The Pure Joy of Art

International Artist - - Important Principles Of Art -

I saw this piece to­day. It’s the first time I’d seen the orig­i­nal since draw­ing it with pas­tel in Mex­ico some 33 years ago. Look­ing at it is like watch­ing my­self cre­ate it stroke by stroke, re­veal­ing the pure joy of mak­ing art. I can also go back in time and un­der­stand my frame of mind at that mo­ment. The peo­ple own­ing this piece will keep it in the fam­ily, and it’ll likely be on a wall 100 years from now. Yes, we artists truly live on.

within that paint­ing. They un­der­stand those ba­sics: per­spec­tive, de­sign, shapes, val­ues and, yes, color. They tie them to­gether with their per­sonal, pas­sion­ate ap­proach.

Art can have its frus­trat­ing mo­ments but can also be un­be­liev­ably in­spir­ing each and ev­ery day. A two-minute sketch or a large, com­plex street scene. To put it plainly: I re­mem­ber hav­ing but $20 to my name and at the same time crying with hap­pi­ness. Why? Be­cause I was do­ing ex­actly what I wanted and knew for cer­tain I was go­ing fur­ther…much fur­ther.

What’s Great Art?

Great art can hardly be de­fined, only felt. I go back to the Mona Lisa, and for the life of me, I can­not com­pre­hend her mag­nif­i­cent im­age, only sit in awe. The same goes with Rach­mani­noff’s third pi­ano con­certo and Rodin’s The Burghers of Calais. Try­ing to un­der­stand mas­ter­works is quite im­pos­si­ble be­cause they’re be­yond what mere mor­tals can de­scribe.

Look­ing back, I find it of in­ter­est re­flect­ing on dif­fer­ent tran­si­tions in my art. When very young, I didn’t care what and how I drew; it was sim­ply for the plea­sure of “mak­ing pic­tures.” As time went on, I felt I bet­ter cor­rect cer­tain sloppy flaws and make my works more ac­cept­able to my­self and those who might see them. This went on for some time.

In that stage, I worked long hours de­vel­op­ing my art know­ing it was my life and that meant peo­ple buy­ing my works.

Things went well for a num­ber of years. I con­tin­ued de­vel­op­ing, which was a nat­u­ral de­sire. But then, came a turn­ing point. I started get­ting that child­hood at­ti­tude of “Hey, it’s my art and I can do it how­ever I want.” My ap­proach and tech­nique re­mained, but my sub­ject mat­ter be­gan to broaden and I didn’t have sleep­less nights won­der­ing if my paint­ing would sell. In other words, a full cir­cle of sorts. I think this hap­pens in all the arts when fi­nally the artist is so very com­fort­able with them­selves, their art, their sur­round­ings and their rea­son for be­ing.

That’s where I am.


Like re­hears­ing for a play or do­ing out­lines and drafts for a book, I like to or­ga­nize and pre­pare for a ma­jor work. Pre­lim­i­nary draw­ings, de­sign and color ideas takes time and is worth it. I know many pro­fes­sional artists and see them in their stu­dios sketch­ing out ideas and ap­proaches. The time taken is so worth it. I’m not in­clud­ing those grand mo­ments do­ing quick sketches. Those have al­ways been like artis­tic cof­fee breaks; groups of us get­ting to­gether and draw­ing our world.

If I do a paint­ing of some­thing I’m not too keen on, it can show. So I rev my­self up and get my mind into a stage where my sub­ject be­gins to mo­ti­vate. Most of the time it works. It’s some­thing I’ve de­vel­oped al­most sub­con­sciously over the years.

When I’m work­ing on a sec­tion of a

paint­ing, I’m al­ways cog­nizant with its ef­fect on other ar­eas and how each can be al­tered by adding, sub­tract­ing, ad­just­ing or re­do­ing. A paint­ing is a whole made up of parts. A hu­man’s “per­son­al­ity” is a mas­sive com­bi­na­tion of char­ac­ter­is­tics; all fun­neled into one per­son. It’s the same with a sin­gu­lar work of art.

The Im­por­tance of De­sign

I’ve said this of­ten, but it needs re­peat­ing many times. I spent a day with a bril­liant, well known artist. We parted and I walked to­ward my car; I looked back as he stood at his front door. I couldn’t help my­self ask­ing him one ma­jor ques­tion: “What’s the most im­por­tant thing in art that I should take with me?” He didn’t hes­i­tate: “De­sign.” One word and we waved good­bye. It was the last time I saw him; the en­tire visit was in­deli­ble, in­spir­ing. I pass this mo­ment on to you.

There Comes a Time

There are times we have to force our­selves into push­ing our tal­ents. Here’s what I mean. There were a num­ber of years that I drew an­i­mals from life. It was of­ten quite frus­trat­ing, as there is no way of hav­ing them stay still! Yet those months in the wild gave me strength in cor­ners I didn’t know ex­isted. I rec­om­mend go­ing out and draw­ing street scenes and peo­ple in parks or throw­ing a pile of fruit on a ta­ble and draw. This pushes the skills and the pa­tience we need, so when big projects are wait­ing for us, we’re ready and able. I could write a book about this sig­nif­i­cant part of my art world and much of it wouldn’t be be­lieved. We all have the op­por­tu­nity of freely bring­ing it to our­selves.

Sug­ges­tion: Get ev­ery Ernest Wat­son and An­drew Loomis book you can. Along with my fa­ther, they were my men­tors right from the be­gin­ning. I still ap­pre­ci­ate their art and wis­dom with end­less spirit. They knew what they were talk­ing about and meant ev­ery word and stroke.

Re­peat­ing Sub­jects

I have of­ten drawn and painted the same struc­ture at dif­fer­ent times of the day, as did the French Im­pres­sion­ists. It chal­lenges the eyes into see­ing some­thing new and dif­fer­ent with the same sub­ject. It’s like many mod­els that I’ve painted over the years—one of them at least 50 times. It’s the same model but dif­fer­ent at­mos­phere, light­ing, ex­pres­sion and po­si­tion. I’ve al­ways said that we could cre­ate imag­i­na­tive, spir­ited works for the rest of our lives us­ing sub­jects within our neigh­bor­hood.

An­other World

The last time we got to­gether, I men­tioned I would be in an­other world. Well, as I write this, in a few hours, I’m about to say good­bye to the mesquite trees and saguaro cac­tus. Af­ter sev­eral days trav­el­ing, I’ll be say­ing hello to the shores of the Pa­cific Ocean and snow­topped Rocky Moun­tains. From one world to an­other, as dif­fer­ent as can be imag­ined. Don’t be sur­prised if you see me draw­ing a fish­er­man or child play­ing in the wa­ter. I’m fully pre­pared; at least I think I am. I’ll let you know how it’s go­ing through my words and im­ages. New, yet al­ways per­sonal times of life. Many I’ll share with you.

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