For Art’s Sake
There was a period of time … longer than I remember, judging by the pile of filled watercolor tablets in my closet … that I painted twice a week, usually on Saturdays and Wednesdays. If I dig through the shelves in our garage, I can find pencil sketches and ink drawings dated over the last forty years. Just this week, in a box labeled Memorabilia, I found a charcoal portrait of my wife, Muri, that I did during our courtship. I have oil paintings done during high school. If you were to ask me, Do you enjoy painting and drawing? I’d probably say, Yes. If you asked, Then why don’t you do it more often? I’d have to give it some thought. After all, Draw and paint more has been on my New Years Resolution list since I started Older Eyes – Bud’s Blog. Yes, a partial answer would be, Time. I only have so much time and painting seems to get lost in the shuffle. But at various times over the last five years, I’ve been fully retired. Time hasn’t been a good excuse. If, by the way, you asked, Are you an artist? I’d probably give you and 50 word answer about loving art, liking to paint, sometimes producing work that I think is pretty good. But my answer would not be, Yes.
For years, I’d have responded to the question, Are you a writer? in the same way. There was something intimidating about saying, I am a writer. Others might ask … What do you write? … What have you published? … Do you make a living at it? Worse, I might say the same things. At sixty-nine, I have no problem saying, I am a writer. Having a blog that answers two of those questions helps but mostly, what’s changed is that I write mostly for the joy of writing, which, at the end of the day, is what makes me a writer. Saying, I am an artist is perhaps more intimidating. When I’m working on a painting, there is often a moment where my Inner Critic says, This sucks. He’s a pain in the ass. The moment I hate, however, is the one where I agree with him. Even more, I hate it when the piece is completed and together, we decide, it’s not art. It’s not as if that never happens writing, but I’ve reached the point where I accept misfires as part of being a writer. Looking at my list of posts on WordPress, there are 45 abandoned drafts among the 1,425 published posts … the number of misfires have come down with practice, you see. What a concept.
Recently, before going to the Santa Monica Museum of Art to see the work of Xylor Jane, I read an interview on Bomblog in which she talked about the number of pieces that end up as successes. Last year, 2011, she said, the failure rate was the highest ever—one in seven ideas succeeded. Even more were rejected prior to execution. Her work seems so meticulously planned that it’s hard to imagine it not coming out exactly as she envisioned it, but there it was, in black and white. Standing there in the museum looking at her work, the variety of reactions made me realize something. I might love it (which I did) and someone else might be indifferent but the work is about Xylor Jane, not the observer. Walking around the gallery, I found myself touched by the variety of work, both subject matter and media, in a way that I haven’t been before. I returned home, inspired. My office table, which has been used to design adaptive noise cancelers and signal detectors for the Navy, is now covered with tubes of watercolor paint, brushes, and a carefully taped piece of watercolor stock. I’m going to give this Art Stuff another try. Maybe with time, my office can be a Studio. Maybe at some point, I can say, I am an Artist, as easily as I can say, I am a Writer. I’ll be sharing some of my work again on occasion, too. I found this, painted in 2006, while I was hunting down a blank sheet. No, I don’t know what it is, but it’s mine. By the way, to fully appreciate the title of this post, you need to know that my middle name is Arthur.