A Job That’s Never Started

“All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.”

– J. R. R. Tolkein

I had always assumed that the line “Not All Who Wander Are Lost” came from a contrarian mind of the recent past.  I was almost certain the phrase would’ve been penned by a literary giant such as Oscar Wilde.  I was surprised to find that the line came rather from a different kind of literary giant, J. R. R. Tolkein, whose faith rooted him in such a way as to be able to speak about wandering.  I suppose anyone who spends the better part of two decades working on a make-believe story must be quite comfortable exploring something  others might see a waste of time–a wandering.

I feel the need to wander, when it comes to painting and making artwork.  I’m more interested finding something new, something I’ve never seen before, than perfecting an outcome I can already foresee.  One’s strengths become one’s weaknesses.  If you fear or reject the process of setting out to finish something “known”, you may just end up back where you started, having never committed to either exploration or completion.  To quote Tolkein two more times:

“A man that flies from his fear may find that he has only taken a shortcut to meet it.”

“It’s a job that’s never started that takes the longest to finish.”

Person of the Week | Emil Nolde, German/Danish Expressionist Painter, Woodcut Artist

Born Emil Hansen from Nolde, Germany, in 1867.  At age 35, the artist began referring to himself as Emil Nolde. Having known little about Nolde, I have always admired his German Expressionist sensibilities with form and color whenever I’ve come across his work, whether in museums or art history books. However, having read a bit more about him this month, it is with great concern that I post work by him or any artist whose personal life evidences deeply objectionable viewpoints, even if such viewpoints are little-known or expressed for a short period of time. Please note that the posting of these images in no way condones his political activities or statements documented by historians. For more on his relationship to German Nationalism, see MoMA’s article on the subject. For more on his work, visit his page on Artsy.net. Please excuse lack of titles for certain unknown works.

Emil Nolde1


“Big Windmill” , 1907-1915, Lithograph in three colors on heavy cream wove paper, 19 1/2 × 13 1/4 in




In 1942 Nolde wrote:

There is silver blue, sky blue and thunder blue. Every colour holds within it a soul, which makes me happy or repels me, and which acts as a stimulus. To a person who has no art in him, colours are colours, tones tones…and that is all. All their consequences for the human spirit, which range between heaven to hell, just go unnoticed.[3]



International Art English

Ever been baffled by an art exhibition press release or wall text? If the answer is “yes, and it makes me angry”, keep reading.

IAE, known as International Art English, is a term was coined by David Levine and Alix Rule. Their linguistic study of how art is written about today (that is: in an obfuscatory way, and when I say “obfuscatory”, I’m using IAE) was first published in 2012 in Triple Canopy.

“Art English is something that everyone in the art world bitches about all the time, but we all use it.”

– artist David Levine, from an article about IAE in the Guardian.

By contrast, IAE is not used by blogs like Paddy Johnson’s Art F City. To memory, every piece I’ve read on AFC continues a meaningful dialogue about contemporary art without the use of IAE.

Person of the Week | Jules Bastien-Lepage (1848-1884)

Bastien-Lepage died at the age of 36–one year older than I am now.  This creates in me a healthy mix of urgency and surprise.  I have admired his work but didn’t know of his early death.

“Season of October”, 1879, oil on canvas, 71″ x 77″

This painting brought me to a standstill when I laid eyes on it in 2001 at the Portland Art Museum in Portland, Oregon.


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Method of Motivation (Part 2 of 2)

…The Second Coach: (continued from previous blog entry)

The Second Coach is unlike the first in most ways, though winning games is still a focus.

When you encounter the second coach, his demeanor and intentionality lends you more respect than you lend yourself.  His focus on the team comes not from obligation, but interest in developing the best in his players. He’s the kind of leader you want to follow, rather than have to follow.

His coaching builds trust, not distrust. His improvement of players extends to off the court. He’s not afraid to show appropriate anger and urgency, but it is used only when needed. Regardless of what players have “earned” from people in the past, to him they are given a chance to be challenged and grow as an individual and a member of a team.


In his eyes, each person is of tremendous worth.  Players remember the high value with which he viewed them, and it helps them remember how to view themselves when situations get difficult whether on or off the court.

Who in your life values you like that?  Who reminds you that you’re more than a missed shot (you at your so-called worst) or an MVP (you at your so-called best)? How would your equation change if you knew a coach like this?

Person of the Week | Fred Rogers, a.k.a. Mister Rogers

“What’s been important in my understanding of myself and others is the fact that each one of us is so much more than any one thing. A sick child is much more than his or her sickness. A person with a disability is much, much more than a handicap. A pediatrician is more than a medical doctor. You’re MUCH more than your job description or your age or your income or your output.”

– Fred Rogers

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Method of Motivation (Part 1 of 2)

In life you can be motivated by love or fear.  In turn, you motivate yourself and others with the same.

An analogy that comes to mind is that of two basketball coaches.

Part 1: The Disconnected Coach:

Upon meeting the first coach, you feel both a passion and a coldness about his program.  It is a goal-oriented, winning team.  He begins with a distrust of his players, and maintains it throughout their relationship. His players are motivated by fear, and it motivates them quite well.

Shame is his tool to get them to act.  His desires are effectively brought about by subtle or severe methods. His directives have a frenetic energy, and players are accustomed to being blamed and blaming each other.  The coach’s pleasure is rarely felt by the players, even after a win. They play to win, and they have a difficult time maintaining any sportsmanlike conduct when they lose.  Players are always one mistake away from a personal demotion. Overall, the culture of the team is fear.

Most everyone has been part of a system like the one described above.  It is motivating to be told you’re nothing, or worse than nothing, but the fruit of such motivation retains a certain bitterness.

So why does such a method continue to draw us in?  Why do we use similar talk to motivate ourselves?

Perhaps we’ve arrived at a bitter equation of self-evaluation:  We’ve made an equivalent of our worth and our winning percentage…  We use fear to motivate ourselves, growing ever bitter at the lack of love in our equation.

What is your human evaluation equation?

Person of the Week | Amy Bennett, Painter


Dead Ringers, diptych, oil on panels, 6 x 6 inches, 2008

Dead Ringers, diptych, oil on panels, 6 x 6 inches, 2008

Amy Bennett

Collapse, oil on panel, 8 x 8 inches, 2012

Setting the Stage
Setting the Stage, oil on panel, 10 x 18 inches, 2012