Friday, February 19, 2010

Back East and Back to an Old Friend


I'm returned from last week's adventures out in Washington State and have settled back into my painting routine in my studio. Good to be home.

Speaking of coming home, I want to show some images of one of my favorite sources of inspiration, Rockwell Kent's wood engravings.

Art is a tool to help one get more in touch with themself. Ironically we find hints of our innermost personality and history outside of ourselves in the art work that has been done by others. My family when I was four settled on the rocky shore of Lake Ontario outside of Rochester, NY. Back then it was very rural and on a clear night the sky was ablaze with thousands of stars. Once I was old enough to "camp out" with my childhood friends, one of my absolute favorite things to do was to lie on my back and gaze at the heavens, sometimes for hours before our chatter would die down and we'd eventually drift off to sleep. Occasionally we'd be treated to showers of shooting stars.

Above is a sailor out at sea similarly gazing up at the night sky in one of Kent's engravings. I discovered this image when I was a college freshman, just starting out on my serious journey to become an artist and realized immediately I was seeing a little piece of myself in Rockwell Kent's imagination.

Below is a fabulous depiction of Moby Dick breaching the surface to arch his back against the night sky. It display great power and at the same time real delicacy.


I've read that more than anything else it was the publishing of a new edition of Herman Melville's book containing the masterful series of illustrations by Kent that propelled Melville into the front lines of American literary history.

Better than almost any other artist I can think of, Kent found a language to speak about the drama and romance of the natural world at night. Wood engraving, with its preponderance of black, was perfect for his vision.

I'd like to leave you with one of my favorite Kents, the engraving he titled Godspeed. We're all traveling in that little ship he depicts, and his imagined angel wishes us well on our journeys. I don't believe in angels, but the feeling this angel stirs up in me is one of the most real things I know. Kent had a gift for engraving. What an amazing gift he gives to all of us who have the good fortune to see his work.


Kent published a wonderful series of engravings illustrating his voyage (and shipwreck) to Greenland in his book N by E. Seeing the landscapes engravings in that book some dozen years ago was a major prod to my own work to move into some more visionary terrain

1 comment: