Conveying something personal in my art has been one of the most challenging parts of painting. I’ve learned, albeit slowly, that mechanics and craft aren’t everything. Connecting your creations to the viewer is another skill altogether. I think the artists at the top of heap are masters of both mechanic and the transcendent. Art has as many meanings to people as there are opinions in this world, however there are some things that I think are universal.
People want a narrative, a story or something they can relate to. That is why music, movies and books are constants in entertainment. Before there were words, or instruments there were pictures. The pictures that have a narrative to them as well as fine craftsmanship and uniqueness become timeless. Leonardo’s Mona Lisa, Michelangelo’s David or his work in The Sistine Chapel are fine examples of a narrative that transcends the artist and becomes something greater.
I’m going to tangent here, but I hope in the end all this will tie together. I’ve been writing down ideas I get for future paintings. Right now the list is up to fifteen, and will probably grow. I’ve found this helps a great deal when I am sitting down debating what to start next. There is a trend developing in the list and that contains the human element. If you go back to my previous blog post about Learning from Artist Magazines, I mentioned that the largest chunk of award wining paintings were portraits. My list has six ideas that incorporate the figure or portrait in some fashion. The last entry on the list was about this lucid dream I had the other day:
It was a bright summer day and I was lounging in a park near a small stream. The grass was a lush green and the sun was bright that afternoon. There were trees and birds and bugs flying about their business. I think I was with someone but I don’t recall because I never saw them, but I was as I am now.
Ahead maybe a half a blocks distance, just down stream, was a young couple walking with their small boy. He must have been five or six tops. The trio glowed in the summer sun and were happy. As they drew near I recognized them to be my parents but they were young and vibrant and smiling. It felt so real and I just watched them walking. The little boy broke out ahead of them towards me, a bit wobbly in his step. He wore what I thought was a little boy scouts outfit, with the bandana around the neck and a tan shirt but there were no patches or anything. Khaki shorts and brown sandals hugged his chubby legs and feet and he had the most curious look. He stepped right up to my feet, and smiled.
I lay there looking at myself as a child. It was surreal. I glanced back up to my mom, who could not have been a day older than thirty. She gave me a short motherly stare; as if she was reading my mind, and smiled, knowing somehow, without a word spoken between us, that little Johnny would remain innocent of the situation. I smiled and cast my gaze back upon the boy in front of me. He said to me, “My name is John.. as he smiled revealing a missing front tooth. I replied, “That’s my name too”. We talked for a few minutes, and there was a desire for me to tell him some words of wisdom about us, but in the end I could not bring myself to spoil it. Moments later the trio: my Mom, Dad and me said goodbye and walked away just as they had come. The scene passed… I woke up. I remembered this with such clarity. It was one of the most unique dreams I’ve ever had, and I really wish I could go back to it.
This will be my first self-portrait attempt in watercolor. This scene… It’s perfect in every way and I can’t begin to describe the feeling I had inside the dream, and just thinking about it brings a range of emotions and thoughts about my life or what could have been had dreams become reality.
I’m not a portrait painter yet. I’m a still life painter for the most part. Just as I desired to do complex still life work when I first started, I quickly realized that I had to learn to walk with watercolor before I could run. Some subjects were beyond my ability. I very much want to jump feet first into this self portrait, but I need some time to hone the art of portraits to a level that my still life work presently resides. Anything less and I will be disappointed.
Ultimately, I want to incorporate more into my still life work and begin to paint people. I see surrealism around the corner, and by the time I work through my list of fifteen, I think my art will begin to speak to a wider audience. Maybe one of my paintings, will transcend my time here and speak to future generations in a way my earlier work was unable to do. Time will tell.