Until I met Claude Monet last Christmas at the Denver Art Museum, I saw the world only in obvious colors, textures and forms. My uneducated sweep of vision took it all for granted because I had little visual context into the essence of things.
But it was Monet — up close and personal — who showed me the light. Standing within inches of his work, I could see the way he assembled forms and aggregated colors. I could see how he applied textures into an art form that, when standing back, created evocative scenes of nature or settings of culture and society. Monet’s canvases enlivened my visual imagination.
The Monet exhibit, which for good reason was mobbed by patrons of the arts from near and far, affirmed what I had begun learning by watching my wife paint her canvases. Daubing paint here and there seemed like child’s play until I tried it myself.
At the Denver Art Museum, an inviting room was open to the public with paints, paper, brushes and easels. One could walk in, pick up a brush and paint.
Holding a brush and applying a splash of color here and a line there, I began seeing the world anew. I have no illusion of becoming a great artist, or ever calling myself an artist, but since painting is what it takes to open my eyes to the world, then a painter I will become in the private studio of my kitchen and the private gallery of my dining room.
My wife, however, has become a true enthusiast. She determined to hone her skills and has spent many hours before an easel, making art.
Her latest creations are mostly mountain landscapes on which she first sketches an outline, then gradually applies her brushes with the colors she creates on a palette. Making colors, I came to realize, is an art in itself.
A whole morning will sometimes fly by as she ignores the clock and all other demands — mine included — and expresses herself with her brushes.
Since COVID has cut out her art classes, her work has been private until this summer when, for the first time, she summoned the courage to show her work publicly.
The Basalt Art Base held a highly effective fundraiser this summer by offering local artists a challenge and a venue. Canvases 10 x 10 inches were given to anyone who would present their work for a virtual auction. My wife excitedly took one home and, within a day, had painted her picture.
No names were attached to the works shown on the auction, so there was mystery surrounding the incredibly diverse pieces, all of them posted on a website for bidding.
Every day, my wife went to the site. When she saw that her painting had earned a bid, she felt validated. As the bids mounted, so did her artistic esteem. Together, we studied the other artists’ contributions, which was an art lesson in itself. Comparing styles and interpreting abstracts was fun and edifying.
When the bidding deadline came, my wife knew the bids on most of the pieces, some of which she had learned were created by local artist friends. The prices went higher and higher, and her piece went up with the rest. She couldn’t have been more pleased.
I was tempted to bid up her painting through a pseudonym, but that wasn’t necessary. Her painting stood on its own merits as an appreciated piece of art. What more could an aspiring painter want?
Now that it’s over, I’m inclined to jump in and create something for next year’s Art Base fundraiser. The only art piece I ever made that gave me gratification was a third-grade finger painting on which I used all my fingers. I’ll need to think of something a bit more nuanced and original.
I should start with an “Art Box” that the Art Base is offering for children of any age. They come with tutorials, and the artist provides the necessary inspiration. Now that my wife is wearing a beret and speaking with a French accent, she has truly become l’artiste peintre.
Paul Andersen’s column appears on Mondays. He may be reached at [email protected].