Posted by barbararachkoscoloreddust
*an ongoing series of quotations – mostly from artists, to artists – that offers wisdom, inspiration, and advice for the sometimes lonely road we are on.
Emile Cartailhac was a man who could admit when he was wrong. This was fortunate, because in 1902 the French prehistorian found himself writing an article for L’Anthropolgie in which he did just that. In “Mea culpa d’un sceptique” he recanted the views he had spent the previous 20 years forcefully and scornfully maintaining: that prehistoric man was incapable of fine artistic expression and that the cave paintings found in Altmira, northern Spain, were forgeries.
The Paleothithic paintings at Altamira, which were produced around 14,000 B.C., were the first examples of prehistoric cave art to be officially discovered. It happened by chance in 1879, when a local landowner and amateur archaeologist was busily brushing away at the floor of the caves, searching for prehistoric tools. His nine-year-old daughter, Maria Sanz de Sautuola – a grave little thing with cropped hair and lace-up booties – was exploring farther on when she suddenly looked up, exclaiming, “Look, Papa, bison!” She was quite right: a veritable herd, subtly colored with black charcoal and ocher, ranged over the ceiling. When her father published the finding in 1880, he was met with ridicule. The experts scoffed at the very idea that prehistoric man – savages really – could have produced sophisticated polychrome paintings. The esteemed Monsieur Cartailhac and the majority of his fellow experts, without troubling to go and see the cave for themselves, dismissed the whole thing as a fraud. Maria’s father died, a broken and dishonored man, in 1888, four years before Cartailhac admitted his error.
After the discovery of many more caves and hundreds of lions, handprints, horses, women, hyenas, and bison, the artistic abilities of prehistoric man are no longer in doubt. It is thought that these caves were painted by shamans trying to charm a steady supply of food for their tribes. Many were painted using the pigment most readily available in the caves at the time: the charred stick remnants of their fires. At its simplest, charcoal is the carbon-rich by-product of organic matter – usually wood – and fire. It is purest and least ashy when oxygen has been restricted during it’s heating.
In The Secret Lives of Color by Kassia St. Clair
Comments are welcome!
Posted in 2022, Art in general, Inspiration, Pearls from Artists, Quotes, Working methods
Comments Off on Pearls from artists* # 494
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A: My journey to becoming a visual artist was circuitous, to say the least. Risk-taking gave me the life and career I enjoy now.
The biggest – and scariest – risk I’ve ever taken was deciding to leave my active duty Naval career to pursue art full-time. The second most significant risk was moving to New York City in 1997. I have never regretted doing either one.
When I was 25, and a civilian, I earned my private pilot’s license and spent the next two years amassing other flying licenses and ratings, culminating in a Boeing-727 flight engineer’s certificate. Two years later I joined the Navy.
As an accomplished civilian pilot with thousands of flight hours, I had expected to fly jets in the Navy. However, women were barred from combat in those days (the 1980s) so there were very few women Navy pilots. There were no female pilots on aircraft carriers and no female Blue Angels. Women were restricted to training male pilots for combat jobs and priority was given to Naval Academy graduates. My BA was from a different university.
In the mid-1980s I was in my early 30s and a Lieutenant on active duty in the Navy. I worked a soul-crushing job as a computer analyst on the midnight shift in a Pentagon sub-basement. It was literally and figuratively the lowest point of my life. I hated my job! Not only was it boring, I was not using my hard-won flying skills. In short I was miserable – miserable and trapped because a Naval officer cannot just resign with two weeks notice.
Remembering the joyful Saturdays of my youth when I had taken art classes with a local New Jersey painter, I enrolled in a drawing class at the Art League School in Alexandria, Virginia. Initially I wasn’t very good, but it was wonderful to be around other women and a world away from the “warrior mentality” of my mostly male Pentagon co-workers. Plus, I was having fun!
Soon I enrolled in more classes and became a very motivated full-time art student who worked nights at the Pentagon. As I studied and improved my skills, I discovered my preferred medium – soft pastel on sandpaper.
Although I was certain I had found my life’s calling as a fine artist, I had grown used to a regular paycheck and the many benefits of being a Navy Lieutenant. For more than a year I agonized over whether or not to leave the Navy and lose my financial security. I’d be taking a huge risk: could I ever support myself as an artist? Was I making the dumbest mistake of my life?
Eventually, I decided I HAD TO take a leap. I simply adored making art – it challenged me to use all of my skills and talents – while I was unhappy, bored, and unfulfilled working at the Pentagon.
But once my mind was finally made up, I still could not leave. Due to geopolitical circumstances, there was a significant delay. The Navy was experiencing a manpower shortage and Congress had enacted a stop-loss order, which prevented officers from resigning for one year. I submitted my resignation effective exactly one year later: on September 30, 1989. Being stuck in a job I no longer wanted nor had the slightest interest in, was truly the longest year of my life!
Unlike most people, I can pinpoint exactly when I became an artist. I designate October 1, 1989 as the day I became a professional artist! I have never regretted my decision and I never again needed, nor had, a day job.
However, I must mention that I remained as a part-time Naval Reservist for the next 14 years, working primarily at the Pentagon for two days every month and two weeks each year. The rest of the time was my own to pursue my art career. After I moved to Manhattan in 1997, I commuted by train to Washington, DC to work for the Navy.
Finally on November 1, 2003, I officially retired as a Navy Commander. Now, I daresay, I am the rare fine artist who can point to a Navy pension as a source of income.
I love my life as an accomplished New York fine artist! With the help of two social media assistants, I work hard to make and promote the art I create. My pastel paintings and my pastel skills continue to evolve and grow, gaining wider recognition and a larger audience along the way.
In addition to making art, I have been a blogger since 2012. The audience for my blog, https://barbararachkoscoloreddust.com/ increases by 1,000 – 2,000 new subscribers each month. Today I have more than 72,000 readers!
Comments are welcome!
Posted in 2021, Alexandria (VA), An Artist's Life, Art in general, New York, NY, Studio
Comments Off on Q: How do you think about risk? What role has taking risks played in your life/career? (Question from Emma Jacobs, VoyageMIA.com)
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“Blind Faith,” 38″ x 58,” soft pastel on sandpaper
* an ongoing series of quotations – mostly from artists, to artists – that offers wisdom, inspiration, and advice for the sometimes lonely road we are on.
Elaine’s and Bill’s [de Kooning] relationship involved a continual exchange of ideas that wasn’t restricted to conversations with friends. In the quiet of their studio when they were finally alone, they’d climb into bed and Elaine would read to Bill. Faulkner was a favorite. She also read Ambrose Bierce’s Civil War tales. And she would read Kierkegaard. That nineteenth-century father of Existentialism wrote with great passion about the essential solitude and uncertainty of the human struggle. They were words of consolation for Bill and Elaine who, though confident in their paths as artists, could not have been free of the nagging fear that they might spend their lives looking and never find what they sought in their work. Kierkegaard seemed to say that it didn’t matter, that it was striving that counted, and he described the need to reconcile oneself to the unknowable that was man’s fate. The artist, he said, had a crucial role to play in that regard. Like a religious figure who was an envoy from a realm most people could not access, the artist through his or her work revealed pure spirit so that men mired in the bitter reality of daily life might find the strength to continue.
Mary Gabriel in Ninth Street Women
Posted in 2019, An Artist's Life, Art in general, Inspiration, Pearls from Artists
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