Oils and watercolors are as different as oil and water. Watercolors dive into the paper and live inside it, like jelly fish in the sea; oils are accreted on top the canvas like stalagmites, grow from canvas like oak trees. Watercolors are frail, pallid, picky, peaked petunias and sweet peas in washed-out vases. That’s the familiar kind, so charming to the elderly. But watercolors can be impetuous, manly, kinetic, broad and broadly painted with flat brushes preferably an inch wide, with paint in tubes, not blocks. It’s that kind I aspired to. Eisele Galleries in Cincinnati, which handles my whole oeuvre, describes my style as quick and fearless, controlled and confident, loose and literal.
Oils are for the ages -- taking ages to accomplish, certainly to dry. Watercolors are caprices, cadenzas, riffs, improvisations, quick little jigs, one-hour stands, that’s the charm of watercolors. And that is exactly what appealed to me in youth. That is what youth is for. I haven’t done a watercolor in 50 years. I’m not sure I could, not with the old recklessness, or want to.
An Oeuvre of Oil Portraits
This is a book of portraits in oil painted by a physician, me. That’s not quite as odd as oil paintings by Hitler, but odd enough to warrant a preface, pages of preface, in lieu of my memoirs, such as all my octogenarian friends are writing.
Medical school was my de facto art school, and the seminar my atelier, where I studied art as earnestly as any expatriate American in 19th century Paris. Strong on facial expression and weak on Michelangeloean musculature and let-it-all-hang-out creativity, my art school curriculum was not classical.
I have it on good authority, my parents, that I was drawing before I wrote anything, certainly essays, or could write. I wouldn’t know for sure but it sounds credible. All I know is that one day, the better part of a century ago, I happened to look down at my hand and – hmmmm -- it was holding a pencil, maybe it was a charcoal stick, and lines and shapes were appearing on a piece of paper. I shrugged and kept drawing, never stopped. In terms of duration, though not recompense, art was my life career. Medicine was just a 50-year interlude.
If at the beginning my memory banks had not developed to the point that memories could be accommodated, when I could remember things I never thought about what I was doing – just did it. So there was nothing to remember. Only later, probably in middle age, did it occur to me to give any thought, much less analysis, to art as a separate thing. Only then did essays come, and then in a torrent. So now I write as well as paint, and this category, “drawn & painted,” is where art essays and the like are dumped also. Consider them “artist’s statements.”
Drawn & Painted
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