A Late Winter’s Eve

If I wrote the classic line, “it was a dark and stormy night”, it would seem fit for the time at which I write.  We are late in the winter season now and our winter has been unusually mild, balanced in a sense by the extreme cold weather witnessed in this season of the year in Europe and Central Asia.   And when I think of Central Asia, my mind invokes images of the quiet steppes or vast plains of that region of the world.  They are matched in many ways, I suppose, by our own great plains where I have spent much of my life.  If you live on the plains, the steppes, perhaps the outback, and so many other like places on this earth, the vastness of the landscape, and the enormous vault of the sky above affect you and become a part of you.  They leave a permanent impression on the mind and soul.  They evoke in me a thousand memories of days and events gone by, and the thoughts and emotions that accompanied them.  On a night like this, my thoughts returned to the wonder and power of a prairie storm, and all that one senses in being a witness to it and a part of it.   I recall even the scent of the impending storm (and they do come quickly) as the air fills with lightning and its by-product, ozone, and I remember the cool clean smell that comes as the atmosphere is washed clean of the dust of other dry and windy days.

On such a day long ago (in my mind, at least), I experienced such a storm blowing up in the plains of Alberta (and now even Ian Tyson comes to mind with the words “four strong winds…”).

It is of such experiences as this that paintings are born, music and lyrics, and novels are written, and stage plays and movies are conceived,.  Events like this are part of the fabric of our being, perhaps wrapped into our very DNA over hundreds of thousands of years or our existence as human beings.  Our natural response is to seek shelter, warmth, sustenance and protection from whatever nature may bring.  The fact that we had a mild winter in North America will contribute to increasingly severe storms in the late winter and spring seasons this year, I am told, and events, so far, tend to lend credence to those words..

A visual experience of a sudden storm forming over the prairie landscape – from my memories

The painting above, which I created on that singular occasion to which I referred, was my attempt to encapsulate in a permanent record of some kind what to me is the abstraction of that experience.  There is an element of every prairie storm in this image.  The way the strong winds which bring the storm blow up the dust before them from fallow or dormant fields which at another time might be clothed in wheat, barley, rye or canola.  The blowing dust darkens the sky in the distance, but the bright, waning light late on a winter day still illuminates the elevators and waiting train cars on the horizon.

It is this not uncommon but strong contrast of the bright winter light before sunset brilliantly illuminating the vivid colors of the grain elevators and the train cars beside them, against the dark and cold backdrop of the impending storm, that evokes in my artistic spirit a desire to capture and preserve that moment in time.  Those thoughts and memories, which I wished to capture and immortalize (in a very human sense), are perhaps conveyed in this painting.

Every artist, no matter what his medium, works to make a statement of some kind.  In this case, it is the attempt to capture a moment in time or an experience, and to preserve it for posterity in some way.  It is my and every artist’s wish to capture and communicate in his own way what he has experienced and felt.  The painter uses the tools available to him, hue, contrast, lighting, texture, movement, composition, and so on, to capture a unique moment in time and to communicate it in his own way so that others may know something of what he experienced and felt by being there.

This seems to be a common thread in all the arts, the desire to communicate something in a way that speaks to another person’s soul as the experience itself spoke to the artist’s soul.  Whether the medium be music, dance, painting, the written word, sculpture, or whatever medium the artist has chosen, it represents his attempt to bring his experience into the realm or our senses, as a substitute for having witnessed it ourselves.

To the extent that the artist succeeds in his attempt, we are drawn to his work.  If his work evokes something of the emotions that accompanied the original experience in us, or evokes a memory or a vision of another time and place, he has succeeded.  If we seem to fit into the image in some way, even if only that we experience the normal emotions that are evoked if we had been in the situation which is depicted, then the artist has succeeded.  Isn’t this what great novels, great music, great paintings, and great artistic renderings of any kind are all about?

No, I don’t mean to say that this is all they can be about, art has too much power to be restricted to only one explanation, but it is the one that I wanted to focus on today.  We shall have ample time to explore the wider universe of the arts as we go, and we shall surely be doing that here.

A note about my writing is appropriate here.  There are great artists in every artistic field of endeavor without regard to sex or other considerations.  Where I write ‘he’, properly read ‘he/she’, and where I write ‘his’, properly read ‘his/her’, and so on.  We are all human beings regardless of sex, race, ethnicity, etc, and what will be written here must be understood to be addressed to and about all of us without exception.  We are all human beings in the eyes of our Maker, and it is the products of His creation that we will be exploring.  In some sense artists are men/women striving to do something related to what He has already done.  We are simply trying to preserve and to communicate our own response to it and perhaps our unique interpretation of it.

There is perhaps more that can be said to carry this discussion further into the mainstream of current reality, and I will plan a second part to this thread, as a continuation of what has begun here.  After all, it’s getting late and we’ll have more time to talk again very soon.  I’ll blow out the candle and wish you well for now.

On a stormy late winter’s night….

— Jim

Welcome to my Blog!

Welcome to the blog of (self-proclaimed) artist/philosopher Jim Justice.  In these posts, we will be exploring whatever may be on my mind that I wish to share with you, especially as it relates to my own explorations of art and photography.  However, I won’t acknowledge any limitations on where this might take us at any particular time in the future.  I hope and suspect that this may become a dialogue with you, and that my responses to your inputs may become as important as my own posts, which will focus heavily on my own work and thoughts.  In my posts, I will regularly introduce new or existing art works for comment, discussion and critique, and will welcome your feedback.

By now you have noticed my “signature” image, a cardinal experiencing his world on a particularly challenging day in the midst of near-blizzard conditions.  I have chosen this image to identify me on related Internet sites, and I’d have to say that I can often identify with him!  I am drawn to images and to the thoughts and emotions that they may evoke in each of us, and this is just one example.

The image is a photograph taken during a particularly harsh winter storm recently, in my part of the world.  I often like to attach captions which my images bring to mind, and the first caption that came to mind in this case was “who said it’s just another cold front?”.  In second place was the caption “it’s a tough life!”, and isn’t that often the case?  We all face our own challenges and difficulties in life, and they shape and mold our characters.  They are what make us what we are, and who we become.  Sometimes we must work hard to overcome them, and sometimes we can welcome the fact that they have occurred and have become a part of us.

In saying that, we realize that there can be both good and bad in every experience.  We simply have to learn to profit from the good, to learn from the bad, and to take whatever lesson we can find in it to heart so that we become the better because of it.  In the little cardinal’s case, he had little control over the situation in which he found himself.  Perhaps more often than not, we ourselves have little control over the situations in life that confront us every minute of every day of our existence.  To the extent that we learn to accept and learn from the bad and benefit from the good, we influence our own abilities to succeed and carry on.  Life is full of adversity.  Without adversity we might never have the opportunity to reach our full potential. Success grows out of failure, and is almost always preceded by it.  I think that almost every great person in history had to overcome a certain amount of adversity to become what he/she eventually became or accomplished.  Thomas Edison tried over 1,000 different possibilities, including bamboo, before he found the tungsten filament that made his light bulb a success.  Just look at how he changed the world!  Think about where we might be if he had ever accepted defeat.  There are a thousand lessons in this example, but perhaps one of the most important is that we should never give up on what we believe we can accomplish.  If we do, we guarantee failure.  If we don’t, we never close the door on the possibility of success and it’s certain that we will gain valuable knowledge and experience in the process.

Well, this brings us to where I now find myself.  I have done a lot and experienced a lot in this world.  Along the way, I discovered art and photography and became fascinated by the possibilities that I could see.  I don’t necessarily mean for wealth or success, but just for the opportunity to explore something new and exciting and to see what I might be able to do with it, if given the chance.  I wanted to know more and to learn to do it all myself, if possible.  Over the years I have acquired a certain amount of knowledge and skills, and now I have accepted the challenge of creating a real career as an artist, if that is possible.  If not, I will carry on, as before, because the important thing to me has always been to be able to try, and to just see what happens. I am constantly amazed by what can happen if you only try.

You can play a part in this.  By following me and giving me your feedback, you will help to mold my future career.  Perhaps I can do something of the same for you – I’m not a beginner and I have a lot of past history and experience to build on.  If you can take advantage of that, you are welcome to whatever I can offer to you, as well, and perhaps this blog will help to serve that purpose.  One of the most important lessons that I think I have learned in life is the power and fundamental value of communication in almost any form.  We’ll explore that idea here, and we’ll see where it can take us.

Welcome to my world!  You are now a part of it, and I look forward to whatever may come of this.  If you’d like to subscribe, you will be notified of new works and new blog posts as they appear.  I’ll hope to see you often…

–  Jim