Art Is It

Here are the highlights on my path to becoming an artist, a path I'm still on. Hence the title Art Is It. Way back before the big bang, I wanted to be an artist. That is to say always. See mother, puberty, adolescence, college, and meditation.

Mother started it

my mother My mother did arts and crafts. This picture shows her painting the word "ENJOY" on a t-shirt. She sewed, crocheted, remodeled, gardened, and kept house. Once in awhile our family would head toward the mountains or someplace with a view. Then my mother would sit in front of an easel with a palette of colors that she brushed on a canvas, trying to capture the scene. That was about all I knew about art, except what I might have absorbed from the paintings stolen by Germany, that we saw after World War II, in a show at the Minneapolis Institute of Art.

Puberty tempts it

back yardHere's a water color painting I did of the back yard, date unknown. When I was in the sixth grade (age 11 or so), a turning point started a cycle that repeats forever more.

Expressionism, it is beautiful

In grades seven-nine, a print of the Large Blue Horses, a painting by Franz Marc, hung high up by the ceiling in the front of a classroom, beckoning with its curvy colors, yet beyond reach.

Career report, the starving artist

We students took on large projects. One was to pick a career, research every aspect, and write a report. I picked "artist" and found that they were usually underpaid, if paid at all. They often were not recognized in their lifetime. Commercial art could be a business, but it was easy to sell out and few were considered fine artists. What's more there was no sure standard of measure, art was in flux. I had to conclude that choosing to be an artist was ill-advised. So the double-bind was set up.

Science Fair, it's not fair

The next project clarified that the problem of art in the world applied to me. Curiously, it was in the Science Fair. We each created an entry in the Science Fair, mostly prepared as homework. I chose Boulder Dam (later named Hoover Dam), which I had seen on a family trip out west. I was entranced with a form that held back a river, that we could enter and hummed with turbines. The shapes of the landscape and spillways were exciting. In my model, I cast the dam from plaster and built up the hills with chicken wire and paper mache I stuck in a mirror for the lake. It all fit on a card table. One day when my family went to church, I assembled the model and a large piece of paper. With pastels I copied photos and worked from memory to create the distant backdrop of trees, sky, and clouds over the river beyond the lake. I curved this in a semi-circle around the back of the model. I thought it looked quite real and very beautiful.

All the projects from grades six through eight filled the school gym. I used to have a clipping from the local paper with a photo of me smiling in front of my entry, which had won second prize. Inwardly I was upset and never got over it. The marks for different aspects of the project were recorded on my paper. I got top marks in every category except art, where I got 0. Why was that? It was judged that I did not do the art, I got help from an adult. I sure liked to get first prizes; I was overly competitive academically. This was not fair. The inability to get credit for my work struck deep. I wasn't in touch enough with my feelings to remember whether I was mainly angry, hurt, or frustrated. Stoically, I had to grin and bear it. I still am not sure what it meant or what conclusions to draw.

Adolescence toys with it

In 9th grade I took art in Junior High school and won a scholarship to the Minneapolis School of Art. I went once, did a portrait of a model, an old man. The teacher talked to many in the huge class, but passed me by. My family liked the portrait and I thought it was a good one. I didn't pursue it. It seemed so easy, what was there to learn?

I took art all the way through high school, did the art in the newspaper and yearbook, as I did in college.  But it was a sideline.

In College, Findhorn calls it

At the university, towards the end of my sophomore year, I had to pick a major. I loved all my classes, was good at them all, and was Assistant Editor of the yearbook. But I was at a loss to make a decision of what to do with my life. Since age 16 I had saved job money to take a trip to Europe. In the fall of 1954 I sailed off from Montreal with no plans.

A cyclist on the boat inspired me to bicycle from Glasgow to Edinburgh, Aberdeen, and around the northern coast to Inverness in Scotland. I'll never forget riding along, when suddenly it came to me what to do: go into art. I had always wanted to be an artist, but feared the life challenges of being one. I lost the fear.

At that time, unknown to me, I was riding close to where the Findhorn community came to be. Look at a map, such as this one, of the road between Aberdeen and Inverness. To zoom in, click near "Forres". Going west from Elgin, the teardrop above Forres is Findhorn Bay. I got the vision and strength that has carried me through the challenges and keeps me going. I'll always honor those roots and feel close to the guidance and inspiration that emanate from there.

I packed up the bike and saw as many museums as I could in England, France, Spain, Italy, and Switzerland. At least I got an idea about what Europe had called "art". In London, UK, I went to the theatre.

In the Louvre, in Paris, France, I took off with La Victoire de Samothrace.

In Spain, I wanted to see where El Greco painted a favorite print, View of Toledo. A hired cab drove me around the town. Glimpses here and there of familiar parts of the view taught me El Greco's creativity synthesized the whole; he painted from his imagination.

In Florence, Italy, I found a whole town could feel like art. In Murano, glass blowers dazzled me with colors that I was to work with years later.

Back in France, in Chartres cathedral I was awed by color in mysterious space and breathed it in.

So from then on, art was and still is it.

In depth, meditation finds it

See Meditative Art.

For life details, see Timeline0 and Timeline.

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