Category Archives: Nature

Art by Lawrence Grodecki

Born in 57, but soon 58

Perhaps the oddest thing about art is that a lot of people seem more interested in the person doing it than in the art itself. That always makes me think that there must be something wrong with my art!

It’s even stranger that I’ve become the same way in many cases, “Who is this person behind this painting or song or sculpture?” So maybe I shouldn’t be surprised about getting what feels like a lot of personal attention from some very dear fans . . . still, it’s a little unnerving putting one’s self out there . . . often it feels downright narcissistic, but mostly it feels undeserving.

To make matters worse, it seems the blog posts people enjoy most are the ones that include my little blasts from the past . . . those personal little stories.

Time to get out the birthday suit!

So tomorrow is my birthday – 58 and painting like I’m thirty-something – and I wonder if there will be any surprises? I couldn’t get to sleep last night because I was drifting back to so many milestones, in particular this time of the year but 39 years ago. I was the same age then that my youngest daughter is now. She is finishing her university life this term, while I was just beginning mine back then.

That started in Vancouver, at Simon Fraser University . . . it’s on top of Burnaby Mountain, to be more precise. It was a newer school, renown for it’s architecture, designed by Arthur Erickson. It wasn’t a huge university back then – a recluse for the fans of the liberal arts – the smart, driven folks went to the much more conservative University of British Columbia (UBC). That was a long time ago though – I’m sure much has changed since then.

I went there for one main reason. In my youth I was always fascinated by the movies and in 1979 Simon Fraser was the only school in western Canada that any kind of film studies program . . . and a minor at that . . . I majored in psychology.

Yes, I did take one psych course – intro psych – plus a course in intro botany or biology, which I never took in high school, so I damn near failed that one, though I loved all the line art and photography in the text book. There was another intro course that I simply cannot remember and then there was this double course, a six-credit doozer called “History of Italian Renaissance Art”.

Apparently that art course had something to do with the film studies program, though I have no idea what that may have been. What was more apparent was that the man who taught really knew his stuff. Through the term I found out that he was one of the world’s leading experts on the subject, and he had the passion to go with the reputation.

He had all his own slides and we would spend hour after hour in a theater looking at every square inch of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in great detail, while he told us all kinds of stories. In hindsight though, I think we really only grazed the surface on the lives of Michelangelo, Leonardo, Botticelli, and so many more.

Then there was the smaller, once-a-week workshops on more specialized topics . . . I chose the literature one. It was all about some dude named Dante, and myself and about a dozen other became intimate with The Divine Comedy and La Vita Nuova. What I remember most is how Robin (the first name of the professor), would explain who each character was in real life . . . the ones portrayed in one part of Dante’s Inferno.

They represented various merchants, bankers, clergy, and other people in some form of “leadership”. It was all very awful, yet fascinating at the same time. As was Dante’s quest to write about the notion of pure love in La Vita Nuova.

What has stuck with the most over all these years is that the art of that time was very much intermixed with the developments in science and technology . . . the introduction of perspective by Leonardo, for example. This has helped me on a personal level, as I’ve struggled through the years of, “but is it art?”, in terms of being a digital painter.

In the past couple of years that has finally changed – digital art is becoming more mainstream, or at least finally “accepted”. Yet I’m still uncomfortable with that. Frankly I’d like to drop the reference to “digital” altogether and just focus on the art as being simply art.

I don’t see that happening in the foreseeable future any more than I can say that I can just paint and keep my personal stories just that . . . personal, as in “private”. Then again, I suppose I could just write another novel about love and continue to hide a few anecdotes in there? It has not all been a divine comedy, but then is anything funny without a little tragedy?

Anyway, there’s no sense getting too philosophical the day before one’s birthday. Now I’ll sit back and wait for those precious well wishes . . . and the magical surprise of some glorious birthday cheesecake?

Finally, here’s a wonderful clip of a nearby park. It’s the place for where I first got to see a bison eye-to-eye, at the age of nine. We were only about ten feet away, and the gazing was only for a few seconds, but I can still remember it so very clearly. This park is about a 10 minute drive from the town where I grew up (Dauphin) and an hour’s drive from where I’m sitting right now (Brandon). It’s beautiful there. I don’t know that it has influenced my art in any way, but one can always hope.

 

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Original art by Lawrence Grodecki

Enduring Tears

Not long ago NASA made their big announcement about Pluto. I was happy for all the people who worked so hard on the project, but “happy with a small h”.

You see, I don’t need NASA to “prove” there is life elsewhere in the universe. I’ve come to understand that long ago through a couple of simple truths. One is that the universe is undeniably infinite and the other is that Earth is alive. From there the realization comes easily . . . life exists everywhere around us – everywhere –  though so far away.

The Teacher and the Teaching

In the past ten years I’ve learned a lot and seen a lot, including this remarkable cloud that kind of parked itself between me and the sun. I stopped my bike ride to just gaze up and watch it. The cloud was in the shape of Africa, and it was a better rendition than I could possibly draw. After maybe 5 minutes of being still it slowly drifted away, but oddly intact – it’s shape didn’t change as the light of the sun came out over the top.

I mention Africa because many years ago I read about a pre-Christian sub-Saharan culture that had an intimate understanding that Earth is alive, that it had a birth, and that eventually it will die. That’s pretty profound when you think about, especially in the context of understanding this without all the bells and whistles. Nature can be a very precious teacher . . . so I wonder about what that relationship was, way back then, that led to such wonderful wisdom? It must have been very special.

Those Darn Words

Now here’s the stickler about those things we call words. I must have seen at least half a dozen news clips about the NASA news and each time the excitement was about “discovering another planet that supports life”. They could have said, “it may be another planet that’s alive”, but they didn’t. And it is very much a cultural thing.

Today it took a music artist from the states to remind of all this – Azealia Banks – her thing is hip hop. I watched her do a highly charged radio interview some of it really got to me. First there was her anger and frustration at the current and ongoing racial degradation. Then there was her genuine and tearful dismay at what she sees as a further loss of memory of all that was the Africa of long ago.

You may think all this is weird, coming from a white guy from a Polish background, living in Canada. Maybe so, can’t figure that out myself, but I’ve long ago given up on asking myself “why?” about pretty much everything. Finally, it’s not really weird at all if you strip away all those labels . . . they really do seem dangerous.

We have so much to do before celebrating Pluto too much, given how we can make the fruit here on Earth so very bitter. NASA can’t help in that endeavor.

Digital art by Lawrence Grodecki

Humming At Pie

This unfinished piece is one of my earliest on-screen creations. It’s about 10 years old now. I’m showing it here and now for a couple of reasons.

First, lately I’ve been asked more questions about my art in terms of meaning and such. Frankly it is much easier for me to talk about that in the bigger picture context rather than in any one piece. However, that can be a bit like opening Pandora’s Box, even though it really revolves around a simple truth, “There are no lines in nature.”

By the way, this painting up top is simply called “Hmmm”.

It is meant to be a playful statement – more like a question – and it is about nature. It’s also about science. The scientific method came about as a different way of observing nature. As it can all get quite complicated, it can also be easily forgotten that the essence of the activity is really that simple. Perhaps the thing that disturbs me the most is that it can easily be forgotten that it is only one way to observe nature. The only thing more disturbing is when someone claims that it is the ultimate or superior or “only true way” to make these observations.

On the more positive, playful side of things, “Hmmm” represents a lot of fun I had in wondering how nature observes us, doing all our science, as represented by the pie chart. Thanks for stopping by.

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

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

 

a picture of leaves

Painting In Time

This is my last “art post” for awhile. It’s about time, or perhaps timing is the better choice of words?

I don’t know how many times I’ve been asked in various ways about how long it takes me to create something. Even when not asked, it becomes an awkward aspect of announcing a new project.

Incidentally, I’m one of those who agrees with Leonardo da Vinci and many others . . . a work of art is never finished . . . there is some universal truth in that, I’m sure. What is amusing about that is looking at the beginning of a piece.

If art has no “ending” then where does it really begin?

That can be a fascinating question to tackle. For example, in a way “Rita’s Vision” took me less than a week to complete – sometimes completion feels like a surrender, but a very sweet, peaceful one. But where did this picture start? If you read my my last post, Some Notes on My Art Style, you can see that this picture really began almost 10 years ago, with the collection of some leaves, and then a scan. But then there were many pictures that came out of this scan, and each time something new happens. Something is learned?

A style eventually emerges, change happens . . . often unnoticed. There are elements in this picture that were not part of that style ten years ago, so in a way each picture is the result of weeks and months of other pictures. That applies not only directly to the these leaves, but indirectly too – all those other creations that had their influence as well.

Let’s not forget that without those leaves none of this would have happened . . . this art. So where did these leaves come from, the first ones? Some may call this philosophical whimsy, but to me it’s not. It’s another example of a prominent theme to my art and novel. Everything blends and time is certainly no exception!

I’m going to try to avoid this issue of time in the future (no pun intended). When it comes to art, and especially with art, time really is so irrelevant.

Finally, the picture at the top is what I’m playing with now. There’s no name yet – that will come in a different now. By the way, now is my favorite time!

 

Going Bananas Over Nuts and Apples

How about them apples? I don’t mean the ones for Halloween, just around the corner. Nor do I mean anything about new i-phones and such. I’m talking about gravity here, and eventually about floating apples.

I had my own Newton moment almost ten years ago, sitting near a tree and watching the squirrels at play, and then the cones falling to the ground. For some reason, Newton’s formula for gravity came to mind, as I was taught so long ago. It was an intrusive thought though, as it wasn’t equations that caught my attention in that Eureka moment . . . it was the time of release that got me thinking.

Oddly, it comes back to yet another thing that can’t be measured in nature, such as the precise time when an apple or cone begins it’s descent. In botany I learned a bit about energy in trees, and how with some of this energy the tree holds the apple to the tree. Eventually this energy is not enough to keep the fruit attached, and then it falls.

Just Before the Start of the Fall

That’s the part that fascinates me . . . that immeasurable moment within a moment . . . just before the start of that descent. It is then that the apple floats! There is no energy from the tree holding it back, and the draw of gravity has not yet begun . . . in between the two, the apple floats!

To help you get a better picture of what I’m saying, there is a pretty famous painting by Magritte called, The Son of Man, as shown below:

image of the Son of Man painting

The Son of Man by Rene Magritte

If you want another visual idea, there’s always Bugs Bunny, especially those countless times where one character or another finds themselves floating . . . here’s just one example.

So for me this is all a comforting reminder of how little we know, in spite of all we think we know. I like that we don’t fully understand gravity. That way we don’t have a hope in hell of synthesizing it, bringing dead planets back to life, and repeating our mistakes somewhere else. When you think about, what really is the point of colonizing a planet that has no gravity, as we have on Earth? It all seems so unnatural, sad really.

Finally, I do believe there is something about love in every such magical, invisible moment, something that exists freely in nature, never to be contained.

For years I’ve thought of this with every naturally falling object, such as all the fruits and cones. Lately I’ve also become quite fascinated with the notion of the sky being full of water, even in the absence of clouds. Now – just last night, while thinking this post through – another thought came to mind. This magical moment within a moment, when apples float, it seems the same is true for every drop of water in the rain . . . and then there are snowflakes!

To end on a lighter note, now I’m wrestling with a bigger mystery. Out of all those raindrops that fall in a pond, I wonder which ones float!