marlene mountain
images and writings to 1979
gull lake mn
summer 1962



journal gull lake

august 5 1962 gull lake brainard minnesota

Today is August 5th. I am in a new environment that I so wanted, one that contains trees, water, large expanse of sky and constant change in weather which gives new personality to the objects in nature. Although my job [waitress and 'bar maid' at a resort; $2/hour plus tips] requires a great deal of time and energy, I have not as yet given much time to my painting and drawing. As I stated many months earlier too much time away from this is very dangerous and now I have proof.

After my senior show in March, which was rather successful, I completely let go of myself and I am sorry to report that I have lost all feeling for my work. I am aware of my laziness and loss of ambition. April and especially May were almost a complete loss except for a few days scattered here and there. Because of conflicts and distractions I did not keep my mind constantly on my work and little by little I began to let go completely--Oh how I regret this.

Because of my laxness I have neglected to gain sources of ideas from my new environment which I so much felt would be a blessing. I have not taken advantage of my time at all having only one painting, which I am fairly pleased with, and only a few inadequate drawings--which should have been the most rewarding of all. But, no--I have failed myself and disappointed others. There are a few excuses but none which are too satisfying. The main problem was that I got out of the 'habit' of working, of doing, and of enjoying. The reasons why aren't important. They are only normal, but the fact remains that four months have passed that have not existed in any worthwhile way. Only a few attempts. For those I am happy, but still saddened greatly at my lack of interest.

The discipline which I fought for and achieved to a certain degree is gone, so is a great deal of the desire to create. But maybe this will be a good lesson to me--as corny as it sounds, maybe after this 'rest' a new love and desire will come about. If only this is true. I am sure things will happen soon. They must. I don't want to draw or paint just to be doing it, but I want it to be an attitude of thought and purpose to love to do it--and have to do it. I have no obligations to anyone now but myself. I must do it for myself.

At one time while still in school I thought that I had won the battle of discipline, but now I realize that it is never won, but must be fought for constantly. I see that I should again get into an environment of workers. This seems to help considerably. This may be the answer. I have considered the University of Minnesota and should hear soon from them. All I can hope is that if I do get into a working environment that I will have stored up some of the feelings of this scenery and am able to use ideas that I have seen here, since landscapes are what I love to work with and there is a chance that I will not be able to get so close to them as often as I would like.

This is what disappoints and disgusts me the most: that here I have had such good opportunity of sights that I may not be able to have soon. If I were going into another comparable situation where there would be opportunities often, I don't think that this 'rest' would have been so bad. But as it is I feel that I have let something slip by without grabbing much of its qualities.

august 6 1962 gull lake brainard minnesota

I love being around the lake. It has been a wonderful experience. I enjoy seeing birds, chipmunks, frogs, etc, in their natural surroundings. I have no desire to capture them as I have always felt before, because there isn't a day that goes by that I don't watch them, therefore the reason to catch them is gone. I think that this type of surroundings would be a good place to live. There isn't the somewhat artificial need to go out looking for ideas to sketch because one is surrounded by ideas and feelings.

And they can come easier and more normal because they are always present. I am always fascinated by the subjects of my paintings and drawings long after I have done them. I love to revisit the spot again to see them in terms of the finished work. I love to have a photograph of them also. I do not understand this nor do I know if it is wise. I still would love to do more paintings of houses on or near a hill, even though I have several of these, also I continually see trees in a similar manner, so many things that seem to be repeats of my earlier thoughts and compositions.

At the present time I tend to be more realistic than I want to do in my compositions. And I don't understand why. I cannot seem to do any exploring or experimenting in my work. When I see the work of Dubuffet or Rauschenberg or other experimenters it excites me, not always the composition or end product, but the freedom and experimentation. I want to do some but I don't know how to think this way. I see myself as very conventional, as being too rigid and yet I long to get involved in some different avenues of thought--even a freedom of color or subject matter or composition--but it doesn't seem natural--not that there would be any dishonesty involved, but something holds me back (I guess if I were really working with ideas that I would have a better opportunity to explore).

I keep forgetting that I am not painting. I want and wish for so much but I don't give myself the opportunity to get or fulfill my wishes. How stupid. But as I have stated and said so many hundred times I cannot seem to get going. I haven't been able to scare or talk myself into it. I haven't the drive but I know I can only get it by starting it myself. I guess I still need someone watching me and telling me I'm good, and working for them. How horrible.

This is the reason so many lose their drive--we haven't learned to do for ourselves and to hell about what others think whether it's good or bad criticism. I can remember arguing the fact that I painted for myself and not for others. Now I wonder if I knew what I was speaking of. Because I have not been able to paint, mainly because others have not been here to pat me on the head. There is no one to please.

I love the paintings of Diebenkorn. The flatness and harshness of color in large areas. I wish I had done the painting, Girl on a Terrace. I wish I could do figures. But I think if I tried to do figures that they would be similar to his and that would bother me. Would it be wrong? This is a question that bothers me. How much should one knowingly let oneself be influenced by others? I know this is a common problem. I feel that I could paint a figure composition if I could borrow some of Diebenkorn's or de Kooning's ideas. I see how they have stated a relationship of figure and environment in their works and I could do so too because of their exploration and approach.

But would this be right? Could I call it my painting or would it just be a statement in someone else's words? I fear it is the latter solely and yet I am still tempted. There are many who do this and many I am sure who started out in someone's manner and were able to develop something quite personal from it.

Getting back to my mention of my type of realism--or attempt of it. I know when and how it started--it was honest. A desire to know anatomy and to train the eye last year. But I didn't plan to stay with it or at least to be a slave to it. I have not let it go--this attempt at a honest visual statement. I have even gone so far as to work from photographs--there is not an attempt at a photographic technique but I let what I see in nature control what I paint.

I do not let my imagination run away from me. I do not 'go wild' so to speak. This I miss. I want to break away from what I see and yet I am still excited by what I find in nature. Last semester I finally was able to relax my tightness, but now I have again gone back to doing 'only what I see' type. I must learn to let go and paint and sketch more freely and lively--take photographs for photographs only--not to paint from--and paint for paintings.

august 9 1962 gull lake brainard minnesota

And yet I am still excited by a recognizable object in paint and the only thing that saves my ideas is the handling of the paint--the quality of brushwork and the looseness of areas and shapes, the ambiguousness of space. At least I hope that these things exist as I think they do. Also I hope that these are not solely devices which I employ but become an honest expression of feeling, not only for paint but also giving a true relationship for the object itself. This would be worthwhile to me even if there is a tendency to a more visual statement of the land. But there must be another quality present to my way of thinking and at the moment it is the handling of the paint to achieve a space and texture emphasis.

At the present I am involved with a painting of Rocky Point (the second version) to capture the white birch trunks, the continual movement in the foliage and the constant change in the lake behind it. I have narrowed the colors to green, blue and white. The warm colors and contrasting colors have been removed. This was advantageous to the unity and abstractness of the composition to be sure, however there seems at the present to be a sterility to it. I am not sure but I think there is now a lack of excitement because there is not enough variety. However, ochre would seem to break the space too much unless it was incorporated into the whole composition, which would not be worthwhile since I have achieved almost what I want in the overall effect. However, there is still a need I think for an invasion of something else. I guess more looking should come first before any drastic changes are attempted.

And I have found that as I have always known that it isn't so difficult to start painting, just on the spur of the moment pick up a brush and dabble and then I'm painting. I did this today and worked more than I had ever this summer at one time. And I love it. I must do it again. However, we will be leaving soon and everything must be dry before we leave. There is a possibility that I will try tube casein. There are some things that I would like to try but don't have the time, nerve or desire to go to a big canvas.

There are so many things that I should do and want to do and there is time I believe to do them, but it must be budgeted better. I find that I spend far too much time writing letters and listening to music than I should--that is, compared to things I should do first or more and don't. My biggest joy is listening to music. I have now learned to concentrate on it as it is being played and I become glued to the spot, then one calls for another (unless it's particularly dramatic, but then I just sit) and the day is gone or at least the daylight. I wish I could listen to it after work.

That would be ideal. But I neglect my main interest, so stupid. But I love the music, I guess I like to be entertained. I wish that I could get interested in reading, but maybe it's a good thing, between that and music I would never get any painting done. But at the moment I have several books that I should enjoy all of which I have started, but cannot get involved with enough to stay with a novel of Rembrandt by Gladys Schmitt, a Lawrence novel, Rainbow, Rand's Fountainhead, and works of M. Arnold, not counting a book on Dubuffet that I should read as well as other art books.

But I must try some casein paintings this coming week. Why is it that I always begin to get enthusiastic about my work at the close of a good opportunity???



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