Unknown Languages: A reply.

I know exactly what you’re talking about… and I say that to someone, whom I suspect might read this. This is an important thought, from a creative point of view, so I need to put it out publicly. But yet I have no real words to describe it, words are hard to find with this type of communication. But I will stumble along and see if it makes sense.


There is a consciousness, that in painting that I have had with one other artist, were artists might have a conversation with visual elements; not words or legible symbols. The end result of such conversation defies the individuals who participated and become something of its own, and either or artist can not reproduce that result on their own.

I use to get these paintings that would come up every so often after that initial experience with my friend. I would talk to him about what we were doing, he agreed whole heartedly and felt the same way. The discovery of a new consciousness.

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By their comparison to the other individual works I was doing they were totally difference in every way, not even my signature, was apparent on them; if you know what I mean? I am not talking about what could be called the collaborative pieces, I am talking about my own work.

In signature I mean that specific way I would make a line, a mark on the surface, or fill the body of a shape up; a color relationship to another color; usually I do this, makes marks like this or that; but something changed now, and there’ a signature in that. Not your signature, not his signature, but a new signature, just as qualified if not more so.. Your own visual language has changed now. Because your affected by it. With new visual vocabulary added…. a collection of such things come together to identify a signature.

But now you have this painting, your own painting, but it wrong, and it makes complete sense, its good but you don’t understand it…

An example maybe of what I mean of the signature of a thing, looking at a Van Gogh, to put it simply it’s the swirling layers of light around stars, in “Starry, starry night” is the signature of how Vincent consciously understands the light. It is him at that moment. The translation of what he is seeing in vision; in his head, not outside of himself. Those lines are him,  he can’t help it, he can try to change it, but what he paints is always that signature. He can’t avoid himself, if he has worked long enough as a painter.

The pointillism of a Seurat; the profile of cubist face, by Picasso; the signature is within that of what I speak of that consciousness in the artist occupying at that moment in time. Another could copy what he sees in that style, but if you are looking close enough, the signature is wrong. It’s not Picasso signature there. It’s the copier, he doesn’t understand Picasso’s personal visual vocabulary. And we all have this vocabulary. I think that is why people say I cannot drawn; because they exercise that personal visual vocabulary, in the style of a child. We don’t curse the child, because they can’t write “A’s” correctly, but with practice they conquer the language to understandable level. Of course nowadays, kids don’t write, they type. And I feel something is quietly being lost.

I have a friend who would write me letters, and I would sit down, and write him a letter back, put it in an envelope, put a stamp on it, and post it. A couple of weeks later a new letter would come and there is something truly magnificent, something magical, and mysterious, something very exciting. In getting a sharp knife and slitting open the envelope, and reading the handwritten letter. Two, three, five or ten, pages of someone thoughts, handwritten, with a style that matches the words within. My friend was artist like me, and so the occasional little a sketch between the paragraphs, an expression of the next or past thought, as the writer thinks of new things to say.

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So…these things would come up; these anomalies within the body of my own work, they were not finished, but yes they were finished, because I wouldn’t allow myself to ever touch them once I made the discovery. I couldn’t, I didn’t want too; I understood something on another level of my being.

They were finished…and caught in that of which is spoken to me, the paradox…I wanted to keep them, they lead somewhere to something new. If I could leave them alone long enough. And yes you so want to throw a net around it, whatever ‘it’ is, and capture; but you don’t know how you got there. You don’t know how to do it again, your outside your normal space, you try to copy the intent, but you can’t get to it. And this frustrates and stops a painter, I would get this strange idea that if I followed them, I would be worth nothing here, as the selling artist. And dealers hate this kind of talk, it means your going off somewhere, exploring on a journey and that dampens sales.

I find this hard to explain…odors  come, sometimes, strange odours and images and sound would flit for instants, a microsecond; seconds of time. Couldn’t compare them to anything, but yet good, really good stuff…


charcoal and conte on 75 lb rag paper

I was completely different now, than my usual self. I had become someone new, like I had broken through the wall in my own head. It’s might be out-of-body in a way.

Some of them I have kept, others I just couldn’t stand it anymore and wipe them out, painted on top of them. Its is a song in your head, that won’t leave. Some of them would drive me crazy, I was always thinking about. I’d get moment and they pop into my head, and I would let them roll around in there in my head, until I said “Enough” and would go and do something to forget. Even when I painted over them, I look at the new image, and would see the old image, there beneath that new surface.

The ones I have kept, I will never get rid them or sell them. I should look at them, I haven’t looked at them in a long period, some are paintings some are larger drawings, mixed media things. Nobody sees them, nobody knows about.

I have brought them out and shown them to others; artists; minds I respected, who I thought would understand, or might, have suggested, might give an inkling of what they would mean, but no. No solutions. Nearly all thought, and assumed they were by other artists. I would never let the cat out of the bag.  But I would reach for some explanation by them, in the hopes of gaining an understanding and a way back in, but it never comes. I have known a lot of artists in the past, in many different media, but I only talked to two others about this particular concept of art making.




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Michael Burns – Painting, oil and acrylic on canvas. 63 X 91 inches 1993


Michael Burns – Pencil drawing on 75 lb rag paper. 11 X

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Michael Burns – Pencil drawing on 75 lb rag paper. 11 X 14 inches


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Michael Burns – Pencil drawing on 75 lb rag paper. 11 X 14 inches


In posting these drawings, I had forgotten how much I love drawing…
painting really is only drawing with color.

It would excite and entertain me for hours on end.

I have thousands of drawings, and I am a consummate risk taker, when I draw.
I love learning of a new ways to draw or sketch.

Inventing new media to draw with is quite exciting.
I have even used a copper penny on a specially prepared ground to create an image.

It inspired my love for the slow and meditative art of silver point drawing. Which I still do.

The works below are variety of things done. A lot of drawings and a few paintings.


Drawing, charcoal, Conte, 75 lb rag. 11 X 14 inches


Drawing, charcoal and Ted Conte, white Conte on 75 lb rag paper. 11 X 14 inches


Drawing, charcoal and red Conte on 75 lb rag paper. 11 X 14 inches


Graphite stick on 75 lb rag paper. 11 X 14 inches

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Charcoal and blue pastel, on 75 lb rag paper. 11 X 14 inches

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Pen and ink drawing, washes, on 75 lb rag paper. 11 X 14 inches.


Pen and ink drawing, with washes. On 75 lb rag paper. 11 X 14 inches.

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Michael Burns Painting – Oil and acrylic on canvas 24 X 30 inches


Michael Burns Pen and ink drawing, wine washes on 75 lb rag paper 11 X 14 inches


Michael Burns Painting – Oil and acrylic on canvas 63 X 39 inches

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Michael Burns painting Oil and acrylic on canvas 24 X 24 inches

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Michael Burns Painting – Oil and acrylic on hard board. 18 X 24 inches


Michael Burns Drawing pencil , charcoal, red and yellow conté on 75 lb rag paper 11 X 14 inches

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Michael Burns Drawing, pencil 75 lb rag paper 11 X 14 inches

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Michael Burns Drawing, charcoal and red conté on cartridge paper 24 X 30 inches


Michael Burns Drawing, charcoal, pencil red conté on 75 lb rag paper. 11 X 14 inches

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Michael Burns Drawing, charcoal, pencil, red conté on 75 lb rag paper 11 X 14 inches


Michael Burns Charcoal, pencil, yellow pastel on 75 lb rag paper 14 X 17 inches


Michael Burns Painting acrylic on hard board, 8 X 10 inches

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Michael Burns Oil and Acrylic on gessoed canvas. 24 X 30 inches


Painting acrylic and charcoal, sealer. 18 X 24 inches


Painting on heavy rag paper. Mixed media. 16 X 20 inches


Oil and acrylic on canvas. (Unfinished) 16 X 20 inches.


Painting acrylic, specially prepared ground, silver point, graphite, color on heavy rag paper. 14 X 17 inches.


I decided to change it up in last couple of posts and present some of my Artwork; finished and unfinished works.

Most of this work spans a greater time period of my life.
I have not placed a timeline for the works.

I have painted and drawn most of my life. As a child in Ireland I was always searching for a surface to draw on. That was a long time ago.

Creating and imagining is something that I came to quite naturally. I am compelled to do it.

To be an artist is to never stop in one place too long. You have to keep moving creatively.


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Michael Burns – Charcoal and red Conte on cartridge paper. 22 X 30 inches

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Harlequin 18 X 24

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Abstract #2 60 X 60 inches


Drawing Pen and ink washes, red conte 11 X 14


Pencil drawing, eraser, rubbing stick 11 X 14


Oil/ acrylic Painting 18 X 24 inches on cotton canvas


Silver point drawing on specially prepared ground 8 X 10 on masonite


Drawing Red conté, pencil, graphite stick 11 X 14


Silver point drawing on specially prepared ground 16 X 20 inches (Unfinished Detail)

Artist: Michael Burns – Drawing


Artist: Michael Burns Oil Painting (detail) 48 X 64 inches


Artist: Michael Burns Oil Painting 16 X 20 inches