"When dawn spreads its paintbrush on the plain, spilling purple... ," Songs of the Pioneers song from TV show "Wagon Train." Dawn on the mythic Santa Fe Trail, New Mexico, looking toward Raton from Cimarron. -- Clarkphoto. A curmudgeon's old-fashioned newspaper column, cross-breeding metaphors and journalism and art, for readers in 150 countries.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Art Spirit

If I had to recommend one book for writers, painters, sculptors, poets, woodworkers, et. al., it would be "The Art Spirit," by Robert Henri.

I've written about him and his painting "Himself" and quotes before--see earlier posts. I keep a copy in the car, so when I'm waiting on someone, I can pick it up and read, and be inspired, and underline more. Soon, the whole book will be underlined.

K. Lawson Gilbert, poet-friend,  and all other artists, you want this book. It will inspire poetry. It is in paperback, but if you want a hardcover, go to abe.com--a consortium of used bookstores and you can find a hardcover with photographs, cheap Mine is hardcover,fifth edition, 1939. He was an oil painter, and his book is a selection of thoughts, letters, etc., on art, before he died in 1929. The first editor wrote of his death: "...brought to an end a life of uncontaminated devotion to art." I like it because you can pick it up and turn to any page, and find something that applies to me and what I attempt,whether in writing, painting, photography, or... .

Today I read these lines, now underlined and starred in the margin: "Don't try to paint good landscapes. Try to paint canvasses that will show how interesting landscape looks to you--your pleasure in the thing."
Then I thought of the "cabin view" I painted two days ago, and thought, "That's what's wrong with it. I was trying to paint a good landscape...not what I feel. I know mountains, but I didn't paint them." He also wrote, "It is to be rendered according to its nature, not to be copied."
That's what was wrong with my first painting...I was "copying" a photograph, not painting its nature. I know mountains--spiritually, personally, visually, vicersaly--but I was not painting their nature. Nor was I painting the spirit of the clouds. I was "copying.".

Accordingly, here's the painting I did tonight, referring briefly to the previous and more to what was inside me. Here I paint the nature of the mountain and the clouds. See how much better it is than the original, copied below.



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