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on Art 1.8
A Piece of Modern Art
This series is not intended to be a university course. I am not an art scholar - I am just a painter. I'm going to reveal some secrets that I stumbled upon. Of course, you too may discover some of these secrets in books, but they are hard to decipher. It will be my pleasure to do so and spread the word. My motto will be, as always: Als ich kan (from a painting of Jan van Eyck, found as a citation in a modern mathematical book, which means: as good as I can).
Your appreciation gives me the encouragement to continue. It is for you and
all the great masters that I do this, and I hope you enjoy the results. Please
don't hesitate to send me
in order to help me with that goal! This kind of journal is new to the net,
so please tell me if the size is OK (eg images are great, but big!).
Because English is not my home language, I do not always express myself clearly. I hope that you are able to interpret my meaning. Also, I invite you to participate. Send me your articles and comments to be published in this journal.
After having written this issue of Creative Journal yesterday, it occured to me while awakening this morning that I don't deliver what I promised. One headline reads "step by step instructions", another "easy, humorous, personal". I set out this way, but very soon my writing took a totally different direction from what you probably expected.
I went to my library, picked up a book with step by step instructions and started reading. Very soon I realized that this kind of approach would not meet my expectations either if I were you. Very boring, very tedious, and definitely not art but craft. No fun, no insight, just a whole pile of more or less interesting details leading absolutely nowhere.
There is no point in copying an approach like that. You will find lots of books on the market at low price exploiting the subject, you will most probably find schooling in your home town to learn basic techniques in a group of peers, where you can get first hand feedback right on the spot in addition.
Also, my course would most probably lack interest from my side and become
boring and unpleasant in consequence. Actually, recalling the issues in sequence,
it is pretty clear that the direction developed exactly along these lines
quite naturally. I proved to you that technique can be learnt from books,
is not difficult at all and does not lead you to satisfaction with your work,
let alone with your life.
In very short time we arrived at hard and central questions: "What is art" and "how to lead a good life". These are questions I personally am interested in. As far as I can see, nobody addresses these questions frankly. Also, I think I learnt something in my life related to these questions worth passing along.
Therefore it will be best for me to be patient with myself and watch out to see where this experiment and experience will lead me to. You are my companions, and as long as you stay with me without protest, you will profit in some way. Maybe you will become more active one day.
Until then, I assume that your endeavor is to enrich your life through
creativity, which is the subject of the journal. Creativity is definitely
not achieved through gathering techniques, which is not much more than keeping
people busy. Creativity and, for that matter, art, is something way beyond
technical questions. This said, let's go on with the show.
Last week I talked about your way. Apparently nobody of you out there cares to give feedback, that's why I have to carry on by myself. I try to relate to you what I learnt in my life and hope you understood my message so far. Can't be bad to repeat it here (also for new subscribers). Here it is:
You are the most important person in this universe.
What the world needs most from you is the answer to the question:
Who am I?
Nobody can supply an answer to the question but you. Happily, you are not the only one in need to answer it. Also, all people before you had to answer this question, too. In all fields, you can find lots of examples to learn from. You can find good and bad examples, of course, but both can be used to learn from.
Remember: You don't have to become a painter to find an answer. You can work
your garden just as well. Or do any other work. You don't even have to do
anything at all. You don't have to be educated either. There is no prerequisite
to this task. Anybody can find their answer. You, too. Me, too.
But if you really are a painter, you probably will try to answer your question with painting. Of course, the first task will be to find out about being a painter in the first place. Chances are, it won't be easy.
Once you know you are a painter, you have to find out how and what to paint. On both occasions, you can cheat just about everybody but your soul. If you pretend to be a painter and you aren't, you'll know you wasted your life at least the very moment you die. If you are a painter and you don't live to be one, you'll know, too.
Who is a painter? Two years ago, I read an interview with a famous programming
authority. He maintained that every 50th person is a programmer by nature
and has ever been, even in stone age societies. Imagine this! Probably the
same holds true for musicians, physicians, you name it, and painters or artists,
too. If you happen to be a painter, you better find out.
Here you find all sorts of resources,
If you know you are a painter and you live as a painter and you produce weak paintings, your soul will know. You can deceive all the world about its worth, but you will waste your life anyway. No matter if you believe in reincarnation or not, this life is precious and will pass all too soon. You better produce something that's worth a life.
You are the one to decide which way to go at any moment of your life. If
there is something wrong with it, you are well off the very moment you take
notice of the fact. This is your chance. Now you can change everything to
Talking of paintings, you will have to watch your feelings. If you feel bad, there is something to do. If you feel good, just go on. To illustrate the lessons life taught me, I will show you some works of my own I felt good and bad with.
As you chose to remain unknown to me, I don't know anything about you. But
one thing I am pretty sure of, if you are a painter: You were born some day
to this beautiful world and did not know you were to become a painter. Same
You probably loved to draw as a child, but we all know: This is nothing special. If you happen to have children of your own, you'll witness them drawing and painting, never taking this as a clue to the future profession.
So how and when did you find out about yourself being an artist? Maybe you
don't know, but I do know exactly how and when this happened. I was 25, and
it never occured to me before that I should be a painter. Somehow I found
myself trying to produce something that looked like painting, but it mainly
puzzled me as I felt bad afterwards, even if I had accomplished my goal.
Something was wrong here, but I could not find out. What's more, I had no
idea why I tormented myself in the first place. Other people just relaxed
after work. It did not feel like a hobby either.
As a juvenile, my parents had the idea to make me happy with artist's oil colors. I had to copy, which did not please me at all. See the examples of Monet and van Gogh above. Nothing wrong with them. Nothing wrong with copying as such. As you can see, this is a task even young persons can cope with.
Remember Cezanne copying his favorites at The Louvre. People should copy much more these days. You can learn a lot this way. If you don't know what to paint, copying could be a good choice. A copy could even give you the power and energy to take off to your own journey.
Especially when you are young, copying could be a good preparation. Unlike
the performing arts, there are extremely few wonderchildren who paint remarkable
pictures. Actually, even the notorious wonderchild Picasso did not accomplish
anything particularly valuable until he was in his twenties. Nowadays, as
every artist has to be an "Originalgenie" right from the start, young artists
are very much overstretched. (Originalgenie is a term invented and used a
lot during romanticism, meaning a notable genius)
These copies in particular are perfectly fine. When I hit upon the original van Gogh one day in Paris, I initially thought I saw my copy hanging there in the museum! The point is that I did not feel comfortable having painted them. I was proud to have accomplished the task, but I was not happy.
When I left home at age 18, I took the colors with me and was free to paint what I liked. Much to my surprize, I found out that I did not know what to paint in the first place, and that I did not feel any satisfaction when I had finished a painting, even when I could not find any fault with it.
As a consequence, I stopped painting altogether. Having moved to Berlin,
I was exposed to modern lifestyle and culture. Back in 1968, they showed
Pop Art for the first time. I was very much upset and produced several things
as comment and persiflage, but again I did not feel good.
These works all have a story to be told. A week ago, a friend and collector of my works sent me a catalog of an exhibition in Berlin last year. Many art historians write about the making of Modern Art and tell many stories about artists and works at quite the same anecdotal level. To me, most of that talk is plain, embarrassing nonsense. A kind of intellectual declaration of bankruptcy. Anyway, when I finished these mimicked works of art, I felt badly depressed.
Happily, I could not prevent taking notice of this feeling. I thought for
a while, then decided that I might give photography a try. Photography seemed
to be much more of a craft, and I considered myself rather a craftsman than
an artist. Hence I invested in the appropriate equipment and took photographs
for a couple of years. Again, I accomplished what I headed for, but was not
at all content with it. I was quite unhappy with this result.
The day came when I had to recognize that I carried the camera without taking any pictures. Once again, I did not know what this stuff was all about. What else could I do but continue doing my day to day thing. If I am right, Pirsig called this state a lateral drift.
Enough for today. If you are interested, I will tell you how and when I found out about being a painter next month. Today I illustrated with my own life, how hard finding one's own way can be. I showed you, that I watched my feelings to find out about me. You saw the first steps on my way to realize that I am a painter.
If you stay with me, I will show you some works which satisfied me at last and reassured me of what I am. Of course, these will be works of a beginner. Nobody is a master right from the start, not you, not me. Thinking of Zozzy, I will hit hard on me for a change.
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