This is a question I’ve spent my life trying to answer. It is by far the greatest challenge and the most difficult field to explore. The fact that no one hesitates to criticize an artist, is carried one giant step forward with portraiture. Now the subject’s ego is completely involved in the procedure and everyone’s an expert. The artist holds the subject’s feelings in his hands and, may I add, the client also holds the artist’s feelings in his hands. The tremendous list of problems attached to portraiture can only be offset by the warm sense of accomplishment the artist feels in the contribution of a fine portrait. There is a balance here. You can only feel as good as you’ve experienced feeling bad. When you immerse yourself in this genre, you quickly learn to face rejection, serious rejection. Should you persist with diligence and craft, eventually you may experience that wonderful sense of accomplishment that makes it all worthwhile.
To do a posthumous portrait of a child, for bereaved parents, or the deceased spouse of a loved one for a despondent partner, or a beloved family member or close friend, . . and then to see tears of joy for that treasured remembrance. . . There’s no way to describe the marvelous sense of accomplishment and satisfaction, that sense of giving something important back to the individual and humanity, that sense of meaning that fills your soul. . . I guess that’s a good reason to do it.
The evil that men do lives after them, while the good is oft’ interred with their bones.
The most neglected phase of art in most art tutorial books, is basic drawing. The problem with this is that it’s THE most important element in any piece of art. Even the most abstract, non objective painting or sculpture is trash without good basic drawing, design and composition. If there is no balance or craft in a piece of art or sculpture, I believe it will ultimately be rejected. Notwithstanding fad trends or heavy duty marketing by fashionable galleries, there can never be an important and lasting work without encompassing the basics. In music, literature and art, there is no such thing as a happy accident.
Unfortunately, our primary school system is sadly lacking in it’s teaching of the arts, even though it’s inherent in the youngest of children to draw and paint. If you present a marker or pencil to a one year old, they will immediately begin to scribble, to create an impression, to draw. Children learn so very quickly. The serious study of one of the arts is as essential to growth as the three R’s, The most important investment in our future is the cultural development of our young and because of economics and misplace priorities, we’re losing them.
Adolf Hitler understood this very well. In the beginning of his political life and the horrendous Third Reich, he developed the Hitler Youth program and began the indoctrination of his thousand year empire. He stated. “If you can influence the children, you can conquer the world”. With the beautifully designed uniforms, swords, daggers and regalia for his growing military and a focus on a philosophy of hate, he very nearly did.
I was privileged, my mother encouraged me to draw and paint at a very young age and I came to embrace it. The first portrait I ever did was of my mother sitting in the kitchen knitting in front of the stove on a cold winter day. I don’t know how old I was, I had just started school so I was probably six or seven at most. I can’t tell you how long it took. However, I do know how proud and delighted I was at her emotional reaction to my drawing. I believe my life’s work was determined on that very day.
I’m sure it’s also true that to devote your life to the arts, you have to be of a certain nature, be born under the proper sign, be sensitive, feeling and concerned with the aesthetics. Despite this, I do believe that nature has to be nurtured and our civilization is wasting a great deal.
To be encouraged is an absolute requirement. But too often, negatives prevail and creativity is suppressed in the individual and frustration takes it’s place. The difference between what you are and what you could be, can be a terrible thing to live with through a lifetime. Youngsters learn that the worst thing they can do is make a mistake. Spontaneity can be risky, but without that spontaneity there is little experimentation and without experimentation there is little personal and innovative progress.
It’s never been necessary to defend my masculinity, I’m as close to one hundred percent male as humanly possible. Regardless, I do recognize that my personality contains some, commonly considered, feminine traits, a deep sensitivity for one. I’ve also noticed that due to that sensitive temperament, artists are generally concerned with more than one of the arts. In my case, I’m involved in all of them, art, music and literature. My only regret is not being able to live several hundred years, so that I may explore them all.