Friday, January 16, 2009
Last Flame (for Andrew)
Acrylic on board, 8" x 10"
$350 plus $8 shipping in U.S.
The famous American artist Andrew Wyeth died in his sleep Friday morning, at the age of 91.
I was about 18 when I purchased a slim volume of Wyeth drawings, and pored over it like the Holy Grail. I grew up in a small town in Oregon, and Wyeth's paintings of rural landscapes and country life struck deeply familiar and resonant chords with me. He became my role model and distant, unknowing mentor.
At age 22, fresh off my first (and only) year as a high school art teacher, I was entertaining the idea of trying to be a full-time artist. Determined to go see Andrew Wyeth and ask his advice,
I flew from Oregon to Wilmington Delaware, rented a car, drove to the little burg of Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania where the artist lived, and called him from a phone booth. An hour later I sat, trembling and nearly speechless, six feet from my idol. The poor man had to do almost all the talking, trying to draw me out of what must have looked like a semi-catatonic state.
Wyeth was kind and encouraging, but also occasionally stern. He studied a watercolor portrait of my wife I had brought along. "If you don't know how to draw an ear, learn it...you've got eyes...use them!" he exclaimed, leaning toward me and stomping his foot for emphasis.
Over the years my idol worship mellowed and tempered. There was quite a long period of time where I was highly critical of Wyeth's work--the student rejecting the master, I guess. I've come out the other side with a more balanced and realistic view, I believe.
What I know for sure is that Andrew Wyeth played an instrumental role in my becoming an artist. I could never thank him enough.