Inspiration, impetus, or … just making art

Inspiration is for amateurs
::: inspiration: noun in·spi·ra·tion \ˌin(t)-spə-ˈrā-shən\  1. something that makes someone want to do something or that gives someone an idea about what to do or create : a force or influence that inspires someone  2. a person, place, experience, etc., that makes someone want to do or create something  3. a good idea ::: impetus : noun im·pe·tus \ˈim-pə-təs\ 1. a force that causes something (such as a process or activity) to be done or to become more active 2. a force that causes an object to begin moving or to continue to move  / Merriam Webster Dictionary

I’m a great adherent of Chuck Close’s declaration that “inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work.” There’s more to that quote, about the work producing the direction, and how you won’t get much done if you wait for inspiration. I don’t know; maybe that’s a purist’s point of view, and maybe I’m too old to become a purist. But I’ve been in a slump for months, now, and not painting much at all (except for the demo piece for my last painting class, and that was dreadful). I’ve been meaning to sew — an art I also love — but not doing that either. Meaning to clean up my office and studio, getting a bit done but not much, and of course, meaning to paint. But not. Even meaning to doodle and sketch, for pity’s sake, but not doing much of that either. I’ve been reading, mostly. Reading good stuff — mostly Margaret Drabble — but not painting with any will.

IMG_8411sm
Breakfast at the Roycroft Inn

However. A couple of weeks ago on a Sunday, Sweetie celebrated my 65th birthday by taking me on a rural New York State ramble, unbooked, unplanned, heading roughly in the direction of Niagara Falls via secondary roads. The weather was perfect, the scenery beautiful — I’m sorry I took so few photos! Stops at the Glen Curtiss Museum, a stay in Brockport, a brief excursion past the falls in Canada, a stay at the wonderful Roycroft Inn (and campus), and finally, a long stop at the amazing Corning Museum of Glass, before heading for home under the threat of thunderstorms… so refreshing.

Bronze statue of Artemis and a deer - Greek or Roman, Late Hellenistic or early Imperial, 1st cent. BC or 1st cent. AD
Bronze statue of Artemis and a deer – Greek or Roman, Late Hellenistic or early Imperial, 1st cent. BC or 1st cent. AD – Metropolitan Museum of Art

The following Saturday, I got on a bus for NYC with a group from the Fine Arts Society of the Southern Tier, and spent a fabulous day in the City looking at great art with fine companions — including a visit to the Met’s John Singer Sargent collection and the Artemis/Diana bronze (which is the basis of my current painting, Moon Watcher).

And I’ve had this bunch of lovely new-to-me paints, given me out of the blue by a colleague, just waiting to get into a real painting instead of minor dabbling…

So: was it inspiration that got me painting again? Or impetus? Is there a difference? Would Chuck Close see one? I kinda think not, but that’s the way that cookie crumbles. I’m just happy to be working again.

 

Advertisements

After John Singer Sargent and Gustave Caillebotte… People’s Choice Award!

Unlikely Dance: Green Skirt - 30 x 48 in., oils on canvas
“The Rude and Bold Committee would like to congratulate People’s Choice Award Winner Glenda Blake, for her painting Green Skirt. Congratulations to a phenomenal Rude and Bold Woman!” Green Skirt – 30 x 48 in., oils on canvas

Wow — I won the People’s Choice Award at Binghamton’s Rude and Bold Women show last week! It was a strong and beautiful show, and I’m so honored. My artist-friend and sometime painting student Rae Doyle-Freeman was a runner-up with her powerful sculptural papier-mâché piece, “On Her Aching Bones, Did Empires Rise.”

Rae Doyle-Freeman: On Her Aching Bones Did Empires Rise
Rae Doyle-Freeman: On Her Aching Bones Did Empires Rise (photo: Carla Bruce)

The People’s Choice is the only award of the show, determined by votes cast by attendees.

The Tuesday before, I got up at ugly-o’clock in the morning to board a 6:10 a.m. Megabus to NYC with artist-friend Harriet and her friend Jo from farther upstate (also an artist), to see Sargent: Portraits of Artists and Friends at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Fabulous time — took the bus four hours to the Port Authority bus terminal, and then we took more than an hour to to get to the MMA on foot and by city bus, but what a stunner of a show.  I knew many of the works from books — had seen one or two in person before — but there is NOTHING like coming face to face with the actual piece.

The Pailleron Children (detail)
The Pailleron Children (detail), by John Singer Sargent: the piece I most wanted to see!

Gradually we took in and discussed, piece by piece, most of the show (gathering a small, attentive audience as we moved along!), took a lunch break when we were exhausted, then — like kids back to the pool — went back for more Sargent. Harriet and I lost Jo in the Post-Impressionist galleries, but I was glad to be forced through them in our search for her. I could live in the MMA. Another long trip back to another long bus-ride… so-o-o tired! But so worth it to experience great art, especially with friends who experience it in the same way.

In His Limbs and Joints, in its new home in Annapolis
In His Limbs and Joints, center, in its new home in Annapolis (photo: Michael Dufton)

The week before that, after seeing my painting, In His Limbs and Joints, installed in my cousin’s lovely home in Annapolis (such a thrill to see it hanging in their amazing art collection!) I got a look at the show, Gustave Caillebotte: The Painter’s Eye, at the National Gallery of Art, while sweetie and I were in the DC area. Caillebotte wasn’t a name I was familiar with — he was contemporary with Degas, and although more conservative, was equally experimental in his less flamboyant way — but I did know some of the work. And it was sublime. I’m slowly working my way through the show catalog, which we bought on the way out. (I neglected to obtain the Sargent catalog — the photography was such a disappointment after seeing all of the actual pieces — but I hope to soon.)

Caillebotte - Paris Street, Rainy Day
Gustave Caillebotte, Paris Street, Rainy Day, 1877, oil on canvas, The Art Institute of Chicago, Charles H. and Mary F. S. Worcester Collection

NYC – a large dose of inspiration

Bronze statue of Artemis and a deer - Greek or Roman, Late Hellenistic or early Imperial, 1st cent. BC or 1st cent. AD
Bronze statue of Artemis and a deer – Greek or Roman, Late Hellenistic or early Imperial, 1st cent. BC or 1st cent. AD – Metropolitan Museum of Art

Now that I’ve discovered Megabus and Hostel International, I’m going to New York more often. My museum-buddy Judy and I got on an early-morning Shortline on Wednesday this last week, and headed for the Frick to see the Piero della Francesca exhibit. I’ve been determined to see it since hearing about it, and a della Francesca devotee since first seeing a slide of his Resurrection in college art history class. I hadn’t been to the Frick in years, nor to The City much. First we went to the Morgan, at Judy’s suggestion… and Judy dropped her wallet in the taxi, as we discovered after the cabbie had driven away. But as she started phoning around to lock up credit cards, etc., I wandered around the Morgan Library — first, the library itself, and then the exhibit called Degas, Miss La La, and the Cirque Fernando.

Edgar Degas - Mlle. La La at the Cirque Fernando, 1879, oils on canvas, 46.1×30.5" - National Gallery, London
Edgar Degas – Mlle. La La at the Cirque Fernando, 1879, oils on canvas, 46.1×30.5″ – National Gallery, London

Fascinating, and what an inspiration — nearly all of Degas’ working sketches and studies for the painting, as well as the painting itself, were hung together in a small second-floor gallery, along with related works by other artists. Recently I’ve been researching Degas’ working methods, planning to pull together a painting course called Painting Like the Impressionists, and I couldn’t have found a better show if I’d planned for it.

Piero della Francesca - Virgin and Child Enthroned with Four Angels, c. 1460-70, oil (and tempera?) on poplar panel, transferred to fabric on panel, The Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute
Piero della Francesca – Virgin and Child Enthroned with Four Angels, c. 1460-70, oil (and tempera?) on poplar panel, transferred to fabric on panel, The Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute

Then it was on to the Frick, and della Francesca. Most of his great works are frescoes (painted into wet plaster walls) in Italy, but he did some work on panel and on canvas, and a few pieces are in the US. It was these latter that the Frick had pulled together. And it was magical. Spell-binding. What can I say? Go see it if you can!

On our way to a restaurant for an early dinner, Judy’s phone rang — it was her sister in Michigan, who had just received a call from a young man who’d found the wallet on the cab floor! Further phone calls resulted in his promise to drop it off at the hostel for her. He showed up just in time for us to confirm our hostel reservations that night. New York is truly a city of miracles.

Another of those is the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where we spent the entire day on Thursday. I hadn’t been there for several years, hadn’t had that much time there in many years if ever. The Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity exhibit was a stunner, and the huge early Monets were a revelation in bold, bright brushwork.

Claude Monet - Luncheon on the Grass (left and central panels)
Claude Monet – Luncheon on the Grass (left and central panels), 1865–66
Oil on canvas; 164.5×59″, 98 x 86″ – Musée d’Orsay, Paris

Judy and I lost each other for a couple of hours at the Met, but evening saw us back on the 3-hour bus ride to Binghamton, where my sweetie was waiting at the bus station (having driven us there at ugly-o’clock the previous morning). Have to go back, and soon.

I rested for a day afterwards, and then painted up a storm yesterday.