12 May 2015


by Andy Weddington
Tuesday, 12 May 2015

"Artists, by their free expressions, encourage others to be free. This is the quality that makes works of art enduring." Marty Rubin

Last week I waded the cold waters of the San Juan River in Navajo Dam, New Mexico, fly fishing for trout. I painted, too. 

A few trout I landed. And completed more than a few paintings.

Two more calming complementary quality of life pursuits for clarity of thought do not come to mind. My Dad taught me both. 

Thinking was clear.  

I heard about Pamela Geller's 'Draw the Prophet' art contest in Texas. Albeit a controversial one exercising freedom of speech that in the end left two art critics dead; rightfully. 

The contest reminded me of when in the 6th grade a classmate handed me a cut out - 'Draw the Pirate' - from his father's outdoors sporting magazine. It was a contest sponsored by an art school (in Illinois, I believe) trying to increase enrollment. The pirate was a sketched scraggly-faced, hawk-nosed buccaneer in profile wearing a bandana and eyepatch. An earring, maybe. The challenge was to freehand draw the image (not the same size as not to trace) and submit for critique as to potential in the field of art. 

I drew the pirate, sent my drawing, and weeks later received a boilerplate postcard from the school applauding my drawing but I was too young for their program and to try again when older. They may as well as shot me - I was crushed. Though encouraged. 

All the while I'm struggling to concentrate on my line, watching the strike indicator during the float for the slightest odd movement for a take. Daydream and the trout win - they spit out the mock meal. 

I missed a lot of trout. 

One afternoon after a few hours of casting I set my easel up. My vantage point was looking upstream towards, no kidding, the Texas Hole (a small section of the river where trout gather in deep running water). Yes, the irony occurred to me.

For the best angle from shore, two easel legs were in the water. As were my boots. 

About half-way through the painting a drift boat oared by a gent guiding two fishermen happened close by. 

The guide saw and, unsolicited, commented on my painting. Flattering. He made an offer that was not. And followed with another offer - that was not. 

I did not shoot him. Nor was I inclined to shoot him. And he nor the fishermen showed any hint of wanting to shoot me - for failing to capture the stunning beauty of the river. 

I politely thanked him and continued on painting. My fishing partner, my brother, later came by and saw it - commenting how much he liked it and thus far thought it one of the best of the trip. 

The eye of the beholder! 

I thought while painting. 

And then fished more thinking all the while.

The art critics, Muslim and non, continue to attack Pamela Geller for exercising her Constitutional right. They, at least two so far, are dead wrong.

Art is a form of free speech. And so what if you don't like it. Don't look at it. And surely don't buy it. 

I did not take offense that the fishing guide did not offer enough to buy my painting. Never mind I was not ready to sell it. 

For a long time now I paint for profit - painting what I want when I want. With no interest in drawing nor painting any Prophet. In art, to each his own. 

I remember decades ago painting a portrait that when finished the sitter probably wanted to shoot me. They did not. Thankfully. The painting good. The likeness on the mark - and that was the problem; the subject not seeing reality. In short, I exercised my freedom of speech. So did the sitter. We agreed, peaceably, to disagree. I drew a lot from that experience. Even the profit (the spouse liked the painting).

Pay attention to the line. Watch the strike indicator. Where'd it go? Damn!, missed another one. 

And my brother continued landing trout. Many of them. 

But my mind was on painting, any art, and the freedom of speech it permits - allowed by the calm of fly casting.

So, "Amen, for the holes in a couple of fanatical art critics in Texas."

Freely I draw and paint for profit. A gun I do not carry when out fly fishing and painting. But maybe it's time to start - just in case critics engage me with more than voice. And there's a need for holes - Texas style. 

Fly fishermen I've painted around the Texas Hole...

As to contests and the field of art? 

Though I've not been back in touch with the art school, I might yet make it as a painter. There's time.

Fly fishing. 


Freedom of expression.

Freedom of speech.

Profit, too.  


Post Script

Thanks, Ken! We missed you, Dad! "Happy Birthday, Steve! Keep drawing - for profit." 

Author's Endnote

Paintings, done plein air, are acrylic on canvas or illustration board and range 10 x 7 to 14 x 11 inches. 


Dottie Jean said...

Andy ... what a master you are! The paintings are sublime. I so admire them. They have life with what seems like just the right amount/degree of everything. I'm not an art critic so my words are clumsy. They're elegant. It's something you do after a lifetime of doing it.

But about the art critics. Of course, there's no justification for what they did but I wonder about art that has as its intention to make fun of something, to belittle.

Your art has as its intention to respect something or to 'see' something in a most respectful way. That makes a difference. Your intention is not to belittle or make fun of.

I wouldn't write a story with the intention of making fun or belittling something even though the principle of free speech would protect me insofar as principle can protect.

Again, a thought-provoking post. Trout fishing. It sounds like something fun yet I'm not sure I could do it. I'd like to see a painting of a trout that you did.

Doug McIllwain said...

The second painting from the top. That looks like Mohammed.