Road to Ithaka

I had a long battle on my hands to get the above painting to reach the impact it was leading me to. It took several sessions over a week and in the end I was happy with the outcome, but I think the canvas felt like the old man in Hemingway’s novel The Old Man and the Sea after he at long last landed the big fish he had been fighting so long.

Here is how it started: during a recent morning walk around “Lake D” near Hamilton, New Zealand, I took some promising photos.

I chose this one to base a painting on:

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I was interested in the play between shadow and shade. I expected two challenges: first, how to make the large area of shade in the foreground interesting; and second: how to handle all that green without the painting being too cool and pretty.

Here is my first effort:

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Initially, I was quite happy with this outcome – happy enough to sign it. However, the next morning when I saw it in the sober light of the morning I scraped most of it right off. I felt the picture plane was too flat – the eye was not really going anywhere. And all that yellow green was a bit horrible.

So I took some of the trees out at the right, warmed up the tree shadows and introduced a far vista with some cold clouds:

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I felt much more satisfied with this version – it had an old world, gritty and deconstructed look that I strive for in most of my work. I had also put much more colour into the shadows. I felt I was done!

Not yet. Once again, the next morning I noted the similarity in the shapes and spacing between the four trees  (above, top left) – it looked like something made in a factory. I know similar repeating shapes with equal distances between them are a big NO in painting composition.

So once the paint was tacky again, I repainted that portion and put in some finishing touches:

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Now I felt there was an unspoken message, a mystery (will this path take me to those far hills and those clouds?) and much for the viewer’s eye to complete. I am quite happy with this effort.

Thinking about the long, tortuous path that a painting sometimes follow to its final resting place, I was reminded of the beautiful poem by Cavafy:

As you set out for Ithaka
hope the voyage is a long one,
full of adventure, full of discovery.
Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
angry Poseidon—don’t be afraid of them:
you’ll never find things like that on your way
as long as you keep your thoughts raised high,
as long as a rare excitement
stirs your spirit and your body.
Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
wild Poseidon—you won’t encounter them
unless you bring them along inside your soul,
unless your soul sets them up in front of you.
...
...
Keep Ithaka always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you are destined for.
But do not hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years,
so you are old by the time you reach the island,
wealthy with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.
Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey.
Without her you would not have set out.
She has nothing left to give you now.
 
And if you find her poor, Ithaka won’t have fooled you.
Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,
you will have understood by then what these Ithakas mean. 

(this copy from C.P. Cavafy poems, 
Translated by Edmund Keeley/Philip Sherrard)

 

Thanks to all who have encouraged me with likes and comments. A special thanks to those who follow my blog . I wish all of you happiness and contentment.

If you are interested to see more of my work, follow me on Instagram (@fritzjoosteartist), or to view or buy my work, please visit my gallery on Daily Paintworks.

Glory to Dappled Things

In the most recent leg of my painting journey I started to follow a method in which I first do a pastel study of the subject I have in mind. Once I have the concept nailed down in the most abstract manner possible, I decide if it warrants a larger version in oil.

Oftentimes the pastel version is so abstract that it is not fit for public consumption. But sometimes it is a real honey (and even more so in a frame, even an inexpensive photo frame):

 

In the case above, this was based on some memory notes and photos of the Waikato River’s edge – one of my favorite spots just a few minutes walk from my home.

Now, when doing the oil painting I put away the photo entirely and just use the pastel as a reference. I try to keep the paint as thin and dry as possible at the start, with the brush moving all the time. At the end I put in a few juicy highlights:

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I have been pondering this strange universe even more than usual. I often watch debates about the existence of a higher being. In meditation all those questions disappear into the most beautiful silence, something indescribable in its sacredness and generosity. Right here now.

Belief in a higher being or not, I will always – in my moments of solitude – sing praise to dappled things:

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The image above is another oil version of the dappled shade in the shallows on the banks of the Waikato River. I sing praise in my own way, in agreement with Gerhard Manley Hopkins:

Glory be to God for dappled things—
   For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
       For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
   Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough;
       And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
   Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
      With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
                                     Praise Him.

Gerard Manley Hopkins, 
this version copied from Poets.org

Thanks to all who have encouraged me with likes and comments. A special thanks to those who follow my blog . I wish all of you happiness and contentment.

If you are interested to see more of my work, follow me on instagram (@fritzjoosteartist), or to view or buy my work, please visit my gallery on Daily Paintworks.

Lost in Landscapes

I have been busy in the studio of late. With the assistance of my beautiful wife I recently migrated from my old drafty and leaky studio to one in my old office. Complete with air conditioning and without leaks! With better lighting and more warmth I now manage to paint into the night…

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Another big step I took was to start putting my paintings up for sale online through the Daily Paintworks site. The paintings shown in this blog post all sold recently and it was with happy sadness that I sent them off. They are selling dirt cheap but I am so glad that others can share the joy I get from creating these paintings.

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Juggling life between work and painting, stress and friction builds up quite quickly without a discipline of a tempered pace and self-awareness. There is also the potential to lose the golden thread of creativity and spirituality completely. The Zen teacher Shunryu Suzuki warned against this:

When we are too involved in the idea of time, or taking care of the material world, we will lose our way. A disciple will not be a disciple when he is completely involved in dualistic practice, involved in a busy life in the busy, mundane world.

Shunryu Suzuki, in Zen Mind, Beginners Mind

I find when things hum along, waking up to the fact of my existence as often as I can provides a source of energy, joy even. These are the moments of awareness that constitute a full, appreciated life not spent in forgetfulness.

From an old post of mine: “Lying awake at 2 am, I think again of Pessoa and his wonderful prose. He wrote:”

To shrug off all duties, even those not assigned to us, to repudiate all homes, even those that weren’t ours, to live off vestiges and the ill-defined, in grand purple robes of madness and in imitation laces of dreamed majesties … To be something, anything, that doesn’t feel the weight of the rain outside, nor the anguish of inner emptiness … To wander without thought or soul – sensation without sensation – along mountain roads and through valleys hidden between steep slopes, into the far distance, irrevocably immersed … To be lost in landscapes that are like paintings … A colourful non-being in the distance …

Pessoa, Fernando. The Book of Disquiet (Penguin Modern Classics)

Summer has come to New Zealand!  I hope you enjoy this excerpt from a poem by Shinkichi Takahashi:

The Position of the Sparrow (last verse)
...
Because the whole is part, there's not a whole,
Anywhere, that is not part.
And all those happenings a billion years ago,
Are happening now, all around us: time.
Indeed this morning the sparrow hopped about
In that nebulous whirlpool
A million light years hence.
And since the morning is void,
Anything can be. Since mornings
A billion years from now are nothingness,
We can behold them.
The sparrow stirs,
The universe moves slightly.

Shinkichi Takahashi, translated by Lucien Stryk in 
Zen Poetry: Let the Spring Breezes Enter

Thanks to all who have encouraged me with likes and comments. A special thanks to those who follow my blog . I wish you happiness and contentment.

If you are interested to see more of my work, follow me on instagram (@fritzjoosteartist), or to view or buy my work, please visit my gallery on Daily Paintworks.