Does it have life?


I often ask myself this question when I am working on a piece. Does it have life? Is there an inner vitality that emanates from every part of the figure? Does it take on a life of its own beyond my initial conception?

Where does this life derive from? Does it not come from every line, color and movement expressed in every part of the painting. When one reflects upon the sublimity of the figure, is it not expressed directly through gesture to attain an intensity of feeling? The writer and photographer, Eudora Welty expresses it as such, “I learned that every feeling waits upon its gesture; and I had to be prepared to recognize this moment when I saw it”. Every internal reflection , thought has its outward gesture. Man’s mind is in a constant state of flux. When one observes the figure, one must find the moment when the emotion and the outward expression or attitude of the figure coincide or converge.

Observation by the artist is central to his ability to craft a thoughtful image. But strictly adhering to observation alone leaves the image unadorned. It has yet to rise to a symbolic level. Delacroix reflects in his journal,” that to be successful in the arts is not a matter of summarizing but of amplifying where it is possible and of prolonging the sensation by every means.”(Journal of Eugene Delacroix, p.214.)

The artist must not only observe but generate a language of gesture. William Blake is a perfect example of this quality of generation. His figures take on cosmic proportions by the sheer magnitude of their expression. The artist must work it until it truly speaks beyond words and beyond what is almost practical – surpassing the obvious expression and seeking an internal intensity, an immensity or vastness of being.

In Baudelaire’s “Journaux intimes” he writes: “In certain almost supernatural inner states, the depth of life is entirely revealed in the spectacle, however ordinary, that we have before our eyes, and which becomes the symbol of it.”(p.29) The artist, being attentive to these things, can reveal in the very ordinary observations of reality a vastness of being that in turn opens up the soul to an immensity of life and the world that they could not have otherwise experienced. Is this not the true vocation of the artist – to reveal this experience for others to partake of ?

Symbolic Forms

Self-Portrait in Grey HatAE

Many of my posts will entail questions I put to myself: musings, journal entries reflected upon.

Symbolic forms or ideas are independent and are understood intuitively. I wrote this several years ago and it hangs on the wall of my studio. Periodically, I muse over it.

What is the relationship between artistic perception and symbolic forms and how are they independent? The artists’ perception is intuitive. It is something which is felt. This perception drifts between perceived reality, what is known, and the unconscious or the “dream”. This borderline area is where symbolic forms exist and where the “image” seeks its counterpart desiring materialization.

The artist, in his reverie, acts as a locus or magnet for an image to manifest itself. I give and speak of “image” as if it had its own independent life- which it does. This goes slightly beyond Baudelaire’s vision-“The whole visible universe is but a storehouse of images and signs to which the imagination will give a relative place and value; it is a sort of pasture which the imagination must digest and transform.” [Baudelaire, The Painter of Modern Life and Other Essays, pg.48].

There is a dynamic relationship between the artist and the image and it becomes transformative. If the artist himself, is not transformed by it how can he expect to be a guide for change?

Why should the artist seek symbolic forms? Because the artist must combine what is known and what is seen to what is perceived intuitively [i.e. attentive equations]. This creates an intensity of feeling in the image that goes beyond material form to a symbolic value. There is a recognition and an intensity of feeling felt from within.

Delacroix describes this inherent feeling in his journal- “I firmly believe that we always mingle something of ourselves in the emotions that seem to arise out of the objects that impress us. And I think it probable that these things delight me so much only because they echo feelings that are also my own. If, although so different, they give me the same degree of pleasure, it must be because I recognize in myself the source of the kind of effect they produce.” (Journal of Eugene Delacroix, pg.213].

The object creates a resonance within the artist compelling him to materialize this emotion creatively. There is a direct correspondence between myself and the object- a recognition between us transporting me to a symbolic place- where form[my vehicle as a representational artist] declares its embedded meaning. Its the artist’s vocation to amplify and materialize this leading to his own transformation as well as being a guide  for others.