A few years ago. Quite a few to be exact. The Minnesota Museum of Art purchased one of my paintings. That was quite an experience for me. Why is that, Michael? I’m so glad you asked.
For years and years I had visited museums and loved every minute of it. I loved the large open rooms, the huge expanses of white walls and the uninterrupted time to study all the various kinds of art. I found it absolutely fascinating.
And I love the artwork. Everything from the solid colored 1960’s canvases to the ornate ancient Chinese body jewelry. It was wonderful. The creativity and craftsmanship was spectacular. But I especially love the marble sculpture, the paintings and the drawings. I would sometimes sit for hours in front on one painting, studying every line and shade and color and stroke. And I would often bring a sketchbook to jot down what I was learning.
At one point, while living in Chicago, I got special permission to bring my easel into the museum to spend a day copying a painting I especially admired. I had read that artists throughout the centuries learned in this way. And I just wanted to learn. The painting I was working from was painted by a fellow called John Singer Sargent. And needless to say, his was much better than any of my three attempts. But I did learn something.
There was one thing I didn’t appreciate, the museum tour guides. As I would be sitting for one place for some time, tour groups would pass through with one guide after another explaining all the things they thought the artist was thinking while working on the work being studied. It seemed to me, as someone who painted every day at that time, that most of what they were attributing to the artist’s thought life just wasn’t reality. But I digress, this is a whole different subject.
Back to the Minnesota Museum of Art. When I walked in that day to see my painting hanging on a wall next to others that I had long admired. Well, it took my breath away. Seriously. I had to sit down and a security guard came quickly over to see if everything was alright. I assured him I was healthy and went back to trying to find any unclaimed oxygen. I just sat there for a while and tears ran down my cheeks. I was thanking God for the ability and joy of recreating his creation on little sheets of paper.
Here is one of the original drawings that led up to the painting. I sometimes get asked if the work I’m creating exists out there in the real world, or is it all made up in my head—and the answer is yes! You can see the various elements in the original drawing, but they are rearranged or changed in the painting. In this way the artist can communicate and create a workable composition.
Anyway, that’s the thought for today. I have recently enjoyed paging through some older sketchbooks and reflecting. Enjoy winter!