The Light Within

The Angels and Art of Corbin Hollis Choate

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Time . . .

There is a line from a song on side one of the greatest album of all time which changed my life in an instant one day. It sank in and woke up something inside of me..."...and then one day you find, ten years have got behind you...No one told you when to missed the starting gun...". That's from Time, on side one of Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of The Moon".

The subject of just how short our lives really are has been on my mind a lot lately. We’re just here for the blink of an eye and then we’re gone. It’s what you do in between that counts.

What seems like an eternity when you’re young and self-centered becomes more and more precious as you get older. As years go by and time picks up speed, you experience what is commonly known as “The Quickening”. This is when your life passes in blocks of five or ten years before you wake up and say “Where did those years go?” Pretty soon you reach a point where you begin to realize “Half of my life might be over” and you take stock of your priorities, your interests, your dreams. You keep the things that can help you move forward and discard those which hold you back. Time is the one thing we can never have enough of, that thing for which kings will give up a kingdom, yet we waste it anyways because there will always be more tomorrow.

Each person’s life is like a string of time. It is finite in length, with a beginning and an end. Imagine where you are right now as a single point in your time. Where are you on your string of time? What are you doing with what you’ve been given? How are you living your life? When all is said and done, what will your history be? Did you realize the light within and share it with the world? Did you inspire anyone to live differently or reach for their dreams? Did you strive to reach upward and live vertically, aspiring to higher levels of consciousness and awareness? Did you come to know God? I’m thankful that I don’t know exactly where I am along my string of time. I only know that I try to make the most of what I have and inspire others to realize and do the same. History has proven it only takes one person to change the world.

One Cosmos says:

The time allotted to us is analogous to the shutter of a camera; it opens with our birth, allowing in the small amount of light we must work with before it closes and the universe vanishes. With that light we must enter our “dark room” and develop our conception of existence--what we are, why we are here, and what is our relationship to the whole. There are pneumagraphs laying around that others have left behind--scripture, books, images and institutions. Some of them were successful in capturing the Light, others only darkness visible.

There is so little time, but time is literally all we have: we must work while it is day, for the night cometh, when no man can work. Saying you have no time is logically equivalent to saying that you have no life, light or freedom. If you are not free, then your time really is nothing more than duration. And if you have no light, you are free in the illusory way that an animal is--free to be led horizontally by your instincts and learned behaviors.

Time. Freedom. Light. If you don’t have one, you really don’t have the others either. Your life is history.

Live your life . . .Make A Difference . . .

- The Light Within . . .

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Influences - J.C. Leyendecker

I intend to post this from time to time. J.C.'s work is so extremely influential to my approach and work that I owe it to him.

Joseph Christian Leyendecker, J.C. to his friends. J.C. Leyendecker was THE most successful, accomplished, famous artist of his day. He was beyond famous actually. When Norman Rockwell was a boy, he used to go to the train station in New Rochelle just to watch J.C. arrive from New York City, get off the train with his entourage and step into a waiting chauffeured limousin. Leyendecker was a celebrity on the level of the Beatles before they existed and his work defined American life by capturing the essence, the innocence which existed in the country in the years between 1900 and World War II. His work appeared as illustrations for The Saturday Evening Post, Collier’s Magazine, The American Weekly, Success Magazine and others, as well as magazine ads for companies such as Kelloggs, Kuppenheimer’s Clothiers and Arrow Collars (the character he created for Arrow Collars was based on one of the male models he frequently used. The Arrow Collar man became so famous and popular with the ladies that the company actually received fan mail wanting to know who he was, what was his name, where did he live . . . and he was even more famous than Rudolph Valentino) The covers of these magazines provided the perfect medium for reproducing his work in all its splendor. At the peak of his career he was the most famous Post artist they had ever had. He turned the Post covers into mini-posters, incorporating all of the elements of the cover into each piece.

Artistically speaking, Leyendecker was an incredible genius whose work is instantly recognizeable even today. He was the king of America’s “Golden Age” of illustration and through his work he virtually invented the look of the modern magazine cover as a purely attention grabbing device. Leyendecker’s work contains elements of both Art Nouveau and Art Deco, and it is dynamic, graceful, elegant and sophisticated. His unique style of painting captured the attention of the public as nothing before had, and only a handful since have.

J.C.’s work was about the endless pursuit of perfection. He developed his own system of creating an image based on the working methods of the great masters. He began with a series of thumbnail sketches, and from there he would work up a series of larger rough paintings. These were used to determine how to best proceed with the actual finished painting. When he applied his colors, he would let areas of blank, raw canvas show through. These were often areas which would be included as part of a highlight or the white background. J.C. was very secretive about how he worked and very little was known about how he achieved such luminous finished surfaces until his brother, Frank, shared the paint recipe with Norman Rockwell after swearing him to absolute secrecy. The colors were composed of Turpentine, stand oil and linseed oil, mixed fresh each morning in specific proportion. The colors were very thin, “slippery” if you will. When these colors were applied to the canvas they showed no sign whatsoever of having been applied by a brush. This resulted in a finished painting composed of precisely arranged areas of light and color. Every stroke was applied perfectly . . .once. J.C.’s brush control and mastery of his talents are legendary still today.

Leyendecker’s finished canvases were masterpieces of technique, color and magic. He influenced America at a time when we were just beginning to discover who we were as a nation. His work has influenced me to my very core and I am extremely grateful. I enjoy looking at his work over and over.

J.C. Leyendecker lived a quiet personal life that included a circle of very few friends. I wish I had been there. For all of his fame a fortune, for all of the love and admiration he received from his adoring public, he died alone in his home by the sea, in New Rochelle, New York. I feel him with me every day.

- The Light Within . . .

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Exercise in Line & Light III . . .

If you haven't already done so, please take the time to become familiar with the Art Renewal Center. It is an online museum, which is dedicated to the restoration of truth and beauty in contemporary art, and the revival of long lost standards of draftsmanship and excellence. It is a worthwhile visit indeed, and I truly hope that my work will someday be included in their collection.

It all begins with the basics. Draftsmanship. It's ALL about the drawing in the early stages. This is where you work out problems in symmetry, proportion, and perspective. It's where you decide areas of light and shadow. It's where you get to know your subject . . .let it in . . .so it can be expressed. The drawing is where you create the underlying structure for the painting. It's where you define your space. Structure and space are fundamental. The drawing is where I decide line thickness to show weight and volume. The drawing I ‘m presenting to you tonight was extremely difficult. It is a study of an angel which lives in the Hermitage Museum, in St. Petersburg, Russia. I tried to reduce everything to line, while showing you the volume and mass. The lines have an energy which leads your eyes along their lengths. This drawing will probably make it onto canvas someday. Until then it remains an exercise in line . . .and light.

My favorite draftsmen are Michelangelo, William Bouguereau and Jean-Auguste Dominique Ingres. If you look at their drawings, the first thing you'll notice is the quality of their lines. They are at once expressive, beautiful, subtle yet bold, forceful and inviting . . .so few lines, so much life.

Michelangelo's drawings are instantly identifiable. At first glance they appear quickly done. But upon further study, you will notice a sublime beauty that reveals itself like a flower, opening layer after layer . . .telling secrets. Each drawing is just a few lines, weight here, volume there . . .the thoughts inside. Michelangelo's drawings are studies in the psychology of his subjects, their souls, as much as they are about their image.

William Bouguereau had the rare ability to work from memory as well as he could work from life. He believed in absolute perfection of the finished image, and thus would create numerous drawings, mastering the history of his subjects. He made a deliberate, careful study of form and technique, and saturated himself in knowledge of classical sculpture.

Jean-Auguste Dominique Ingres was a master of line. In his time, he created an unrivalled and highly detailed record of the female image, primarily through portraiture. Ingres could, using nothing but line, make you experience the sensation of touching the fabric on his subjects. He was obsessed with perfection and mastery of form. He was an idealist in pursuit of "high art", combining the purity of draftsmanship with a love of classical historic painting.

The Light Within . . .