Tag Archives: Art inspiration

The mystery in art

For the past two days mist, fog, and occasionally, rain, has dampened my parched world. Last night, as my significant, Wug, and I were driving back from the Indianapolis Museum of Art to our downtown abode, we observed the city skyline shrouded in mist. Nearly invisible now, we both knew what they skyline normally looked like. Tall skinny buildings with blinking lights, glued shoulder-to-shoulder with their shorter, broad-chested brothers, sparkling lights beckoning us home after sunset. But last night, a veil of heavy mist left only faint, glowing smudges to lead us back where we belonged. Same city, different view.

Jazzman II, watercolor by Roderik Mayne

This morning, I received an email from artist Robert Genn, who sends out a lovely email twice a week to inspire painters. His words of insight and encouragement mean something to me. Today’s message resonated with me, and perhaps it will with you, too. Here it is:

Dear Nancy,
Recently, watercolorist Roderik Mayne of Toronto, Ontario wrote, “What do you mean when you talk about putting mystery in your work?”

Thanks, Roderik. I’m walking along a strange forest path. Others are with me–some fall back and some join later. We hear animals in the forest but cannot see them. We come upon surprises of incredible beauty that we can’t explain. Some are quite in focus and others are not. Always something is just ahead that we can’t quite get to. As we move forward, whatever it is moves forward also but we never can fully touch it.
If you’re still with me and you don’t think I’m losing it, and if you catch my drift, describing aspects of life is part of the artist’s job. Let me explain:
The path is also the road, stream, river, etc. Few of us have a straight one that leads directly to a big something. More in tune with the human experience is the curving, bumping-up-and-down path that disappears around a corner, over a hill or into a valley. This path winds and beguiles and serves a deep human need. It takes you some distance into the enigma.
The incompletely disclosed subject can be anything: a barn, a lake, a sunset, a splodge of paint, a boy, a girl. The subject need not be fully described, delineated or even fully understood. A hidden barn, a shrouded lake, an obscured sunset, an over-painted splodge, an escaping boy, a shy girl seen only in profile or from behind–all of these tease and caress you further into the enigma.

As you move forward along the path, toward the mysterious something up ahead, the elusive subject might be for a time in focus and the surrounding area not so. This is the nature of concentration–one thing at a time. It may seem unfortunate to some, and worth remedying, but in truth we cannot fully see the whole enigma. This condition, the “specific focus phenomenon,” shows the nature of both human sight and human aspiration. The rest is blurred, fleeting, disappearing. “Suddenly,” said Elizabeth Barrett Browning, “as rare things will, it vanished.”

Best regards,
Robert
PS: “What I’m trying to translate to you is more mysterious; it is entwined in the very roots of being, in the implacable source of sensations.” (Paul Cezanne) “The job of the artist is always to deepen the mystery.” (Francis Bacon) “A painting requires a little mystery, some vagueness, some fantasy. When you always make your meaning perfectly plain you end up boring people.” (Edgar Degas) “The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science.” (Albert Einstein)
Esoterica: You may call them devices, and in some ways they are. But they are the very bones of your paintings, sculptures, even your quilts. Similar to the plot in a story, the theme in a poem, the continuity in a movie, you need them and they need you. FYI, we’ve put a selection of Roderik Mayne’s paintings at the top of the current clickback.

Handmade Found Object Necklace, "Play Misty for Me," by Nancy Lee
Handmade Found Object Necklace, “Play Misty for Me,” by Nancy Lee

Thanks, Robert, for being a source of inspiration. And for cluing me on why art isn’t always straightforward. Why artists choose NOT make everything obvious at the outset. Why an apple doesn’t have to always look like an apple. It allows us the taste of something different, deeper, more meaningful. And it keeps us coming back to look one more time. Same object, different view.

The Resume of the "Shadow Side"

Ever need to put together a resume, bio, or intro? Most people have, at some point in their careers. And no matter how resistant you are to the notion of boasting and bragging on paper, generally a resume will end up with spotlights on accomplishments, achievements, and good points. That is, if you really want the job, the gig, or the grant.
Just recently, I spent way too much time putting together an intro to post online in a recently-joined forum, which is part of an intensive online coaching curriculum called “Uplevel Your Business” by Christine Kane. My intro was replete with tales of hard work over the past two years since the loss of my corporate job, becoming a sole proprietor artist, awards I’d received, and some snaps of my work. I ended up with something that I was fairly proud of. Then I hit “send.” And felt like crud and pondered why it didn’t feel like “enough.”
The next day, I read some posts on the forum.  I wasn’t the only one with that old “average” feeling. In fact, several of the people on the forum (all women) admitted, no matter their accomplishments, to not feeling very special – even though their achievements appeared pretty impressive on paper.
Using pretty language and big words to describe my accolades, I showed that I am enough. But I stumbled, because of that dang shadow, saying that these mere words don’t tell the whole story, don’t show the underbelly. The pretty stuff hides the resume of the dark side. Who wants to see THAT, for Pete’s sake?

Almost Hunter's Moon by Walter Hawn
Almost Hunter’s Moon by Walter Hawn

It’s been a few weeks now since that post, and I’ve kept that shadow in check – mostly. Going forward, I’ll keep that shiny resume polished, for sure. And I’ll notice that no matter how far I get, or how far any of my fellow sisters get, when it comes right down to it, most of us are plagued by the same things. We are equal in our ability to maintain a shiny side and a shadow side, no matter how far we get in life. Somehow knowing this makes the shadow a little bit less powerful. Knowing this makes the visit to the “Resume of the Shadow Side” a shorter trip every time.
P.S. I hope you enjoy the beautiful photography of Walter Hawn, a fellow student and author of “The Daily Photograph” blog and website.

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