What shape is your block?…

“a memory of walking with your grandmother through the meadow past the red barn to the orchard where you picked ripe apples, while laughing at the golden lab named Milton as he chased that crazy squirrel”

What shape is your block?

It’s calm, the morning dew hangs from long alpine grass while a low cloud lays lazily over the lake, it’s head on the northern shore. A bank of trees slopes in from the left, the sun just kissing their tops. The mountain slopes steeply from behind and scree forms fingers reaching into the cold glacial water. On the right? Well, nothing on the right and there’s a funny looking log hanging off a drab rock like a shipwrecked sailor.

I move on.

This happens several times. I look at different variations of the scene from alternate vantage points. Crop that out. I need to see more of this and less of that. I walk along the shore looking intently for nothing in particular but waiting for what I always wait for – the artistic sense detector to start clicking with more feverish activity. It’s kind of like that old childhood game we used to play – “your getting warmer….waaaarmer….REALLY HOT! Oh, colder, colder…. ice cold.”

Maybe there’s a subconscious art director in my head that directs me to move this way and that while not really telling me what it’s looking for until it finds it. The best scene of the bunch.

But based on what?

Where did this sense come from? What shaped it? Remember the blocks in different shapes and the board that had the corresponding holes activity we had when very young? I watched my children play it. Round hole, round peg! Yay! This is what it’s like I believe. We have developed a particularly complex shaped block based on many different influences. What art our parents, friends and mentors liked. What we read and watched and what art caught our uniquely personal eye. The shaft of light coming through the kitchen window, lighting the coffee cup and bagel on the table. Or simply the flowers in the crystal vase on the sill.

Something shaped our artistic sense. The like of a particular palette or style or subject matter was something shaped from birth and developed over years or decades. Events that had meaning for us whether positive or negative that move us in a particular direction. An art show, or a performance. An accident, a garden, a death, a birth, a sunset, a memory of walking with your grandmother through the meadow past the red barn to the orchard where you picked ripe apples, while laughing at the golden lab named Milton as he chased that crazy squirrel.

These moments over our lifetime. These inputs that our brains gather and fold or toss away. Large shapes, small shapes? Colorful or muted? Dark or bright, still life, landscape, portrait or figure. Formal or informal? Soft or hard, warm or cool. Combinations of each in thousands of possibilities.

There’s a reason we prefer certain things and dislike others. It’s something I’ve been wondering about. Why the landscape? What not flowers? What about abstracts? Portraits?

Well the landscape is obvious to me as my influences were all landscape artists early on mainly my grandfather as he was a landscape painter. I also have a had a deep connection to the landscape, especially the more intimate places where I feel alone, and connected. One reason why the “Grand Vista” has never played a big role in my art; I like a place nestled in the woods where I feel protected. Close to waterfalls or small open spaces with boulders or a small creek. I like swamps or small mountain lakes. I love the texture of nature close up. I need to paint more of this.

Flowers? They hold no particular sway with me. I mean, there nice to look at and may pose a challenge and I really admire those that can paint them well but it’s one subject that I’ll probably not bother with.

Abstracts? Simple…fear.
Portraits? Same thing.

So? What shape is your block?

The Walking Dead…

I was watching The Walking Dead tonight and Michonne who plays a sword wielding Zombie killer, was having a dream about a normal life. Maybe from her past as a flashback or maybe not. She was in a beautiful white kitchen making dinner for a friend and her “lover” Mike . They discuss not staying in camp or going out “there” and Mike says, “Where is the happy ending here? “This isn’t life”. Then asks “whats the answer?”, and his friend replies back, “whats the damn question?!” Michonne tries to ignore the comments and her dream turns nasty when she looks up and sees the two men sitting with there arms hacked off like her “pets”. She screams…

I sat there with my ginger ale, thinking, heres a show about a bunch of people who used to have lives with families, friends, jobs, houses, chores, hobbies, and pets. A show about the loss of everything they thought important and the simple struggle to survive. There have been others who have written about this subject, Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road” comes to mind. No zombies but the struggle for survival and the loss of familiarity.

And, without much effort, my inner voice said, “hmmm…Thats depression”. That same loss of the familiar coupled with little if any hope. And I thought about what Mike said “This isn’t life”. As in, the loss of what we all consider the normal experience of happiness through the way we interact with our surroundings, families and friends that we find comfortable and/or meaningful. I mean, imagine taking away everything that you work for everyday? The reason you get up in the morning and there are no other options, no other jobs, no cars, houses or resorts to visit in the winter. Once you remove the trappings of our modern world and the constant way we are taught to achieve this dream at all costs, what’s left? Do you suddenly have no reason to live? Of course not, but it really made me think about our purpose, and how the dissolution in the belief of that purpose can cause disparity. 

What is life? Well, I guess life is what we have since we have a beating heart. Living is a different thing; it’s what we do while our heart beats. When you distill it down, we human beings are all all the same. Our blood is red and our bones are white.  We live, we die.

So whether you live in a beautiful condo with a giant mortgage, an apartment on a small subsidy, or are running around in a post apocalyptic world trying to find a safe place to live, or are inside the walls of your troubled mind, it’s simply survival. 

What makes it bearable, and has the ability to bring us real happiness are the connections to each other that we make along the way. Our need for love and friendship. Everything else means… quite literally, nothing. 

So, where’s your happy ending?