Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Duane Keiser: A Painting A Day

Koh Toa Sunset
Originally uploaded by alex the greek
Duane Keiser is the fellow who created the concept of “a painting a day.” This method of producing small pieces of art and marketing your work directly on the internet has been inspirational to me.

The other morning I checked his site just to have a updated look-see. To my surprise and delight, I found Duane had written a piece that may inspire many of us to live a bit differently. Here is what he said, edited a bit for brevity:

I’ve been struck by how many emails I have received from non-artists wanting to learn how to paint and start their own PAD projects. They typically aren’t interested in selling or even showing their work publicly. They often have full-time jobs and kids. It finally occurred to me there is something going on here that goes beyond wanting to learn how to paint a pretty picture, and I think it taps into an underlying attraction to the idea of making a painting a day:

We go through our lives with a perpetual cursory glance. We see but we don’t notice. It is like when we are on a long car trip and get so lost in thought that we suddenly can’t remember the last 30 minutes of the trip… the landscape, the road signs, nothing. We didn’t crash, so we were seeing, but we weren’t noticing.

…once when I was visiting California several years ago. A crowd had gathered on the beach to watch the sunset. As I joined them, I overheard someone talking about a green flash. I asked what she meant. She explained that the moment the sun disappears behind the horizon there will be a green flash. I had lived in California as a child and had seen many ocean sunsets and not once did I see a green flash. I was skeptical. But sure enough, there was a green flash. I watched for it again the next day, just to make sure I wasn’t seeing things. It was there.

What amazed me, however, was that I had never seen it before, even though I had been looking right at it during dozens of sunsets.

If I can look at dozens of sunsets and not see something so obvious and beautiful as that green flash, what is going on around me, right now, that I am missing simply because I am not prepared to notice it?

We are bombarded with imagery-TV, video, cameras, camera phones, movies, computers etc. All of this information forms the visual equivalent of white noise. It is hard to see and appreciate the colors in a candle flame when it is seen against a fireworks display-- and if we are only looking for fireworks in the first place, we will not only not see the subtleties of that single flame, we won’t notice the flame at all. In effect, the flame ceases to exist to us.

Direct observation and the patience it requires has become less natural to us. When you go to any art museum, look how much time the average person spends in front of even the greatest painting... not much.
Or look what happens when somebody is on vacation and discovers some amazing vista… out comes the camera for a snapshot and then it’s time to move on.

We simply aren’t used to observing things firsthand, of investigating them, and I think we sense this—that we’re missing something; that we have, to some degree, become spectators of our own lives.

I think this is one aspect of the PAD idea that draws artists and non-artists alike to the idea of making a painting a day. Even to the uninitiated, there is the notion that painting makes us participants again. The idea of bringing painting into our life holds the promise of experiencing a moment each day when we can be still.

Duane Keiser

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