Artists and teachers are by definition "givers." It seems impossible to have any longevity in either vocation without and innate desire in one's personality to give to others, whether that be knowledge, beauty, a shared experience. Creating and making is giving. Giving can be depleting though. One can begin to feel spent and isolated. Which is why I have selected this image of this post.
This weekend I had the opportunity to get away from my usual surroundings and return to one of my husband's and my favorite little corners of the world: Chadds Ford, PA and Wilmington, DE. In a culture of hyper media focused on the exotic: Wilmington...er..ah..Delaware? You may ask. But, I say to you: Yes, Wilmington, Delaware home of Howard Pyle and the Delaware Art Museum. You seem incredulous still? Ah, then let me enlighten you.
Howard Pyle is quite simply the Father of American Illustration. A Wilmington native, he taught art at Drexel University and later established his own school. There he taught some of the most significant artists/illustrators of the 20th century including N.C. Wyeth, Frank Schoonover, Rosie O'Neill, Violet Oakley, and Jessie Wilcox Smith. He also influenced Norman Rockwell and Andrew Loomis among others. You may think that you are not familiar with any of these artists and their works, but if you have read Treasure Island or seen a Kewpie Doll, you already know N.C. Wyeth (feather of Andrew Wyeth and grandfather of Jamie Wyeth) and Rosie O'Neill. Pyle's Book of Pirates even influenced the costume designers of the Pirates of the Caribbean films. His illustrated Robin Hood and His Merry Men is still in print.
The Brandywine School of Painting really begins with Howard Pyle. But, why this geographic area? My husband (an artist as well) and I have long pondered this. We've concluded that there is something about the landscape and the light. Many of Pyle's students wrote about this. In fact,, N.C. Wyeth in one of his first letters home to his mother remarked that this landscape was "more home to him than home." There is a serenity of the rolling hills of this region, and a quiet symbioses between the architecture and activity of human kind within this landscape. And then there is the light, long raking autumnal golds outlining the gentle landscape forms in deep blue shadows with the most azure blue contrasting the pure white of summer clouds. If you look at the paintings of the Wyeth's, I think you can see this.
After taking in the Howard Pyle collection at the Delaware Art Museum, we moved from the urban to the rural and forward in time and visited the Brandywine River museum and the studio and home of N.C. Wyeth. Landscape and spaces shape a person. In the best circumstance the landscape is a constant source of renewal and inspiration. This is important for artists and teachers. In viewing the Wyeth Retrospective Exhibit is was easy to see that this landscape that was more home than home was certainly that for him and the generations of artists that followed. Maybe that is why we keep going back, to take it all in and come home again.
I selected this image to mark this blog post not only for its beautiful depiction of a summer moonlit evening, which we have been recently experiencing, or because it is a woodblock print, but because of its title "Summer Studio." These past few weeks my life as a high school at teacher seems distant and I am indeed in my own "summer studio." The initial rush to summer has left me. I think you know what I mean: faced with an expanse of time most responsible and dutiful adults feel the call to obey a Puritan work ethic for the efficient use of time: lists of things to do, chores to complete, etc. etc. etc. Thankfully my wayward nature, strengthened by the distractions of so many things to draw and paint has silenced that voice (at least until the second week of August). So what have I been doing you may ask: playing, yes, Playing. And no I'm not even blushing or joking when I say that. Now we each have our own ideas of play. But, to be clear the Merriam Webster's on line dictionary defines play as the following (please be sure to pay close attention to the synonyms):
engage in activity for enjoyment and recreation rather than a serious or practical purpose.
"the children were playing outside"
synonyms:amuse oneself, entertain oneself, enjoy oneself, have fun, have a good time, relax, rest, be at leisure, occupy oneself, divert oneself, play games, frolic, frisk, gambol, romp, cavort, caper;
This brings me to my first and one of my most favorite activities that I have discussed here before, walking. I think there is little coincidence in the fact that I love both walking and Henry David Thoreau, who wrote an essay entitled Walking. Having recently finished reading this, I realized that he pretty much summed up all of his major themes in this little essay. I highly recommend it, especially if you have never read Thoreau before. One of my favorite of his quotes, although not from this essay specifically, is:
"Pursue some path, however, narrow and crooked, and walk it with love and reverence."
This seems so much to me a statement of the artistic journey as it does sage advice for living in general.
When one considers the circuitous path of any creative process it is easy to have the image of a maze come to mind. Recently, I read Henry Elliots' Follow This Thread. It is as the secondary title promises a delightful book about mazes to get lost in both literarily and visually. Inspired by this book, my husband and I visited a nearby sunflower maze. What a pleasure to spend a leisurely hour or more surrounded by flowers bigger than oneself, like Alice in her wonderland. These crooked paths were as Thoreau would say the "the enterprise and adventure of the day.” In all this, I was struck by how seldom we really do this in our day to day lives. But, if you like, you can get a small taste of the delight of the crooked path below.
I've just started Rebecca Solnit's Wanderlust in keeping with my theme of walking. I was drawn to this book by encountering a chapter title: "The Mind at Three Miles an Hour." I have this sense that three miles an hour, that is the average speed of walking, is all that my mind can really do and be truly present to my surroundings, thoughts, or the delicious mental spaciousness of no thought just sensory experience. This last one, I wanted to note is not void...it is space, not unlike the spaces in master Japanese woodblock prints. For the visual artist there is positive and negative space, both are truly present, both are truly necessary for balance and completeness in the composition. I think this is true for the human spirit/mind as well.