PASSION AND REDEMPTION
I sat in my Highschool art class and stared at the 11″ x 14″ canvas board on the table before me. I squinted my eyes trying to make the image on the board look better. I closed one eye and tilted my head. No matter what I did I could not make the image I had just painted look like anything I would be happy with.
The biggest critic an artist has is themselves and this day I was ultra critical. I had mastered pencils, charcoal, watercolor as well as pen and ink but this was my first step into acrylic painting. As far as I was concerned I had indeed really stepped into it and the canvas before me was a stink I couldn’t wipe off my show.
“Is that Jesus?” The question came from Karla Weigman. Karla was not only one of the smartest students in my small Highschool of West Platte RII in Weston, Missouri she was also one of the most popular.
I was not popular, I was poor and an outcast. My long hair separated me from the majority of the other students in my class who were country boys and girls. I was a city boy and different; a fish out of water. This never seemed to matter to Karla and she was always friendly with me and always had a smile for me whenever we met.
“Yes”, I said, “I guess so.” Karla picked up the canvas and looked at it. “I really like this” she said. “You like it?” I scrunched up my nose. “Yes, it is very nice.” I looked at her to see if she was kidding; she wasn’t. “You can have it.” Karla looked surprised. “Really?” I smiled, “Yes, really. I’m glad you like it.” That was the last time I saw the painting until a couple of years ago.
Karla had found me on Facebook and Friended me. Shortly after I accepted her friend request she posted a photo of the painting on my timeline. My jaw hit the floor. I had not thought about that painting in almost 40 years. I had almost forgot that it had existed and now here I was staring at my first attempt at acrylic painting.
I do not know what shocked me more; the fact that I was looking at a painting I had attempted at 16 years of age or the fact that my friend had, in all reality, archived my first attempt and preserved it.
As I looked at this painting that had come back to haunt me after all those years in obscurity I resolved that there was something I must do; I must see this as the zero mile marker at the beginning of my artistic journey. I could no longer regard this painting from 1973 as something better left forgotten it was now so much more. This poorly rendered acrylic painting connected my past with my present and the impact was palatable and enduring.
As I studied the painting the first thing I noted was the effect I had attempted to create; the head of Jesus on the cross emerging from the blackened shadows. I remembered that I wanted to make a statement on how the sacrifice of Christ brings us out of the dark and into the light. If I had done this painting in pencil the effect would have been dramatic. However my unskilled hand with acrylic paint made the head of Jesus look misshapen.
The next thing that caught my eye was the garish pinkness of the face. I am sure that in my feeble understanding on how to mix acrylic color kept me from getting a Caucasian flesh tone which I could have easily have done with watercolors. I did notice that I was at least on the right track with the shading in the face but oh that all too pointed nose. Which brings us to my next observation; the hair and beard.
Like most people my age I grew up with “Euro-Jesus” the Blond Haired Blue Eyed Nordic God of Jerusalem. Thanks to the Medieval, Renaissance and Contemporary Artists of my age I just assumed that everyone from the middle east, Jesus included, were Caucasian and of fair hair and skin. Heck, not even the Romans who sealed his fate were lily white or as my painting depicted Peony pink. Now knowing that Jesus was Jewish and not a Germanic ideal I shake my head in the deception that was perpetrated on generations by artists like Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Cervantes, Raphael and myself.
Looking at the crown of thorns I shudder. If I had created them in Pen and Ink there would have been depth and detail. These thorns looked like a mass of worms that had been executed with a pen cushion and the blood, oh the blood. I could have created more realistic flows of blood using my Charcoal Pencil than I did with the globs of red that I splash on the face of my unfortunate depiction of the savior. I had to remedy my artistic blunders and find redemption.
Now you will note that I used the word “Blunder” and not “Mistake”. There are no mistakes in art, just as Bob Ross observed, only “Happy Accidents. To my state of mind this blunder verged on the edge of an 18 car pile up at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. I resolved to create a new acrylic painting using the same subject matter, The Crucifixion of Christ, and put into that painting all I have learned since 1973 and all I continue to learn. The only question was; when would I do it?
To try to explain to you when inspiration comes for me to create the art I create would be like me trying to explain what lies beyond a Black Hole in space; impossible. Just suffice it to say that I had to wait for the inspiration to hit me at the right time. That inspiration hit on Easter Sunday of 2022 five years after Karla posted the photo on my Facebook page. I set to work and documented each step of the process. As I worked I watched such movies as “The Greatest Story Ever Told”, “Ben Hur” and “Jesus of Nazareth” so that I could stay focused for the task at hand.
I finished the painting and named it “Passion”. The name was not only for the Passion of Christ but also represented the Passion I have had for my God given Artistic Talent my entire life. I sent it to Art Print Express in Topeka to be digitized so that I would have an archive copy for future printing purposes. I knew, when I set out to do this painting that it would never be one that was for sale. This painting would be a gift, a token of my gratitude to Karla Weigman for preserving my first attempt at Acrylic painting.
Now you might ask; if you disliked the original painting so much why are you grateful that she saved it? Because, without her preservation of my first effort I would have never had the opportunity to truly understand how far I have come on my artistic journey. I cannot tell you how many paintings I have created since that very first one, they are to numerous to count. What I can tell you is that each one was a milestone along my road. That road is one that will end one day on this earth but until it does I will continue to create art and mark each milestone. My hope is that by the time I get to heaven I am worthy to paint for eternity next to the masters that have come before me.
On Monday May 23, 2022 I mailed “Passion” to Karla. She received it on May 25, 2022. It is now at home with it’s ancestor, “Head of Christ”.