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Painting as Tribute – by Robert Genn

Painting as Tribute - by Robert Genn

There are lots of reasons to paint. This morning's inbox included about a dozen. They ranged from "spiritual need" to "$1800.00." Another subscriber mentioned, "A nice memorial for my friend's gerbil "Alice," who recently passed away." After her lengthy explanation I was not sure if it was her friend or the gerbil she was memorializing. Then there was the guy who said he was painting today because he didn't feel like mowing the lawn. Ah yes, Spring.

"Spring has sprung, the grass is riz.

I wonder where the mower is?"

But I digress. No matter how seemingly banal your painting motivation might be, something else can be implicit in virtually every project. You just need to think of art-making as a form of tribute.

A tribute, according to the Oxford Dictionary, is "a thing said, done or given as a mark of respect." When you think of it, all of nature and a great deal of what mankind has done are worthy of tribute. Further, when you consider appreciation of beauty or history or even the possibility of life enhancement, our art takes on greater meaning and more power.

There's a simple way to put this idea into action. When you approach a subject or a motif, pause and contemplate. Ask yourself what a possible back-story might be.

Recently, Peter Segnitz and I made a little video that tries to describe this attitude. It's called "Painting as Tribute" and we've put it at the top of the current clickback.

Some of us may come by this attitude quite naturally. For others, it's easy to get stuck in the gumbo of commercialism or clock watching, as if we had a job in a gerbil wheel factory. While our work has job-like elements, it's not really a job. It's a calling. It's a supreme opportunity to honour and make permanent our time and place in the nature of things. With such an attitude, there's a greater imperative to do it well.

Best regards,


PS: "The artist fills space with an attitude. The attitude never comes from himself alone." (Willem de Kooning)

Esoterica: Without getting sidetracked by the self-importance of our creative missions, we all have an obligation to try to extract the maximum from every opportunity. Even that tiny gerbil--what a temple of design, miniaturization, spirit, persistence, forward planning. What wondrous lungs, heart, brain, nervous and digestive system. What miracle its DNA carried to her offspring from every cell. That gerbil is a subject so noble, so holy, that it deserves a considered attitude. "The whole world is a church." (Sylvain of Athos)
Robert Genn has given ARTAZINE permission to publish from his twice-weekly newsletter. For more of Robert's artistic insight, visit his blog at www.painterspost.com.

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