This I Believe
I started drawing in the early 1950’s before I entered school. My attention to detail included recognizing shapes and translating these into drawings. I liked to draw and my parents provided pencils, crayons, and paper. I didn’t know drawing was art. It was something I did on my own. My first formal exposure was seventh-grade art. In high school, I took woodwork and mechanical drawing. I use what I learned in these courses in my artistic efforts.
During my freshman year in college, I discovered the art department and changed my major from science. The portfolio review included twenty pieces that I presented to a critique panel made up of the entire art faculty. Their questions seemed more of an inquisition, but I was granted permission to pursue a degree. When I was an undergrad, it was considered presumptuous to identify oneself as an artist. People in the visual arts identified themselves as painters, potters, ceramicists, sculptors, printmakers, and, performers were dancers, actors, and musicians. To this day, I usually refer to myself as a painter.
Survival, a basic instinct, and a stable income influenced my decisions. I eventually took a job with General Motors, which was completely unrelated to my art degree. As I climbed the corporate ladder, and my family grew, I had less and less time to make art. When I retired from GM, I began working as a substitute teacher. My first sub job was filling in for an elementary art teacher. I realized that day what I had missed in life. Three years after retiring, I began a new career as an art teacher. The district Coordinator of Visual Arts wants working artists that teach and requires participation in an annual faculty show. Last year, I produced ten paintings and a mosaic for the show. At the reception, I was surprised by the reactions of the viewers and their comments about my work. It is gratifying to have my work in exhibits. The thought of displaying my art in a prominent gallery setting is intriguing. I want more and my desire grows with each piece. Teaching art made me realize that I never want to stop creating it. Now, I cannot imagine myself not working and, I am making preparations for a productive career in art.
Influences of van Gogh, Monet, and Vermeer may be seen in my portraits for different reasons. I have always been impressed with their techniques as well as the visual experience their works provide for the viewer. I studied both van Gogh and Monet but never closely examined them until recently. I prefer the loose painterly brushwork of van Gogh, Monet’s attempts to capture light and reflection, as well as the color pallet of both of them. Last year, I took the opportunity to visit the DMA to see the Vermeer exhibit. His paintings are similar in style to the Dutch artists of the day. His works, though highly technical are emotionally charged, warm, and inviting. Light is prominent in his work and his subjects do not appear stiff as in the paintings by many of his contemporaries. During the same visit, I looked closely at the work of Jackson Pollock. I have seen films of Pollock working in his studio on colossal abstract expressionist pieces. The sheer magnitude of his work and freedom of expression is breathtaking. My paintings always had to be about something. But, looking at his work, I realized that abstract painting is the art. It doesn’t need to be about anything. I have since been developing my own portfolio of abstract pieces incorporating influences of all four artists. I want my art to be my story.
I believe technical skill and talent help in producing art but the drive to create is paramount. To some, the concept is most important. The process is usually satisfying but may not produce the best art. The best art is always yet to come. Continued art making will bring improvement as one learns from mistakes. I think the best art evokes emotion. I make art because I enjoy developing a concept and the process involved in completing the work. I’ve always been spellbound by reflected light and cast shadows. I am mesmerized how objects appear as the light changes. I love what happens visually to a wrinkled piece of cloth or paper when the light transforms color from warm to cool and bright to dark. I attempt to capture the feel and movement of light as it plays on different surfaces. I realized at an early age that in the world, there are no outlines, only shape, space, shadows, highlights and color. A nose has no outline. It is a shape defined by reflected light and shadow. Touch it and you can feel the form. These are always considerations in my paintings which are about capturing a moment in time, and an abstract clarification of how I experience light visually. I think of things like sunlight hitting aspen leaves as the breeze blows. The leaves twinkle like diamonds in constant motion. As the sun passes, motion and elongated shadows create more conflict between light and dark. I experiment with textures combined with color, highlights, and shadow to depict movement and reflected light. Even my portraits are abstractions with layers of value to create the illusion of shape.
Art informs society about history and peeks into the future. Art came before math, science, reading, writing and defines history. The earliest art was painting on natural walls, effigies carved in wood, stone or made from clay and utilitarian objects made to carry or cook. I believe that art is necessary for the continued existence of mankind. I believe that art can be appreciated by everyone and made by anyone with the desire to create. Art is most effective when it is satisfying to the artist and appreciated by the viewer.