"Art is not a pastime but a priesthood" Jean Cocteau.
An artist monk is a person whose monastery is their art. Their journey is a spiritual one based on discipline, intuition and creativity. One is only truly whole when they live according to their nature. As Thoreau said, "If a plant cannot live according to it's nature, it dies, as so a man." A person with a strong creative nature needs to create. Not because it makes money but because it makes them whole, alive...true to their spirit. There is one thing every true artist desires above all else. Freedom. The freedom to create their art on their own terms. I have chosen this path of freedom. I paint and draw what I want…I go where the muse takes me....and then I share it.
I have been looking through sketches I have drawn from life in the past that I have never gotten around to painting. Spending the winter safe and sound indoors and working on them isn’t a bad way to spend my time.
I scanned this at various levels to show the process.
I am often asked why I include telephone poles in my pictures. Telephone poles are like people. They are all different. Some are plain, some complicated and some even have lights that shine. They stand alone and yet are all interconnected. Like people. I did a sketch of this scene when I was broke down waiting for help on a back road. It must have been a long wait as I did 3 drawings. http://www.arthurbarnes.com
I found this old sketch that I had done from life many years ago. I like to scan my drawings before I paint them. Its a way to save the drawing that will be covered up with paint. From the black and white image I can make prints up that can be painted later or even be sold as prints themselves. I didn’t really have an image in mind when I started to paint this. Once I did the sky the dye was cast, and I built off of that.
I found myself parked behind an old church on the rez. The moon gave me just enough light to see the sketchpad and a faint image of the ink I applied with a pen. Drawing blind I call it. A common occurrence when drawing at night. Looking at the subject more than the paper allows me to remember the scene which I later try to re-create with watercolors. Often I appreciate the sketch more than the final piece. What was I doing on the rez in the middle of night? What happens on the rez stays on the rez. Sorry.
I was employed as a direct care worker people with developmental disabilities In New York and Tennessee for a total of 16 years. The pay was poor but there were benefits and insurance and I liked my job. I declined opportunities to advance into management which would have paid more but also take me away from working directly with our people…my friends. One of my friends was Leslie who was bed ridden when not in his wheelchair. He was smart and funny and had a sharp tongue that he wasn’t afraid to use. I was adept at loading him up onto the wheel chair van so I took him to many appointments and outings. One time after an appointment in Buffalo I took him to see the inside the Basilica. For once he didn’t talk much. He just kept looking around at everything in awe. He was big on TV trivia. “What was the neighbor’s name on Bewitched?” Gladys. “What did her husband always say to her?” Gladys, take your medicine. One time when he had gotten a positive note from staff. I told him it was nice and then told him how I once came home and found my wife and all her belongings gone. She left a short note saying “Bye Arthur.” Not even a “good” bye. He thought that was hilarious. As I put him on the bus the next morning he grinned at me and said “Bye Arthur.” The driver thought he was just saying goodbye but I knew different. A couple of years after I left the agency I stopped by the group home to visit the guys. They told me Leslie was in bed and probably asleep. I cracked his door opened and peaked in without a word. Then I heard his voice coming from his bed, “Bye Arthur.” He had a great memory. He could be ornery and impatient. One time he snapped at me. “I’m going to rip off your head and show it to you!” “Leslie, that isn’t even scary,” I responded. “Its just puzzling. How are you going to show me my own head? Run around until you find a mirror? By then the moment is gone. Its the heart Leslie. You are suppose to rip out the heart and show it.” “Oh…that’s right,” he said meekly and then we both started laughing. We did laugh a lot. His physical disability was chronic and progressive but he didn’t talk much about it and didn’t seem to feel sorry for himself. With his body failing him he was not long for this world and I just learned of his passing. I hope angels are good at TV trivia.
The trip to Nashville to visit old friends and to heal the wounds of departed loved ones that Duffy and I had planned for months got cut short. We were already in Tennessee, almost into Nashville when we got the first clue that things were going to get rough. We heard that the memorial for our friend Dave Olney at the Springwater on Sunday was cancelled due to the Coronavirus. We got into town Friday night and spent the night with our old friends Gael and Susan who live outside of Nashville. I love going there and seeing my art hanging all over the place. They had been early supporters of my work. We went to the Springwater the next afternoon where we found the owner Terry at the bar. Duffy was running the bar when the owner bought the place decades ago. Duffy used to sleep on the pool table. Driving around he would point out places he slept. “See that church courtyard? I slept there for a week once.” Duffy has a million great stories about the old days in Nashville back when it was just an international small town. He hung around with some of the greats. I left Duffy at the bar to reminisce with Terry and went over to Marathon Village to touch base with Barry Walker. Marshall Chapman played the Springwater that afternoon. The place was almost empty and they shut down the next day but we got to see her show. I also finally got to meet the legendary Chris Gantry who also played a couple of songs. Marshall Chapman continues to do weekly live feed shows there that in part supports the employees of the Springwater. Check her out! That night we got to see our friends The Limitations play at Browns Diner. I hope to get them to play the cobblestone sometime in the future. They are a fun band. Some of the friends I had hoped to see did show up there so we did get to see a few friends. It shut down the next day. Duffy’s main goal of the trip was to perform his new poem about Charlie Fenton turning him Irish for Charlie. We did get to do that and I mended the fence that I made for Charlie that had sustained only minor damage from the tornado that ripped up the neighborhood next to him. In our travels we got to see some of the damage done by that terrible tornado. Just as Nashville was on the verge of recovery the pandemic hit. The pandemic which would soon take the life of Nashville’s greatest treasure….John Prine. Sad times in Tennessee these days. We left the next morning for Duffy’s home in Virginia. Before I headed back to New York from there we went to his favorite bar for a couple of drinks. They closed down the next day too. I guess we made the best of our trip. Took it to the limit. We have been home a month now without any symptoms so it looks like we dodged some bullets.
Duffy and I are on the road. After losing his lovely daughter Yvonne last year we discussed a trip to Nashville together to visit our friends as part of his healing. I have since lost my mom so it will be healing for me too. We made it to Nashville yesterday but we are only in town for the weekend.