Completed Watercolor Study of Screen Door
There is the heart and the mind, the Puritan idea is that the mind must be the master. I think the heart should be master and the mind should be the tool and servant of the heart. As it is, we give too much attention to laws and not enough to principles. The man who wants to produce art must have the emotional side first, and this must be reinforced by the practical.
Robert Henri, The Art Spirit
I wrote of some of this over the weekend when I discussed “Imagination vs. Technique.” Henri’s words continue to thrill me as I read further into The Art Spirit. He really fired up his disciples who became the nucleus for America’s Ash Can School at the turn of the century. This book just crackles with intensity.
I really believe that I was more technician than artistic passion when growing up and pursuing my art. From my childhood, I wanted to be good, wanted to excel in making art. From the first junior high art class I took, on up through my college degree, it seems I tried to seize all knowledge, Faust-like, and translate it into technique to make better and better art.
Not long after the millenium turned, I became deeply dissatisfied with my art. As I’ve reported in earlier blogs, I was moved profoundly by the offerings of Edward Hopper and Andrew Wyeth, feeling a deep-seated connection with their lives and interests, yet feeling that myown work was merely illustrative, merely exercises in technique and craftsmanship, and not truly art that would express my feelings or evoke feelings from observers.
Since the beginning of 2013, I have suddenly shifted to painting still-life compositions filled with objects that have stirred me from childhood. Odd that I had not attempted a still-life watercolor since tenth grade, and the thought of trying it terrified me. I started simply with one or two objects, and eventually grew to more complex compositions. The transformation was slow at first, but now it is starting to make sense to me–I am painting things that truly “matter” to me, objects that stir my imagination, and bring to the surface, in Proust-like fashion, warm primal memories from my childhood, memories worth holding. Passion is now driving my art, and technique just seems to be the tools in the box, ready and waiting for me to take up and use as needed. Though I am not a mechanic, I think I feel some of the mechanic’s sense of satisfaction when he reaches for a socket wrench that happens to be the right size to fit the bolt that needs adjusting. I too, feel a sense of satisfaction, when a particular brush is just what I need to scumble or glaze or detail a particular portion of the composition slowly emerging from the white plane before me. I have the imagination burning, trying to give birth to an image, and the tools of the trade that have been taught me over the years stand by, ready for service.
Right now, in my endeavors, technique is serving imagination, precision is serving passion, thinking is following feeling. It seems that this is the first time I have experienced this, in decades of making art. And I like it. I’m interested in seeing where this is going to take me.
Today after school, I put the finishing touches on this screen door composition. I spent a large part of my day at school glancing at it (while students tested for four hours), trying to get a sense of what was still needing to be completed. All I did was finish out the borders of the screen, texture the wood further, work a little more on the spring stretched across the bottom and re-do some of the area surrounding the door knob. I’m ready to find another subject to paint now.
Thanks for reading.
I paint in order to remember.
I journal because I am alone.
I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.