Monday, June 11, 2007

"If you want to be a writer...write." Epictetus (Greek: Επίκτητος; ca. 55–ca. 135)

I first saw this on a bus placard in college, Kent State, (yes I was there in 1970 but let me tell you about it some other time) and it has stayed with me. That and a Mark Twain quote that goes roughly like this, "If you wish to be a writer, write for two years without pay. If at the end of that time, no one is willing to pay you to continue, take that as a sign that sawing wood is the occupation for which you are intended." I have transposed both to painting.

Teachers, even some I respected, tried to steer me to writing. I don't flatter myself that I had much talent for it, they probably do that with anyone who can put together more than two words. I consider English to be my second language being much more fluent in images: other people's paintings, photographs, motion pictures. Like Maggies Libby sez, "What a strange thing to deal in!", but I am stuck with it.

There was not even a nod in the direction of visual literacy in public school; I was tracked for college and was not allowed to take art in any form; a frivolous waste of my time that. I was finally able to sign up for studio art classes in college but with that came attitude. "What do you propose to do with THAT?!! Teach, I suppose". Even there, as I say about all my formal education, I managed to learn in spite of it, a library card being the key.

So I say, "If you want to be a painter, paint". Don't talk about being a painter, don't read about being a painter, don't think about it, fantasize about it, write about it, whine about it. Just paint.

Sunday, May 20, 2007


I think this term applies to the direction my stuff is taking these days.

I am an art student. I copy Michelangelo, Kandinsky, Da Vinci, Matisse, Hopper, and on and on; only the best (IMHO). Somewhere (may have been in a dream) I received the following advice:

'Should you copy? Of course copy, how else would you learn? Everyone copies, though most would deny it. The real question is what, or rather who, should you copy. Copy only the best. Why would you copy some hack?'

Made sense to me but I can't play it straight, I have always changed what I copied: added friend's faces to Van Goghs, tarted up Hopper's colors, cropped and played with the angles. I'd subtly "improve" or munge them for my own amusement.

Lately, I have started quoting or appropriating (or what ever PoMo euphemism applies) multiple sources and smashing them together in ways that seem to relate the forms and spawn new meanings.

I'm having great fun with it.