Here in Hawai’i, we don’t get the sort of Autumn that mainland people enjoy. There’s a bit of cooling, maybe a couple of degrees, and some more wind and rain than otherwise. If you look carefully certain trees change color, and our small herb garden does a bit better in the coolness. That’s about it.
I’m thinking about reframing some pieces, and this Fall painting from my Central Park days came up as a candidate. I hadn’t exactly forgotten it, but it’s more like an old friend that’s become part of the background and subsequently dwells in the inventory rack.
Autumn, Central Park 25 x 30″ oil on linen
As I pulled it out for a look, I remembered things: that I’d hand-primed the linen, (it’s thankfully in good shape). I remember trying hard to compose this huge visual effectively, and the movie production that began right in front of me half way through the painting’s progress, and that nearly two decades have passed since I painted this. It honestly seems like almost yesterday, and it almost frightened me a bit to realize it.
I recall conversations I had with passers-by. One guy was angry because I didn’t know the name of the building in the background. I smoked cigarettes then, and my fingers would get incredibly cold out here. Dick Cavett came by and gave me a smile and his approval. I regret that I had a bit of an attitude at times too, hauling this painting repeatedly back and forth on the F and A trains from Brooklyn to catch the hour of light I needed made me testy. There were high ideals and many influences in my head; Sargent, Dennis Bunker and Willard Metcalf topped the list, and the Big Effort was in trying to paint the whole visual before me as if in one glance, the ensemble effect. Painting in Central Park, early ’90′s.
As autumn is upon us once again, I pause to retract myself from the moment’s concerns and take a long look. Has the journey from there to here been worthwhile? Yes.
I’ve survived, and learned so much since then. I’m still enthusiastic about the next painting, and I’m still willing to try to solve it’s problems. The work, thankfully, has interested buyers, making the next paintings possible. I’ve finally learned to value human relationships over work, and dimly but increasingly recognize this life as the prelude to a greater one, which gives me a different perspective on my concerns in the here-and-now. Two big things: I’ll take none of this with me, and I have no idea how much time is left. Painting and living in the present as best as possible seems to me to be a good twenty-year lesson.
Maybe these are just typical middle-age guy thoughts, maybe not. I don’t know. But each day brings me closer to the last touch on the canvas, that I do know. And looking back, it had to go this way. Artists really don’t have a choice about this. Just read any of the biographies and you’ll see that they were miserable doing anything else.