The Artwork of Michael Divine

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Posts from January, 2013

Gratitude

January 15th, 2013

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I’m rounding the corner, walking home from the organic market that we shop at, and it’s a chilly evening. The sun is well past gone. I have a small bag of groceries in my arm – chocolate, coffee, some vegetables, some coconut milk creamer – and a man pushing a grocery cart filled with plastic bottles and aluminum cans passes me. He looks to be smiling but then again maybe he’s grimacing and I wonder: what stroke of life gave this man a cold evening to push a grocery cart filled with plastic bottles, maybe just trying to find enough to make a few dollars and buy something to eat – and me, walking to my warm home. Sometimes, driving through downtown LA, I end up on one of the blocks of homeless people living in tents, pushing shopping carts that contain everything they own, living in the gutter. I wonder at how it is that I am in my car, listening to music, on my way to a meeting, or a dinner with friends, or just getting on the highway and heading home and they are there, stuck in some all together different way of life. I wonder at how the uber-wealthy end up so high up on that pedestal they place themselves upon, sometimes unable to truly value the little things.

I wonder at this… this world with all of it’s countless threads of lives going on: where some are bombed, others are swaddled, some are cared for, and some are left to be trodden upon, some walk tall, some walk small, some don’t walk at all… I wonder how it is that man is legless and I walk along or that child was born without sight, and I can see. How that person appears to be ahead of me, and that person is behind. The vast multitudes and all the myriad walks of life. I wonder at it and I wonder at how I ended up here: making art, doing what I love, living unafraid, neither angry nor resentful, but loving it. I’m in a wonderful marriage to a wonderful woman, with a home that is warm and, right now, smells like fresh baked bread, with a cat on my lap and soft music playing and soft lighting. I wonder at it all and the only thing I am left with – the only answer that comes back to me, echoing from my heart and what feels like the heart of all things – is gratitude: at this gift, this life.

Gratitude is like the late afternoon sunshine, touching everything, turning it gold.

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Advice to Young Artists

January 5th, 2013

Ideas about art and business and creativity for young artists and old ones too but it’s the young ones who ask…

  • Only give someone art they’ve bought when it has been paid in full
  • Contracts are good. Get everything in writing when making a deal.
  • For any commissioned work, always get at least half up front.
  • It’s ok to do things for free but don’t give yourself away all the time. Your time is valuable.
  • ‘Exposure’ us good but so is eating and paying the bills.
  • Don’t be afraid to say no when it comes to selling a painting for less than you want for it.
  • Trust yourself and know when to walk away.
  • Selling art feels like you are being supported but just because you haven’t sold anything lately doesn’t mean you aren’t any good.
  • Even the most successful artists suffer from self-doubt. Just do your best.
  • Your friends are usually terrible critics.
  • Your partner is usually your best critic.
  • You are good enough but you can always get better.
  • Beware of tropes.
  • Your best work will always be done when you’re sober.
  • Straight lines are best made with a ruler.
  • A string, a tack or piece of tape, and a pencil will give you a perfect circle.
  • If you see something in your painting that you want to change – change it. Otherwise, it will nag at you every time you look at the painting.
  • Sit and draw people in real life. Don’t just draw the pretty ones.
  • If you wear headphones when you paint, invest in a good pair.
  • Natural spectrum light bulbs will give you the best light.
  • Make sure you have plenty of sunlight. Caves are depressing to work in.
  • A great painting takes time. Don’t be afraid of taking the time.
  • Love what you do and what you make.
  • Practice makes perfect.

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Egypt – Luxor, Giza, Alexandria, and The Great Convergence

January 2nd, 2013

Observations, Experiences, and The Great Convergence in Egypt
Dec. 13 – 25, 2012

“We must be some kind of important,” I chuckled quietly to Violet as the six tour buses of revelers traveled quietly down the twisting desert road away from the Giza plateau and the Great Pyramids and a party so unbelievably perfect that the bus is actually quiet and now here we were led by Egyptian police on motorcycles with lights flashing whisked down down down through the sand and back into the city and decrepit neighborhoods and little fires on the sides of the road, old man looking up and taking note and not a traffic light to be stopped at, straight on through back to the safe bubble of the hotel, six busloads of tired mind blown ecstatic alive and wild people.

Wow, was all that many of us could say.

As I sit now in Alexandria in this spacious high-ceilinged café along the Mediterranean, drinking a creamy cappuccino (possibly the best coffee I’ve had in Egypt, save for those from the night before with Jimmy and Violet) and watching the minibuses and old German cars and newer Japanese cars pass by on the busy Corniche road that runs along the sea, it seems far far away. It seemed so very far away too with each moment that led up to it. Just before Thanksgiving we were invited, along with our good friend Jimmy (founder/curator of the Temple of Visions gallery in LA) to attend – to live paint and display artwork. Once tickets were in hand, the gears were set in motion. We were going to Egypt! It was surreal and real. New passports were ordered and expedited (the old ones were expired). I got really sick and hoped I’d get better. It all worked out. I healed thanks to Chinese Medicine and the passports arrived several days early. Packed and sorted and there we were, meeting Jimmy at LAX and getting on a plane bound for Cairo after a layover in Frankfurt where we ceremoniously ate sausages and sauerkraut and drank a beer.

Landing in Cairo in the night time, we exited the terminal into the thrall of taxi drivers all vying for our attention but my eyes locked with the suit jacketed attendant of a transportation desk in the main lobby. Young and clean shaven he spoke fairly and sported a shiny belt buckle that looked like a berretta. He arranged for a van to take us to the Giza train station where we’d booked an overnight train to Luxor. The cab driver, like most cab drivers, was happy for some listening ears and, in broken English, wanted nothing more than to tell us about Egypt, how expensive the apartments near the airport were (in the Heliopolis neighborhood – a million dollars a piece, in USD), how we shouldn’t trust anyone in Luxor (Not entirely true. You can trust most people most of the time just not all people all of the time so proceed with caution.), and how Egypt is very good, very safe.

Once we circled around Cairo and into the rush hour thrall of Giza not much different than  downtown LA. Street vendors and everyone walking driving riding honking. It was just a bit dirtier and a few more halogen bulbs and no bacon wrapped hot dog vendors. Cars passed within inches of each other and at first you think it’s amazing that no one hits anyone else but then you see how every car is scratched and dented and a bit worse for the wear.

“Ah,” said our driver, “Egypt is great but traffic. Traffic is a problem!” A comment heard uttered by many a taxi driver after him.

In the coldly lit office of the young station master in the Giza train station I tried to explain how I’d purchased tickets for the night before because didn’t realize that the time change from the US to Egypt would make us lose a day and would it be possible to use those for today. We went back and forth with the cab driver translating. I was never sure who was pulling my leg. Violet and Jimmy waited in the cab. Finally I bought new tickets. There was no way around it. I’d have to eat the $127. It’s things like that which make people in some countries think that people from other countries are made of money. We’re not. We’re just on different value scales.

The train showed up and our cabbie through much fast talking got us onto a car, into two sleeper cabins, and the cab driver is telling me that he needs me to give him all this money so that he can go pay for our tickets but I wasn’t born yesterday and it’s best to take care of transactions yourself, in any part of the world, so we gave a a handful of US dollars to the car attendant or whatever he was, the cab driver was off the train. The doors closed. The train started moving. Our two cabins had a door between allowing them to open to each other and there we three were, bound now on the night train for Luxor.

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The Artwork of Michael Divine

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