by Verna Brady
[Editors note: this book was produced for Verna's collectors as a memento after a special set of gatherings where they would bring one of their paintings and each share about it, and she would share her thoughts on painting it. It was written in 1969.]
Although the prints in this book fall short of faithful reproductions of the paintings, the situation is not immediately remediable because a good part of the reason is my learning to take slides by the trial-and-error method. Also, prints of slides are never as good as the slides...and slides are not as good as the paintings...so, the net result is twice removed from the orginal...
In the course of my development as an artist there have been many people who have influenced me. First and foremost has been my husband, Hugh, who has encouraged me in my black moments of despair, kept me on the right path with well directed criticism and supported "Operation Rathole" as he indulgingly phrases my Art career, all of these years.
To George McNeil, my paining teacher in Paris, who virtually forced his students into the Abstract with his exceptional teaching methods, inspiring lectures and total sincerity and devotion to his pupils, I own much of my maturation as a painter.
Thanks go, also, to Mary Thayer who has been intrumental in introducing my paintings to several of you [the group of collectors] and who has encouraged both my work and my write-ups.
And to each of you who own my paintings, I would like to say the fact that you think enough of my work to want to hang it in your home is indeed a very great incentive to do more and better work. Many thanks.
Toward a Philosophy of Art
The most frequently asked question
Perhaps the best answer is: It is REAL---
What IS REAL?
So many people still insist
Can simply seeing what's OUTSIDE
Is it the same to SEE a fire
Art and Science
The realm of the scientist is
To explore the infinity of "outer space"...
The realm of the artist is
To explore the infinity of "inner space"...
And yet their paths entwine:
The scientist explores via his "inner space" (mind)---
The artist explores via "outer space" (sight)...
To bring the myriad of waves in the air
Into focus as voices and pictures,
One must plug the TV cord
Into an energy source--the electrical outlet---
And turn on the knob....
To bring a myriad of paint blobs into focus as Art,
The artist must plug HIS cord of infinite mind into
THE Source of life-energy--The Infinite Mind--
And turn on the knob of sensitivity!...
Art is Experience
To enjoy and love Art (or a piece of Art) is
To experience an uplift of the Soul
Akin to the artist's experience in creating it.
Just as the Soul is not happy until it touches
So the artist is not happy until
The Infinite touches his painting.
For a work of Art must transcend time--which is to say---
It must combine the efforts of the body,
Into a new Experience...
Yet Experience cannot really be explained by the logical mind--
Experience can only be FELT!
Man has, nevertheless, always tried to explain
His particular Experience of Love--
So, let me, likewise, try to explain
My particular Experience of painting...
One of the studio set-ups from which my paintings derive.
Every artist has his own "point of departure"---mine is a conglomeration of crumpled paper, cloth, yarn and what-not pinned to the walls of my studio. This bunch of "nothing" affords me color and line to work with but does not inhibit my freedom--as objects in an ordinary still life would do.
All of my paintings begin in the same manner--but how they eventually end is governed by the painting itself and a combination of mood, intuition, thought and superconscious direction. (Call it sub conscious, if you will---I like the word superconscious because I feel that's the part of us "above" mortal existence-- the Infinite, Soul part of us.)
I start by laying in colors and lines from my set-up--whatever colors and lines happen to "seem right" to me at that particular time (mood and intuition). As I work I constantly turn the painting by 1/4 turns--changing color areas and lines to hold up compositionally on each side. (This you can verify throughout the book by viewing each painting from all four sides. Disregarding subject matter, you will find the composition, line and color hold up from any direction.) The final Up side of the painting is not decided until very far along in the process of creation.
After many turns, wipe-outs and changes resulting in many layers of paint, coats of the medium and oftentimes the additions of collage materials, the painting begins to get a depth and a life of its own.
Eventually, in one of the turns, the whole thing begins to fall together--sometimes as a pure abstract, others as an emerging figure. At this point, the painting and my superconscious take over, and the final birth process begins, for---
Painting is Having a Baby...The pregnancy can be:
lost in miscarriage (a coat of gesso),
or just plan hell!
The labor can be:
Sometimes you get very tired, but once the birth is
imminent, you KNOW it---
like your whole being cooperates.
And then the birth:
Sometimes the painting is in such a rush!---
It can hardly WAIT to be born.
Other times you think the "pregnancy" will NEVER end.
Then there's the one
You're SURE is ready to be born---
You RUSH to do it--
Only to have it change its mind
And come later--in its OWN good time!
But the really rough one is the one in such a rush
It's almost lost forever,
But you struggle through and save it
by sheer determination
On to my children....
Echo 1964, oil, 32x28 inches
Mr. and Mrs. William Gahan
Echo was one of my first attempts to return to the figure through the Abstract.
My teacher in Paris insisted the figure could only wreck an Abstract, and I was inclined to agree since the figure has also ruined a good many "realistic" paintings. Going through the Louvre, I had the overwhelming impression that figures in paintings almost always looked pasted on their environments.
Yet Real life is not like this---people are always seen IN and THROUGH an environment.
As the tiny central figure began emerging and I continued to return to the drapery for line and color, the larger "echo" also began to emerge.
In my exuberance over "finding" the figures and still maintaining the abstract, I turned to the palette knife. Often, when the painting takes over with force, I feel the need to turn to the palette knife just for the joy of laying on sweeps of impasto paint.
With pardon to Peanuts-- Happiness is: a loaded palette knife and a swoop of paint!
Gladiolas 1 1964, oil, 16x20 inches
Mr. and Mrs. John Shern
These two paintings, done consecutively, were both a reflection of mood and an experiment.
The mood was happy for the gladiolas had been an unexpected gift from a dinner guest, and they were so colorful I wanted to paint them.
Gladiolas 2 1964, oil, 16x20 inches
Mr. and Mrs. William Gahan
As an experiment, each painting was done in a complimentary color scheme taken from one of the two hues of the glads: orance (with blue) and yellow (with lilac).
Here again my joyful mood emerges in the sweeping knife work and dominance of warm colors--happy twins!
Symphony in Umber 1965, oil, 24x40 inches
Mr. and Mrs. William Sandoval, Jr.
Symphony in Umber
Symphony went through a series of stages in the Abstract in which I worked and worked and got nowhere until, in frustration and discouragement, I wiped out all areas I didn't like, set the painting aside and started another.
After ignoring it for a while, one day, as I walked into the studio, the figure popped out at me---where NOTHING had been before! At that stage, the painting was mostly white (gesso); so, I began working in umber, developing the figure. The feeling of music or sounds in the air just "happened" but seemed right and gave a mysterious depth to the painting and feeling of human presence to the figure--a person alone, but not lonely, in a world of music or thought.
The Lute Player 1965, oil, 22x20 inches
William Gahan, Jr.
The Lute Player, 1965
One of my few during this period done from a model.
The lovely young girl sat relaxed in her own world and softly strummed the lute as a group of fellow-artists painted. The combination of her detachment and the music floating in through the air seemed to blend perfectly with the sun streaming in the windows and turning the room to a dancing gold.
The Infinite touched HER Art and was, in turn, felt in mine.
November 22nd 1965, oil, 30x36 inches
Mr. and Mrs. John Shern
November 22nd, 1965
This painting took two years to accomplish--not in the actual painting, but in the simmering in my superconscious.
My reaction to Kennedy's assassination was as deep as every other America's--but SO deep that the possibility of putting down immediately what I felt would only have resulted in something like the "Guernica" (Picasso).
Even after the first year, the wound was still too new.
Just prior to the second anniversary, I had been working on this canvas and was at the usual stage of wiping out an unsatisfactory start. On the 22nd of November, I began painting with the radio on, and the music seemed "right"--melancholy but stirring.
Soon I was putting down all that had been brewing for those past two years. First the two figures of Jack and Jackie emerged in the lower right. As they did, the realization that they were prevented from embracing and being together by the world and death developed with Jackie's hands being tied to THIS world (later subdued to just the ties) and Jack looking to ANOTHER world.
The ache I felt for them and their uppermost desire expressed itself in the abstract embrace in the upper left.
Demure Maiden 1966, Acrylic, 24x28 inches
Mr. and Mrs. Paul Larson
Demure Maiden, 1966
This young lady arrived after many miscarriages--layer after layer of getting nowhere and wipe-outs until the texture is almost collage-like, yet produced only by paint---and suffering! In fact, I went through a period of feeling certain I would NEVER pull this one to a successful conclusion.
Yet one day, a young girl began to emerge as if she'd been sitting their all the time.
The human presence in this painting is felt in the way the girl seems to be looking straight at you when viewed from a distance, but, as soon as you get close to her, she shyly closes her eyes and looks down--just LIKE a woman--beckons and then turns demure!...
Goldfigure 1966, Acrylic, 20x36 inches
Mr. and Mrs. Tim Hanley
Goldfigure began as an experiment in washes in only the yellow range. I started with a pale overall wash and gradually added more washes in certain areas--working from the bright to the deep color range of yellows and finally to the browns. (The bright yellows are subdued in the slide.)
This painting never went through a wipe-out period, but the lines gradually seemed to give a feeling of movement toward the center--and suddenly, the diagonal figure emerged.
With only an accentuation of areas in black and a highlight emphasis on the figure, a golden girl was born.
Family Group 1967, Acrylic, 30x40 inches
Mr. and Mrs. William Sandoval, Jr.
Family Group, 1967
I worked on this canvas off and on through the summer when most of my family visited me. It went through a long series of Abstracts, wipe-outs and additions of collage materials: tissue paper and cheesecloth.
Gradually, the paint built up to a rich red-orange, and then one day, the seated figure of the mother emerged as a head and shoulders and the child as only the top view of the head. I decided to keep it that way and see how FEW lines could produce the feeling of human presence.
Soon, another child and the father appeared but were, also, held to a minimum of "pull-out."
Yet the mind responds to the painting by FEELING and "seeing": the complete family group...Is it because the REAL You comminicates on a much HIGHER plane than human sight and is far more Abstract, yet REAL, than the human body?...the Soul!..
Golden Atmosphere 1968, Acrylic, 36x40 inches
Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Wozniak
Golden Atmosphere, 1968
Although this painting started out as an experiment in a monochromatic color scheme: one color (orange) plus black and white, the very first black line I put on the canvas dictated the whole rest of the painting.
My mood was a hang-over from the recent trip to Florida to see an Apollo shot.
The warm, bright sunlight and water in Florida, the causeway, the Cape complex and the Apollo disappearing into the clouds emerged from my superconscious practically unaided by conscious direction.
Again, the palette knife touches reflect the happy mood.
Still Water 1968, Acrylic
Dr. and Mrs. Frank Sterner
Still Water, 1968
Very often I work in series of threes before I get some sort of influence or experiment out of my system.
This is number two and began as an experiment in using the same orange, black and white of "Golden Atmosphere" and adding the complimentary blue.
The "feel" of a landscape soon came through again---similar to the last, yet different. The feeling is more of a pond, buildings and trees.
The mood is quieter, less sunny--but then, I was back in Wisconsin longer...!
Spring Reflections 1968, Acrylic, 20x22 inches
Mr. and Mrs. John Thayer
Spring Reflections, 1968
This is the last of this "series" of landscapes---although the first painting of the three started. I began this one in the early Spring when the new greens were so welcome, but, somehow, could get nowhere with it and put it aside.
After several other paintings, including the last two, I took this canvas out again and worked on it a bit.
Suddenly, the feeling of Spring I had been trying so hard to capture so long ago emerged as the very FIRST of the greens--willows near water. It had come in its OWN good time! (Somehow the yellow-greens in the painting did not come through on either the slide or the print.)[Ed. note: with some digital color adjustments some color was reclaimed, but how close to the original is hard to say, since it was from the original slide and the original painting is not in our possession.]
Rather than conclude this book with an ending, I have chosen to END it with a BEGINNING...a
What does it mean?...
What did it mean to YOU?...
Whatever your job, have there not been many times
When you felt no one appreciated all your hard work---
All your best efforts went unnoticed--and especially
By the ones for whom you worked the hardest?...
But then one day,---
When maybe you weren't doing a THING different
from what you'd ALWAYS done, or
When maybe you HAD put a little something extra into your work---
Whatever it was---THAT day was SPECIAL---because
The one who mattered NOTICED and SAID so:
Whatever the words, ---YOU remember!...
How did you feel?... Like you were on Cloud 9---
With a warm glow of happiness
And an uplift of spirit?...!
And did you not promise yourself
To do even bigger and better things---
because you were wrong---
you WERE appreciated---
This was only the BEGINNING of what you could do!.!
Prelude was painted in just such a mood!..
The colors and composition reflect my feelings:
The warm orange glow: my happiness
The deep colors and upward thrust:
uplift and inner promise.
Verna Brady, 1969