As an outdoorsman and Appalachian Mountaineer I have always held no small amount of pride in my ability to weather a good winter. However, with two full months now of serious snow shoveling I find cause to scream "Uncle" and, to think more and more about those wonderful green pigments of spring that await.
This winter may find most of us a bit more in survival mode for a variety of reasons. As I returned from a meeting across campus today, I came across this young man fund-raising for Haiti amidst a rather cool backdrop. While the powerful color and value contrasts of this landscape didn't escape my notice, my main thought was of how a life making art is a wonderful luxury; a luxury not to be taken for granted. There is no shortage of starving artist references. We also know that Van Gogh certainly produced fine work under extreme duress. However, I think most of us would agree that we focus most enjoyably on our art efforts when well fed, warm and sheltered.
I was reminded of the slump in painting I experienced following September 11th, 2001. Painting during that time seemed accompanied by a certain degree of guilt. Guilt for pursuing what felt a bit like a frivolous luxury while so many suffered. Yet, if we are so fortunate to dodge the bullet; we do what we can to help and (to paraphrase Ed Whitney) we re-energize ourselves for the task ahead and get busy. I am not entirely sure why our contribution of creative energy and making art is important to the world during times like these, but, I strongly believe that it is.
There must be a reason it has taken me far too many months to post a wonderful contribution from Ward Hooper on this site. When we feel debased, we best return to our base and renew our commitments. A very competent portraiture watercolorist recently emailed me asking for some advice concerning painting landscapes. I once again found myself referring her to Ed's book: "Read the Complete Guide to Watercolor Painting slowly and methodically until you fully understand every design concept Whitney discusses. Then, read it again. Everything you need to know to become the strongest painter possible lies in these pages". I heard back from her today, and evidently the aha experience is underway. Spring is still a few months away, but its not too early for me to do the same.
Ward Hooper of Northport, N.Y. studied with Ed Whitney among others, and still teaches at the National Art League of Queens. You may find out more about Ward and view his colorful and expressive watercolors at WardHooper.net.
The National Art League in Queens where Ed held his famous Saturday workshops is still a large group of artists. I was asked to do a demo for the opening of their fall season a few years back. Just being there brought back many fond memories that I related to them as I painted. It was a lot of laughs (back then) as almost anything Ed Whitney said was a memorable quote. His critiques showed no mercy. Of the usual Saturday group of 25-30 people, if you were among the 3 or 4 students who received his famous "whose is it" it made your week until the next Saturday!
In regard to a previous blog on this site regarding the influence of the California School, Ed was an admirer of Rex Brandt and Robert E. Wood. In May of 1975, I got Robert E. Wood to come to my hometown of Northport on the East coast of Long Island to give a workshop. In addition, he had a showing of his watercolors at our local gallery. Ed and the Saturday Workshop group caravaned to Northport to see the show. Ed purchased one of Bob's paintings titled Monterey Signs and a photo of the painting appears in Bob's book Watercolor Workshop. I have enclosed some photos of Ed's Saturday workshop demos on Long Island plus a signed print of one of his forest interior scenes. Keep up the good work, wonderful tribute, Regards, Ward Hooper
Thanks Ward for your contributions to the site. Now, lets all go and paint our way in to the Spring of 2010! P.S. If anyone wants to contribute to Appalachian State Hope for Haiti please contact me and I will provide info on how to do so.