O228-30: Emerald World

This is yet another attempt to come to grip with two things that lie at the end of my comfort zone in painting: (a) interpreting an intensely green landscape; and (b) innovating the horizon line.

In New Zealand, cool greens, whites and blues dominate much of the North Island landscape. Though most of my landscapes are invented, I find that I constantly draw imagery from my 3 km morning walk through the New Zealand countryside. Bringing that back into the studio is becoming my painting practice.

Handling large masses of green whilst still keeping depth, interest and variation is a challenge, and I keep on going at from different angles. I am quite happy with this effort:

O228
#O228: Emerald World; Oil on Panel (approx 45 x 30 cm)

 

I found a gem of a poem in Marie Marshall’s “Naked in the Sea”, dealing somehow with the same “problem of green”. Here are the first and last verses:

E is for the Emerald World: 
summer in all its sickening fullness 
the lush and green depth of trees 
alive with the rustling of bird-wings 
this time when the stink of wild garlic 
and of the crushed stems of fennel 
make the corners of my mouth ache 
...
give me the naked honesty of the desert 
of the undrinkable ocean’s sky-to-sky 
or of the dust-devils of the townscape 
because the emerald world of summer 
is a green gem of ever-hard promises
mocking the starvation-stone in my belly

Marshall, Marie. Naked in the Sea 
P'kaboo Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Below are two other paintings where I was pushing the edge of my comfort zone a bit. In the first, I was trying to keep a very light key. After this photo was taken, I unfortunately started fiddling with this painting whilst in a bad mood and managed to wreck it completely. It is now slated for recycling.

O229
#O229: Oil on Panel (approx 60 x 40 cm)

In the painting below, I was trying to work mostly in blue and grey. I have had a few good responses to this painting, but somehow I am not too fond of it myself. It was good practice though!

O230
#O230: Oil on Canvas (approx 45 x 30 cm)

I keep going through cycles of doubt and confidence – proving that I am alive and fairly normal. The Doubt, I believe, is one of the most feared and useful facets in an artist’s arsenal. But seeing it that way can be a challenge.

In Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet, he advises as follows:

And your doubt may become a good quality if you train it. It must become knowing, it must become critical. Ask it, whenever it wants to spoil something for you, why something is ugly, demand proofs from it, test it, and you will find it perplexed and embarrassed perhaps, or perhaps rebellious. But don’t give in, insist on arguments and act this way, watchful and consistent, every single time, and the day will arrive when from a destroyer it will become one of your best workers—perhaps the cleverest of all that are building at your life.

Rilke, Rainer Maria. Letters to a Young Poet. W. W. Norton & Company.

 

Thanks for visiting my blog. I hope you are happy and content.

 

O227: The Universe Moves Slightly

This is a larger version of a small oil painting sketch that I posted earlier. If you look at the earlier post, you will see that the painting had two lives – an initial confused and darker one, and then it stepped into the light. All three versions are shown below:

This latest painting is approximately 60 cm x 45 cm in size which is about the largest size I am comfortable with right now, although I have two larger paintings on/off my easel that I am tinkering with.

I am out-painting my blog!

When I started around March last year, I used to blog almost every day and had to paint to keep up with my blog. Now I am posting #227 but this afternoon I already completed #243! I guess for an artist focused on painting that indicates a correct sequence of time/priority?

I sometimes share some of my latest paintings on Instagram – those that I have not yet put into a blog post (Instagram name is @fritzjoosteartist, if you are interested).

I have to say, one of the reasons for not posting as regularly is that I have not read anything inspiring lately, apart from Marie Marshall’s book of poetry that I mentioned in my last post.

Often, doing my morning reading and walking, I am inspired by something I read and can compose a paragraph to accompany it in my mind. Lately all I see is color – no words and very little sounds.

Well in case you need some inspiration for your day, 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.

O226: Backscatter Memories

I am falling behind! I have made so many paintings since I painted this, I cannot really remember the person who made this painting, about 15 days ago. But the painting started like this:

O226a

and then went on to this:

O226b

This is an invented landscape. So who knows what dreams behind that hill, whereto that road over a half-ploughed field from another season, somewhere in Cullinan?

Yesterday I purchased a new book of poetry – this one called Naked in the Sea, by Marie Marshall, an award winning poet who posts some of her poems right here on WordPress. Some of these poems carry turns of phrase such as “..we will be whispered down” – phrases that take me right into silence and the wonder of not-knowing.

She starts off her poem “Leaf 22″ like this:

Time is now a commodity for wasting, 
so say the long minutes of daylight, 
and the backscatter memories, brave 
in the sky, of no more than half-dark. 

And yet each day there is a minute or two 
eaten away, a pixel here and there 
taken from a whole, day-long picture, 
and the wise, sad, glass-half-empty person 
knows she will wake up one day and there 
will be the end of the precious season.

Marshall, Marie. Naked in the Sea. P'kaboo Publishers. Kindle Edition.

As with many of Marshall’s poems, this one ends with a leap that turns my senses onto themselves:

Why do I spend my time dancing here, 
do you know?

 

Thanks for visiting my blog. I hope you are happy and content.

 

O225: A Manner of Dreaming

It has been a while since I last posted. I have recently started putting my paintings on Instagram, and it reduces the urgency to write something about them. But I am determined to keep up my numbered log, so here is a recent painting.

This is an invented landscape, approximately 45×30 cm in size (oil on panel). I am particularly happy with this outcome, mainly because of the rich, nostalgic green that popped out of the marshland rushes in the foreground.

O225-Fritz-Jooste-Oil-on-Panel-(45x30 cm)

Pessoa wrote:

What’s primordial in me are my habit and manner of dreaming. The circumstances of my life, solitary and quiet since my childhood, and perhaps forces that go farther back, moulding me to their sinister specifications through the obscure action of heredity, have made my mind an endless stream of daydreams. Everything I am comes down to this, and even what seems farthest in me from the dreamer belongs unequivocally to the soul of one who only dreams, as intensely as possible.

Pessoa, Fernando. The Book of Disquiet

Thanks for visiting!

O224: And I Let the Fish Go

This is a landscape I see often on my morning walk. I have painted it before and posted the result in this post. The earlier painting is shown below and is one of those I have kept around my studio longest.

o83-2

 

In my latest attempt I have aimed for something more abstract and wild, centered around patterns and textures. I am not sure I have succeeded in my goal yet, so I see this as a work in progress. The different stages up to now are shown below:

O224-1O224-2O224-3

Robert Henri wrote:

He who has contemplated has met with himself, is in a state to see into the realities beyond the surfaces of his subject. Nature reveals to him, and, seeing and feeling intensely, he paints, and whether he wills it or not each brush stroke is an exact record of such as he was at the exact moment the stroke was made.

Henri, Robert. The Art Spirit

I will end this post from something I wrote and a poem I quoted with the above painting on my first attempt, back in October 2016:

In her beautiful poem “The Fish”, Elizabeth Bishop writes of a fishing experience. The narrator is in a rented boat, and catches a massive fish. She hauls the fish aboard, minutely describes the fish, its scales, gills and eyes. Then she notices, from its gaping jaw, five pieces of fish-line where the old fish had fought and beaten five other fishermen. She continues:

...
Like medals with their ribbons
frayed and wavering,
a five-haired beard of wisdom
trailing from his aching jaw.
I stared and stared
and victory filled up
the little rented boat,
from the pool of bilge
where oil had spread a rainbow
around the rusted engine
to the bailer rusted orange,
the sun-cracked thwarts,
the oarlocks on their strings,
the gunnels- until everything
was rainbow, rainbow, rainbow!
And I let the fish go.

Thanks for visiting my blog. I hope you are happy and content.

 

O224: April Winds

In this painting, as in the previous one, I started with a more structured approach to the composition. Once again, I based the composition on curves and spirals. The images below shows the evolution of the painting from sketch to the current, near complete stage.

 

I think the result has merit in its design, but I felt slightly uncomfortable as the painting developed – this was a sort of landscape I was not intimately familiar with – unlike the marshland and savanna-like landscapes that normally feature in my work.

Also, interestingly I felt a bit constrained by the initial design – it was as if I felt I had to fit the painting into a certain mold. It was a different experience from the normal, intuitive approach in which I just start with a few marks on the panel and then react to the image as it evolves – with nothing else to guide/constrain me.

I see my reaction and taste for painting change from month to month. Today I reviewed my Creativity Inspirations page again and found my Rule #3: “Accept that Your Taste and Style will Change” (!), in which I wrote:

“I have noticed how my taste for art has changed over years, sometimes starting off on one style, moving away and then coming back again. Sometimes this made me think I was wishy-washy, not sure enough of myself, not original enough. Robert Henri has some advice on this:”

IT IS NOT EASY to know what you like. Most people fool themselves their entire lives through about this. Self-acquaintance is a rare condition.

Henri, Robert. The Art Spirit.

 

I am quite happy today despite a full workload and little time to paint. I leave you with another view about work, and about certainty and uncertainty of what is real and imagined, what is still and what is moving:

Open and Closed Space
With his work, as with a glove, a man feels the universe.
At noon he rests a while, and lays the gloves aside on a shelf.
There they suddenly start growing, grow huge
and make the whole house dark from inside.

The darkened house is out in the April winds.
 “Amnesty”, the grass whispers, “amnesty".
 A boy runs along with an invisible string that goes right up 
     into the sky.
 There his wild dream of the future flies like a kite, 
     bigger than his town.
 Further to the north, you see from a hill the blue matting 
     of fir trees
 on which the shadows of the clouds
 do not move.
 No, they are moving.

Tomas Transtromer, translated by Robert Bly

Thanks to all who have commented on my posts, and encouraged me with likes and especially to all followers of my blog. May your wild dream of the future fly like a kite!

O223: A Minor Tonality

This is one of the larger invented landscapes I have done, about 60 x 45 cm in size. I am trying to incorporate a lighter color key into my paintings and I regard this painting and the others I did this weekend (to be posted soon) as experiments. But then, maybe everything we do in art is experimental?

Below you can see how this painting evolved from a playful sketch in which the composition centered around spirals. The painting on the right is the result after my second painting session. I left it overnight and decided I wanted to darken the foreground.

The final outcome is below. I am quite happy with this result.

I have in the past received comments on my blog – and in in person – remarking on my rather somber palette. Also, often my posts – as the name of my blog suggests – focuses on the..ahem…less happy facets of life – which also seems to elicit concern about my well-being and state of mind!

#O223

Like many others, I am rather formal and serious in public. But privately I still feel like a child, joyful and happy for much of the time. However, if I am still a child at heart in my private moments, then it is a child who has seen loved ones disappear and knows that we are on this earth only for a limited time, and that this material realm is not our true home.

So…yes, there is a somber, melancholy element to my art, and this is a direct reflection of the beauty I see in the deeper, more reflective, and subtle aspects of life. A frivolous happiness – in art often represented by what Andrew Wyeth called “the visual cocktail” – is not sustainable all the time (unless you are getting some chemical assistance!).

And so to represent all of life in art, there has to be the shadow side as well. I feel quite comfortable in that shadow side. The “always positive and happy” movement is good – I have benefited from it myself. This is what I believe Thomas Moore referred to as a “Major Tonality” of life.

But the patina of life is more interesting than just that one tonality. Moore writes:

When people approve only of major tonalities, they become simplistic, not only in their thinking but in their very being…It takes a complex view of yourself and your fellow human beings to hold back on hatreds and fears. A mature person is complicated and has complex ideas and values. The minor tonality of a dark night adds a significant and valuable complexity to your personality and way of life.

Thomas Moore: Dark Nights of the Soul

Wendell Berry seems to know the darkness of life also blooms and sings:

To Know the Dark
To go in the dark with a light is to know the light.
To know the dark, go dark. Go without sight,
and find that the dark, too, blooms and sings,
and is travelled by dark feet and dark wings.

The Selected Poems of Wendell Berry

 

Thanks for visiting my blog. I hope you are…HAPPY…and content!

 

O222: A Remembered Time

Tonight is a very special post for me. Last week I entered the “Arts for Health” Competition here in Hamilton, Waikato.  I have always been somewhat private about my art and this was the first competition I have ever entered. So I was absolutely humbled and honored when one of my paintings was awarded the 1st Place Prize. My cup runneth over…

Arts-for-Health-Award1

In my last few paintings I have slowed down the pace a bit and also painted in a thinner style. Although I am sure I will return again to the palette knife soon, I am quite happy with some of the results I have achieved.

I once saw an exhibition of Toss Woollaston, a great New Zealand painter, and was amazed at how thin the paint was applied in some of his oil on board paintings. To me, it seemed that he had barely stained the surface, but the combination of color created a richness and depth that took my breath away.

In this invented landscape I also worked very thin, and even left most of the under-painting exposed. I just added some opaque color in places to the landscape so that it could set the scene for the sky.

#O222
#O221: Oil on Panel (approx 60 x 40 cm)

I wrote earlier in this blog that on the occasion that I end up painting something I really like, something that makes me gently nostalgic or sad, there is an awareness that some element of space and time had been transcended. I noted:

It is hard to explain, but there is a sense that something had come into the world through me, something that is me but somehow more than me. I guess this does not make much sense?

OK, here is how Wallace Stevens explained it:

The Planet on the Table

Ariel was glad he had written his poems.
They were of a remembered time
Or of something seen that he liked.

Other makings of the sun
Were waste and welter
And the ripe shrub writhed.

His self and the sun were one
And his poems, although makings of his self,
Were no less makings of the sun.

It was not important that they survive.
What mattered was that they should bear
Some lineament or character,

Some affluence, if only half-perceived,
In the poverty of their words,
Of the planet of which they were part.

Wallace Stevens

I have gotten into the habit to make a few thumbnail sketches of landscapes early morning with my coffee. These are mostly invented but based on memories of my walks around my home in the Waikato. Doing these thumbnails, I feel completely relaxed and can play without any fear of something turning out “wrong”. Here are some outcomes:

IMG_3042

 

Thanks so much to all of you who have encouraged me with follows, likes and comments. I hope you are truly happy and content.

O221: To Accept Solitude

This painting seems to be on a journey of her own. If you look at the early version below, you will see it started off as something more somber. I have a feeling it has not yet reached its end-destination.

I am re-reading Bieke Vandekerckhove’s book “The Taste of Silence“. It is full  of beautiful insights that take me into silence:

There appears to be a consciousness, an understanding that can only surface when we muster the courage to accept our solitude—and to do so in a deeply silent way.

Diagnosed with motor neuron disease, and with a life expectancy of about five years, she entered a first a Benedictine and later a Zen monastery. From the Benedictine monks she learned the futility of talking about God in a descriptive way:

…talking about God is a fiction, an illusion, the result of a blind spot, a presumption, whether conscious or not. That God can never be an object of our thinking or speaking. That if we want to deal with the living God, we have to resist that temptation once and for all.

Below are some thumbnail sketches. These are often done while listening to audio-books or (sigh)…watching Netflix. The are the beginnings of most of my invented landscapes.

Thanks for visiting!

 

 

O220: This Yearning Earth

I liked the composition and concept of my earlier painting, #O213 (shown in this post), and decided to do a larger and more refined version. The two images below represent the work in its initial stages and then the final version.

I am not 100% sure that I am finished with this painting. For now, I am really satisfied with the warm color peeking through the summer green of the swampland, particularly on the shadow side to the lower left.

#O220
#O220: This Yearning Earth (Oil on Panel, approx. 600 cm x 450 cm)

Fernando Pessoa seemed to know a little about dreamed, imaginary landscapes. He wrote:

The dreamer only sees what’s important. An object’s true reality is only a portion of what it is; the rest is the heavy tribute it pays to physical matter for the right to exist in space. In like manner, certain phenomena that are palpably real in dreams have no reality in space. A real sunset is imponderable and transitory. A dreamed sunset is fixed and eternal.

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

A dreamed landscape may contain no signs of human activity, yet still be a reflection of thoughts about a loved one:

Perhaps it is in your eyes, when my face leans into yours, that I read these impossible landscapes, these unreal tediums, these feelings that inhabit the shadows of my weariness and the caves of my disquiet. Perhaps the landscapes of my dreams are my way of not dreaming about you. I don’t know who you are, but do I know for certain who I am?

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

In her beautiful book “The Taste of Silence”, Bieke Vandekerckhove quotes this poem by J.C. van Schagen:

somewhere it has to exist
some sort of overgrown garden
of ancient silence 

the tree in front of the house
softly whispers its tale
that nobody understands 

it has rained
the garden steams good smells
the earth is yearning. 

J. C. van Schagen, quoted in Vandekerckhove, Bieke. 
The Taste of Silence: How I Came to Be at Home with Myself.

 

Thanks for visiting!