By Arthur H. Gunther III
I am a self-discovered “painter” of limited ability, but there is satisfaction nonetheless, especially in a retirement where no longer are there the now-cherished deadlines of my newspaper past. It is more than something to do, for I assign myself, and I hit the job just like I was once paid to do. Molting’s not my thing.
There are unexpected benefits to this activity. Much — just about all — of newspaper writing and photography is keyed to observation — of people, of things, events. The human animal is endlessly fascinating and interesting, even the sadness and the darker side.
If you were a clockmaker and you could take apart a sophisticated piece to see the relationship between gears and springs, that would get your goose bumps rising. So it is, too, with those who have yet another chance to observe humanity, etc. And you get paid to do it?
In retirement, for some anyway, the bent continues, and you keep observing if only for yourself.
Painting is a way of observing. There are colors, which are shades of emotion. There is form, and what is the world without that? There is line, which is basically direction, where the mood is going, where it came from. And all this is from creation, though observed by the painter, and as with the writer, recorded.
The viewer then reacts, and his/her own buttons get pushed, or not, accordingly. How deep the touch is, is not unlike friends who connect deeply or, in the opposite, mere, short-time acquaintances who are passers-by. If there is real movement, a deep touch, then, as in life, lovers are found.
When my own work is seen, I stand stage left and watch the reaction: “Hmm…,” staring, “Aah,” indifference, maybe ho-hum, a range of emotion perhaps.
And then there is what the individual sees in a painting. One person may notice structure in an abstract, form that goes beyond its shape, which presents the elements, the parts of something taken apart, never reassembled in original form. That can be existence itself.
An individual can look at a realism piece and see beyond what the painter did or thought he/she did, if the painter gave it thought above intuitive at all. Painting, like writing, for me anyway, is dipping into a stream of consciousness and taking out the fish you catch. A minute later, it’s different fish or none at all.
It may be with that way when someone looks at your work, say a realistic piece. A while back, I painted my take of a detail of the 1858 cellar door and its lock set at Hopper House in Nyack, N.Y., the birthplace of Edward Hopper, the foremost American realism painter (1882-1967). It sold to a fine, original Nyacker who, with her mother and husband, have long volunteered at what is now a preserved historic house, art center and museum. The connection in the painting was obvious to her, and it was reward enough.
That’s one view. Since I usually photograph and copy paintings onto canvas, I sent one of “Lock at Hopper House” to a fond friend and mentioned its origin.
Her immediate take, she wrote me, was that the wood grain, the lines and the setting reminded her of her childhood home. She has strong memories of that time, so another connection was made from what one human creates and another relates to. Rewarding, again.
The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org