Friday, August 04, 2006

Nothing sees more carefully than a downcast eye


Nothing sees more carefully than a downcast eye. These words come from the novel, LES MISERABLES by Victor Hugo. In the novel, the hero, who is a good person, becomes an outcast running from the law. Because of the circumstances that life has presented him with, he sees the world around him in a different way. He notices things that others are unaware of simply because these things are so mundane and seem so unimportant. It is these mundane and seemingly unimportant things that have the most to teach. Great lessons seem to come from simple everyday tasks and objects when I am willing to see them. There are two blogs that I read where these individuals are willing to see them; Rebel Belle (a.k.a. Nancy Baker) in her postings on the Tire Shop and Lori Witzel, with her good eye in her postings on Chatoyance. Now, on with my story.

When I was a young man I was in a hurry to get to where I wanted to be that I was rushing through my life. The journey did not seem so important. Achieving the goal that is what was important. And just what was this all-important goal? Why it was to become a recognized artist, an important and influential artist. Thirty plus years ago this seemed like a pretty lofty goal, now it just seems like vanity. Life had other things in store for me and I was going to learn from it all whether I wanted to or not.


Getting married and starting a family has been one of the best educational experiences of my life. It not only altered the way that I saw things but also the way that I did things. I had been used to living in raw industrial loft spaces making large abstract paintings, most of my income going to pay for my art habit. With family there were new demands on time and finances. Rather than buying paint or going out socializing, money was going to diapers, formula, and anything else the baby needed. Time that I would’ve spent painting was now spent taking care of the baby while my wife was at work. When my wife came home we would take the baby and the dog out for walks to the park then home to prepare dinner and take care of whatever needed to be done. At that time I was working as a carpenter so when everything was done I was tired and all I wanted to do was to take a hot shower, drink a cold beer, and go to sleep. There was very little time for making art.

My creative needs were somewhat satisfied by being a carpenter. I got to work with my hands, make things, and do some creative thinking along the way. Still, this was not enough. Going through art history books at the library only frustrated me since it reminded me of what I could not do. When I lived in NYC, I used to whine about the things that I could not do because of lack of money and space. My girlfriend at that time finally got fed up and yelled at me to do what I could instead of complaining about what I could not do. I am thankful to her for that.

Because of that memory, I started to pay more attention to my surroundings on the walks that my wife and I took with our daughter and our dog. I stopped seeing streets, buildings, and objects and started to see colors, textures, and patterns. I began to take my camera with me on our outings. My wife would have a bemused expression when I would focus in on the peeling paint of playground equipment or the patterns of the bark on the trees that we passed along they way. She never understood what I was doing until she saw the processed images. When she saw the finished photo in the mat then she could see that it was like my paintings. My paintings still incorporate these mundane and everyday images.

These two photos are from those walks back in the summer of 1982. They are macro images of the ever-changing patterns that appear in the bark of the eucalyptus trees that grow in the San Francisco Bay Area. Also, Mea Culpa for taking so long to make a new post.The heat wave that has been working its way west from CA has us Mid-westerners in its grip this last week and exhausted me.

12 Comments:

Blogger Pat's Place said...

Wonderful images. Great eye... they are exquisite pieces of art even though you didn't "paint" them. And thanks for sharing the whole story.

9:21 PM  
Blogger Lesly said...

Loved hearing of your journey, Ed. Mine was a long way round too, to get to be able to spend time on art ... It was not all lack of time ... often it was more a lack of focus. But I am sure these life experiences go a long way into making us who we are as artists, as well as what we are as people.

I love eucalyptus trees ... the variety we have here are called Blue Gums. I have two opposite my house and they take a bit of the sun in the winter. My husband wanted to cut them down but I wouldn't let him .... now he's glad we took the aesthetic route!

11:25 PM  
Blogger Ed Maskevich said...

Thanks for the comments, Pat. It's amazing where we can find images and ideas.

Hi Lesly, soooooooo glad you kept the trees. I think the eucalyptus has to be my favorite tree. For me they are a constantly changing artwork.

9:58 AM  
Blogger Lori Witzel said...

Hey there Ed -- a wonderfully thoughtful post (and a smile back at you for the unexpected shout-out!)

That eucalyptus bark is a great place to hang your eye. I'm waiting for our crape myrtles -- we have a few with peeling bark habits -- to get big enough for me to fill a frame and share.

The discipline of posting every day means no matter what is going on in my life I need to LOOK.

It keeps me connected to the beauty and surprise that's ever-present and hard to spot in the rush of things.

11:11 AM  
Blogger Ed Maskevich said...

Thanks Lori, and you do have the good eye.

1:38 PM  
Blogger The Epiphany Artist said...

I love eucalyptus trees --when I was a child we would use the leaves for play money- back in the day when kids played outside...

8:21 PM  
Blogger Ed Maskevich said...

Terri, what a great and inventive idea. But then, as children, we always were inventive.

7:38 AM  
Blogger KJ said...

These are really quite beautiful... thought the first was a watercolor. You say they are similar to your abstract? Care to share?

3:04 PM  
Blogger Ed Maskevich said...

KJ, I will check and see if I can find old slides. Most of the work from this period of my life was destroyed (i.e. thrown away, given away, etc.) because I got tired of hauling it around.

4:11 PM  
Blogger amber said...

I underdstand your post I wish I could say I was feeling that, take notice of the simple things. I'm usually feeling like i'm running and I can't stop. Maybe someday I'll slow to look at things more closely
I think wisdom is the key

9:15 PM  
Blogger Lisa Call said...

Wonderful post Ed as usual. Life can get so crazy sometimes it's hard to slow down and realize that there are always amazing things to be seen and enjoyed in most every situation.

I hope I can keep that in mind next week as I vacation alone with my kids. I suppose that will depend on the whining level!

8:04 AM  
Blogger jenncat said...

your blog is always interesting :)
i look at those things also. it's funny when you show someone a beautiful thing (like aging, rusty metal) and they just look at you strange.
i've been wanting to paint a eucalyptus tree trunk - there are enough of them around here - lol

-jen neubauer
(i'm waiting for my username to disappear but it's still useable?)

12:49 AM  

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