Face it, art is whatever you call art

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 3, 2006

I have great respect for all of the old painters, and you know their names. It’s obvious they were extremely talented and had time and patience to spend weeks on a scene. Their work was often several feet high and wide, sometimes a miniature you had to squint to see…like Rembrandt’s mother. And there was this person, many refer to as an artist, that became famous with his large colored rendition of a tomato can. His first name is Andy and I can neither pronounce nor spell his last name, or want to. I remember my first and last visit to the Chrysler Museum’s second floor to view what they call &uot;modern art.&uot; That stuff really caught on, you can find it in every museum where sophisticated people visit and claim they understand it. I have a better name for it.

I learned to do oil painting the hard way. Several years ago I was disabled with a back &uot;problem&uot; and had to lie on one side for several boring weeks with only very careful movement. Of course, I turned to television for entertainment and because I was on my side the TV set was turned on its side for better viewing. There was this oil painter who came on and completed a painting in the 20 minutes he was allowed between commercials. He made it look easy and I studied his every move hoping to capitalize on it if I were ever able to stand up.

Following surgery, therapy and healing, that day came. It took me awhile to adjust seeing the TV right side up but I rose to the challenge. So how do I get started painting? I kept watching this man on TV, bought his book, and instructions for mixing basic colors to obtain the exact shade you want. I was ready, I thought, but all I had was a 4-inch varnish brush, and the one I used on my teeth. The next step was painful; those little tubes of oil paint and cute little artist brushes can wipe out early retirement. Even the Fuller Brush catalog did not list these kinds and sizes, some made from feathers of exotic birds or monkey fur.


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But wanting to become famous, like the guy with the tomato can, I took the plunge.

But that’s not all you need; to become known nationally, one requires an easel. But there I outfoxed them and used one of my daughter’s beehive boxes to get things to the right height on my workbench, and moved a fluorescent light to eliminate my silhouette on the piece of canvas that cost me eight bucks. Then I began to execute.

I will admit my very first painting, which I still have as a reminder, would not have been placed in the Great Hall at Chrysler Museum except as a joke on the second floor.

I eventually produced 45 paintings, most all claimed by flattering friends, and my children who dared not say no. I kept a few for my own home. One of my favorites is of a mother whale under the sea teaching her daughter to swim. If you want to see it, drop in to the Dilly Dally gift shop on Main where it was last time I saw it. It’s the only one I ever made to sell and it’s been hanging there for months. That tells you something.

For a while, I thought seriously about mass-producing art to pay for my fishing bait but could not bring myself to do it. You know, you take a piece of an old rug, hang a couple strings of seashells on it, maybe crossed buzzard feather in the center and some acorns glued along the bottom with a pine cone or two. Give it some exotic name like &uot;Mother Nature’s Droppings&uot; and mark it $75.

Remember, if you say it is art, it’s art.