Your Own Code

I recently made a shift in my painting journey – I started making use of stock photos. That is, photos I buy online and then use as a source for my paintings.

For many artists, this practice is anathema.  I think there are two reasons for this: firstly, many artists frown on the use of photos – period. There is a certain allure, realness and romanticism attached to painting from life which is deeply set. Secondly, many artists believe if you are going to make use of photos – you should only use your own photos, backed up with your own actual experiencing of the spirit of the place you are painting.

I will deftly sidestep an ideological debate on these issues by stating the simple reason I am currently making use of stock photos: it allows me to paint more!

Red House Source
This photo has been the source of three paintings, two of which recently sold (one shown below). [Source: Benevolente82/OnePixel.com]
Oil 2019 7
“The Red House #1″ (oil on canvas, 11″x14”)

Let me explain: Since I have to hold down a day job, my time for painting is extremely limited.  In the week, if I am lucky, I have a small window between 4 pm and 7 pm each day in which I have the time and energy to paint.

In most instances I use the photo only as a suggestion of the “lay of the land” – an armature on which to build my painting.

On weekends, there is more time, but with garden and household chores, my time for painting is such that even on my best weekends I have maybe 4 to 5 hours for painting – which normally translates to between two and four small paintings. If I have to spend half of the time I have traipsing about in the countryside, looking for subjects to paint or even taking photos, my painting time would be cut in half, or worse.

Oil 2019 15

Onepixel_3664144
Source: Antonio Gravante/OnePixel.com

So my recent move to make use of stock photos has been extremely liberating, simply because my painting output increased significantly. Here is how I work, and some other observations:

  • In hours when I am too tired to paint or work, I stay off Instagram and instead look for stock photos that have a good potential for a painting done in my own style;
  • I currently use OnePixel to buy stock photos from: each photo costs me $1.00 and I have a full license to use the photos for my artwork.
  • In most instances I use the photo only as a suggestion of the “lay of the land” – an armature on which to build my painting.
  • I deliberately deviate from the photo in color and design in the early stages of painting – this immediately breaks the tendency to simply copy.
  • Photos are notoriously bad at capturing color correctly. This is one of the prime motivations for painting from life. For me, however, this is of no importance, since most of my color is invented or exaggerated to serve the abstract design I have in mind for the painting

Having said all of the above – this post is not to denigrate or dis-respect the time-honored practices of plein-air painting or making use of your own source photos. I have often painted from life – and have until recently always used only my own photos.

I understand why this is the desired way of creating paintings – so perhaps one day the time will come when I can travel to all the beautiful places I have painted or long to paint. But for now – I use what allows me to paint as often as possible in the time I have available!


It is liberating, if anxiety proviking for me to act in the face of some imagined “art authority”. But, to quote from an earlier post of mine:

It is OK to proceed regardless of what others think – if you are walking a path that is lighted by your spirit. Tomas Transtromer ends his poem “After a Long Dry Spell”, as follows:

It’s all right to telephone the island that is a mirage.
It’s all right to hear the gray voice.
To thunder iron ore is honey.
It’s all right to live by your own code.
Translation by Robert Bly in The Half Finished Heaven

How often have I realized the futility and energy-sapping neediness of feeling that you should explain yourself to others and get approval before you have a right to live by your own code. Rilke says:

What goes on in your innermost being is worthy of your whole love; you must somehow keep working at it and not lose too much time and too much courage in clarifying your attitude toward people.

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.

Taken on Trust II

The painting above is yet another view of the road down to my neighbor’s driveway. The photo below shows the source image that lead to this painting.

I pass this scene several times every day – every time I exit our own driveway; but also, my studio door is only about 20 yards away from where this shot was taken. The mountains in the back are known as the Hakarimatas. The play of light and shadow at different times of day under changing light and passing shadow is an endless source of ideas.

For this particular painting, the evening light was so warm and beautiful, particularly the shadows it made on the giant poplars toward the end of the road. I felt this had all the stuff for a striking painting.

IMG_1560

I know from experience that if I take a photo or computer into my studio and use that as a reference while painting, I tend to clamp down and become too realistic and controlled. I cannot stand the paintings I produce in that mode!

So my rule – which I keep to about 76.3% of the time – is never to take a source image into my studio. Instead, I study it very carefully beforehand, (outside my studio, normally using my iPad), and note mainly the structure and lie of the landscape.

I also feel into the “emotional concept” I want to convey – in this case (in order of importance): (a) warm sleepy light on waving grass;  (b) mysterious mountains where childhood dreams are awakened again; and (c) deep shadow.

In my studio, I cut a sheet of drawing paper from the 50 m roll I have standing by. I tape this to my easel back-board. This board has dried Gesso and paint on it – so that drawing with this backing is like drawing on rough tree bark. In this way it is absolutely impossible for me to get stuck with detail – I am forced to focus on composition using light and shade.

Here is the drawing – I use only thick charcoal and some grey and white chalk to bring out highlights. The black spots is there the rough backing presses against the paper:

IMG_1567

I am quite happy with this image which recalls the essence of my source photo. Sometimes I make four or five of these before I give up or get one I like. In this case, the first drawing attempt is merciful – it suggests to me the focus for the painting, which is the spot of light at middle right where the sun hits the grass as it slopes upward.

Unfortunately I do not have any process shots of this painting, but the very first paint that went down was warm yellow and orange right where my focus point should be. With this down, I put down the dark areas in very rough lines. I get the painting done in about 2 hours, though I am not sure. I tend to completely lose track of time while I work, which is why I forget to take process shots!

IMG_1570(Edited)
Oil on Canvas (11″ x 14″)

On a less practical note – summer days are here. The evenings are longer and I have more time to paint. I continue to ride the alternating waves of confidence and doubt that is life.

Forever wondering about my art, why I do it, what the future holds. I am learning and appreciating the play of doubt and confidence on the heart, just like the light and shadow on the Hakarimatas….

Every day – some days more than others – I have to trust that my paintings, my little efforts, have some meaning.  Trust is a big word in my world. That life could have evolved in a way that it could trust is stupendous.

From a 2016 blog post, two excerpts on trust, from poems I know:

For the mind in harmony with the Tao,
    all selfishness disappears.
With not even a trace of self-doubt,
    you can trust the universe completely.
All at once you are free,
    with nothing left to hold on to.
All is brilliant,
    perfect in its own being.

(from The Mind of Absolute Trust, by Sent-Ts'an;
from The Enlightened Heart)
Schubertiana
...How much we have to take on trust every minute we live in
  order not to drop through the earth!
Take on trust the snow masses clinging to rocksides over the
  town.
Take on trust the unspoken promises, and the smile of
   agreement, trust that the telegram does not concern us, and
that the sudden ax blow from inside is not coming.
Trust the axles we ride on down the thruway among the swarm
  of steel bees magnified three hundred times.
But none of that stuff is really worth the trust we have.
The five string instruments say that we can take something else
   on trust, and they walk with us a bit on the road.
As when the lightbulb goes out on the stair, and the hand
  follows - trusting it - the blind banister rail that finds its
  way in the dark.

Tomas Transtromer (translation Robert Bly), from
The Half Finished Heaven. (Line breaks here are my own).

 

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.

 

Where Movement Ends

Winter has come to New Zealand, and with it grey skies, moody days and biting cold on my morning walks. I have fallen into a steady meditation schedule,  early morning in my studio, my light the glow of the gas heater. Sacred minutes. My cup runneth over.

The urge to paint is back – after almost half a year. My paintings make me happy. In the half light of the days I peer into the emptiness at which they point.

A17
Mixed Media on Paper

I have been vacillating about my blog forever. Not routine procrastination, just doubt about the need for this world to have one more blog post released onto it. Most of all I am stalled by the lack of a strong opinion about one side or another, having seen all sides have a backside, and the artificiality of the personality and its opinions.

Gearing up to write a blog post became for me almost an act of in-authenticity. In the words of  T.S. Eliot, the action of one who prepares “a face to meet the faces that you meet”.

Not to imply anything, but my doubt about speaking or staying silent reminds me of the near silence of T.S. Eliot at the outset of his career as a poet and critic. Perhaps he too was stalled by the notion that any venturing out in the gesture of opinion was a move away from authenticity.

In the brilliant book, The Invisible Poet, T.S Eliot, author Hugh Kenner wrote that the study of the philosophy of F.H Bradley helped Eliot by freeing him:

“…from the posture of the ironist with his back to a wall, by affirming the artificiality of all personality including the one we intimately suppose to be our true one; not only the faces we prepare but the “we” that prepares; …A view of the past, a view of himself and other persons, a view of the nature of what we call statement and communication; these delivered Eliot from what might have been, after a brilliant beginning, a cul-de-sac and silence.”

 

IMG_E4444
Pastel on Paper

On my walks I think about authenticity and its ghostly fragility. I am not surprised that the concept provided enough material for Lionel Trilling to write a fascinating book about Sincerity and Authenticity. In my reading, Trilling regards authenticity as a more mature cousin to Sincerity, which is dismissed as a social construct:

In short, we play the role of being ourselves, we sincerely act the part of the sincere person, with the result that a judgement may be passed upon our sincerity that it is not authentic. (Lionel Trilling, Sincerity and Authenticity)

Authenticity takes us in a different direction:

A very considerable originative power had once been claimed for sincerity, but nothing to match the marvellous generative force that our modern judgement assigns to authenticity, which implies the downward movement through all the cultural superstructures to some place where all movement ends, and begins.

(Lionel Trilling, Sincerity and Authenticity)

 

This is part of the same discussion in which Trilling quotes (again) Eliot:

‘The progress of an artist is a continual self-sacrifice, a continual extinction of personality’.

 

IMG_E4445
Pastel on dark blue Canson Paper

Should we speak or remain in the authenticity of silence? As always, Rilke has the last word on this. In his poem, “We must die because we have known them”, he ends with:

...
But the grown man
shudders and is silent. The man who
has wandered pathless at night
in the mountain-range of his feelings:
is silent.

As the old sailor is silent,
and the terrors that he has endured
play inside him as though in quivering cages.

(Rainer Maria Rilke)

 

Thanks for visiting my blog! Special thanks to all followers and supporters who have recently encouraged me with kind and thoughtful comments.

 

 

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

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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.

 

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#O187-189: For Hunters and Anxieties

Oil on Panel (13.5 x 9″). Below is a preliminary stage – perhaps I should have stopped at Stage 1 – I don’t know.#O187b-stagesRecently, while painting, I do not work off any sketch or plan. I simply put down some bold color and perhaps a horizon line. I return a day later and put an uneven glaze over the landscape portion and some color into the sky. From there, I just respond to what the image suggests. It is a dance of sorts.

In many of my last paintings, a road going down the middle of the image has emerged. I sense it has some meaning, but have no idea where it will lead to…

#O188
#O188: Oil on Panel (10 x 8″)

At times, when I paint in such a responsive way with wild abandon, I think of what “people might say”. I hesitate, but then I think of the painters I admire so much – few more than Joan Kathleen Harding Eardley – and they give me permission to go right to that wilder mind and respond to it.

#O189
#O189 Oil on Panel (16 x 12″)

To quote from an earlier post of mine:

It is OK to proceed regardless of what others think – if you are walking a path that is lighted by your spirit. Tomas Transtromer ends his poem “After a Long Dry Spell”, as follows:

It’s all right to telephone the island that is a mirage.
It’s all right to hear the gray voice.
To thunder iron ore is honey.
It’s all right to live by your own code.
Translation by Robert Bly in The Half Finished Heaven

How often have I realized the futility and energy-sapping neediness of feeling that you should explain yourself to others and get approval before you have a right to live by your own code. Rilke says:

What goes on in your innermost being is worthy of your whole love; you must somehow keep working at it and not lose too much time and too much courage in clarifying your attitude toward people.

In my dialogue with my paintings I keep dreaming of landscapes that arise from deep inside. I feel a kinship with Pessoa when he writes of:

…a landscape for hunters and anxieties, with rushes growing along rivers whose jagged banks jut like miniature muddy capes into the lead-yellow waters, then re-enter to form slimy bays for toy-like boats, swampy recesses where water glistens over the sludge that’s hidden between the black-green stalks of rushes too thick to walk through…

No one has been there or will ever go there. Even if I could go backwards in time and space, fleeing the world for that landscape, no one would ever join me there. I would wait in vain for what I didn’t know I was waiting for, and in the end there would be nothing but a slow falling of night, with the whole of space gradually turning the colour of the darkest clouds, which little by little would vanish into the abolished mass of the sky.

Fernando Pessoa – The Book of Disquiet

Thanks for visiting my blog. I hope with a large part of my heart that you are happy and content.

#O160: We Whisper in Their Presence

A small playful landscape done on board with palette knife.

o160


There are times when each detail of the ordinary interests me for its own sake, and I feel a fondness for things, because I can read them clearly. Then I see – as Vieira said that Sousa, in his descriptions, saw – the ordinary with singularity, and I have the poetic soul that inspired the intellectual age of poetry among the Greeks. But there are also moments, such as the one that oppresses me now, when I feel my own self far more than I feel external things, and everything transforms into a night of rain and mud, lost in the solitude of an out-of-the-way station, between one and another third-class train.

Fernando Pesoa – Book of Disquiet

In his poem “Autumn Sky” Charles Simic writes:

The stars know everything,
So we try to read their minds.
As distant as they are,
We choose to whisper in their presence.
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#O132: Sorrows of Distance

In my recent paintings I have been using mostly thick impasto paint. This image started as a playful exploration of sky and land without a clear horizon line. Because I was not sure which direction the image was going to go, I kept the paint quite thin.

I liked the shapes and values of my initial lay-in. Even though I had no specific image in my mind – only a certain mood of sky and wetland – this image emerged and I had the temerity to say “this is it” and stop right there after the initial lay in.

I did wipe away a little here and there to reveal that warm Raw Sienna under-painting. I like this image and the mood it conveys, even though it is probably only for my own personal collection (along with everything else I paint!)

o132


I recently enjoyed reading Meditation as Contemplative Inquiry by Arthur Zajonc. Here is a passage I highlighted among many others:

Contemplative practice means, among other things, becoming practiced in solitude. This does not mean brooding or self-indulgent musing, but instead practicing a special form of recollection of the past, mindfulness for the present, and envisioning of the future in a manner that is enlivening, clear, and insightful. We learn to be properly solitary, and to carry the depth of our solitude into the world with grace and selflessness.

I am also at present reading a biography of Wallace Stevens and Bruce Springsteen’s autobiography. I am just at the start, but already impressed with his knack for prose. Here is how he describes his teenage encounter with his father’s demons:

At forty-five he was friendless, and due to my pop’s insecurities, there was never another man in our home except me. He spilled his heart out to me. It shocked me, made me feel uncomfortable and strangely wonderful. He showed himself to me, mess that he was. It was one of the greatest days of my teenage life. He needed a “man” friend and I was the only game in town. I comforted him the best I could. I was only sixteen and we were both in way over our heads.

Finally, from time to time, at the end of my morning coffee in bed, I progress a bit further into my copy of David Hinton’s Classical Chinese Poetry. Here is the last poem I highlighted:

AUTUMN THOUGHTS, SENT FAR AWAY 
We share all these disappointments of failing 
autumn a thousand miles apart. This is where 

autumn wind easily plunders courtyard trees, 
but the sorrows of distance never scatter away. 

Swallow shadows shake out homeward wings. 
Orchid scents thin, drifting from old thickets. 

These lovely seasons and fragrant years falling 
lonely away—we share such emptiness here.

Po Chu-I (772-846) translated David Hinton in
Classical Chinese Poetry

 

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#O129: Gentle Downward Slope

I did this painting several weeks ago. It is one of my favorites when viewed from a distance. Definitely not a pretty picture, but I feel it captures the depth, desolation and solitude of an expansive marshland at twilight in the way I visit it now and as a child in my daydreams.

o129


Tomas Transtromer starts his poem “The Indoors is Endless”, like this:

It’s spring in 1827, Beethoven
hoists his death-mask and sails off.

he continues later to outline Eric, we presume from Stockholm, “done down by a curse”.

The grindstones are turning in Europe’s windmills.
The wild geese are flying northwards.
All the surface action turns inwards.
He’s taken apart, put together.

The wind rises and the wild rose bushes
catch on the fleeing light.

The future opens, he looks into
the self-rotating kaleidoscope

sees indistinct fluttering faces
family faces not yet born.

By mistake his gaze strikes me
as I walk around here in Washington

among grandiose houses where only
every second column bears weight.

White buildings in crematorium style
where the dream of the poor turns to ash.

The gentle downward slope gets steeper
and imperceptibly becomes an abyss.

Tomas Transtromer, this copy from
Poetry Foundation

There are enough sensory/emotional imagery here for 10 paintings.

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#O115: Outside Our Common Will

Fritz Jooste: Outside our Common Will (2016, Oil on Canvas, 12 x 16").

I am quite happy with this painting and I thoroughly loved doing it. Feels like I have come up for air in my last few paintings! Some of my family and blogging friends have responded positively, but understandably some may feel a bit shell shocked looking at these last few compared to my first 100 paintings! Hang in there, it may change again…or not?

Fritz Jooste: Outside our Common Will (2016, Oil on Canvas, 12 x 16
Fritz Jooste: “Outside our Common Will” (2016, Oil on Canvas, 12 x 16″).

Tomas Transtromer is rapidly becoming my favorite poet for this month. His poem “A Few Moments” reflects, I think, our common search for the deeper parts of our being, perhaps the source of all creativity?

A Few Moments
The drawf pind on marsh grounds holds its head up: a dark rag.
But what you see is nothing compared to the roots,
the widening, secretly growing, deathless or half-
deathless root system.

I you she he also puts roots out.
Outside our common will.
Outside the City.

Rain drifts from the summer sky that's pale as mild.
It is as if my five senses were hooked up to some other
  creature
that moves with the same stubborn flow
as the runners in white circling the track as the night comes
   misting in.

Tomas Transtromer, trans. Robert Bly in:
The Half Finished Heaven

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