Saturday Morning in the Studio Eidolons with N. C. Wyeth

Finished this Commission of Elk Hair Caddis Fly

Nothing can discourage me as I know too well the deficiencies in my work. How I hope the time will never come when I shall feel satisfied. To reach the goal of one’s ambitions must be tragic. And another thing I hope is that I will always be able to judge my own work with a sane and unprejudiced mind.

N. C. Wyeth, letter dated January 18, 1907

This morning in my Studio Eidolons I am warmed by reading the letters of N. C. Wyeth in his mid-thirties while he was carving out his identify as an illustrator trained under Howard Pyle. When I was that age, I was starting out as a public high school teacher, musing that I had failed to reach the professional mark I had targeted for myself. Now, more than thirty years later, it feels good no longer to feel those regrets but to find richness in this life as it is.

I hope to read N. C.’s letters in their entirety. So far I have covered 211 of the 844 pages published. I would not have stayed with them this far had they not been so electric. What a man of passion! I loved reading his adventures traveling out west to sketch on location the commissions he was fulfilling for magazines. He was a man of enormous appetite for the outdoors, and right now he makes me miss the canyons of west Texas. Nevertheless, in my suburban home, in a studio with windows looking out across a sun-kissed neighborhood, I can still enjoy the richness of literature as N. C. did his entire life. The inspiration he gleaned from the American classics he was hired to illustrate seemed to know no bounds.

The letters to his mother that I’ve been reading this morning address that tension he always knew between illustrating and fine art–he never felt he arrived as a painter, instead being paid to do hack work. I understand that; it just doesn’t eat me up the way it did him. I guess it’s because I no longer have these dreams of being famous; I just love the process of making art, even when I think it’s bad art. Most of my work this summer has been commissions, and I’ve found endless satisfaction making pieces to please others, and especially hearing back from them on how pleased they were with the results. All the while I’m making art for others, I feel that I am nevertheless making art. And giving it up to someone else’s possession stopped bothering me long, long ago. Currently I have such a deep inventory that I dream of a possible day when all of it goes away. I really don’t need to collect my own art. My house is full, my galleries are supplied, and still I have so much work in storage. But, I digress . . .

The main point I wish to make this morning is that I absolutely love the task of making art. In the act of drawing and painting, time elides and I experience genuine bliss. And now, when a work is complete, I no longer feel flat or spent; there is another piece waiting, another idea waiting to be formed, another dream to fulfill. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I am living the dream.

I spent a good part of the day this past week with Kelly Wilson, a friend I knew since junior high school. We went our separate ways at high school graduation, but thanks to social media, found one another again, and now have had two pleasurable in-person visits over the recent years. I hope there are many more. We shared our visions and how grateful we are still to be alive, retired, and gifted with quality time to do what pleases us.

I am posting a pair of pictures of the works that have had me occupied recently. One is finished and the other should be completed this weekend. Meanwhile, I wish all my readers well, pray that you remain safe and enjoy the life you’ve been given.

Still working on this one.

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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6 Responses to “Saturday Morning in the Studio Eidolons with N. C. Wyeth”

  1. sienablue Says:

    I am many rungs below you on the painting talent hierarchy, and coming out of a pandemic and storm induced slump. I can’t tell you how much I appreciated the thoughts you shared from Wyeth as I pick up my brushes again today.
    Every good wish to you and thanks!


    • davidtripp Says:

      Oh, thank you so much for your response! I am flooded with warmth every time another artist reaches out with his or her observations. I really miss the physical presence of my artist friends, but appreciate so much that we can talk back and forth by way of social media. Please let us know how it goes in the studio today! We all need to feed off your inspiration.


  2. Dian DArr Says:

    I wonder what NC Wyeth would think about how he is seen and recognized today? I love these last commissions. That home painting is going to be treasured. It makes me want to have my childhood home memorialized in a painting!


  3. davidtripp Says:

    I always grieve when I think of how unhappy NC was in the years leading up to his untimely death. I believe he was the most successful American illustrator of the 20th century, but he was always so dissatisfied that he never rose to the rank of a pure painter in his estimation.


  4. Pam Says:

    Thank you for your posting. It touched me and makes me rethink ideas I have about my own art experiences. I guess that being this age causes you to search and reflect on many aspects of life…. a bonus for being alive and having senior years.


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