As an abstract painter for whom art can seriously be considered life-saving, I’ve spent years working to understand how art-making functions. The formal elements, which we work on regularly, are the physical things that make up the composition of an artwork. Their foundation seems concrete enough when you read about them but the endless possibilities in practice can make those principles seem obscure. Study and repetition will put these tools at the artist’s fingertips, but they alone don’t give a work of art a life of its own.
If understanding the concrete in art is illusive, getting a handle on the remaining mysteries that resonate in a painting is like trying to pick up mercury with your fingers. They are obscure, varied and shifting. And they must be born from an authentic kernel of self to be felt. Yet there is no atlas or guidebook to help uncover them.
Years ago I observed that “noticing what I notice” at least gives me some clues. Simply taking note of the things that attract or illicit response during daily life can be at least point a direction. I cling to those. Like explained in Art and Fear (Bayles and Orland), it is “finding your work”.
That’s how I became “Sky Genius”. My dear friend Sheila Service and I would joke about these observations. I would swoon over the shifting light and the subtleties of atmosphere in the sky, while she would drool over the cracks and texture in rocks, making her—but of course— “Stone Goddess.” We laughed as we would both sign our correspondence S.G. But there has been consistency in those inspirations that is to be respected. Our paitings can and are inspired by more than those things, but a thread of truth can be traced to them. (This will be interesting to observe in our upcoming show.)
SO last night—after years of wanting, no needing, to have a place to view the sky, I finally was able to sit on my beloved deck in my hammock chair and watch. The sun hid behind the clouds in the west and reflected an electric charge on the eastern horizon. As it lowered the sky grew bone black and paynes grey in one view and peach and cerulean in the opposite direction. The clouds were like an imagery train chugging past as the wind drove them. It was renewal and excitement and this morning I couldn’t wait to get to the studio. Inspiration! Not that it necessarily paid off in the end, but it was a beginning. And that’s the best thing to hope for.
“If only we would listen to the voice of all beauty that attracts us in any form, we would find that in every aspect it tells us that behind all manifestation is the perfect spirit, the Spirit of wisdom.” Robert Motherwell (With an undergrad degree in philosophy from Stanford, a doctorate degree from Harvard and further study at Columbia University his brains and his art takes my breath away. He makes a worthy teacher.)