THROWING PAINT: A WANNABE ARTIST IN THE MAKING
“Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.”
“Every artist was at first an amateur.”
--Ralph Waldo Emerson
“A picture is a poem without words”
Nantucket is living art. In every season, the Island poses for the viewer. In summer, it is a still life: hydrangeas in a vase, roses on a cottage wall, red sails in the sound, the lighthouse at Brant Point. In winter, it is action: waves crashing on a deserted beach, slush waves frozen in action, snow on Main Street, Santa at Stroll.
Nantucket is also an artist's paradise. There are over twenty-five art galleries on the Island, and artists flock to the Island in every season. The hardier artists live on the Island year round or come for the stark beauty of winter. They draw on the physical and spiritual beauty of the Island to create paintings, prints, photographs, collages, sculptures, ceramics, videos, films, and other creative artifacts.
It is, therefore, no surprise that one of my greatest aspirations upon moving to Nantucket was to become an artist. After all, I was in one of the most beautiful places on the planet, living in a house where the deck has a great view of spectacular sunrises and sunsets over the ocean. I have an artist’s studio/writer’s retreat on the property. What more could I want to be creative? Talent, perhaps—but let’s not sweat the small stuff.
That I had no training or experience did not seem to be a major hurdle to me. The first step on my journey was to see if I could paint. I bought lots of outrageously expensive art supplies and signed up for a really prestigious and potentially amazing art course. Unfortunately, the class was cancelled because there was not enough interest.
So I painted on my own. My method consisted of color on canvas. I entered three of my pictures in an open art show that accepted every entry. One sold. Unfortunately, the one that sold was sold to my good friend who was visiting. I don’t think this really counts!
I continued to paint. This September, I applied to the Artists Association of Nantucket. I had five pictures professionally framed and “museum ready.” I took photographs of my other pictures. I wrote my artist’s statement and filled out the application.
Now it is important to know that the Artists Association of Nantucket is not easy to join. Since Nantucket is full of fabulous and well-established artists, the AAN is a wonderful venue for artists, a place where a membership is highly coveted and difficult to achieve. If one belongs to the Association, one can exhibit work in a variety of shows and places. It provides members with free and low cost workshops and gives artists opportunities to work together and learn together.
In my artists’ statement I wrote:
"I come late to the visual arts. As a teacher and a poet, I have painted with words all of my life. My poems and essays have been published, but it is only recently that I have begun to translate my poetry into paint on canvas. Currently, I am transfixed by the light and color on Nantucket. I live on Eel Point where I see both the sunrises and the sunsets. The colors are so rich and dense and bright that, were one to capture them in realistic detail, they would not look real. On days that the Island is fogged in, the grays and whites reveal a multitude of shades and colors. I want to capture the feelings, the sense, the moment in an abstraction that becomes more real that the reality I see.
My voice is not consistent. As a poet, I wrote in different genre, different voices, and with different points of view. I wrote formal poems—sestinas and villanelles and haiku–I wrote in free verse and experimented with prose poetry. I wrote about the reality that I lived, and I wrote about the dreams that transcend reality. Currently, my art is the same. While almost all of my work is abstract, it varies in form, shape, attitude, media, and point of view.
Clearly, I am a novice artist—a work in progress—but I hope to learn, experiment, and grow in the company of other artists."
Everyday I checked the mailbox waiting for my letter from the AAN. Eventually, I got a very nice letter urging me to “create a cohesive body of work” and to use “more creative brush strokes.” I won’t lie to you. I was disappointed. The artists who reviewed my work, however, were not wrong. My work IS amateurish. So I will take their wise advice. I will read and practice, and I will continue to paint and to learn and grow.
Now I am literally "Throwing Paint." Tonight I will write a poem. Maybe tomorrow I will paint a picture. Maybe the next day, I will paint a picture with a poem in it. In fact, as you will see if you are on Facebook or Instagram, I am painting a picture almost every day, posting it on public media, and inviting comments and critiques. I am growing and learning. And I will try to join the AAN again in the Spring.
Art, in whatever form it takes—no matter how skilled or limited the artist—enlarges and enriches one’s life. My life is rich with creativity and color and inspiration.
This is Pat Jones' first year living full time on Nantucket. After decades of teaching English at the high school and college level, she is now embarking on a new and challenging odyssey. Both retirement and Island life are new and exciting and occasionally daunting. In this column she will share what it is like to live on Nantucket year round. As a poet, a writer, and a novice visual artist, her metaphor for the journey is “Throwing Paint.”