Between the Idea and the Reality

Winslow Homer Studies

Winslow Homer Studies

Between the idea

And the reality

Between the motion

And the act

Falls the Shadow

                                    For Thine is the Kingdom

            Between the conception

And the creation

Between the emotion

And the response

Falls the Shadow

                                    Life is very long

T. S. Eliot, “The Hollow Men”

I suppose what I enjoy the most about art is the creative process.  I have frequently returned to Emerson’s statement when he delivered his “American Scholar” address:

 The theory of books is noble. The scholar of the first age received into him the world around; brooded thereon; gave it the new arrangement of his own mind, and uttered it again. It came into him, life; it went out from him, truth. It came to him, short-lived actions; it went out from him, immortal thoughts. It came to him, business; it went from him, poetry.

When my attention turned to watercoloring fishing subjects, I thought immediately of Winslow Homer and spent some time poring over his magnificent pieces.  When I was in college, I chafed every time an art professor made us copy a masterwork.  I always thought it was plagiarism and demonstrative of a lack of creativity and imagination.  Now I know differently.  In 1400, Cennino Cennini published Il Libro dell’ Arte (The Artist’s Handbook), explaining to his students the difference between imitation and emulation.  I finally realized that we learn an incredible amount of new information by forcing ourselves to focus on every square inch of a master’s composition, especially that of a watercolor.  Somewhere in the midst of the imitation, we find our own voice, our own technique and emulate what it is we enjoy so much from the master.  I have had this privilege when copying Andrew Wyeth drybrush renderings recently, and now have turned to Winslow Homer, especially hoping to learn something new in the area of color composition.

This work in progress is based on his watercolor of a boy whittling.  I chose instead to put a cane pole in his hand, place him on an undercut bank and make him appear as a fisherman.  I am not sure where exactly this is going to lead, as I am still in the “shadow” of T. S. Eliot, “between the idea and the reality.”  But I”m listening, observing, waiting to see where this will take me.

Thanks for reading.  It’s been an O.K. day in the Cave.


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