11 June 2013


by Andy Weddington
Tuesday, 11 June 2013

"With a painter who weeps, who dies of rage in front of their canvas there is hope." Georges Clemenceau

Paul Cezanne, the Frenchman and Post-Impressionist painter, once boasted, "I will astonish Paris with an apple."

His intent? To paint something so simple, and so well, queues would form to see his painting(s).

Monsieur Cezanne was rather successful - not just painting apples. He painted portraits and figures and interiors and landscapes and still life - and all with distinctive shape and color. That is, he had his way of going about painting. In fact, America's immigrant Russian and once foremost painter and teacher, Sergei Bongart, once opined about Cezanne: "Very good painter...bad draftsman. Critics say his drawings were purposely distorted, sign of genius...Baloney!"

I tend to agree with Bongart - a master painting apples and everything else.

Astonish Paris, Cezanne did. At least to some extent.

But it is not Cezanne nor Bongart in the spotlight for today's remarks.

Today, a short comment about apples.

Last week I taught my philosophical / psychological approach to painting which has little to do with painting but everything to do with seeing the world anew - first ridding the mind of the influences of restrictive language and labels and false and downright poisonous deeply embedded mental models. It's easy to understand the concepts. It's difficult to put them into practice. So goes learning to "see" then paint.

One piece of advice to those who gather to hear what I have to say: In painting, do not marginalize the magnificent. It is far better to make something seemingly insignificant into a statement, a masterpiece. "Simplify" - I harp again and again.

I did not mention Cezanne nor apples when teaching this time around. However, I did emphasize over and again the idea to astonish the world with simplicity; an apple, perhaps. Or maybe a lemon - my typical object of reference.

Anyway, during a mid-day break the last day of the course one of the women ate an apple.

As she was about to discard the core, and though I was not present, another woman said, "Let me have that core. I'm going to paint it."

During the afternoon painting session, while moving from easel to easel offering comment and encouragement, I noticed one of the women painting something that from a distance was not recognizable. For me, a most heartwarming moment. Approaching, I saw the apple core set against a piece of blue fabric.

My thoughts ran the spectrum - from Cezanne (astonishing Paris with an apple) to politics (astonished by all the rotten apples, and the scandals now surrounding them, in our government - but that's another commentary).

Over the course of a couple of hours, she developed the painting - painting shapes and colors. And adjusting shapes and colors, as she saw them. At the end, she was not sure what to think. I thought it was brilliant - she turned something consumed, something negligible, something fit for the compost pile or garbage into something magnificent. She "saw" it!   

What did she paint? A mere apple core? A self-portrait? A political statement? Who cares! Her painting is interesting and proof that any old thing is fodder for a painter.

Cezanne, I suspect, would have been astonished. And Bongart, too. And both more astonished still that I took the photographs below, on the spot, with an Apple (iPhone). How marvelous!

And the last thought that comes to mind was a remark posed by Will (after he got the girl's phone number) to some Ivy league college snobs in the movie, 'Good Will Hunting': "Do you like apples? Well, I got her number! How do you like them apples?"

"Olive's Apple"
20 x 16 acrylic on canvas
Post Script
Though Olive was not so sure about her apple, she chose it as her favorite. It will surprise me not if one day queues form to see her paintings.
Author's Endnote
I am proud of Olive and the others - BJ; Cassie; Mita; Molly; Sherry - too. Each did magnificent work! For they listened, took what I had to say, a 'foreign language,' and then enthusiastically and determinedly went about looking, ''seeing", through new eyes - and struggled to paint. That's the way it's designed to work - struggle and frustration lead to growth. And regardless of however much they choose to paint, hence forward, their visual experience(s) of our world about them never to be the same. Nor will their approach to painting and seeing paintings ever be the same. That, too, to me, is astonishing.

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