Saturday, December 03, 2016

from an interview with Jay Andersen on WTIP

Creativity, I think, is the basis of all art, but it's also the basis of all expression. Whether I'm writing or painting, acting, doing anything, even having a conversation with somebody, the creative urge comes from the same place. The only difference is that the medium changes.

A lot of inspiration, or whatever is behind the art, comes from things like dreams or inspiration that I see all around me every day.

I have different jobs that I do. My jobs are things that I do, but art is what I am. It goes to the core of me. It's not something that I'm doing because someone expects it of me. It's something that I truly do for myself.

There was a time when I was first showing my paintings in Grand Marais, and people kind of forget this, but my work was very dark. It was a lot of black and white. If there was color, it was usually blood red. There was a big change that happened when my daughter was born. I stopped painting because I was home taking care of her. When I picked up the brush again, it just came out in bright color. So I think you bring what's called for, or what you've got in you. What comes out of you has to be in you in the first place, so as we go through life, we change… evolve in a way, as we learn more and get more experiences. And then all those things can be incorporated into what we then express.

When it comes to subjects, yeah, there are certain things that I do over and over again. It's really difficult not to be inspired by the scenic beauty that surrounds us. In particular, the old growth white pines that we see as we're going up the Gunflint Trail or different places… Those are such incredible earthlings. I think of trees as individuals. I did a stand of white pines, and there were about five trees in the painting. I called it "Five Brothers." Well, I happen to be one of five brothers. And then there was a companion piece to it that was two trees. Though I didn't title it that way, I kind of thought of it like my parents, so my whole family was depicted as trees. The trees have a stability to them. When I look out at the water, it's always changing. I've always lived near water, and fish.

I was born in Detroit, and you're never far from the Great Lakes in MIchigan. I grew up in Liberia, right on the ocean, and then I ended up here. My daughter is from Palau, which is completely surrounded by water, so there's that kind of stuff.

When I was probably about eight years old, I had a dream. We lived outside of Detroit on a farm. I had a dream that I walked out into the driveway and there was a muddy puddle in the gravel driveway. I saw something moving in the water, so I went and got a net, and I netted a beautiful, long finned, white goldfish out of this muddy puddle, and put it in a jar in my window. That image from that dream has stuck with me my whole life.

Goldfish are such a common thing. They're like a dime store trinket, but each one of them is an individual life, and there are so many interesting things about goldfish. So I eventually had a goldfish pond in my yard. I used to sit out there with a cup of coffee, and all the goldfish would run and hide under rocks and things. The longer I sat there with my journal or my coffee, they would gradually start to feel more comfortable, and eventually would be eating out of my hand.

I thought that's the way creativity is. When you're running through life, going from this to that, and all the things you have to do, the day kind of gets away from you and there's not enough time to do everything. That's not the time that the creative thoughts and expression come. It's when you sit still and allow them to come out that they do. So you can call it creativity. I think that's spirituality, too.

Van Gogh is someone that I've always kind of looked to for the heaviness of brush strokes and the intensity of color. I like a painting to look like a painting. It can be a painting of a landscape, but I like to see the brushstrokes, see the process, and see all that in there. Because, every painting that pretends to be something, a landscape or any representational scene or object, is an illusion. Our mind sees a three dimensional world on a two dimensional plane. It's not a scene of the Gunflint Pines, it's paint on a surface. To me, good painting is not necessarily about getting every line just right and getting the shape right, and getting everything perfect, like reporting the news in a photograph. When you tap into something inside you and say "beyond this incredible scene that I'm looking at, that I want to share with you, I want to bring something of me into this." And I'm doing it with paint, so here's some paint. Sometimes people look at my work and they say "what's that?", and I say "It's paint."

I often compare painting to dreaming or breathing. It's not 100% effortless, but it's just something that I have always done, and will always do. As long as I'm here in this body, I'll paint. And if I lose the physical ability to paint, I'll paint in my mind. I'll still create those images.

1 comment:

Susan Kirkham said...

Hi old friend, I hope you think of me now and again as you were a very important and missed part of my life in Grand Marais. I often miss it so much it hurts physically, and I think I'll pack up the car and leave the city, but, alas, I cannot drive that far and must beg friends to drive me up once in awhile. I tried to write a comment on your fish in trees and no longer know if I ever got it to you or if it erased by some blunder I made. I knew I was in trouble when my beautiful display's color calibration system warned me that I might need to move my chair back, squint my eyes, and go through about 8 steps just to manage one print out correctly! LOL!
As soon as I saw the fish i trees, so beautifully arranged to mimic the heavy branches of the white pine, I liked what you were doing, although at first I admit thought , "these might be too silly." I was struck by the fish in the trees and wanted to ask you how many folks realized you had combined the two main industries of the area: fishing and lumber?! It's ingenious work and the fish became more well melded into the branches as you worked it. I never mastered the great way you and a few others are able to catch the nature of white pines, and the sort of lumpiness of their branches, distinct in their shape, making negative spaces beautiful in the low winter sun especially. Then today in trying to clear out my hundreds of saved bookmarks I happened upon the interview with Jay, and some of the last words remind me of where I am at this moment. I can paint very little, as my arms become fatigued but am trying to fnish one bulldog I started for friends 3 years ago. After that I will move to smaller work if I can, but the images in my mind are as you described, they flood my mind daily and I have had a couple people, my helpers, remark that I see everything. Of course that is our training and our gift. I'm often exhausted composing in my mind that which I do not have the energy to put on canvas or paper, and don't care if anyone else sees what I see and your final comments struck home. I have mentored a few people in vision and painting and drawing successfully as my mind still works well in some areas all the time, but many days but not in others; and my computer hard drive is much like a fishing line in knots. My boys untangle it, and I tangle it up again. I've been up every summer but this one, and brushed past you and Madeline in the summer of2015 at the co-op as you were leaving, but you didn't notice me and I didn't want to stop your rushing home with groceries as I know well how busy you are. You are a gift to the community, Tim. I just took in your three abstracts to be framed, you know one is Dancing with my Little Girl. Some of your paintings are at my son, Tory's, as he loves everything you paint.
Love you, tell Madeline I love her too and think of both of you often. Susan