My muse has finally returned from holidays and I've been able to get back to the studio. Brain (now designated as my muse) has been very co-operative after resting. Having designated my brain as my muse, I decided to do some research on the concept of the artist's muse - the origins through to modern ideas.
First: A quick interruption to share the progress of the painting that was underway when my brain (my muse) went on holiday - the instigation for last week's blog. The painting, Little Annan Gorge, Cooktown, Qld, Aus, has finally been finished.
The canvas was undercoloured with indigo blue and a rough, charcoal, placement sketch made on it (and rubbed back to just a haze). The first rough in of the scene (1st image) was made followed by a second application of paint (2nd image). Then, I lost my muse. I tried to establish the focal point - little section of water on the right (3rd image) but to no avail. I had to give up as I was just aimlessly plopping paint on the canvas. Each time I walked into my studio for the next couple of days, my brain objected and I had to walk out again.
I started to feel that my muse was returning so I ventured back into the studio. Looking at my painting, I still felt unsure of myself. I decided that self-doubt had to be pushed away and grabbed an art marker and started drawing some flowing lines defining various aspect of the scene. Once I had done that, I regained my confidence and picked up my brush and started painting (4th image). After that layer of paint dried, I noticed that the marker had bled through and tried to reduce its presence with the next layer of paint (5th image) but it was determined to remain, although in a more subdued form. The next layer (6th image) didn't obliterated it so I decided that it didn't matter as it actually added to the character of the painting.
The finished painting - Little Annan River, Cooktown, Qld, Aus., acrylic on stretched canvas, 51 x 41 cm Available from Bluethumb.
Okay, back to theme of this blog post.
The second edition of the Australian Oxford Paperback Dictionary defines 'Muse' (upper case m) as 'each of the nine sister goddesses presiding over branches of learning and the arts'. (And, yes, my dictionary sits right beside me at my computer desk, even though I generally refer to Mr Google to check spelling and meanings.) Dictionary.com identifies the parents of the sisters as Zeuss and Mnemosyne. The online Cambridge Dictionary adds to goddesses as Muse with 'muse' (lower case m) being 'an imaginary being, person, or force that gives someone ideas and helps them write, paint or make music'. A similar meaning of Muse and muse is obtained from the online Merriam-Webster Dictionary. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary adds an interesting fact - 'a shrine to the Muses was called in Latin a "museum" '.
I checked out The Free Dictionary, by Farlex, which gave a bit more background to the origins of the word Muse and its related lower case 'm' version. This dictionary provides a more in depth history. Muse derives from Latin 'Musa' which is from Greek 'Mousa' with Greek variants 'mōsa' and 'moisa' which come from 'montwa'. Mnemosyne (the name for the mother of the Muses) is from the Greek noun 'mnēmosunē' which means 'memory'. As we know, the memory is important in practising the arts. 'Mna' is the root of mnēmosunē. 'Men' is another version of 'mna'. Montwa, from which Mousa, Musa and Muse are derived, came from the 'mna' root and is thought to refer to 'mental power' used by poets. It seems that the early poets were first to call on the Muses for assistance. The words, 'amnesia', 'mental, and 'mind' all draw from 'mna' and 'men'.
Once we trace the history of the word 'muse' and its roots, we realise that it relates to the mind, memory and mental power. This, of course, leads to our brain, the power plant behind our mental capabilities. My decision to designate my brain as my muse seems right on track even if it isn't as romantic as the idea of the muse being a separate, entity providing guidance.
An article by Daniel Glaser, 'Out of Your Mind', published in Vanity Fair, 2016, provides interesting reading on the meshing together of the muse and the workings of the mind. "In fact, the muse is just another way of describing the inner workings of the brain itself." (Glaser, 2016) Glaser discusses the word 'inspiration' as being derived from the Latin for 'breathe into' and its underlying reference to being controlled by a external force, the muse. Giving credit to an external source of inspiration for an idea is an "insult to the amazing potential of the human brain," according to Glaser.
I agree with Daniel Glaser. My brain is the source of my ideas. It guides me in what I do, or rather it dictates to me, and when it gets exhausted from stretching too far, it simply goes on holiday. If only I could blame an external force for mentally exhausting my brain. Sorry, brain, you do it to yourself. Everything I think about and do is the product of your machinations. You choose to overwork yourself - I mean us. You also choose to pull the rug out from under me, your alter ego, when you fall into a useless heap.
Another interesting reading on the brain/muse connection can be found at:
Brandon Sneed (2018), 'The Muse: True Inspiration or or Total Nonsense?', Pacific Standard magazine.
Brain, you provide my inspiration. You are my muse. You are me and I am you.
Until next time
I have had a lifetime passion for drawing and painting. Realistic with an impressionistic touch is an apt description for my work.
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Artist Diary 4
Artist Diary 3
Diary of a tired artist continued
Diary of a tired artist.
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A tour of my studio & a few others too.
Blogging and other distractions!
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Portrait Commissions - My Journey.
Who or what is your muse?
Burntout? Lost the plot? Gripped by mental fatigue?
Do you market your artwork online?
Working towards my first workshop presentation.
Do you want to draw but don't have any art materials?
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A bit more about my drawings.
Write a blog they say!