In the Man Cave with Andrew Wyeth, William Carlos Williams and My Grandfather

No Ideas But in Things

–Say it, no ideas but in things–

William Carlos Williams, Paterson

Midway through my art history class today, while studying the Roman Colosseum, I suddenly knew what I was going to attempt this afternoon.  There were so many tasks to get out of the way first, but finally, at 4:30, I entered the man cave, and two hours later, this drybrush watercolor sketch lay before me.  I could never faithfully record what flooded my soul during those two hours, but let me try . . .

For years, I have sat for long hours in my booth during art festivals, alone, with little more to do than stare at the antique doors used for displaying my framed watercolors.  This particular door came with a nice vintage doorknob, engraved plate and locking system.  I have had it for over ten years and cannot begin to calculate the hours I have spent staring at it.  It used to sit in the back of my classroom.  My grandfather Tripp had such a door to the little house in which he spent his evenings after supper, and as a child, I was fascinated with the door knob and the engraved plate, as well as the chipped finish of several layers of paint on his door.

After a weekend spent viewing Andrew Wyeth drybrush works, and a couple of days poring over color plates in the books I own of his collections, a recurring idea came to me from William Carlos Williams, Ezra Pound and the Imagist movement in writing–no ideas but in things.
Earlier this year, I made some Pop Art attempts at recreating tins advertising Lucky Strike and Maxwell House.  The paintings have a prosaic quality about them, much like Andy Warhol’s Campbell Soup cans and Coca-Cola bottles.  But now, I wished to execute an exacting, detailed drybrush rendering of this old doorknob that looks like the one I saw as a small child at my Grandfather’s.  So, with the western sun waning this afternoon and flooding the garage with yellow light, I sought a way to channel that warmth into the back of my man cave (I probably looked quite the fool, pulling antique doors in front of my garage door windows to block out excess light, and stacking crates on top of trunks to block out further excess light–it seemed to take forever to get the lights and shadows to work properly on just this one doorknob!  But somehow, I felt that the effort would pay off.  And it did.

I may awaken in the morning, take a fresh look at this sketch, and decide it is garbage.  But even if that is so, I am convinced now that I am on a path that is worth following further.  I want to develop a skill to record these objects in a way that brings back the warm Proustian sentiments I have known throughout the decades of my life–the thrill and shock of recognition when I see a prosaic object that is charged with primal memories that matter to me, memories from my childhood that still linger and flood my being with a sense of good will.

To say it again–no ideas but in things.  Thank you Andrew, William, Ezra and Willis (my grandfather).  You have given me something worth pursuing.

And thanks to all of you for reading.

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