The Work Continues: Steven Pressfield and the War of Art

I’ve been absent from this blog due to a series of life events.

We lost a close family member.

My wife and I were in a horrific car crash, not our fault. It’s a miracle we walked away from it (we have an attorney, a new car, and I have ongoing chiropractor appointments).

I have been writing non-art articles for another entity.

There’s been some good art news as well; many sales, and a major commission.

But all this time, despite all these issues and events, I’ve been painting more than ever.

I have an art method which keeps me from getting overwhelmed with too many works going on at the same time. My natural inclination is to keep starting new paintings without finishing them. I don’t like that approach, so I developed a strategy which keeps production flowing while still committing to completion.

I keep three paintings in progress going, at different stages of development. I switch off between them based on where my mind is at the moment: either still making big decisions and adjustments in the early stages, refining and defining during the middle passages, and then making all the finishing touches which make such a difference at the end.

Here is a sneak preview detail shot form my currently most finished painting, “Plein Air.”

Detail of “Plein Air” in Progress

Part of what got me organized as an artist many years ago was the amazing Steven Pressfield book, The War of Art. I recommend it for everyone, not just artists. So much happens when you do the work, and get out of your own way.

The lessons I learned from that book enabled me to persist in completing my own book, Remodern America: How the Renewal of the Arts Will Change the Course of Western Civilization.

This blog is part of my work, and it will continue. More to come.

In the meantime, enjoy this inspirational clip.

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I don’t fundraise off of my blog. I don’t ask for Patreon or Paypal donations. If you’d like to support the Remodern mission, buy a book. Or a painting

Learn more About My Art: Visionary Experience

My wife Michele Bledsoe has written her own inspirational book, Painting, Passion and the Art of Life.

Remodernism Video: BEFORE THERE WAS FAKE NEWS, THERE WAS FAKE ART

Visit other posts for more commentary on the state of the arts.

Please send any inquiries to info@remodernamerica.com. Thank you!

Cultural Renewal May Not Be Pretty, But It is Beautiful: Punk, The Ashcan School, and Remodernism

Robert Henri “Snow in New York” oil on canvas 32″ x 25 13/16″ 1902

“Do whatever you do intensely. The artist is the man who leaves the crowd and goes pioneering. With him there is an idea which is his life.”

-Robert Henri

When I was a teenage punk, I was just having fun.

Only later did I understand I was participating in the messy but vital process of cultural renewal.

It was a matter of being in the right place at the right time. I was sixteen years old in 1986, living near Washington, DC. My geeky group of friends and I were performing the young male ritual of rebellion right next to an epicenter of an aggressive, controversial youth movement.

Only about a decade old at that point, the music and fashion sensation of punk had mutated into what was called hardcore. DC was the home of now legendary bands like Bad Brains and Minor Threat, and the excitement they generated spilled out into the suburbs.

I got a bad haircut and started wearing a black leather jacket and combat boots. On weekends my buddies and I left behind VHS movies and Dungeons and Dragons marathons and ventured into the big city, prowling the hip enclave of Georgetown.

We had a routine route, visiting the Exorcist stairs, Smash Records, and the Commander Salamander boutique. Mainly we walked the streets, feeling a thrill of immediate kinship whenever we encountered another band of promenading punks. We finally had something in common with some girls, too.

In time we started to visit the seedy clubs featuring shows with loud, fast songs and shouted vocals, while the audience danced by jumping around and bouncing off of each other. It was exhilarating.

Punk began when a bunch of self-starting kids, often working class, got bored with the bland, predictable culture being offered by the establishment. At the time there was no internet, and only sensationalized, derogatory mainstream media coverage. Hardcore punk was all underground and word of mouth, shared mix tapes and Xeroxed fliers. It felt like a conspiracy, like being initiated into something mysterious and special. We created our own alternative, and it spread.

I wrote about some of punk’s contradictions in my 2018 book, Remodern America: How the Renewal of the Arts Will Change the Course of Western Civilization:

Punk’s anti-establishment outlook put it on the radical side of things, but I never got how advocates of a movement that emphasized individuality and independence could turn to a politically leftist worldview. In the 1980s the Cold War was still raging, and a lot of the major figures of the punk world openly sided with the communists.
But looking at actions instead of rhetoric, it was clear to me leftists were the most vicious enforcers of the establishment in history.
Around the world, their whole political system as practiced demanded an individual’s submission to centralized power, the exact opposite of punk’s message.
It made no sense to me how any free thinker would ally themselves with brutal regimes who used constant surveillance, intimidation and violence to keep entire populations captive. The problems
of America, how we fell short of our high ideals, how we were easily distracted by crass consumerism, seemed minor compared to the literally murderous systematic oppression coordinated by greedy and
aggressive totalitarians elsewhere in the world.
I did not understand I had been recruited into a covert war which had been brewing for decades. The Cold War was being fought unacknowledged right in the midst of our placid existences, in the classrooms, on the television. Postmodernism co-opted the potentials of punk.
If I’d had more perspective then I could have seen the double standards in play, and understood their origins. But I was just a kid, lacking experience and insight. It was easier just to ignore the contradictions.
If punk meant being a nonconformist, I would follow my own conscience. I could reject materialism and unthinking obedience to authority without buying into audaciously misguided leftist dogma.
To me punk went beyond the music that sounded a certain way, a gaudy aesthetic, lapses into lazy nihilism, and a juvenile reflex towards sardonic defensiveness. Punk advanced quintessentially traditional American viewpoints: no respect for the unjustified hierarchies the powerful attempt to impose; emphasis on action and energy; commitment to justice and progress; and the desire for the liberty to pursue individual happiness.

When I look around today, at all the people with the dyed hair, tattoos, and facial piercings, I still remember how shocking such trappings were when my peers were doing it back in the day. It makes me reflect how art is a leading indicator for society-for good or ill. All the once-startling punk displays are bland and predictable.

Almost one hundred years earlier, there was another aggressive, controversial cultural phenomena going on in the United States, in painting. We’ve come to call it the Ashcan School.

Artist Robert Henri (June 24, 1865-July 12, 1929) was an inspirational artist and teacher initially based in Philadelphia; he later relocated to New York City. Henri (pronounced Hen-rye) was bored with the bland, predictable art being produced in the American art establishment at the time: either gentle, pale Impressionist imitations, or flattering Gilded Age portraits of wealthy patrons.

Henri mentored a group of journalist illustrators which included notables such as William Glackens, John Sloan, and George Luks. In an era before common photographic reproduction, newspapers used artists to create the pictures for their stories. These men were used to depicting the grime and grimness of newsworthy city life. Henri encouraged them to bring that real world engagement into fine art.

Like punk many years later, the Ashcan School was an alliance of freethinking individuals each following their own artistic vision, rather than an organized, regimented movement. The artists shared a Modernist urban sensibility, dark palette, gritty realist subject matter, and an appreciation for the common people. They made sketchy yet accurate depictions how life was lived at the time, instead of polite, idealized fantasies. As Henri put it, “There is only one reason for art in America, and that is that the people of America learn the means of expressing themselves in their own time, and their own land.”

This was considered to be bad taste. Like many other art movements like Impressionism or Fauvism, the title of Ashcan started as an insult. A reviewer sneered about the “pictures of ashcans and girls hitching up their skirts on Horatio Street.” The artists embraced the derision as a badge of honor.

The Ashcan School artists were also referred to as “The Apostles of Ugliness,” much as the punks were called “foul mouthed yobs.”

But the critics are missing something important: the ugliness isn’t the point. It’s the willingness to undergo the rough journey needed to renew the energy of life.

Something too constrained stagnates, even dies. There’s always something a little wild and scary about real growth.

There’s a difference between pretty and beautiful. Prettiness is a surface. Beauty is the substance. Pretty is an outside appearance; beauty is from within. Pretty is agreeable. Beauty is truthful, and as we know, the truth isn’t always pleasing.

Accepting yet refining the harshness of truth through creative expression is a transcendental experience. The joyous human offering of art can add significance to mundane squalor.

Right now, Postmodern establishment mismanagement has created a culture which is neither pretty nor beautiful. They need us to believe the squalor is the point, after all. Artists are needed as the pioneers which carry out the idea that life is wonderful and surprising, even if elitists call us trashy. Cultural renewal will be a little wild and scary.

The latest cycle of real change in the arts actually started decades ago, although the cultural institution-controlling elites do their best to suppress the news.

In 2000, two British artists, Charles Thomson and Billy Childish, were tired of transgressive yet still bland and predictable Postmodern art. They were brave enough to tell the truth: the galleries and museum were filled with objects that weren’t really art at all. They described a new cultural understanding called Remodernism, rising to take the place of failed Postmodern artifice. Their manifesto included this key proposition: “The making of true art is man’s desire to communicate with himself, his fellows and his God. Art that fails to address these issues is not art.”

Childish soon struck off on his own, and continues as a celebrated painter, musician, and writer. Thomson remained committed to cultivating Remodernism as a movement. Guided by his inspirational example, grassroots art groups were founded around the world.

I was inspired. In my own Remodern America manifesto, I wrote my take on what is happening now:

Remodernism reboots the culture. Remodernism is not a style of art, it is a form of motivation. We express the universal language of inspired humanity. We do not imitate what came before. We find in ourselves the same divine essence of love and excitement which has inspired masterpieces throughout history. We are strengthened by drawing on traditions thousands of years old. We integrate the bold, visionary efforts of the Modern era into a holistic, meaningful expression of contemporary life. Remodernism seeks a humble maturity which heals the fragmentation and contradictions of Modernism, and obliterates the narcissistic lies of Postmodernism. Remodernism is disruptive innovation applied to the moribund art world.

As for Robert Henri, his wisdom was captured in a great book called The Art Spirit. It encourages us to understand how important the role of the artist is.

As for me, I still pull out my Bad Brains and Minor Threat albums when the mood strikes me. It’s good music to paint to.

A version of this article originally appeared on The Masculinist, now on Substack

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I don’t fundraise off of my blog. I don’t ask for Patreon or Paypal donations. If you’d like to support the Remodern mission, buy a book. Or a painting

Learn more About My Art: Visionary Experience

My wife Michele Bledsoe has written her own inspirational book, Painting, Passion and the Art of Life.

Remodernism Video: BEFORE THERE WAS FAKE NEWS, THERE WAS FAKE ART

Visit other posts for more commentary on the state of the arts.

Please send any inquiries to info@remodernamerica.com. Thank you!

DAILY ART FIX: Corporate Flat Art Proves Big Business Is Infatuated With Ugliness

Art world links which caught my eye…

The Generic as Tyranny: Typical Globohomo Art

We see it everywhere. Imagery of featureless humans fulfilling the latest consumer impulses or obeying the latest social engineering commands. This article in the Federalist describes the mindset behind these icons of conformity. Thanks to reader Richard Patton for the link!

Consider one of big businesses’ oft ignored crimes against society; the soulless art frequently featured in their ads, often derisively referred to as corporate flat art, corporate Memphis, or even Big Tech Art… 

This unsettling ubiquity has given rise to a subreddit that’s dubbed it “globohomo art,” an abbreviation of “global homogenization.” Commenters condemn it as a style “mostly used by large companies and sociopolitical organizations that push for a globalized and homogenized society devoid of social and cultural identity.” While its widespread use and sheer ugliness has opened it to criticism and mockery, it’s struck a chord not simply for what it looks like, but for what it represents.

Read the full article here: THE FEDERALIST – Corporate Flat Art Proves Big Business Is Infatuated With Ugliness

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I don’t fundraise off of my blog. I don’t ask for Patreon or Paypal donations. If you’d like to support the Remodern mission, buy a book. Or a painting

Learn more About My Art: Visionary Experience

My wife Michele Bledsoe has written her own inspirational book, Painting, Passion and the Art of Life.

Remodernism Video: BEFORE THERE WAS FAKE NEWS, THERE WAS FAKE ART

Visit other posts for more commentary on the state of the arts.

Please send any inquiries to info@remodernamerica.com. Thank you!

DAILY ART FIX: Video – What is Outsider Art? 

Art world links which caught my eye…

In this video, an apparatchik from ultimate insiders Christie’s auction house analyzes and over-analyzes some outsider art they were probably selling. It’s a commercial disguised as an art history lesson.

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I don’t fundraise off of my blog. I don’t ask for Patreon or Paypal donations. If you’d like to support the Remodern mission, buy a book. Or a painting

Learn more About My Art: Visionary Experience

My wife Michele Bledsoe has written her own inspirational book, Painting, Passion and the Art of Life.

Remodernism Video: BEFORE THERE WAS FAKE NEWS, THERE WAS FAKE ART

Visit other posts for more commentary on the state of the arts.

Please send any inquiries to info@remodernamerica.com. Thank you!

DAILY ART FIX: New Painting “Sea Floor”

Richard Bledsoe “Sea Floor” acrylic on canvas 16″ x 12″

2022 got off to a great start, when I finished a painting on New Year’s Day called Reef. Now, in my second painting of 2022, I keep working on the same subject matter. After watching countless nature documentaries, I realized any colors and shapes can be applied to the complex ecosystem of a coral reef. I invented this imagery, keeping it all loose and aquatic.

Keep exploring the depths!

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I don’t fundraise off of my blog. I don’t ask for Patreon or Paypal donations. If you’d like to support the Remodern mission, buy a book. Or a painting

Learn more About My Art: Visionary Experience

My wife Michele Bledsoe has written her own inspirational book, Painting, Passion and the Art of Life.

Remodernism Video: BEFORE THERE WAS FAKE NEWS, THERE WAS FAKE ART

Visit other posts for more commentary on the state of the arts.

Please send any inquiries to info@remodernamerica.com. Thank you!

DAILY ART FIX: The WPA Gave Artists Philip Guston and Musa McKim the Opportunity to Depict New Hampshire’s Forests During the Great Depression

Art world links which caught my eye…

McKim-Updated-Small.jpg

Musa McKim “Wildlife in the White Mountains” 1941

Husband and wife artists Philip Guston (one of my favorite painters) and Musa McKim were commissioned by the Works Progress Administration to create murals. The pieces they created for the Forestry building in New Hampshire are now being exhibited at the Currier Museum of Art.

They’re working in Woodstock, and you can see that they’re almost communicating with each other because the paintings kind of communicate with each other. If you look here on the left, you have the men cutting down the logs. On the right, you have their counterpart, the beaver, taking down the log and he’s doing it as sustainably. And so there’s two or three stumps in the background, the exact same thing here on the left. It’s about living in harmony with your landscape, and that’s what the animals have taught the men to humanity.

A painting shows four men sawing and stacking logs. A white horse and trees are behind them.

Philip Guston “Pulpwood Logging,” 1941

Read the full article here: NHPR – How the WPA sustained artists and revitalized New Hampshire’s forests during the Great Depression

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I don’t fundraise off of my blog. I don’t ask for Patreon or Paypal donations. If you’d like to support the Remodern mission, buy a book. Or a painting

Learn more About My Art: Visionary Experience

My wife Michele Bledsoe has written her own inspirational book, Painting, Passion and the Art of Life.

Remodernism Video: BEFORE THERE WAS FAKE NEWS, THERE WAS FAKE ART

Visit other posts for more commentary on the state of the arts.

Please send any inquiries to info@remodernamerica.com. Thank you!

DAILY ART FIX: Beer With a Painter: Mernet Larsen

Art world links which caught my eye…

Mernet Larsen “Resurrection” acrylic and tracing paper on canvas, 66 1/2″ x 39″ (2006)

The online magazine Hyperallergic suffers from the same Postmodern bad attitudes and distortions that inflict most of the establishment art world. However, I sometimes enjoy their ongoing “Beer with a Painter” series, interviews with creatives working in this most versatile of mediums. In April 2021 they spoke with Mernet Larsen, an artist I was unfamiliar with. She made some interesting observations.

ML: I went to college at the University of Florida, so I was still living at home in Gainesville. I wasn’t sure if I was going to major in art. By then, everyone was under the aegis of Abstract Expressionism, especially Willem de Kooning. Or you could go toward Josef Albers and be more intellectual. But it was taboo to make representational paintings.

Fortunately, I had a fantastic teacher, the painter Hiram Williams. I went to him and said, “I think I’m not going to major in art because what I want to do with my life is give form to the concrete experiences that I have. But it doesn’t seem like this is what art is about.”

Williams said in response, “You don’t have to make abstract paintings. You can do whatever you want. Take your sketchbook and go out in the world.” I followed his advice and took my sketchbook down to Rattlesnake Creek, where I had played as a kid. But it didn’t resonate with me, and I thought, “I’m really not meant to be an artist.” I started walking across the campus back to the art department.

The university had a teaching farm. I walked across a hill and saw a group of cows. Something clicked. I took out my sketchbook and started drawing them. They became shapes against a background. I ran back to my studio and started painting yellow fields with bright red cows. Everybody was relieved that I had found something, since I had seemed so frustrated. It took weeks to develop these paintings, but it was a turning point. I realized that I would identify things in my life, and let each subject determine how it wants to be painted. I was not going to predetermine the style.

Mernet Larsen “Bunt” acrylic and mixed media on canvas, 64″ x 50 1/4″ (2016)

Read the full article here: HYPERALLERGIC – Beer With a Painter: Mernet Larsen

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I don’t fundraise off of my blog. I don’t ask for Patreon or Paypal donations. If you’d like to support the Remodern mission, buy a book. Or a painting

Learn more About My Art: Visionary Experience

My wife Michele Bledsoe has written her own inspirational book, Painting, Passion and the Art of Life.

Remodernism Video: BEFORE THERE WAS FAKE NEWS, THERE WAS FAKE ART

Visit other posts for more commentary on the state of the arts.

Please send any inquiries to info@remodernamerica.com. Thank you!

DAILY ART FIX: Long Overlooked, Leading 20th-Century American Artist Doris Lee Is Celebrated Once Again in Traveling Exhibition

Art world links which caught my eye…

Doris Lee “The View, Woodstock” Oil on canvas, 27 1/2″ x 44″ 1946

Doris Lee was an American painter who could be seen as as part of the Regionalist art movement, producing representations of what is now derided as “fly over country.” She is currently the focus of a traveling exhibition.

Simple Pleasures: The Art of Doris Lee features 77 of the most notable and compelling works of art by Doris Lee (1905-1983). Using a vibrant color palette, Lee sparks feelings of playfulness and humor in her paintings, drawings, prints, and commissioned commercial designs for fabric and pottery. Simple Pleasures includes works by the artist spanning from the 1930s through the 1960s from both public and private collections and gives overdue recognition to Lee’s significant contributions to American art. A selection of ephemera, such as product advertisements for the American Tobacco Company and General Foods who commissioned paintings from Lee, will also be included in the exhibition.

Doris Lee “Off to Auction” Oil on canvas, 24½” by 35½” 1942

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I don’t fundraise off of my blog. I don’t ask for Patreon or Paypal donations. If you’d like to support the Remodern mission, buy a book. Or a painting

Learn more About My Art: Visionary Experience

My wife Michele Bledsoe has written her own inspirational book, Painting, Passion and the Art of Life.

Remodernism Video: BEFORE THERE WAS FAKE NEWS, THERE WAS FAKE ART

Visit other posts for more commentary on the state of the arts.

Please send any inquiries to info@remodernamerica.com. Thank you!

DAILY ART FIX: Mythmakers: Winslow Homer And Frederic Remington

Art world links which caught my eye…

“The Stampede” by Frederic Remington (1861-1909), 1908. Oil on canvas. Gilcrease Museum, Tulsa, Okla., gift of the Thomas Gilcrease Foundation.

Frederic Remington “The Stampede”

Two great American painters went through their artistic peaks around the same time, despite a great difference in their ages and locations. A 2021 exhibit highlighted what they shared.

Winslow Homer and Frederic Remington are both mythic American artists. Their artworks represent what – for differing groups of art critics and consumers – have come to be seen as defining products of an “American art.” Homer is seen to represent the East Coast, with his crashing waves and stoic Atlantic fisher folk, and Remington the West, with his roughneck ranch hands and romanticized Native American braves. While Homer’s work was slow to catch on at first, he became one of the most respected artists of his day, and he is now universally lauded among the arts intelligentsia as a centrally important figure in the history of American art. Remington, by contrast, enjoyed wide popularity as a young artist, but since his early death his reputation has fallen among the curators, critics and academic art historians who are the keepers of the canon. It is partly for this reason that the two artists’ work has never before been considered together in a major exhibition, despite their surprising number of commonalities. Seeking to redress that oversight – and, to some extent, both artists’ “mythic” status – the Amon Carter Museum of Art, Portland Museum of Art (Maine) and Denver Art Museum have co-organized “Mythmakers: Winslow Homer and Frederic Remington,” on view at the Amon Carter through February 28.

Read the full article here: ANTIQUES AND THE ARTS – Mythmakers: Winslow Homer And Frederic Remington

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I don’t fundraise off of my blog. I don’t ask for Patreon or Paypal donations. If you’d like to support the Remodern mission, buy a book. Or a painting

Learn more About My Art: Visionary Experience

My wife Michele Bledsoe has written her own inspirational book, Painting, Passion and the Art of Life.

Remodernism Video: BEFORE THERE WAS FAKE NEWS, THERE WAS FAKE ART

Visit other posts for more commentary on the state of the arts.

Please send any inquiries to info@remodernamerica.com. Thank you!

DAILY ART FIX: Video – Norman Rockwell’s Painting Process

Art world links which caught my eye…

Norman Rockwell created iconic scenes of American life in the 20th century. As a commercial illustrator, he had to work fast, so I forgive his use of a projector to do his drawings from photographs. As this video notes, he originally worked from life, so I have no doubt he was an amazing draftsman on his own. And he could tell such stories in a single image, something I often strive for.

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I don’t fundraise off of my blog. I don’t ask for Patreon or Paypal donations. If you’d like to support the Remodern mission, buy a book. Or a painting

Learn more About My Art: Visionary Experience

My wife Michele Bledsoe has written her own inspirational book, Painting, Passion and the Art of Life.

Remodernism Video: BEFORE THERE WAS FAKE NEWS, THERE WAS FAKE ART

Visit other posts for more commentary on the state of the arts.

Please send any inquiries to info@remodernamerica.com. Thank you!