignancy of light. With it, all pictures were interesting.
Robert Adams in Art Can Help
(My blog turns 8 years old on July 15! As I have done for past anniversaries, I am republishing the very first post from July 15, 2012.) Q: What does it take to be an artist, especially one living and working in New York?
A: The three Big P’s – Patience, Persistence, and Passion. Without all three you will not have the stamina to work tirelessly for very little external reward. You can expect help from no one.
There are so many obstacles to art-making and countless reasons to just give up. When you really think about it, it’s amazing that great art gets made at all. So why do we do it? Above all it’s about making our the ime on earth matter, about devotion to our innate gifts and love of our hard-fought creative process.
And, my God, it even gets harder as we get older! So what do we do? We dig in that much deeper. It’s a most noble and sacred calling – you know when you have it – and that’s what separates those of us who are in it for the long haul from the wimps, fakers, and hangers-on. I say to my fellow artists who continue to work despite the endless challenges, we are all true heroes!
What I wrote eight years ago still rings true.
Most importantly, THANK YOU to my 61,000+ subscribers for taking this journey with me!
Comments are welcome!
A: There are two: “Myth Meets Dream” and “No Cure for Insomnia.” Both are part of my “Domestic Threats” series and were breakthroughs at the time I made them. They are relatively early works – the first from 1993, the latter from 1999 – and were important in my artistic development.
“Myth Meets Dream” is the earliest pastel painting in which I depict Mexican figures. It includes two brightly painted, carved wooden animals from Oaxaca sent to me in 1992 by my sister-in-law. I have spoken about them before. These figures were the beginning of my ongoing fascination with Mexico.
“No Cure for Insomnia” includes a rare self-portrait and is set in my late aunt’s sixth-floor walkup on West 13th Street, where I lived when I moved to New York in 1997. My four years there were very productive.
Comments are welcome!
A: When I was about 4 or 5 years old I discovered that I had a natural ability to draw anything that I could see. It’s the way my brain is wired and it is a gift! One of my earliest memories as an artist is of copying the Sunday comics. Always it has been much more difficult to draw what I CANNOT see, i.e., to recall how things look solely from memory or to invent them outright.
The evolution of my pastel-on-sandpaper paintings has been the opposite of what one might expect. I started out making extremely photo-realistic portraits. I remember feeling highly unflattered when after months of hard work, someone would look at my completed painting and say, “It looks just like a photograph!” I know this was meant as a compliment, but to me it meant that I had failed as an artist. Art is so much more than copying physical appearances.
So I resolved to move away from photo-realism. It has been slow going and part of me still feels like a slacker if I don’t put in all the details. But after nearly three decades I have arrived at my present way of working, which although still highly representational, contains much that is made up, simplified, and/or stylized. As I have always done, I continue to work from life and from photographs, but at a certain point I put everything aside and work solely from memory.
Comments are welcome!
* an ongoing series of quotations – mostly from artists, to artists – that offers wisdom, inspiration, and advice for the sometimes lonely road we are on.
An individual who has committed himself to art and now wrestles within it, having given up everything else, has also become strict, you see. Such a person is more likely to warn off others rather than to beckon them to enter into a realm of the most tremendous demands and indescribable sacrifices. And for someone sitting at his desk, behind closed doors, matters are still relatively simple: at least he has to deal only with himself. But an actor, even when his work originates in the purest experiences of his being, stands in the open and performs his work in the open where he is exposed to all the influences, detractions, disturbances, and even hostilities that originate in his colleagues and his audience and that interrupt, distract, and split him off. For him things are more difficult than for anyone else; above all, he needs to lure success and to base his actions on it. And yet what misery results if this new alignment leads him to abandon the inner direction that had driven him into art in the first place. He seems to have no self; his job consists in letting others dictate selves to him. And the audience, once it has accepted him, wants to preserve him within the limits where it finds entertainment; and yet his achievement depends entirely upon his capacity to maintain an interior constancy through all kinds of changes, blindly, like a madman. Any momentary weakness toward success is as sure to doom him as giving in and drawing on applause as a precondition for their creation spells doom for the painter or poet.
Ulrich Baer in The Wisdom of Rilke
Comments are welcome!