Sunday, December 29, 2013

Imitating Art, and Artistic Genius

As far back as I can remember, I've been interested in drawing and painting.  I have used many types of media--ink, pencils, charcoals, pastels, oils, and acrylics--over the years, with varying degrees of success.  I like to work with acrylic paints the best, because they mimic oils but dry so much faster--and I've always been impatient when it comes to seeing the finished product of anything I happen to be working on at the time.  (Also, I'd rather deal with the ease of a soap and water clean-up than be required to use smelly cans of turpentine or paint thinner.)

I'm not a great artist.  Most of what I create ends up looking pretty amateurish.  (Hey, that IS a word.  I half-expected the spell checker to put a squiggly line under that one.)  Perhaps if I'd taken a lot of art classes or attended art school, rather than majoring in English at a liberal arts college, I might have been able to become a proficient artist--but when it comes to my so-called "art," I'm mostly self-taught.

I did, however, take two entry-level art courses as electives at the College of the Holy Cross: one was Introduction to Drawing and the other was Introduction to Painting.  I didn't get as much out of the drawing class as I was supposed to, because I skipped a number of classes.  You see, when I signed up for the class, I didn't realize that it was going to involve sketching nudes.  And when I say nudes, I mean, you know...buck naked actual human models sitting up there in front of the classroom, posing in all kinds of embarrassing positions--all so that a roomful of decidedly not-Rembrandts could do awkward charcoal renderings of them.

I muscled through the classes where the model was a female.  I really wanted to throw a robe on her (or a fig leaf or something--anything!), but I managed to do a few not-very-detailed and not-very-good sketches of her in her birthday suit.  But when I found out that a male model was going to be sitting up there for three straight classes, I was appalled and told my professor that there was no way I could possibly be there for those sessions.  I would take a hit on my grade for the class, if that's what she thought I deserved, but I simply could not be there looking at some strange naked guy.  At that point, my husband and I were still just boyfriend and girlfriend, but although we weren't yet formally engaged, we knew that we would be getting married as soon as possible after graduation; and--how do I say this delicately, so that if my sons read it they won't be scarred for life?--I really didn't think it was right to see another man in a disrobed state before I saw my husband that way on our wedding night.  Ahem.  Sorry, perhaps that was TMI, but there you have it.  I must say, the professor was very understanding and she didn't end up giving me any zero's for the missing work.

So--you get the idea that when I draw or paint people, I prefer to have them wearing clothes.  I like how people look in clothes.  Clothes are my favorite.  And I think it's sort of hard to paint the folds and shadows in garments, so I contend that if an artist really wants to challenge himself, he should paint his models properly clothed.  (That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.)

For instance, I was inspired to try to copy this Winslow Homer image of a pair of lads (with clothes on every part of their bodies except their feet)
and I painted this in acrylics, as a gift for my husband's older sister.
It's most definitely the work of an amateur, but I absolutely love the subject matter.  And the clothes.

Whatever God-given talent I have was passed on to my five boys in much greater intensity, and as children they spent hours and hours sketching animals, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, sea creatures, and more than anything else, dinosaurs.  Sons #2 and #4 are really the only ones who are still interested in drawing, son #4 in particular.  He never copies from photos or other artists' works (like his very unoriginal mom); his drawings go straight from his fertile imagination onto the paper, without reliance on any crutches or points of reference.  Just to show you how talented he is, here is an image that sprang completely out of his head, and I think it's extraordinary.
This is a picture taken of the work while it was on the computer screen; printed out on paper,
it is much crisper and sharper, and even more amazing!
Our #4 son created this piece recently as a wedding gift for his older brother.  He used to do all of his work using pencil and paper, but he drew these images--his own original takes on the Notre Dame leprechaun and the FSU Seminole--using a newfangled device whereby you do the drawing on a pad with a stylus and the image is magically transferred to the computer screen, and then color and other effects can be added.  I think this boy of ours is an artistic genius, I do; and I truly believe he could be a Disney animator (so if anyone out there who's reading this right now has an "in" over at Disney, feel free to put in a good word for him!).

Some of us try to imitate the artistic genius of others, and some of us are truly artistic geniuses.  But either way, if a work of art brings any small amount of enjoyment to the viewer, that's what it's all about.


  1. Very cool. I really need to work on my artistic side.

    1. I am so proud of my talented boy! I really do wish he could parlay that talent into a career.