Michael Divine

Writings: On Painting


I am primarily a painter. These writings are specifically about painting, as the title suggests.

Know Your Brushstrokes

The thing is – you need to know your brushstrokes. Not the ‘meh I don’t know what I’m doing’ brushstrokes – not ‘these are just the unimportant brushstrokes til I put the important ones on top’ but EVERY brushstroke. The very first to the very last are all part of the same rhythm. There is no underpainting. The underpainting IS the painting. The overpainting is the painting. It is all the painting. It is just the painting. The rough hewn strokes should be just as intentional as those fine dashes painted with your finest brush and the more you practice […]

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What I Learn From Painting

Around 2am I usually just can’t paint any more. Sometimes it’s a tad later. Sometimes a tad earlier. But usually it’s about five or six hours in and my hand is cramped and my back is aching and my eyes are starting to blur and my brushstrokes start to lose their precision. The good things is that once I get like that I usually feel pretty good about my work for the night. It means that I covered a lot of ground. Painting is about ‘the process’ as much as ‘the product’. Sometimes, it’s just a lot of blanks to […]

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The Song We Play

The silent stillness of late night surroundings finds me solitary and drinking a glass of red wine with a side dish of cheese and olives. It is a usual place for me on a late night Monday night these days listening to late night music like Pink Floyd’s Ummagumma. What a weird collaboration of soundscapes and mental landscapes it is and yet, it was through this experimentation and willingness to go “out there” (and, incidentally, “in there”) that led them to great albums like Dark Side of the Moon and Wish You Were Here. . The willingness to walk the […]

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Feeling Moods

Feeling a mood, a beat of a heart, a tap of a foot. Feeling a touching the sky, a holding the keys or a glinting of an eye. Feelings: they come and they go. Arising… falling… A painting captures a moment, never stationary, never static. Example: Each painting of the Evolution triptych is one part of a path but neither is ending or beginning or middle. The glouriousness of Illumination (III) is only labeled as III because that is the natural progression, but the display of the images is what break them out of that progression. As an artist, when […]

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The Art of Discovery

I started cataloging our art books today. Very exciting, I know. We have quite a library of books all together – between the art book collection, the dozens of philosophy books and the many volumes in between it spans more than a few centuries of knowledge and inspiration. What boggles my mind, when I look at the couple hundred books of paintings and drawings, is the lifetimes they represent. Hours, days, weeks, years of the lives of men and women who dedicated themselves to the creative urge. And each book – each artist – is a facet of a jewel […]

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The Process (Which is as Important as the Goal)

I used to just dive into a painting. I’m talking about bigger paintings. I’d have a few sketches and ideas but I’d just start laying on the paint and hope for the best. I’d always reconsider things too late in the game and think that I should have had a more solid plan. As time passed, I started making more and more complex drawings before hand and preceding the painting with loads of conceptual work. Then I gave more and more thought to how the colors would interact and what the best way to approach it would be – do […]

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Titles of Paintings Are Like Poems

Most often, the title is the only chance the artist has to share any words with the viewer in regards to the painting. The title is like a signpost, suggesting a direction for the viewer to head in. It is a collection of words or a singular word there to evoke a feeling. I like it when a title sings. To me, a good title has rhythm and cadence, even if it is just one word, and captures the mood and embodies the painting. A ten word title is ok and sometimes, that’s what is necessary. A twenty word title starts to […]

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What Is the Point of All of This, Anyhow?

“It’s nice that you make this art but what are you really doing? People talk about changing the world, about making a difference… how does this help the mother on welfare, or this or that… What difference do you think you are really making?” Truth be told: I ponder this question all the time. I think about it while I’m driving around running errands and then going home and back to painting. What the hell am I doing anyways? And here’s what I’ve come up with… First and foremost – I paint because I love to paint. Period. It is […]

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A Reason for Art

Why do we value art? Art: it’s this visual record of who we are, how we imagine ourselves, where we’re going, where we’ve come from at some particular time.  It’s the visual record of out psycho-spiritual states – as a human organism. If you were to take all the varied pieces of art from all the different art movements in some brief span of time, you’d find a wide spectrum of emotions, perspectives, and inspirations. Yet, it all came from the same place – this Earth, these humans – and happened at the same time and, ultimately, lies within a […]

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The Art of Becoming

Making art is exploration. It is the act of becoming. We take what we have inside and bear witness to its messy beginnings, the warp and woof of it’s threads and momentums, and weave it together to make the most beautiful vision we can – the most precious thing – of the art which is ours. And even that which is “ugly” can still be the most beautiful if done with love. It all leads back to that. All of life is art. The act of life is art. Whatever is the thing which makes your soul sing, that is your […]

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