Monday, January 24, 2011

The Artist - Toltec, c. tenth century

I've been cleaning out old files and found this. It was tucked away during art school in the late 1980's:

Anonymous (Toltec, c. tenth century)

The Artist
(From the Spanish translation of Toltec Codice de la Real Academia, fol. 315, v. With the help of Elvira Abascal who understood the original Toltec.)

The artist: disciple, abundant, multiple, restless.
The true artist: capable, practicing, skillful;
maintains dialogue with his heart, meets things with his mind.

The true artist: draws out all from his heart,
works with delight, makes things with calm, with sagacity,
works like a true Toltec, composes his
objects, works dexterously, invents;

arranges materials, adorns them, makes them adjust.

The carrion artist: works at random, sneers
at the people,
makes things opaque, brushes across the
surface of the face of things,
works without care, defrauds people, is a

[Translated from the Spanish by Denise Levertov]

Toltec: an Indian people who flourished in central Mexico before the Aztecs, and who are said to have laid the foundations for Aztec culture.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Evening Above the Horse Heaven Hills

Evening Above the Horse Heaven Hills. ©2010 Lisa McShane. 20" x 30". Oil on Linen.
In December I spent several days at museums in Washington DC studying paintings. I was most interested in Inness, Twachtman and Whistler. But mostly George Inness. Since my return - well there were the holidays & visitors & a bit of flu & a little project of insulating a 117-year old hosue - but I've slowed down my painting to experiment with some of the techniques I observed with Inness and others.

This one has more layers - many, many more - in the opaque paint - mostly in the sky. I placed the foreground in shadow and put the light in the middle - a compositional approach Inness used in many of my favorite paintings.

The foreground is a mix of transparent glazes and scumbles - back and forth and back and forth between the two layers - but with more visible texture than I had been using in the transparent passages.

I used the sky as a way to focus on the light falling on the wheat fields in the distance and to call attention to the disappearing horizon - that's the Columbia River. Where the viewer stands is a high point on the Horse Heaven Hills, with a long, dramatic slope to the Columbia gorge in the far distance. This is an arid area and the winter wheat in the mid-ground gives way to shrub-steppe and now, increasingly, vineyards in the distance. This south-facing slope of the Horse Heaven Hills is one of the best red wine growing areas in the US and is a place where you can see geology clearly at work.

Here is a painting - also looking south - but of the hills that you're standing atop: Horse Heaven Fog.