When I studied art under Juanita Greene Parks back around 1983 I became close friends with one of the students in the class. Actually, I became part of her family. Rose Bacon recently sent me these pics when I visited them in Franklin Tennessee back in the day. I remember being road weary when she took these pics. Always good to see my old partner Roscoe again.
My “normal” way of doing my art is to do it live, on the spot. Guerilla warfare, I like to call it. Fighting the elements… be they wind, hot sun, deep snow or the darkness of night, while trying to create art makes you work fast and spontaneous. Time is of the essence. In contrast, studio work has little of that. Time is unlimited. One can work at their leisure and take their time trying to get things right. Major works can be created at any size. There are no limits. Instead of a battle or a mere skirmish fought, the work can become long and drawn out. More like a war or long siege…a long, thought out campaign to create a major piece. My recent works have been in acrylics on canvas. The subject matter, while not drawn directly from life are drawn from images I have taken photographically or enlargements of smaller pieces I have done from life. Still, I am not confined to a studio. When I travel I merely take the work with me. The new painting entitled “The End of Day” was worked on in both Tennessee and New York. A second major work entitled “Under Heaven” has been worked on in 3 states. As every major war consists of many smaller battles my art will still consist of these skirmishes. Drawing and painting from life is fun and a way of life for me. This will continue. But I look forward to bigger, major campaigns.
A very abbreviated version of my first hitchhiking trip as told through my mother’s note.
I haven’t made it to Nashville yet. Too much work to do! I’ve been in Tennessee 10 days so far and haven’t left the countryside. I may not make Nashville this time around but I will be back. I do have a preference for doing my art from life. The conditions and limited time frame of drawing from life compared to studio work are drastic. But some times I get ideas for paintings that require more effort than sketches. Often the subject matter at hand may not have a suitable place to sit and draw and only a quick reference photograph can be captured. This is the case of the large (for me) acrylic painting I am working now. I have been drawn to a single apple tree standing alone in a field with a wooden ladder with a broken wrung leaning up against it. I especially liked it naked of it’s leaves and it’s bare branches exposed. It was brutally cold and the snow was very deep when I finally saw the lighting I was waiting for. I parked the truck on the side of the snow and trudged through the snow quickly to get some shots. I made several compositions with the camera and hurried back to the truck as fast as I could. Once I had the pic I could use it for a large studio work later..any time or place. Not hard to set up a portable studio. Why not on a house boat on a lake in Tennessee?
Hoping to get one last drawing done before I left Meppel for America I walked around looking for a good subject. I really didn’t want to stray too far from Clive’s gallery. While contemplating this I was reminded of John Singer Sargent. When going out with a group of artists to paint the other artists noticed that Sargent walked the least in his search for subject matter. He quickly found a worthy subject because he could see the beauty in everything and he trusted his abilities to turn even a mundane thing into a piece of art. I had been eye balling the bridge in front of Clive’s gallery since I got there. So I crossed the street and sat on the bank of the canal and got out my pen and preceded to draw directly in ink on watercolor paper. Halfway through the drawing I noticed that a little girl, maybe 5 or 6 had come up from behind and was watching me over my shoulder. She was all smiles. I showed her what all I had in my sketch pad and she would smile and giggle at each picture I showed her. I went back to work and I noticed she was gone as suddenly and as quietly as she had appeared. I was planning on sticking with black ink but I wanted the white bridge to stand out so I decided to throw in some watercolor. I kept it a limited palette though.
My first attempt at drawing a windmill was quite successful under perfect conditions. It was warm and sunny and I had a good spot standing on a bridge with a ledge to use as a table. My second attempt, despite my preparation wasn’t so easy. After scouting the location of a pair of windmills I found a nice spot to get a good composition but there wasn’t a decent place to sit and draw from. This new day was different. It was quite cold. I bundled up in layers and rode my bike over to the location. I even brought a folding chair with me. Upon arriving at the site I got out the chair, took a seat and commenced to drawing in ink. It was cold and the the wind had picked up. The still moving windmill from the previous drawing session was replaced with swirling propellers making me have to guess their proper location on the paper. Then it started to rain. My thoughts turned to the church drawing I had begun in Wales only to quit when it started to rain. I decided to tough it out and just draw faster. The finished product was rough but gave me the desired composition I was looking for. A few days later I gave it another try. I rode my bike back over there on a warmer day. I decided to not bring the chair and took a seat on a bench even though it wasn’t the exact composition I had wanted. The second attempt came out more to my liking.
“Through art mysterious bonds of understanding and of knowledge are established among men. They are the bonds of a great Brotherhood. Those who are of the Brotherhood know each other, and time and space cannot separate them.” Robert Henri
When I see a Rembrandt I see a brother, when I see an Okeefe, I see a sister…even though I have not met them personally I feel a kindred spirit among artists. I met Clive Miller, an English artist in Nashville in 1982 when he had an exhibit at a local gallery there. We became friends instantly and he even visited me in my hometown of Medina New York once. When I saw the opportunity to visit Holland I jumped at the chance to visit my brother once again. He was glad to see me. He gave me the key to the gallery, a bike to drive so I had a place to sleep and do art work for a week. And I did produce. While there Clive found an old pic of us and my friends Steve Pipes and Ita in Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge, downtown Nashville. The pic was taken by Nashville photographer Kats.