Michael Divine

Writings : On Art Making


These ‘art’ writings are specifically about the process of being an artist. There’s advice and discussion about the process as well as some musings on the business of art.


I begin with intimations. A corner, a cornice. A curve, perhaps witnessed in the form of a leaf or the nape of a neck. A line that expresses the color that is the sound of the car horn or the trumpet we just heard. We find a shadow. A glint of light. A background. A nearest and a farthest away.

Just a pen, meandering over the page - echoes of me: the way I comport myself in the world and the identity created, the current thrust of that being - his fears and hopes, his calm spaces and anxieties. Most of all, tho, his hopes. That's what I focus on the most.

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The Romance of Art

As an artist it is inexplicable. You will see things that no one else sees. One day it may be your mind returning to the burning hue of a particular shade of orange against a soft robin egg blue. Another day you may be struck by the echoes of the curve of an oak tree, the way the sun glinted off an art deco inspired cornice of an office building built 100 years ago, or the patterns of the trash ground into the city street.

You may be a windswept plain. A bewildered forest. A breath of a dream at night.

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The Magic of Art Making

I think of the artist as a kind of magician. I don't mean the 'here's a holy relic that will heal you' or turning you into a newt sort of magician with magical powers. Rather, an artist is like the sleight-of-hand magician who says 'First it is an apple' and then - POOF! - 'Now I hold a bouquet of flowers!' Done well, there is no doubt that the apple has been replaced instantaneously by the bouquet of flowers that has appeared in their hand.

And you think 'surely, there's a trick to it.' There's a string or a bit of fancy hand play that you didn't notice.

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Art & Fear

The book "Art & Fear" is a short but poignant book on some of the inner challenges artists face every day. I found the PDF online and have reposted it here. Consider buying a copy for yourself from the link in the quote below

These are questions that matter, questions that recur at each stage of artistic development - and they are the source for this volume of wonderfully incisive commentary." "Art & Fear explores the way art gets made, the reason it often doesn't get made, and the nature of the difficulties that cause so many artists to give up along the way." "This is a book about what it feels like to sit in your studio or classroom, at your wheel or keyboard, easel or camera, trying to do the work you need to do. It is about committing your future to your own hands, placing Free Will above predestination, choice above chance. It is about finding your own work.

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This is Your Brain On Jazz

I find this fascinating and am reposting it here in case the article disappears one day.

A pair of Johns Hopkins and government scientists have discovered that when jazz musicians improvise, their brains turn off areas linked to self-censoring and inhibition, and turn on those that let self-expression flow.

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On Sacred Geometry

There is no such thing as Sacred Geometry. There are, perhaps, more and less pleasing ratios. There are forms that repeat through space because they are the paths of least resistance for the elements that build on those forms. The "golden mean" or Fibonacci spiral is one of the most common, I think.

Such ratios form aesthetically pleasing ways of creating compositions. Breaking visual spaces into thirds or fifths can accomplish something that breaking them into twos cannot.

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Sitting With It

Sitting With It A very tiny drawing Ink/Paper

I love pen and ink. That is - a calligraphy pen and a bottle of ink. Although, to be fair, I think 'calligraphy pen' sort of pigeon holes it since I am often just using thin drawing nibs. There's a delicate painterliness to them - to the dipping the pen in the ink as if it is brush getting another daub of paint and the way that it flows out of the pen and onto the paper leaving this somewhat upraised line that lays atop the surface. But it's also rather unforgiving. Get caught in too thick a drop of ink and the whole pen relieves itself onto the paper. Move too quickly or too slowly and a drop appears - splat - out of nowhere.

In this day of quick edits and soundtracked tik-toks - gotta get those reels posted to get the dopamine feels - I find the presence of mind that such little endeavors take to be all the more nourishing.

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Politic Awareness

In order for me to write poetry that isn’t political
I must listen to the birds
& in order to hear the birds
the airplane must be silent

Marwan Makhoul (trans. Zeina Hashem Beck)
Gaza Poets Society

I am fortunate to live in a time and place that, for me and my station in life, is in relative peace but it is not without being aware of the state of the world - from the localized environs to the bigger sways of peoples and governments.

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Emily Dickinson

even if i can’t change the world
i’m still going to write
and even if no one ever cares
even if it makes absolutely no difference
that there was a person
named emily dickinson
who sat in this little room
day after day
and wrote things down
just because she felt them

- Dickinson Season 3 Episode 10
Available on Apple TV+

That part, at the end of the 3 season series of Apple TV's show Dickinson, struck me because that is, to the artist, the primary thing and it summed it up so beautifully and succinctly. We are just there, day after day, writing or painting or making music - doing our arts - because we feel them. I look around at my studio, lovely space that it is, where I return to every day. My easel and the door to the garden, the computer and phone offering windows to the world at large. So I return every day and paint and, really, that's the whole goal - to make the art of what it feels like, for me, right now in this now.

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The Art of Seeing

People forget how to "see" as they get older.

We develop very narrowly focused ways of seeing with lenses of dollar value, costs and exchanges, styles, judgements, things we like or don't like, what matches and doesn't match, and so on. Most of these ways of seeing tend towards a sort of value judgements for us to descipher the parts which are useful to us in this moment or as are possible worthy investment for the future.

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