The Pivot Point

Hermann, Missouri--watercolor in progress

Hermann, Missouri–watercolor in progress

You know, it’s not easy to retrace the development of one’s own sensibility.  One can readily see what one has become, which events have shaped the course of one’s life.  But what always stays out of reach, what remains more or less concealed, is precisely what might have catalyzed these events, the “something” that caused one’s mental life to take a particular turn.

André Breton

As I lingered over these words from an interview with surrealist André Breton, I began to think back over the experiences in life that caused my life to pivot.  That certainly is a broad question, but I know unmistakably what first turned me to watercolor.  As a dreamy ninth-grader, terrified of the enormous high school that had become my new educational home, sitting in an Art I class peopled with beefy, sideburned varsity football players, I was surprised one morning when my teacher laid in front of me an enormous coffeetable-sized volume titled Andrew Wyeth.  It was a 1968 Houghton-Mifflin publication.  As I opened its leaves, my eyes widened at the sight of those drybrush studies that combined meticulous scrutiny with spontaneous splattering and staining of the media.

Forty-eight years later, I am astonished to see what a turning point that would be.  Though the years ahead would bring a college art degree focusing on oil painting and art history, two seminary degrees focusing on biblical studies and theology, and teaching tenures straddling university and high school, I will always feel that I came back home when I picked up the watercolor brush, determined to recreate the Americana of my memories in a style reminiscent of the likes of Andrew Wyeth and Edward Hopper.

This afternoon, as I bent over my drafting table and watched this image pull focus from beneath the tip of my brush, I relived the same delight I knew from ninth grade when I first pored over Andrew Wyeth’s detailed studies.  It was a good moment then, and it is a great moment now.

The oldest Egyptian or Hindoo philosopher raised a corner of the veil from the statue of the divinity; and still the trembling robe remains raised, and I gaze upon as fresh a glory as he did, since it was I in him that was then so bold, and it is he in me that now reviews the vision.

Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

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