“I would rather die of passion than of boredom.” Vincent Van Gogh

Olive Trees with the Alpilles 1889

Olive Trees with Alpilles 1889

Looking at the California Impressionists painting yesterday at The Portland Art Museum with Angelina and her daughter Sarah was a real treat. It’s something I wish I had made time for  sooner so I could go back. (The show closed yesterday.)As we poked our way through the crowded exhibit we were all struck with the passages in the pieces that spoke to our own interests. Angelina, the lover of brushwork, was admiring of much of the active strokes.  I was crazy about the use of neutrals and how they could so easily approach mud, but instead were brought to sing by the placement of just the right neighboring color. Sarah observed content and sense of place. We all swooned over the light.

We didn’t spend time in front of every canvas. Some, of course, had greater pull than others and we each were drawn by different kinds of images, (aside from those with the stunning light, which held our universal gaze).  But the one thing by which we all were turned off was the sign of the artist’s struggle and doubt.  There was one in which the artist added a skipping light line to draw the eye, but it looked like an after-thought. It sat on top of the canvas like an accident.  Another, in which the artist obviously struggled with the shape of a cloud—a hard edge with two tones of muddy gray on either side—it was clear that the artist did not win the battle.  And in another a green patch needed a touch up, but the painter could not duplicate the surrounding color, so instead of integrating, he allowed an obvious blob, with no connection to the rest of the piece, to sit there.

Sarah, a young artist in her own right noticed how “tight” some of the work felt and mentioned she was now painting with her left hand just to loosen and keep commitment to the stroke instead of control of the stroke.

As we talked about in Saturday’s class, viewers are generally more moved by a sense of assuredness and pass quickly by those works that are faltering.  “How much interest do I have if you are tentative—call me when you know what it is you want to tell me.” I enjoy seeing the evidence of the journey, but not when the artist shows fear in the steps. I believe that’s what makes Van Gogh so universally beloved. He may not have always understood what he was after, but he went after it with complete commitment.  “One may have a blazing hearth in one’s soul and yet no one ever came to sit by it. Passers-by see only a wisp of smoke from the chimney and continue on their way. It is better to be high-spirited even though one makes more mistakes, than to be narrow-minded and all too prudent.”  Vincent Van Gogh

This week we will continue working on pieces in progress for the ReMax show, but we will start with a half hour exercise to loosen up and a way to tap into our inner guidance system. No extra anything will be needed, but you will start with a limited palette.

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