Pearls from artists* # 434
*an ongoing series of quotations – mostly from artists, to artists – that offers wisdom, inspiration, and advice for the sometimes lonely road we are on.
What do we carry forward? My family lived in New Jersey near Manhattan until I was ten, and although I have enjoyed spending my adult life as a photographer in the American West, when we left New Jersey for Wisconsin in 1947 I was homesick.
The only palliative I recall, beyond my parents’ sympathy was the accidental discovery in a magazine of pictures by a person of whom I had never heard but of scenes I recognized. The artist was Edward Hopper and one of the pictures was of a woman sitting in a sunny window in Brooklyn, a scene like that in the apartment of a woman who had cared for my sister and me. Other views resembled those I recalled from the train to Hoboken. There was also a picture inside a second-floor restaurant, one strikingly like the restaurant where my mother and I occasionally had lunch in New York.
The pictures were a comfort but of course none could permanently transport me home. In the months that followed, however, they began to give me something lasting, a realization of the poignancy of light. With it, all pictures were interesting.
Robert Adams in Art Can Help
Q: Why do you make art?
A: This is an excellent question and one I like to revisit because with all the day-to-day frustrations and disappointments that are a normal part of an artist’s life, it is easy to forget what is important.
First, I make art because I have a gift and a desire to share it with others. To not develop, express, and share all that I have to say through my work is unthinkable.
Second, I make art because it is what gives my life direction and purpose. I believe that each human being has his or her own quest, driven by passion, to fulfill a certain duty. Recall Joseph Campbell’s, “The Hero’s Journey.” I need to make art in order to feel that I am living up to my highest potential.
Third, for inexplicable reasons (to me, anyway) soft pastel is an undervalued medium. I fell in love with pastel above all other media and hope to demonstrate that great art can be created with it. This is one of the drives that keeps me steadily working.
Comments are welcome!
Q: Why do you need to use a photograph as a reference source to make a pastel painting?
A: When I was about 4 or 5 years old I discovered that I had a natural ability to draw anything that I could see. It’s the way my brain is wired and it is a gift! One of my earliest memories as an artist is of copying the Sunday comics. Always it has been much more difficult to draw what I CANNOT see, i.e., to recall how things look solely from memory or to invent them outright.
The evolution of my pastel-on-sandpaper paintings has been the opposite of what one might expect. I started out making extremely photo-realistic portraits. I remember feeling highly unflattered when after months of hard work, someone would look at my completed painting and say, “It looks just like a photograph!” I know this was meant as a compliment, but to me it meant that I had failed as an artist. Art is so much more than copying physical appearances.
So I resolved to move away from photo-realism. It has been slow going and part of me still feels like a slacker if I don’t put in all the details. But after nearly three decades I have arrived at my present way of working, which although still highly representational, contains much that is made up, simplified, and/or stylized. As I have always done, I continue to work from life and from photographs, but at a certain point I put everything aside and work solely from memory.
Comments are welcome!