I’m Not an Artist – Part 3
This is Part 3 of a 3-Part series. If this is your first visit to the blog, click on the link to the right to Part 1 to read the entire story.
Almost six years went by before I painted again. Again my thoughts were how many building paintings could one have. This led to quite a dry spell. I would still capture photos of interesting looking pictures whenever I traveled and even captured some of the more famous New York buildings just in case. At one point, I went so far as to start on another building painting and picked out some colorful buildings in California as my subject. I got to the point of drawing the buildings directly onto the canvas trying to save effort of drawing it out on paper and then again on canvas. But after just drawing a few lines, I realized I would have to draw it out on paper first and so just gave up.
At this point, my wife and I had had a very successful trip to photograph the flowers at Keukenhof gardens, an enormous park an easy train/bus ride from Amsterdam. The tulips had really been at their peak that year on our visit so we had a huge selection. I had previously used photos from Keukenhof in calendars that I had made. I decided it was time to show off some of our pictures to others beyond just calendar recipients. So we had six professionally framed and grouped them together on the wall in our home.
Several years later, I was thumbing through the flight magazine waiting for our plane to take off so I could read my Kindle. I usually just flip through these magazines with little interest just waiting until we reach an altitude where it is safe to use portable electronic devices and ran across an article about subway art in New York City. I had been on New York subways before but I didn’t recall seeing any art so this article intrigued me. But it was this station that stopped me in my tracks.
Ignoring the double ping tone that gave the all clear for my Kindle, I continued to read and stare at the photo in the magazine. Here was a possible new way to paint: striking colors in random patterns. But oh no I thought, I couldn’t paint the curves. I racked my brain trying to come up with an alternative approach to my “tape and paint” technique that would allow smooth curves. But I just couldn’t come up with a solution. The colors haunted me though.
When I got home from the trip, I decided to try to find a picture of the subway station on the Internet. This was necessary because I had failed to take the magazine with me even though they encourage you to take them off the plane. It must have been the haunting that whispered to me not to take the magazine.
When I found the photo, I printed it out and continued to stare at it. It seemed to stare back at me taunting me. And then it hit me. Rather than trying to reproduce the design in my painting, I would create a design of my own using straight lines. I also realized that this would be much easier to paint than any of my building paintings: very few lines and no details. I jumped into the project and in no time was finished. It was hung in our kitchen, just weeks before we had a house full of guests in town for our daughter’s wedding.
One of our houseguests was to be my sister, the artist. I was not there when she saw it for the first time but she texted me that she loved the colors and the movement. Wow movement, I hadn’t thought of that. That must be some artist term to describe a painting. Even though I didn’t get to witness it, I was pleased with her reaction.
Could this become a gift idea for my sister? For me being a card-carrying perfectionist, I couldn’t imagine painting something for a real artist. I am my own worst critic finding little mistakes in everything I had created; a character flaw my wife likes to point out. And I knew my sister could find the flaws just as I could. She of course had the eye of a real artist. But I was ready to take the plunge.
I decided to make a smaller painting for my sister since she might not have wall space for a 24 X 36 frame. I also decided to try painting on a hard surface so that I could attach the tape even more securely for making even finer, straight lines (trying to make it more perfect). Having found a suitable 18 inch square laminate canvas, I thought about making a smaller version of my own painting but thought the small size would diminish the impact of the movement. I went for a totally different but similar approach.
I wrapped it in brown paper and sent it home with my nephew and his wife who lived with my sister in Arkansas. I knew at the time she was out in California visiting her grand kids so I didn’t know when she would return and open her Christmas present. But early one December morning, I got a text from my sister with a picture attached. She had hung it in her kitchen where all could see it. I remember joking that she hung it the wrong way trying to deflect the discomfort of her compliments but I don’t think she got my joke. But she seemed genuinely to like it. And then it hit me; I had painted something that an artist had liked. For someone who doesn’t view himself as an artist, I had arrived.
In addition to having three of my paintings hung in my own home, I now have paintings hung in both my sister’s homes and in my daughter’s apartment. And I still have relatives without any artwork from me. Better watch out.
One of my frequent statements I make to my wife upon completing a project is, “It took a lot longer than I thought.” When I sat down at the computer early one morning, I didn’t know where my writing would take me or whether in the end I would convince myself that I was an artist. I know each of my readers will have to form their own opinion; I don’t plan to take a poll. In exploring and analyzing my artistic endeavors over my life, I know that I am not a Van Gogh or a Pissarro, two artists I highly admire. But I am who I am. And now I know,
I AM AN ARTIST!!
This post makes me so happy! I had never seen that painting you made for Mare, and I love it! The colors and the design are just stunning. I used to have a lot of self-doubt about my artistic abilities too. I didn’t have the gifts that some of my classmates did–I couldn’t draw a portrait that even looked like a person at all. I gave up for a long time, and it was only very slowly that I started to come back to making things. It’s wonderful to be able to take inspiration from others and make your own version of something. You do it so beautifully! And yes, YOU ARE AN ARTIST! 🙂
Thank you for your sweet comments. I too can not draw freehand and I get so frustrated trying to make my drawing resemble what I am seeing that I don’t even try anymore. But I made an important discovery in writing this post. Even though I need additional aids to overcome my handicap, I can create art. And while your mother is drawn to all things shiny, I am drawn to all things colorful and thanks to that one photo of the subway art, I discovered that hidden within me.