On September 9, 1977, (at 5:05 pm), I quit my last job. With the words of the great watercolorist George Post ringing in my ears (If not now, when?”) I took the plunge and joined the ranks of professional artists. I was scared to death and had no idea if making a living was even possible. But I was burning for art. All I wanted was the opportunity to take my best shot.
The past 39 years have brought both fat and lean times, along with countless changes in the work. The path hasn’t always been clear, especially in the beginning. But through perseverance, my ideas have clarified into a coherent philosophy that is the foundation of my art. Actual working methods are an attempt to animate this philosophy and its three simple principles.
First is that art is a language, albeit a non-verbal one. We study the grammar of this language so that we may communicate more effectively. But like any language, the ultimate purpose lies in the content of the expression, not in the mastery of its usage.
Second is the concept that art is autobiographical. A body of work should reflect the life of the artist. When you draw upon personal experience, it naturally follows that you will have something meaningful to say in the language of art.
And third is the concept that working from life is the great teacher. Learning to see as an artist is the foundation of an individual painting technique. Nature give up her secrets reluctantly, and only to those most determined. Consider this quote from the great artist-teacher Charles Hawthorne:
“The only way the artist can appeal to humanity is in the guise of the high priest. He must show people more-more than they already see-and he must show them with so much human sympathy and understanding that they will recognize it as if they themselves had seen the beauty and the glory.”
Painting from life is the moment of truth. If you can paint light, you can paint everything under the sun. Follow that to where it takes you. You might be surprised.
Frank LaLumia on location in Telluride Colorado
It is a fine line that separates an artist from a craftsman. Your master class in painting begins when you can hold your focus on something greater than the nuts and bolts of what you are seeing. To quote the great American artist Richard Schmid from his book Alla Prima:
“Your poetic destination must hover over your purely technical efforts like a nagging guardian angel, prodding you to not forget the song you are singing.”
Your ‘poetic destination’ is the ‘why’ of each painting. There is a reason that you set up in one place and not in another. Something caught you eye, and your ability to hold on to that something throughout the complexity of the painting process is like your diploma for a job well done.