A creative thanksgiving

Apples blog

Apples (A4 acrylic 2017)

“At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to thank with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.” Albert Schweitzer

Parker J Palmer opened his Thanksgiving Facebook post with this quotation. We don’t have Thanksgiving in England. We now have Black Friday, of course, another opportunity to acquire stuff we possibly don’t need, but we don’t have a formal occasion to sit and be grateful for what we already have.

Many times during this rather dismal year I’ve had cause to be grateful to friends and family who have helped me keep the flame alight. As I’ve mentioned before, there were times during the first half when that seemed an almost impossible task and I thank all of you who have helped with a well-timed spark. You know who you are.

But this is an art blog so let’s move over to that track.

There are times when you bump up against what might seem like an insurmountable obstacle to creativity. Over the past few months I’ve been struggling to consciously loosen up the way I paint and I have plenty of half-finished monstrosities to prove it. Yesterday evening I took three apples from the bowl, squeezed out some acrylics onto a palette and set about painting a simple still life. My ambition wasn’t to recreate what I saw in front of me but to intrepret those three apples with a complete freedom of execution. The result (above) is no masterpiece, but as with other experiments it got me over that hump.

There’s a fascinating blog post by artist Christopher Gallego entitled 5 unusual habits to keep you growing artistically that I urge you to read. His second piece of advice is ‘Do the impossible’ (the first, ‘Paint some crap’, is also worth trying): ‘Attack something, anything, that scares you to death’, he advises. So painting these apples with big, bright slabs of colour, buttered on with a square brush, was far from the usual way I paint. It was glorious. After an hour of that I felt exhausted and exhilerated, defeated and victorious in equal measure, and glad that I had just attacked the thing that scares me to death: looseness and spontenaiety. As Lorca described the Andalusian folk lyric, ‘a momentary burst of inspiration, the blush of all that is truly alive…the trembling of the moment’ – that’s what we should be aiming for!

So thank you, Christopher Gallego, for your timely spark. Thank you, Annabel Mednick, for making me look and draw what I see every week in my life drawing course. Thank you, Ingrid Christensen for showing us how to paint beautiful loose still lifes, and to you Stanley Bielen, John Button, Lisa Daria, Jennifer Pochinski, Karolina Gacke and many others who show what can be achieved just this side of abstraction.

That’s my creative Thanksgiving.

42 thoughts on “A creative thanksgiving

  1. I love them, Your best work is so spontaneous and gives the impression of being easy and not overworked. It may not feel like it but it is worth all the ‘crap’ paintings.

    How many of those do you think any serious artist has?I’d venture that 4 out of every 5 pieces I attempt, fail. But they bring me to my next piece, so I keep doing them. The difference between some one for whom art is a calling, and others, is that quality of pushing through after each piece that falls short of our expectations. That is what I see you doing and it is inspiring. cheers, Sarah

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks as always for your encouragement, Sarah. I seem to have so many false starts but I feel it’s more to do with the lack of time and space that I have at the moment to paint. After Christmas I’m going to consciously clear the decks a little and devote more time to painting. I do love these bright, ‘buttery’ paintings though, even when they don’t quite turn out as I’d hoped.

      I realise I owe you a mail. I’ll be in touch soon, I hope! M


  2. Your story of your latest artistic challenging is inspiring for me personally. Realizing I have gotten stuck in a rut is painful. Imagining I will find the right way to address it creatively is scary. So happy for your progress, Art Pilgrim!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. With beautiful result. I find I’m often afraid to get started, but, as happened here, if I can get past the beginning, momentum often carries the day. Also, I’ve found that getting rid of expectations helps a lot.
    And yes, here’s to a new year and better things for all of us and our beleaguered world. (K)

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I love the background in this one, Michael. Thank you for linking to that article – most of the advice goes for writers as well! You wrote a couple of phrases that made me smile: ‘well-timed spark’ and ‘bright slabs of colour, buttered on with a square brush’. Quite enjoyable. Hope things are not so rough for you at this time of year.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I think most of art is just showing up. It’s getting over whatever inhibitions you may have and trying. And honestly, your apples look lovely! I’d hang that in my dining room! Beautiful. I love the quotes and the link you suggested. Thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for your kind comment. I do appreciate it. So far as suggestions go, I’m not sure I would presume to advise you. You seem to be excited about your art and enthusiastic about life: beyond that it’s just practice and looking at other artists, I’d say. I love doing life drawing classes and challenging workshops, but not everyone enjoys that. At the end of the day I think everything comes down to having curiosity, about life and about art.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Your apples are beautiful! I looked at Gallego’s advice and the one about doing something you can’t do is the one I find most appealing. I am always looking for the thing that seems really hard because it’s like going back to the beginning — almost like being innocent again or being a child again. And art offers by its very nature always “more and more” which is what I love about it. It’s never done. It’s never like “oh, I understand all that now.” It’s instead continuously adventurous. I am sorry you experienced so much sadness earlier in the year. I hope that 2018 will bring you many blessings.

    Liked by 1 person

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