The Search for an Anchor

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A Second Snow Scene in Progress

            He kept trying to find among his peers the degree of emotional intensity he had achieved with Howard Pile. “It is the search for living co-workers and the everlasting failure to find one that can measure up to one’s active standard that is the constant source of my depression,” he wrote.

. . .

            Yet he continually wished Chapin would hold him to higher standards. He wanted to be challenged, not only aesthetically but morally, spiritually. Wyeth’s search for an omnipotent male figure had an Eastern quality; he felt that the ideal master should be something of a mystic.

. . .

            “I’m not crazy,” he insisted to Stimson, though as N. C. began his thirties, his search for a spiritual guru often left him feeling unreal. “I’m not holding a living or dead man up as an example of what I should be; I go beyond that—I want to be myself, and better, to be myself without the whole damn world knowing anything about it!”

            But he was holding up a dead man as his model. Taking Walden as his guide, he contended that Thoreau “is my springhead for almost every move I can make” . . .

            He liked to think that if Thoreau were alive, if they could talk an hour every evening, Thoreau would understand him. With Walden in hand, N. C. could “feel his approval surging within me now, and I lay my hand on his precious book . . . with the deepest reverence I am capable of.”

David Michaelis, N. C. Wyeth: A Biography

These quiet winter mornings have recently been a genuine salve for my soul. As I sit over a fresh cup of French-pressed coffee, the aroma filling this dark room and Bach playing softly in the background, I am preparing to launch into yet another small watercolor, allowing the one posted above to sit quietly awhile, waiting to see what next to do with it. Five watercolors are scattered about the room, a couple of them probably finished, the other three sitting there saying, “Well?! . . .” My spirit soars when I sense that my creative blood is stirring once again. When I’m on hiatus, I don’t really want to say I am “blocked”, rather I am reading, journaling, thinking, and musing over what to pursue next.

Having ventured over 200 pages into this N. C. Wyeth biography, I feel a primal connection with much that he expressed in his letters and diaries. Currently, I am reading of his constant quest for a spiritual partner or mentor to complete his personhood. As I reflect over my past, I recognize that he and I both circulated between the living and the dead for role models. And we weren’t really looking for someone to imitate, but rather assimilate, absorb and re-apply to the things we were attempting to do in our own lives. N. C. Wyeth did not want to paint like Howard Pyle; he was trying to find his own style and character in his paintings and illustrations. Pyle was a genuine inspiration and guide for him in his early career, and a sounding board when Wyeth wished to road test his new techniques and compositions.

While writing my own memoir, I am constantly sifting through all the men and women who have been my spiritual guides and sounding boards, and like N. C., I often felt that shock of recognition when reading the works of those who had passed in the centuries before me. Much of what N. C. admired in Thoreau’s writings have also smitten me in the past three decades. And frequently, I think of what it would be like to sit in intimate conversation with a Thoreau, an Emerson or a Tillich. So many times when I read them I feel they are writing directly to me, addressing my current condition. And I revel in these encounters. And then, when I am permitted an intimate conversation with a living being in my present, I count that among the richest gifts in life. Such conversations are rare.

I am just a few days from a monster pair of beginning watercolor workshops. More than thirty have already registered for my Saturday event to be held in the Redlands Hotel lobby in Palestine, Texas. I am trying to limit the 10:00 session to twenty participants. It will last three hours (including lunch) and the fee is $30. Then I will hold a second 1:00 session for two hours (no lunch this time) for $20. I already have four committed to the afternoon session. Twenty-eight are trying to crowd into the 10:00 group, but perhaps some of them would prefer to move to the 1:00. We’ll see. The bottom line is that I am pumped to do this! I absolutely love exploring the wonders of watercolor with willing participants. I anticipate a great time together.

Well, let’s see if we can kick some life into this new fledgling painting . . .

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

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