February 13, 2008

"Camembert"


oil on archival, museum quality 1/8" gessobord panel - 5" x 7"

I had a difficult time going back into the studio yesterday. Perhaps it was the complexity of the painting that I had done the day before and the fear that henceforth, I had to stay at that level of intricacy. For whatever reason, I had to force myself to stand before the easel. It was pushing midnight when I put on the last stroke. I sometimes feel like Cinderella, knowing that the Daily Paintings are gleaned and put on the site as the bell tolls twelve. Do glass slippers come in size 13D? Required reading for all artists should be Robert Henri’s book - The Art Spirit. Among his random bits of artistic philosophy, he reminds us that we will have bad days:

"All things change according to the state we are in. Nothing is fixed. I lived once in the top of a house, in a little room, in Paris. I was a student. My place was a romance. It was a mansard room and it had a small square window that looked out over housetops, pink chimney pots. I could see l’Institut, the Pantheon and the Tour Saint James. The tiles on the floor were red and some of them were broken and out of place. There was a little stove, a wash basin, a pitcher, piles of my studies. Some hung on the wall, others accumulated dust on their backs. My bed was a cot. It was a wonderful place. I cooked two meals and ate dinner outside. I used to keep the camembert out of the window on the mansard roof between meals, and I made fine coffee, and made eggs and macaroni. I studied and thought, made compositions, wrote letters home full of hope of some day being an artist.
It was wonderful. But days came when hopes looked black and my art student’s paradise was turned into a dirty little room with broken tile, ashes fell from the stove, it was all hopelessly poor, I was tired of camembert and eggs and macaroni, and there wasn’t a shade of significance in those delicate little chimney pots, or the Pantheon, the Institute, or even the Tour Saint James."

This I read, lo these many years ago, when I was starting out on my own artistic journey. I was given a copy of The Art Spirit by Dr. F. Robert Lehmeyer, my Uncle and mentor and I, in turn, bestowed a copy on many a young aspiring artist. I can’t look at a wedge of camembert without thinking of this story and my early days as an artist. Blessed are the cheese makers.

4 comments:

Sherry DeGhelder said...

Mark, it was well worth the difficulty. Nice brush work!

Diane said...

this makes me drowel.. I can smell the cheeses!

Joanne said...

Hey Mark,

Your conversation here is so timely - I find this is the real essence of blogging for me... to know that there are others who have feelings and struggles just like I do with regard to their art. Thank you for the reminder that we will have "bad" days, even when we are working in our area of passion and giftedness! After all, if we don't struggle, how do we grow and become better? And to know that this has been the shared experience of greats in the past is just so meaningful. Thanks for your transparency, and for encouraging us all with your painting and your words.

Mark Adams said...

Thanks Joanne,
I thought my days of artist funk were behind me when I discovered the joys of daily painting. Then, for no reason at all, one day it all seemed like senseless, facile exercise. All the reference material seemed dull and uninteresting. The artistic mind is so fragile, it doesn’t take much to shake our faith in our abilities. Thankfully, the fit was short lived and I am excited once more. Go figure. I just got back from a visit to the National Portrait Gallery in Washington DC. If that doesn’t charge your creative battery, nothing will. Sadly I must leave the studio for a few days and go visit my Uncle in Alabama who is gravely ill. Yes, that same Uncle that inspired me to take up the brush and pursue a life of art so many years ago. Look for new work on Tuesday.