The Pure Joy 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.
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.
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.