"I long to accomplish a great and noble task, but it is my chief duty to accomplish small tasks as if they were great and noble."--Helen Keller
I like to work on several paintings at once. I especially like to finish several paintings at once!!!
Please click on the individual images to see them in greater detail.
"Man, the living creature, the creating individual, is always more important than any established style or system."--Bruce Lee
I spent most of my time today working on my Bruce Lee painting. I was applying squares cut from a book about Jeet Kune Do to the background. I like the way the handwritten notes and drawn instructions add Bruce Lee's art to my art. (Click on the image below to get a closer look.)
I jokingly said earlier today that the piece is almost finished, but just needs a little paint. What I was getting at is that putting the text strips on a project is what takes the most time. Sometimes up to a month, depending on the size of the canvas.
I am thinking of putting a green wash over the background as a tribute to the Green Hornet TV series. But then again, I am liking more and more the starkness of the black and white images and text.
As I worked with Lee's text, I was reminded that he was a very deep thinker and that he inspired many with not only his physical feats, but also his philosophical observations. The excerpt below, from the Bruce Lee Foundation website, explains this well.
The years between The Green Hornet and the Hong Kong films were often difficult for Bruce Lee. In Hollywood he wasn’t getting offered the roles he felt he deserved, he struggled to support his family, and he injured his back very seriously and was told that he would never be able to participate in martial arts again. He turned to many self-help books during this time for inspiration.
One day he took hold of one of his own business cards and wrote the phrase “Walk On” on the back. He bought a special stand for this card and kept it on his desk as a constant reminder to keep moving forward. With this as his mantra, Bruce Lee worked himself into the best shape of his life, wrote volumes of notes on many different subjects and ideas, and further developed and named his art of Jeet Kune Do. The rest is history.
When life gives you obstacles, you must summon the courage and…
If you look closely at the Bruce Lee painting's background, you will find these words as penned by Lee.
Sometimes I don't have a clearly defined vision of what a finished canvas will look like as I am working on it. For example, when I started working on Einstein's portrait, I used text from an old Mathematics textbook. Because it was old, the pages were quite brown, so I was inspired to create a sort of sepia toned image. This seemed appropriate as well because of the time period in which Einstein lived. As I started laying in the background color, I realized that this was not working out the way I had hoped, so I began playing with small amounts of color by way of adding encaustic medium and oils. By using a lot of wax and liberally applying heat, the text in the background and in the curved lines of the "drawing" remained visible. I soon discovered that the parts of the painting that appealed to me the most were the most vibrant colors. This seemed to work well because it reinforced the idea that Einstein was filled with unexpected ideas.
I admire both of these men. That is why I chose to paint them. William Arthur Ward says, "When we seek to discover the best in others, we somehow bring out the best in ourselves." As I proceed with my series, "I Just Don't Read Like I Used To," I really spend time with each subject. I try to understand what made them tick. And I try to incorporate the best of each into my own life.
Einstein once said, "The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources." In some ways then, I suppose the very existence of this blog exposes my lack of creativity.
I will close today with a couple of observations. Bruce Lee has been credited with the following:
"Nothingness in Eastern language is “no-thingness. We in the West think of nothingness as a void, an emptiness, an nonexistence. In Eastern philosophy and modern physical science, nothingness — no-thingness — is a form of process, ever moving."
With this in mind, I will keep moving, but not too fast. After all, as Einstein points out, "The faster you go, the shorter you are."
"If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them."--Bruce Lee
I am working on a text portrait of Bruce Lee. One of the things that has always interested me about him was the way he expressed himself in writing, the way he used writing to clarify his thoughts and to develop a course of action. In a lot of ways, that is what art is to me.
My life is pretty simple. I think about things I would like to make, and then I make them. And there is something most satisfying about making something that has never been made before. When I used to put dots on my paintings, one of my students asked me if I was the only person in the world who did that. The question stunned me! I had never really thought about the fact that I might very well be the only artist who employed that exact technique. My feeling of pride was immediately followed by a more humble feeling as I mentally placed myself in a world timeline of artists--I felt simultaneously elevated and yet very small.
Albert Einstein said, "Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life's coming attractions." As one who lives very much inside her own head, this idea appeals to me greatly, and it reminds me that our human existence may be no more than a product of our imagination. I have recently been pondering the concept of the multi-verse, or meta-universe, and ironically I have come to realize that it is the contemplation of the unseen that compels me to create visual art.
Creating a visual image requires the artist to make a series of decisions, starting with the first touch of brush to canvas, for example, and ending with the decision that the work is finished. The result is then something tangible, something with a built-in history, something impacted by both space and time. Whether the work has artistic merit depends on the imagination of the artist and the decisions he or she makes.
"If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough."--Albert Einstein
And so, I go on, making art and talking about making art. And perhaps when I explain it simply, I think others will understand it, but perhaps not.
Everyday, every minute, I ask myself why I make art. And the answer is, I don't know what else to do. How else does one live her life without making something new? What other purpose could there be? Not very altruistic, I suppose, with regard to the big picture. I do set aside time to help others, but my passion is that of a maker.
Today I started two new paintings and worked on a couple of others. I began painting Albert Einstein, cutting his text from a book of Practical Mathematics.
As I worked, I noted that the text focused primarily on such topics as Finance and Life Insurance. These topics make up (and I quote Aaron Neville here, you know, from his cotton commercial...) the fabric of our lives, but they are not glamorous or compelling. They are not theories of relativity, except... they are.
And this caused me to realize, in a flash, I am not a rocket scientist! (Okay, I may have realized this before...) But what I am trying to say is, I am no Einstein. I am no Elvis Presley. I am no Audrey Hepburn or Marilyn Monroe. I am no Thich Nhat Hahn!!! I am not like the icons I have been depicting in my series of text paintings, but... I am. I am like them. I am connected to them. And I am drawn to them. I am drawn to understand them. And by drawing them, I hope to begin to understand them.
My art is an examination of humanity. Sometimes this is quite obvious. When I paint Marilyn, I am trying to see what others saw in her, and I am trying to see what she saw in herself. When I paint Albert Einstein, I am trying to see how he saw, and I am trying to see what made him vulnerable. When I paint myself, I try to see how others see me.
When I start with a sketch of Audrey, I realize immediately whether or not my viewers will connect with her--whether they will connect with a few pencil lines, a few lines of text, a few daubs of paint. And realization can be overwhelming.
Sometimes I hesitate to take it any further.
Perhaps it is simply as Einstein says, "People love chopping wood. In this activity one immediately see results."
Cheryl Hicks is a writer and an artist. She is happiest when she can combine the two pursuits.