Thursday, January 15, 2015

Are we artists only when we paint? By Thomas W. Schaller 

Thomas W Schaller Are we artists only when we paint? As visual people, we are – in a sense - always painting. In fact, most paintings I do begin long before the brush ever touches the page. As Edward Hopper said: “Art is the outward expression of the inner life of an artist. And this inner life will result in a personal vision of the world.” And it’s in how we see and feel about the world that we are framing our future work. When just out walking, we may notice a bit of light, a hint of color, a composition of values that we never saw before. Or as the sunlight slants along a narrow street that we may have seen a thousand times, we realize; we never noticed it quite like that. Sometimes, we do a sketch, or take a quick photo. But often, we just file these impressions away somewhere in our hearts – a collection of moments. Over the years we amass a vast storeroom of moments; visual, sensory, and emotional memories - a collection we can draw upon for a lifetime. And in that collection should also be those feelings we had at the very moment we saw that light, or remembered the smell of those leaves, or the chill in the air one afternoon as the shadows inched across that road, or the talk we had that day with a neighbor or a friend. This is the stuff of Art – more than the exact specifics of what this view or that scene may actually look like. And so of myself I ask that I paint not so much the scene in front of me – but rather, how I remember, or how I feel about that scene right now. And if my painting comes even close to asking that question of the viewer, then I feel I’ve done my job. A painter paints, a writer writes, and so on it is said. That’s true enough. We only improve those skills that we practice. The only garden that grows is one that we have watered. And to be honest, I am usually not happy when I have to miss a day of painting. It is the garden I most wish to tend. But I think I need to remember how much my inner life is shaped and informed by the world around me. Taking some time to just be mindful and observant of this world – moment by moment -is critical. If I spend a little time just riding my bike, or watching people on the street, or talking with a friend, or just absorbing the sights, the sounds, the millions of angles of light that Nature provides, or just looking up and really watching the sky; all this helps to shape my unique personal vision. And back at the easel, that is at least as important a tool for the artist as any paint or brush could ever be.

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

"Only Connect" by Thomas w. Schaller  

"Only Connect" “….. the prose and the poetry. Live in fragments no more.” Epigraph to the novel, Howard’s End ; 1910. E.M. Forster For this book, Forster borrowed a snippet of dialogue from one of his own characters to perfectly sum up the theme of the work . For much of his writing - and I believe his own life - was informed by the concept of “connection” - or the lack thereof . So many of his characters are in a struggle to integrate their inner lives with the outer world in which they live. And that world itself is struggling to adapt to constant transition and the evolving, cyclical nature of Time. It illustrates Forster’s fascination with the duality of Transition and Isolation. Our lives are constantly on the brink of change and exciting new discoveries - or the risk of being lost and forgotten forever. “So what has this got to do with painting?" you might be asking. For me - just about everything. In a sense, my work is a study in connection. Different values speak to one another, complementary tones are in constant dialogue, and angles - subtle or obvious lines of connection - are all central to my compositions. "Connect” is also a word heard a lot in my classes. I admit, I’m a bit obsessed with it : by the connections we have with one another , the invisible threads that bind us all in an unseen fabric that stretches across continents; one that also reaches down to Mother Earth, and then up to the very stars, and beyond. We are all part of something far more vast than ourselves. This is powerful and inspirational material for an artist and whatever stories we may wish to tell. As a painter, and a bit of an introvert, I admit that I have long struggled with my own sense of isolation and the need to connect the apparent rift between my own creative and intellectual selves - or the two opposite sides of the brain as some would have it. It’s a constant process, but I think I’ve made great strides. Yet, there are miles to go still. And that is good! But as I come to see that there really is no rift - no difference at all - just complementary parts of the same connected whole , my paintings have changed ; my relationship to others - and to the Universe we share - has changed. I have changed. And changed too are my paintings themselves; the themes, the expressions, the shapes, and values, the angles that help me try to express the changing stories I want my paintings to tell. And in the same way, this is not just a little story of my own journey - but one that I expect I share to some degree with many. As I think about all the connections there are, I feel less isolated - more happy and more free. As I paint, I am more able to become lost in the world of my painting - without a thought as to “how am I doing?” or “how do I compare?”. All that matters is the present moment in which Art is most alive. I feel no fear of the future and no regrets about the past. “Now” is all that matters. And life can be seen as just a series of “nows” - all connected, one to the other, yours and mine, forever . My wish for us all in this New Year is for more of that sense of joy and freedom in whatever we may choose to do. And as we strive to be more accepting and kind to others , we should not forget to afford ourselves that same courtesy. While we can - and should - set extremely high standards, we should also be able to forgive ourselves if we fall short. Because we will. But we will get up and try again with the knowledge that in painting - as in the rest of life - “mistakes” are sometimes the best things that can happen to us - and often - turn out not to be mistakes at all, just another connection to a new discovery - a new success.

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