Sunday painter, I was taught, is one who cannot or does not paint during the regular work week. Hence, the lesson went, a Sunday painter is either not very good at art or not very devoted to it. The term as I learned it was intended to be derogatory, and in my college art classes, the worst thing you could say to dismiss another artist's superficiality was that they were "a Sunday painter."
Recently, I have come to see the phrase Sunday painter quite differently, mainly because at this point in my life, I am one! All week long I work with the art of other artists in my job as Executive Director of the Bryan Memorial Gallery in Jeffersonville, Vermont.
Every morning, I take a few moments in the early light to visit my studio before leaving for work. At least once every day at the office, I steal an art moment to look inquisitively at the work of others. Most evenings, I spend a few moments with an art book, looking at pictures. The only time I actually have to paint is on the weekends.
Saturdays I run errands in the morning before settling into the studio for the afternoon. As long as there's natural light, I spend the time getting ready to paint, organizing the materials, looking over last week's work. I sketch and play with ideas, until I have to turn on the lights.
Sundays are when I really paintfrom the time I get up until night fallsoften following the light around the room until the last rays have been defeated by the dark. Sunday is the one day of the week I can be with my own art totally without distraction or interruption. It is a culmination; it is the most fulfilling part of my life, and most of the paintings in this exhibit were painted on Sundays.
So, I've come to use the phrase "Sunday painter" in a newer and truer light. For me, painting on Sundays represents the highlight of my week. It is the time I bring all the impressions of the week, the visual stimuli, the ideas, the dialogues with other artists, to rest on a page.
In a biblical sense, it is a Sabbath, a form of worship and rest. It is my time with nature, my time looking up to the heavens, my own personal "Hallelujah!" I may be exhausted from the intensity of Sunday in the studio, but with the conviction that my own personal batteries have been recharged for another week.
About Sunday Paintings
Every time I move, my work changes. Last year, after 12 years living on the most beautiful spot on earth in Hyde Park, Vermont, I bought my own home in Johnson. In a new house with a new studio, it follows I find my artwork is changing.
The first, most obvious difference is that I'm experimenting with new media and techniques. I took a monoprint class at Johnson State College that started the ball rolling. It led me to experimenting with oil paint on canvas (and on paper), to working with metallic inks, and metallic paints and pastels, to laying acrylic paint under my pastels, and to longing for the use of a monoprint press on a regular basis.
Given all the new space I rattle around in, it is not surprising that there is a sense of expansiveness in this most recent work that eluded previous compositions. Not that the perspective of my drawings has changed, but what happens within them has added layers of dimension and visual depth. I am particularly intrigued by working in pastel on top of acrylic, and in some pieces, like Tutti Frutti, Marmalade Sky, or Winter Carnival, actually leaving traces of the acrylic washes as part of the composition.
Here are a few comments about specific series in this exhibit of "Sunday Paintings."
The Gratitudes: The idea came from a rather flimsy "self-help" book that suggested at the end of the day, the reader list the things in that very day for which he/she was grateful. I began to notice that while I often had less than satisfactory sessions in my studio, there was always something that workedthe corner of a drawing, a new perspective on a piece I set aside the prior week, or a quick solution to a long standing visual problem. I started calling these pieces The Gratitudes.
In the last 5 years, I've completed more than 50 Gratitudes, including a few specific pieces in this exhibit that are pastel drawings on top of monoprints that were less than successful in and of themselves. In fact, as Gratitudes, I find them among the most stimulating (to me) pieces in this exhibit.
The Dinnerscapes: The idea came from my mother, Lucile Myers, who at age 89, resides in a nursing home in Los Angeles. Earlier this year, she mentioned that when she sits down to dinner in the dining room at Garden Crest, she catches a glimpse of the sunset over the Pacific Ocean, and thinks of me. She noted how it lasts only a few moments, and that when she looks up from her food, it's gone. "I call them 'Dinnerscapes,'" she noted. The idea stuckthat late afternoon, fading light, momentary, transitory, lasting only a few seconds before it's gone. So the 5 Dinnerscapes in this show are a tribute to my mother.
Stagecoach Road: I travel Stagecoach Road between Morrisville and Stowe on my way to work every day. The viewespecially for me, the trees against the skyis always a distraction, and it is not unusual that the motorist behind me is left disgruntled as I slow down at the sight of a particularly breathtaking scene. The four Stagecoach Road scenes in this exhibit were interpreted during the fall.
I start every painting day by looking through one of several art books that are my companions in the studio. Helen Frankenthaler, Jennifer Bartlett, Richard Diebenkorn and J.M.W. Turner have been the most frequent references for this exhibit. Also Emily Mason and David Hockney.
Frankenthaler's work has led me toward an experience of space on the page that was not present in my work until recently. Turner astounds me with his ability to summarize a scene. The older she gets, the more bold and confident Emily Mason's work seems to mea role model if there ever was one. Jennifer Bartlett has been my companion in the studio for almost 20 yearssomeday I hope to meet her, and I've never quite understood Richard Diebenkorn's work, but I am terribly drawn toward it, and hope someday to figure it out!