Category Archives: Inspiration

Something Fishy About Noses

Occasionally an admirer will mention that I don’t put faces in my art. That’s almost always true, and I used to worry about that a little.

Some of those worries concerned the sensuality that fans often sense in my creations, perhaps always? When you think about it, several of us somehow get offended by that combination . . . all those heavenly curves but with no head, or a head with no facial details. There are several art teachers that would insist that what I’m doing is a no-no. I seem to have a nose for no-no’s!

I wonder whether some people see my art as disrespectful . . . the absence of the character that can be shown in a subject’s face, and so the art becomes purely erotic? Or purely sensual? This may sound a little like a bit of a hangover from some Victorian era, and I can fully empathize with that. After all, I’m quite a fan of the show “Downton Abbey”, largely because of the old-fashioned way in which the characters act. While the sexual aspect is certainly there, romance and personality is always upper-most . . . it’s more about the conscience mind than about our more primal urges and reactions.

I also wonder whether some people think that because of the lack of those faces, perhaps the artist doesn’t have the skills to draw with such detail? That’s a valid question, and again I think it relates to a lot of our traditions. I noticed this a few years ago, while breezing through a book of paintings by Rembrandt. The paintings demonstrate amazing anatomical correctness and proper portraiture, and oddly, almost always about the men. Of course the skills are there, but I’m not really struck by the characters.

The thing is, I simply have no urge to draw in this level of detail. If I did I would do so by hand on paper. When it comes to faces, for me that is much easier done on paper than on-screen, though I’m fully aware of how for some the opposite can be true and here’s an amazing example of that.

More importantly though, I strive the expression of the ideal in my art. By that I mean the expression of something beyond the individual. When you think about it, when you are really drawn to a portrait, especially the likeness of a stranger, it is that ideal which lures you, something beyond the individual . . . something powerful and emotional.

The truth is, I have a great deal of respect and admiration for those who draw in details, very realistically so, and especially when they also capture something beyond the details. In fact I have so much respect for them that I choose not to be among them. By that I mean that there are so many artists out there like that, there is simply no need for me to add to their ranks.

Snippets From The Past

When I learned to draw it was in a very traditional way . . . the basics are wonderfully simple really, and it’s amazing how quickly a person can learn. So there were fruit baskets, windows and curtains, nude models, and then there was this mounted bird. That’s when I learned not only to draw, but also that I could draw! My teacher gave me the ultimate compliment. When she saw my work, she was speechless for a moment, almost catching her breath. She gave me this warm smile and told me about a wildlife artist named Robert Bateman. When I discovered who he is by looking in another at book, I was truly flattered. However, even back then, over 30 years ago now, I remember thinking that there is simply no need for me to draw like that . . . he’s already doing it.

Perhaps it is also because of my first degree, one in psychology, where I learned about all the biases that can go along with facial impressions. While the expressions can be wonderful, our current cultural norms of beauty seem to have distorted much of that . . . thank you Madison Avenue. It’s sad really, but what can a person do? What can I do? I really don’t know . . . I just keep doing what I do!

Finally, the number one reason for me to leave out the faces is this . . . by doing so, I don’t need to worry about someone cutting out the good parts. Let’s just call it a Polish thing . . . if you watch this video you will “catch my drift”! ha ha

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The Story Tellers

Some of my fondest memories are about simply telling stories. I can’t remember reading my kids a book at bedtime – that was a long time ago –  but there are several precious times where tales were told, and not just at bedtime.

There were campfire stories, for sure. However, the fondest tale happened on a day at the beach. hottest day of the year. My girls were around the ages of 10 and 12. There was just the three of us and it was the hottest day of the year. I was so worried about lasting in the scorching heat, not being able to keep up with the little ones. However, it was they who suggested finding some shade, and they led the way with their tiny folding chairs to a spot close by, under some poplar trees and very close to the water pump. As soon as they had the chairs open, they each took their plastic pail, filled it with ice cold water, parked that in front of their chairs, sat down and plunked those twenty toes and four heels into the water. You could hear the cool comfort immediately, as they looked at me sitting across from them and said, “Dad, tell us a story.” Such leaders, even back then.

So I just started the telling of it, an adventure of course, one from my youth in Dauphin, when I was about their age. You see, my friends and I found a buried treasure chest in the river, but we had no way of opening it. That’s how it started . . . the thrill of the discovery and then the frustration . . . and to this day it has never ended. I doubt that it ever will.

Other Telling Traditions – The Elder Ones

Several years later, while writing my novel, I did a little research on gypsies. There was this fascinating account about the Romanian gypsies, of their various story telling traditions. By memory, it was the men who told shorter, funnier tales. The women told more epic ones, full of drama, tragedy, adventure and so on. It was nothing to spend two hours in an evening in the telling and the listening, much like we now watch a movie I suppose.

I’ve done other research that talked of a similar tradition, and that was in the mid-east . . . ancient Iran or Iraq, or maybe both? I’m sure you can find all kinds of material online if you want to know more on the subject. Apparently they used the inside of their large tents to put these stories into pictures. This was thousands of years ago, and I believe the material was vellum, not canvas.

In our busy lives we so easily forget how short a time the printing press has been around, but story telling seems to be almost as old as language, with or without the written word. It must have been quite something, both the telling of it and the art of it, on a cold desert night, or during a sand storm.

I’m sure that over time the stories changed – never quite the same way twice – and legends emerged. No doubt having the pictures handy would help the evolutionary process; as images are interpreted differently, new twists come to mind, and the telling becomes as intriguing as the listening.

Modern Story Telling – A Sponsored Tradition

I sometimes wonder if there is a lot more to the true history of those ancient times, and whether it was recorded in those tents . . . among all that art. I wonder about that when I think back to that first attack on Iraq, that night bombing that we got to watch live on TV . . . part of “Operation Desert Storm”. I remember watching CNN that January in 1991, surprised to hear that the first targets were museums . . . how odd. A few weeks ago I heard a little clip about some terrorists damaging museums, somewhere in the same region. In the context of what happened back in 1991, it seemed so hypocritical to hear the TV person trying to describe this act as something barbaric.

Something else that seems so strange is that despite all our talk of freedom of speech – the importance of freedom of the press – the broadcast rights of that first bombing of Baghdad was given exclusively to CNN – modern day story telling? I’ll just leave it at that. Besides, I don’t do political blogging. I don’t do religion either, but I do wonder why there is no original art to go with all those ancient words . . . so very, very odd.

But enough of all that. Who needs more controversy right?

In my art I do like to pay homage to the finer aspects of humanity, and this new painting follows that personal tradition. It is simply called, “The Story Tellers”. I hope it says something about each of us, at least once in awhile, and that your stories are good ones, and the telling of them precious, at times.

It’s time to go now . . . my mind keeps drifting back to those tiny toes in the little buckets . . . where was I now?

Painting - The Story Tellers

The Story Tellers – Fine Art Paper (Edition of 75 Prints)

Image size: 18″ h x 24″ w (46 x 61 cm). Price: $295 USD + $30 shipping.

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The Story Tellers – Canvas (Edition of 30 Prints)

Image size: 24″ h x 32″ w (61 x 81 cm). Price: $450 USD + $30 shipping.

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Art – No Longer Drumming

There is a saying in one of my favorite films. It is an incomplete sentence, yet when you understand it, it is more than complete:

“when the drum is no longer a drum, and drumming is no longer drumming”

For most of my art days I’ve had to defend how I do what I do – using the technology that I do – is it art? Thankfully, in more recent days the art has begun to speak for itself. Real art rises above the means of creating it . . . the drum is no longer a drum. It also rises above the artist . . . drumming is no longer drumming.

That’s the true joy of it, the “selfless part”. It is the best oasis along the journey, and it can be visited in so many ways, not just art. How so? By letting ago I suppose . . . those rare moments where all awareness of self disappears. But it seems to be more than that. Perhaps it is allowing something of the heart in, letting one’s self be a vessel for something beautiful.

In that zone there are no labels . . . no negativity. Things are seen & felt for what they are, not what they called or how that are categorized.

Whatever that is, it is truly amazing how it can persevere and be communicated to another viewer, like music for the listener. I know that’s happened with some of my fans, ones who have the art in their homes. They feel it, we both know it, and if I can, I try not to talk about it too much.

As in drumming, sometimes words may only get in the way.

I’m going to leave it at that for now. Ironically I had prepared a 1,000 word post to touch on the same topic but somehow missed the point. I promised a few people that my next post (this post) would touch on one my latest paintings. It’s called “Pencils No. 9 and 13b”.

Thankfully there really are only a few words necessary. It was a playful project, and its parent image includes a pair of legs . . . but that section kind of looked like pencil crayons. I chuckled, sharpened my on-screen pencil and played a little. It’s all play you know, the selfless aspect. So if you must see them as legs, then see them as legs. If you want to see them as pencils, then see them as pencils.

All I can say is that in creation there is never a dull moment! So here it is, and clicking the image will take you to it’s page on my art site.

Pencils No. 9 and 13b - now on Fine Art America

Pencils No. 9 and 13b – now on Fine Art America

Have a wonderful day, and if you would like to see the Zen drummers that are the basis of that movie, you can watch them in concert as well, or perhaps I should say that you can watch them disappear? I can, and I hope you do.

Why Do I Paint?

Why do I paint? What an odd question to be confronted with, and even odder that this is the first time in 10 years that it has been asked.

This is the query I must answer as part of the application. It’s for one of the better, yet lesser known art sites. I’ve selected it as a venue for my limited edition pieces, partly because of the potential to reach a much larger audience than the one enjoyed by this blog.

It’s a selective site, not like Fine Art America, which is open to everyone. It would be a great place to make my art available because it is genuinely intent on building an online community for art lovers . . . it seems to have a following of people who like to collect art, and not just look at it.

That’s an important distinction. You see, while I’m grateful for having many encouraging fans who love my art, I know that very few will actually ever buy any of it. After all, for most people art is a luxury item and for so many, spending $500 or more on a limited edition print seems to be a big decision, perhaps out their reach. I fully understand and appreciate that.

Finding Love in All the Right Places

Back to that original question, I could answer it in a book, but of course I won’t. As with most of life’s questions, the challenge is to find the simplest answer. This one finally came to me last night, while trying to get to sleep.

I love the process of creating, and occasionally something selfless happens there, and it is magical, and it has something to do with love. In these moments it’s like being inside the picture, where occasionally there is the giving and receiving of a precious hug. It is warm, it’s real, it’s peaceful and it’s the only thing that makes much sense. On top of that, there is the striving – the dream – to somehow send that hug along in the finished piece.

I see that happening more all the time, based on some of the comments and discussions I’ve had with people who love my art, regardless of whether they buy it.

That keeps me going, and as I’ve said many times, as in life, art is essentially about love.

A Friendly Embrace

Finally, here is a preview of my latest completed piece. It touches on the issue of skin color. In a harmonious way, it is also a playful optical illusion. I almost called it “What Color Am I?” but instead the name is, “Color Is Your Friend”. I’m saving it for a later release.

New art by Lawrence Grodecki

Neutral Colors – Available soon in a limited edition.

 

Fifty Floating Apples

Last summer I wrote a blog post about floating apples – Going Bananas Over Nuts and Apples. It’s a special topic for me, as is gravity and that kind of mystery.

That mystery is imagination itself, where ideas live, play? For me it is without a doubt the most real aspect of the universe, intact beyond anything physical, and fluid more than static. I think some of that is there when the apple floats – when the tree can no longer hold it, and yet just before gravity begins the descent. And I wonder, “Do butterflies “know” something of this, but in a very different, magical way?”

Please keep that in mind, as it may the best way I can describe some of the thinking behind this new painting. It’s called “Floating An Apple” and it was done somewhat with Magritte’s “Son of Man” in mind. Perhaps this is my tribute to his message in that picture, show here:

image of the Son of Man painting

The Son of Man by Rene Magritte

On the painting’s Wikipedia page [1], Magritte is quoting as saying this about his painting:

At least it hides the face partly well, so you have the apparent face, the apple, hiding the visible but hidden, the face of the person. It’s something that happens constantly. Everything we see hides another thing, we always want to see what is hidden by what we see. There is an interest in that which is hidden and which the visible does not show us. This interest can take the form of a quite intense feeling, a sort of conflict, one might say, between the visible that is hidden and the visible that is present.[1]

Floating An Apple_Proof2

 

Special Orchid

Painting – Both Art and Craft

Did I ever tell you about my very first painting? Probably not. It wasn’t anything close to a Rembrandt or a Dali. It wasn’t a portrait, or a bowl of fruit either. If anything, it was more like plein air or a landscape. The setting was idyllic. It was late spring, in a valley, near a hamlet called Valley River and about a 15 minute drive from my home in Dauphin. Gorgeous, lush parkland, and at that time of year one can work long hours . . . the sun hung around at least until 10 at night.

I didn’t pick the site, rather it picked me, or perhaps more accurately my dad helped pick it out. I was still a teen then, didn’t even have my driver’s license, so he was instrumental in getting me there. By the way, he was teacher most of his life, and a real whiz at math . . . that was his passion. With six kids and always in debt, he took on odd jobs in the summer months, self-employed light carpentry and painting. That’s how my first painting came about – it was a barn and it hadn’t been painted in about 30 years!

It was one stubborn fucking building, I’ll say that! Keep in mind that this was 1974, so 30 years prior, they were using material from around WWII time – lots of lead –  I’m sure a similar concoction would eventually find it’s way into the making today’s hockey helmets, it was that tough. The building was in remarkable structural condition – no warping or rotting or anything. But that paint, all three layers of it, oye what a job!

After all those years of being exposed to the sun and wind, it was drier than David Letterman with a hangover! There were a million tiny, stubborn, nasty paint chips . . . about four would fit on the nail of your little finger . . . each clinging to the wood like they used crazy glue . . . more like “completely psycho glue”. And they drove me nuts!

But wait, there’s more!

I could bitch about the process all day. I’m pretty sure it was the first time my dad knew that my cussing vocabulary was fully developed. That took perhaps an hour or so. He didn’t seem to mind though, and I’ve always appreciated his patience and understanding. He just let me vent, would move to a different section and give me that space, and get his own too I suppose? He worked so hard and never complained. However, you could tell by his eyes if you had hurt him or were doing something wrong, so just by looking at him I’d find myself thinking, “Stop being such a jerk!” and then I’d calm down, at least for awhile.

After 3 weeks of evenings and Saturdays on this barn, I actually did feel like we’d accomplished something, and at that point I’m sure there was even a little smile of accomplishment. After all, the scraping was complete and now we could do some painting.

Well son-of-a-bitch . . .the next news came as a complete shock. Having read the stories about Tom Sawyer and Huck, I felt duped . . . this was no goddam picket fence! Now we had to put plaster all over the place, not on every square inch . . . mostly where I’d left some nasty gouges in the wood from my “aggressive” scraping technique. There was that and then over the head of every nail, and in the cracks where one board joined the next.

Still, it was much easier than scraping, and by the way, now that I think of it, that’s the year where my throwing arm really developed . . . launching bullets rather than darts! Anyways, after about another week this puttying was done and I could hardly wait to start painting, or so I thought. Well mother-fucker, no one told me we had to sand this pig first!

As you can see, I’m still not quite over the swearing-out ceremony!

I can still feel that pain in my shoulder as I’m typing, but at least I’m not sweating buckets and swatting mosquitoes or worse . . . those tiny no-see-ums. No smell of cow shit lingering either. Finally we got to the priming, and then two coats of grey with white trim, and by then this part felt like a vacation.

I have to say though, after all of that, it was one of the best experiences of my life. There is nothing in 19 years of schooling that could teach me what that project taught me. The building was beautiful, especially in this valley setting, on a bit of an incline, surrounded by trees and close to the creek. And the wood almost seemed grateful – you could literally watch the paint soothe its dryness, and it felt wonderful when it was all done. It felt just as great some 20 years later, which was the next time I saw my friend, the barn. I had actually forgotten about the place, and was there kind of by accident, so it was quite a surprise to see it again, especially since it looked exactly like it did we finished it!

The grey with white trim was still there, and it was still our original paint , , , I could tell just by looking, but don’t ask me how. It was like time had stood still in that serene, secluded place. A nice rush of warm memories came over me and it was then when I realized how good this was to do. I have no idea how much money dad gave me. It wouldn’t have been much. It’s hard to remember, but I think that’s the summer I got a ten-speed bike and a really great baseball glove. I got that and an allowance that would be enough to treat my girlfriend to a Saturday night movie and a soda after, at the Grange Cafe . . . if we could talk her dad into that extra hour or so . . . he was even more stubborn than me.

Most importantly, I learned about patience and perseverance. Maybe that’s partly innate? I don’t know. What I do know is that for the next decade I spent my summers painting houses, barns, churches and more, and pretty much loved every minute of it. Before graduating from high school I had gone solo.  I loved the self-reliance aspect and it paid for most of my seven years of college and university, including grad school. Ever since then all I’ve ever really wanted was to have that kind of independence again, no matter the endeavor . . . owning a small business, and now that includes my art and writing.

Back to the future . . . soon

It all seemed much easier then. In many ways earning a living by painting houses is much easier than selling paintings. After all, people needed their houses painted and most abhorred doing it themselves. Few people see a need for art. Believe me, I understand that. However, I guess there is one odd little commonality between painting the houses and the pictures I paint. With the houses I had this quirky little thing about color. I’d always recommend the color and color scheme, and insisted on using really good paint, but not necessarily the most expensive. However, sometimes my customers would have their own color ideas.

If I didn’t approve of them I simply wouldn’t take the job. Thankfully there was seldom any real disagreement. I did walk away from one job opportunity though, because I just couldn’t put those colors on that house. Don’t forget, my reputation was on the line with every job. So that one time I walked away and got as far as the curb . . . by then she had called me back, agreed to my color selections, and loved it in the end.

How is that common to my art? Even though it’s digital painting, the final printing is not so simple . . . it’s not just pushing a button. There are decisions to be made, nuances in the final process, and believe me this is all very personal . . . the little details that really do matter. So you can be damn sure that my final printing approval is extremely stringent before I sign any piece of my art. I guess I’m just stubborn that way . . . maybe that’s the one time when it’s good to be one’s own toughest critic?

Finally, I loved this movie when it first came out (see below). Every time I see this scene I think of that barn, and of my dad. He had a few faults, but a lack of kindness or patience was never among them. I’m happy to say that I do miss him.

Eight Picture about Pictures

Ever since I was a little kid I’ve loved going to the movies. Saturday afternoon matinees were always a treat in my little hometown. In those days we didn’t have to buy popcorn and drinks in the theater. Mr. Ratushniak (the owner) was kind enough to let us stock up on penny candy at the convenience store next door. If you were quick enough at making your choices, you would have time enough to browse through those “detective magazines” . . . it always seemed odd how the detectives had to help ladies who were wearing underwear. You always got a good feel for their dilemma, but you never got to see the detectives . . . good cover I suppose?

So I could never get enough of Sinbad, or Hercules, or The Three Stooges or so many others. As for Barbarella, the closest I could get was the gorgeous movie poster that hung outside the theater for what seemed like months, yet not long enough? I could never understand why that movie wasn’t matinee-worthy, and I was pretty smart for a 12 year-old.

In more recent years I’ve watched a fair number of art-related movies. I don’t even go looking for them, and yet there have been plenty. There have been some fascinating ones and some so-so ones. It’s kind of funny though. I often say that I can’t understand why people who love my art seem to want to know stuff about me . . . the emphasis should be on the art, and not me at all. I just don’t get it. Yet here I am watching these films, totally captivated about these artists’ stories, and paying almost no attention to the art.

Anyways, here’s a partial list of those films. I’m no critic, so I’m just going to list them along with a brief comment. I hope you find something of interest, and by the way, they’re certainly not all bio-pics. If you know of any not on this list, by all means add a recommendation in a comment, and foreign films are more than welcome.

So without further adieu, here’s a list of eight, in no particular order:

  • Klimt, starring John Malkovich
  • Frida, starring Selma Hayak . . . perhaps my favorite in the bunch
  • Renoir – a French film about the artist’s life in his later years, especially his relationship with his son, who went on to be a film director
  • The Thomas Crown Affair – the more recent one with Pierce Bronson
  • The Best Offer – an intriguing mystery about a high-end, reclusive art dealer
  • Tim’s Vermeer – an interesting documentary
  • Girl With The Pearl Earring – a close second in the favorites department starring Scarlett Johansson

That’s it for now. As a final note, I’m surprised that I’ve never come across any film about Leonardo, so if you know of a good one, please let me know . . . and that’s da Vinci, not DiCapprio!