CONFESSIONS OF AN ART SCHOOL DROPOUT

The art workshop prospectus said it accepted all skill levels so I signed up hoping my “zero” level was included. On the first day of class we had to draw something to indicate our natural ability. While the instructor examined my drawing I confessed to being quite unskilled, but said, after much practice, I’d learned to draw a recognizable tree and a passable cow. “Hmm,” he said. “And which one is this?” I’d thought the birdhouse would have been a real tip-off.

I’d been inspired by a video about Jackson Pollock’s abstract impressionism technique of randomly dripping paint on canvas and making several thousand dollars per square foot of haphazard blots. “I can do that, ” I said.

” You always do that,” my wife replied. “That’s why we hired a professional to paint the living room.”

Anyway I chose watercolor as my medium. I liked the description as “naturally adaptable to the rendering of romantic themes,” but mostly because it’s washable and won’t permanently stain clothing, rugs, furniture and active pets.

For several weeks I worked on challenging assignments and rose to a level of competence where one could distinguish my hemlocks from my Holsteins. I was also making strides in watercolor and was convinced it had been a good choice. Ever since kindergarten I’ve had difficulty keeping the colors within the lines. My grandchildren have begged me not to mess with their coloring books.

But as a watercolor artist I’m allowed, if I should stray over the line, to move the line. Come to think of it that’s what Picasso must have done on most of his paintings. This has added an element of dynamism to my works which undergo transmutation as I paint. For instance, my painting which started out as a copy of “Whistler’s Mother” was eventually titled “A View of Mount McKinley”. One of my better efforts which began as an attempt to match the precision of a Norman Rockwell portrait, ended as a convincing imitation of a Cro-Magnon cave painting.

Admittedly, after leaving the workshop, I’m going through what art critics in future years will call my “clumsy period”, but my confidence increases. I feel I can now share my work with others. Recently I presented my daughter Carolyn with my rendition of “The Charge of the Light Brigade”. Since the painting involves a blend of the cubism and impressionist styles it is more concerned with the abstract elements of the event than a lifelike representation. It’s been misinterpreted by some as depicting a chimpanzee migration and even a Black Friday sales crowd.

I explained all this to Carolyn as I presented the large framed painting and suggested a good location on her living room wall. ” Oh Dad, you shouldn’t have,” she said. “You really, really shouldn’t have!” I could see tears in her eyes. It was quite touching.

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