MORE THAT CONTENT
by George Allen Durkee


 

Norman Rockwell compared painting to throwing a ball against a wall. It always comes back with reduced force. A painting is always experienced with less intensity than the artist put into it. Wouldn't you like to throw the ball harder?

My particular bias is that a painting interpreted from real experience is more alive than one painted from photographs. Whether painting portraits, still lifes, landscapes or nudes, I think it best to soak up inspiration from the real thing. A photograph reveals the image, but not the soul. The camera records; we humans experience. Like an acquaintance who tells you the entire history of the day instead of simply saying, "Today I fell in love," the camera gives everything equal importance. A work of art does not tell everything there is to know about its subject, but says something in particular - the first light of early morning, or the sogginess of a rainy day.

My painting begins when I immerse myself in my subject and feel. A philosopher friend once told me as I struggled to capture a particular riverscape, "When you become the water, you will paint it." I thought he was naive. What about drawing and color and composition? Only when I understood his deeper meaning did I convey the slippery skin of water sliding over rocks on its downward journey to the sea. Capturing a particular subject does not begin with knowing which color to mix, or how to apply the paint to create specific textures - these are the means and not the end. A work of art begins with empathy for the thing to be expressed.

It is common these days for painters to place greater emphasis on marketing than on learning to paint better paintings. Commercial galleries today are rife with cleverly rendered paintings, devoid of emotional content. I long for something more.

George Allen Durkee


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