Yes, I would like to be an artist.
This impulse strikes me In February each year when the Stars of Texas Juried Art Exhibit opens. And open it did for its 20th edition last Sunday, and it will remain open to the public daily through Feb. 17.
I look at the outstanding works that are on display at The Depot Civic and Cultural Center, as well as the Salon des Refusés exhibit at the Art Center on Fisk, and my first thought is, “Wow, I wish I could do that.”
Alas, it is not to be. I realized in elementary school that painting, in particular, was like trying to communicate with people in a foreign language. And now, decades later, it’s as true as ever.
Not long ago, I attended an introductory painting class that benefited a local charity. The instructor made it look so easy. By duplicating his every stroke and, under his skilled guidance, I created something that wasn’t half bad — which also means it wasn’t half good. Everyone else in the class painted essentially that exact same scene.
I sense that being an artist is about the journey, not the destination, and that artists create works that first speak to them. But there’s also this matter of embarrassing yourself with the finished product.
In recent years, there’s been a growing understanding among connoisseurs that photography is an art. Perhaps it happened slowly because of the longstanding notion that photography is all about the tools, and not about the talent. For example, you don’t hear people say, “That’s a beautiful painting. You must have an expensive paint brush.”
Here’s a tip: If you want to make photographers cringe, tell them they must have an expensive camera because they take wonderful photos. These days, your phone can take great photos, too.
Brownwood has a number of photographers whose works I consider art. Some of them are featured in the two shows now open, the Stars of Texas and the Salon des Refusés.
My endeavors at the newspapers where I’ve worked — primarily at the Bulletin — have occasionally ventured into the exalted realm of photojournalism. However, at a community newspaper, most of the images published are more akin to “point-and-shoot” photos anyone might take at a school or civic function. This isn’t art.
For years, if asked, I would list photography as a hobby, but in retrospect, that wasn’t accurate. It was my work. Photography could become a hobby now that I’m retired, but it still reminds me too much of work.
In Amarillo last month, I visited a college classmate who pursued a faith-based career. Now in semi-retirement, he is focusing (pun intended) on photography as a serious hobby. His images of landscapes, sunsets, and nature he finds around Palo Duro Canyon are worthy of publication, and perhaps that will happen. I called him around 6 p.m. the day before we were going to meet for lunch, but there was no answer. Duh, I thought later. He was probably out in some field by the railroad tracks shooting sunsets. The next day, he confirmed it.
Such is the effort true artists take for their craft. Some might argue that artists who specialize in the classic media like watercolor, oil, or sculpture, for example, are on a higher skill level than photographers. That’s not a distinction that applies any more. The proof is found in the finished product.
Gene Deason is editor emeritus of the Brownwood Bulletin. His column appears on Fridays. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.