My passion is in small paintings. I start with no idea what I am painting.
Painting and drawing have been my passion for over 45 years. I entered the Cleveland Institute of Art in 1973, and have been painting and drawing ever since. For the past 10 years now I have been painting the Spiritual Masters. You all have seen them. But in tandem with this I continue a vein of work I began long before these paintings of faces. They are my Small Paintings.
You could call them “abstraction,” but I don’t really agree with that term. Nor are they “non-representational.” They are paintings. They may not represent anything you know, but they refer to a passion that you can follow in the concrete nature of their existence. The human hand, my human hand, made them. Just the act of creating itself is a miracle. Draw your own conclusions. Call them what you will. I just call them “Small Paintings.” Here is one I finished today.
The organic world is infinitely full of form.
Look anywhere. There is a visual panorama everywhere. It is almost impossible not to marvel at the beauty of all things, no matter what they are, no matter how noble or ennoble we make them. It’s all just neutral stuff in the end, and the relationships we see in this stuff is all that matters.
After Kandinsky, the painter no longer was bound to the depiction of an external reality. He could, through painting and drawing, discover an inner reality that looked toward the spiritual. No longer did the painter need to be tied to the outer model, but could be led in form by his own divine connection within, and love for the pictorial elements that remain inescapable to the medium: point, line, plane, shape, color, shade, tone, texture, etc. These pure elements became the building blocks for an infinitely new language.
Take the stuff you see, and the inspiration of that. All that stuff is singing praises to Life, by nature of its very presence. This praise is enough to make a painting. JOY is the nature of painting, in the end. If you are not having that in the application of every line, every stroke of the brush, every new surprise of a color laid down by another, then you might as well throw away the brushes, the canvas, the paper and the pencils, the colors, and all the tools of the trade.
The mind of the artist is the main model.
I painted this watercolor about 20 years ago. Some kind of vision of a flow of gold nectar from the hall of the Gods. I called it “Valhalla” after the Norse God’s mythological home. Recently I read Valhalla was actually the place noble warriors who were slain in battle were taken. There they feasted with Odin, the king of the Gods, in the evening. In the day they left the hall and waged battle again, returning every evening to the feast in Valhalla. Forget about that. My Valhalla is about the JOY of receiving Divine nectar.
I worked with very particular structural elements back then. Strong central vertical; “X” from corner to corner; over lapping and inter woven elements; and a love for orange. I still am drawn to these “models of the mind.”
After Kandinsky, and even before with cubism, artists drew upon their own mind for the guidance system of their brush. No longer did the external visual world have to be meticulously depicted in paint. The photographer could do that much quicker, and more accurately. The painter was freed to explore the subject that came into his mind, to alter the visual world “out there” with the “vision from within,” and create metaphors in paint. OR, he was allowed to just explore the painting process itself, without many preconceived notions at all, like Pollock—and then draw the mind’s associations later. An interaction takes place between the very concrete elements of painting and drawing, melded with the more etheric landscapes of the mind.
Small Paintings are my freedom from the known.
Most people would ask, “What are you painting?” I would have to say “I don’t know.” In fact, freedom from “knowing” is one of the highest freedoms, especially when we have been conditioned and educated to know so much. Many times when I approach a blank canvas or paper surface, it is like bowing before a most sacred altar in absolute surrender to the Will of Higher Forces. I may not know where the painting is going, but the Forces do. I just need to ask, and it is given.
This is why the Small Paintings are so dear to me. They are my respites into the Unknown, my encounters with the purity of holiness in which I can just plain surrender myself. I don’t have to make an ear look like and ear, or an eye be placed just right in the geometry of the face. I can just go wild. Don’t we all want to go wild? Not in an irresponsible or destructive way, but inside of ourselves we yearn for absolute and unconditional freedom. This is LOVE, and this is WILD. The Small Paintings are that for me.
I draw associations.
In Haidakhan, Babaji’s home in India, I painted a few Small Paintings a few seasons back. I am always inspired there because Babaji Himself loved to paint. He did some remarkable watercolors. There is a cave across the river from which Babaji manifested his form. Essentially the earth is the womb of the Divine Mother, and this cave is certainly the “womb of Babaji.” I painted this Small Painting of the cave entrance on fire. It is fitting that it is “on fire,” because Babaji loved the fire. He was a “Master of the Elements.”
The Small Painting below is also painted in Haidakhan. We had a Danish Lady on our trip, and we often go to Denmark. Denmark is a very straightforward country. It has the order of the Germanic mind, but the open heart of Scandinavia. Danish love nature and the sea. Their Flag is Red with a White Cross. Something in this red reminded me of Denmark. Something of the mariner in it, Vikings in their LongBoats.
I do not always know what associations will come out of the Small Painting until I do it. Then the whole thing makes sense. Something comes to me. This way it is always new and in the moment. I am free to paint anything, even a pile of chaos if I want to. But even that comes to order in the process, in the end.
THANKS for reading, and LOOKING.
These are all for sale, by the way. Most of them are 9″x12″ on Arches 100% rag paper, milled in France at the same mill since 1492. Just reply at firstname.lastname@example.org