As part of my re-entry into the world of visual art, I recently spent a morning at the Albrecht-Kemper Museum of Art in St. Joseph, Missouri — about 90 miles from where I live. (Take note. This is important.) Visiting an art museum is always an enjoyable experience, and for me, this particular trip was exceptionally inspiring.
As I walked up the steps to go inside, I had a good feeling come over me, a feeling that this was a place where I belonged, this was a place where I could feel very much at home, that this was a place where I could appreciate being an artist.
Now, this is highly significant. If you’ve read early posts on this blog, you’ll know that I once felt out-of-place simply walking down the aisle of art supplies in Wal-Mart. I wasn’t an artist. I was, at best, a poser, a pretender, a pathetic wannabe. So to walk up those steps feeling proud to be an artist was an overwhelmingly joyous experience.
I have visited the museum before and am somewhat familiar with the permanent collection. Here’s a little info about the Albrecht-Kemper:
The Museum originated in 1913 with the foundation of the St. Joseph Art League–twelve women who sought to increase public awareness and understanding of the arts. With the hope of establishing a public art museum in St. Joseph, the League acquired the William Merritt Chase painting A Venetian Balcony. This purchase, made in 1915 with funds raised at performances, teas and a special showing of the painting in a local department store, became the first work in the Museum’s collection.
I mention this specifically because during my visit a “master artist” — as he was called by the museum personnel — was in the museum creating a copy of Venetian Balcony.
Of course I couldn’t resist stepping up and watching him paint, and I will say that his copy was every bit as good as the original.
I wasn’t surprised by his artistic talent, although I was awed by it a bit. But even more than his ability as a painter, I was impressed by how neatly and efficiently he worked.
How could he stand there and paint with such a nice, neat palette? How could he manage to create such a perfect copy of this famous painting and still keep his brushes neatly organized? How could he do all of this without wearing old clothes, a painter’s smock, or some sort of protective coveralls? Where were the messy paint rags?
Even now, I’m bewildered. I commented that his palette was certainly a lot neater than mine, and he replied that he had to stay organized in order to paint. I was so astonished my mind went a bit blank, and I didn’t fully see everything. Did he have medium? Did he have brush cleaners? I suppose he must, but how could everything be so well-organized?
My painting process has always involved making a big mess. My palette is covered with paints in no particular order. I started off making a nice, neat palette, but it didn’t stay that way for long. My brushes? I try to keep them clean and supple. Yes, I try. I’m not good at it, though.
I will say that I’m better now at being somewhat organized than in the past, because I have learned that it helps to have things in place, to have a system of putting paint on the palette, to know what’s where when it comes to various cleaners, solvents, oils, and other tools. Yet, it’s always a struggle for me.
This is one of the reasons why I’m so hesitant to paint en plein aire. I’m just not organized enough to gather up my supplies and transport them to a different location. This is one of the reasons why I feel so out-of-place at art club meetings. Instead of working with my favorite medium — oil paints — I’m struggling with colored pencils, watercolors, or pastels, only because those media are much easier to carry around.
So, one of my new art resolutions is to become a more efficient painter. This isn’t a new resolve on my part. I’ve worked on this before, and I have improved. But now is a great time for me to renew my determination to be more thoughtful of my art supplies, and to make my painting process and set-up much more organized.
Even as I write this, however, part of me is resistant. Doesn’t creativity necessarily thrive on a bit of chaos and confusion? Can’t we become too organized when it comes to the creative process? I’d love to hear thoughts on this, please!
Other inspiring things happened during my visit to the museum. The paintings and other exhibits spoke to me in a new way, and this, too, is highly significant. More than ever, I became aware of the individuality expressed through the works of art I viewed. I saw it all from a perspective of expression, not as art, but as something meaningful to the creator.
My perceptions of art are changing in exciting new ways!
Also during the visit, I learned of an upcoming exhibition. I eagerly read the Call to Artists, especially this line: “…open to artists who reside within 100 miles of St. Joseph.” Yes, I’m within that limit. I am eligible to submit work for the exhibition.
There are several themes for the exhibit, but the one that most catches my attention is “Self-Reflection” in which artists choose subject matter which expresses their identity. I’m thinking of entering. It’s unlikely my work would be selected for the exhibit, but that’s all right. I’m loving this new-found understanding of personal expressiveness through visual art — it’s only taken me years to reach this understanding — and I want to experience that in my painting now.
I also have several other art shows coming up in the next few months, and I am looking forward to seeing my work on display. I am delighted to have reached this point where I can not only see myself as an artist but I can be proud of who I am as an artist because I know I have a unique point of view and a unique style. It’s one thing to be an artist; it’s another thing altogether to appreciate being the artist I am.
So, indeed, my trip to the Albrecht-Kemper Museum of art was eye-opening and inspiring. I’ll be sharing more about the visit tomorrow!