Rising to the Surface

Artists seem to think out loud, live out loud, process out loud and want to be understood out loud. We can so easily suck the air out of the room with all our great ideas. We also get shot down quickly because we do not know how to temper our enthusiasm. We are made to express and that we do whole heartedly.

We are the keepers of beauty and we want every one to see beautiful things. True artists run deep. Do we mean to be annoying, or the butt of the joke? No, we do not even notice, we are too busy with our next vision. It is almost a laughing matter if it wasn’t so true. But we always seem to come back asking for more, and surfacing again wanting to be accepted.

And then there is the work! The more uniquely the work and more truthful the words the more we are misunderstood. Viewers are satisfied with how they think and they do not want their minds changed. So when they are confronted with a painting that they can’t identify with, they reject it as art.

I found great consolation as I heard from Lee Ables, an artist and teacher of art for over 60years who has learned how to dodge the bullets and stay true to himself. With an IQ off the charts, he is considered a genius, and this veteran abstract painter has lived through scrutiny and has comes through with flying colors. He quietly takes ownership of his work. There are no apologies, there is no fight, it is what it is.

Lee, an abstract painter from Arizona, wrote, after reading last week’s “Over the Top” article, “What a great article. Like you, I have always enjoyed watching Jack Nicholson in any role he created. Also, I think as an artist, we have all faced failure, sometimes often, in our search for self expression. There are always the people who are telling us what we should try to create or what style to emulate.  Some people are always telling me to paint something blue, because that’s a color they like and they say my best paintings are blue. Other people have told me over time that I should paint more realistically. On and on it goes, seemingly without end.

“Everyone has an opinion about what you should do. For the weak at heart, the failure is listening to these people instead of being true to yourself and going your own way. The success you achieve may not be earth shaking, but at least it is yours.”

“It has been my feeling that a work of art has to be more than mere reproduction of something already familiar to the viewer. That is why truly great works of art go beyond the superficial representation of things to a reflection of the ideas and feelings of the artist. This is not to decry representationalism, since most great works of art of the past are representational, but usually what makes those works great has little to do with what is represented. The fact that I choose the non-representational mode as a means of expression is because I feel that I can best stir the imagination of the viewer in this manner.”

“If you are asking, as people often do, “What was your thinking when you started this painting?” you are on the wrong track. My paintings, while inspired by nature, are neither of nature nor about nature. I try to utilize the colors, textures and shapes that I see in nature in a new and innovative way to create a world that doesn’t exist anywhere except on the canvas and in the viewer’s imagination. I approach painting with no preconceived ideas about the finished product, but rather let intuition guide the brush and my response to what is put on canvas. The only intellectual part is towards the end when I try to organize the work into a balanced and definitive statement.”

“I want the viewers to see things they have never seen before, to visualize a world that doesn’t exist anywhere except in their own imagination. In this way, it makes the viewer something of an artist as well”, he concludes.

Similar thoughts and words penned by Robert Henri, artist and writer of over fifty years ago, confirm the thoughts of Lee Ables. Henri writes, “On the surface there is the battle of institutions, the illustration of events, the strife between peoples. On the surface there is propaganda and there is the effort to force opinions.”

“The deeper current carries no propaganda. The shock of the surface upheaval does not deflect it from its course. It is the search of fundamental principle; that basic principle of all, which in degree as it is apprehended, points the way to beauty and order, and to the law of nature. On the surface, disaster is battled with disaster. Things change. But all improvement is due to what of fundamental law rises to the surface, through the search made by those of the undercurrent.”

I believe as we finally come into our own, there is a transformation that is taking place in us and our work We do not have to carry a big stick, trying to convince others with propaganda such as why we paint the way we do, or why we even paint. We gain a quiet confidence and we no longer need to live out loud, think out loud, we just let the undercurrent of our work rise to the surface and let it speak.

Final Brushstroke

The weaker the cause the louder the argument. Maturity and confidence brings a quieter voice.

Comments from readers

J. McCanne, from Temple, Texas, writes relating to the article “Pigs in the Parlor.”

“So it’s the soil. Ouch! Is it essential? That’s a very good question.” 

At the Co-p

Lee Ables, an abstract artist, has recently joined the Pagosa Artisans’ Co-op. In addition to seeing his richly colored, flowing abstract paintings at the Co-op you may also see his work online at www.leeablesart.com. Lee also has published a book picturing his art which can be ordered through his Web site.

 Quote for the Week

“An artist is not paid for his labor but for his vision.” — James McNeill Whistler.