PAINTINGS: “The Determined Sailor” and the Art of Perseverance

Determined Sailor036

Richard Bledsoe “The Determined Sailor” oil on canvas 48″ x 36″

circa 2006

I must admit, there was a point I didn’t keep very good records. So I find myself uncertain of the exact timing of a certain troubled interlude in my life. The best I can reckon it, it probably ran from about 2004 to 2005.

I graduated with my BFA in painting from Virginia Commonwealth University in 1993. In all the years since, I’ve never stopped painting; but during this dark period, my production slowed to a crawl. I had become fascinated with working on wood panels, a  rigid, unyielding surface to paint on. When things were clicking I had made some really inspired pieces in this format, but during this ebb of my artistic energy I couldn’t overcome the resistance of the medium, and even worse, the resistance in my spirit.

I made some truly terrible paintings during this period. If I get really brave some day, I will post those incompetent, blighted images. There are a lot of unfinished panels, and even the ones I called completed are in no way resolved. I haven’t gotten rid of them. They live in my garage now, safely out of sight.

But worst of all, the visions ceased. The basis of my art, the fully formed pictures that come out of nowhere, the profoundly meaningful images that are revealed to me in unexpected flashes, stopped appearing. It was like losing the key to Wonderland.

It could have been the end of my art. Things were really that bleak and frustrating. But it’s not the way I chose to approach life, to be a passive recipient, battered by forces out of my control.  Once I saw the real jeopardy I was in, I took action.

I decided no more wood panels. I went back to first principles, and constructed a canvas  in the same format I had been taught in my first semester of Beginning Painting, back in 1991: a wooden frame 3 feet by 4 feet, the canvas stretched by hand, and stapled, and gessoed.

For the image I also reached back to an earlier time. I remembered an idle doodle I had once drawn in ballpoint pen on the back of a flier, during a dull afternoon of gallery watching many years before. That was the icon I needed now.

The result of this effort at renewal became the painting “The Determined Sailor.” This was how I felt then. There’s also some Popeye in there, and some Winslow Homer. So much gets poured into each painting, it’s impossible to summarize all the inferences and connotations.

The example of this sailor I summoned worked. I found my way back into my art. In time the visions began to creep up on me again. Now the problem I have is I have too many ideas, which is a great problem for an artist to have.

That was probably about 10 years ago. For several of those years the painting hung in my studio, but ultimately it sold. A lady who had overcome some major difficulties in her own life saw the image online, and was so taken with it she made it her computer screen saver.

Naturally her husband sought me out, and bought it as a surprise for her.

I miss the painting, but the way it found a new home and family remains one of the most touching experiences of my art career.

“A true art is the visible manifestation, evidence and facilitator of the soul’s journey. Spiritual art does not mean the painting of Madonnas or Buddhas. Spiritual art is the painting of things that touch the soul of the artist. Spiritual art does not often look very spiritual, it looks like everything else because spirituality includes everything.”

-The Remodernism Manifesto




24 thoughts on “PAINTINGS: “The Determined Sailor” and the Art of Perseverance

  1. I enjoyed reading your story which has some resonances, and I liked the picture with its references. It is delightfully naive which is fun, and at the same time carries a real message. Thankyou for sharing .

  2. Thanks! It’s true, I think it was the beginning of my mature style …which continues to mature. Still so much to learn about painting, even after doing it for 25 years.

  3. thank you for stopping by hole on the whackywhackyway and liking one of my paintings – it’s much appreciated. I enjoyed reading this post of yours.

  4. Thank you for this post. I loved hearing the story behind the painting, and your comments about the spiritual aspect of art put into words a feelings I’ve been trying to express. I enjoyed the post and will be following your blog.

  5. Hey man. Just a note on your WordPress theme. Can you add a “search” feature and/or an archive. I was looking for something you wrote, and all I could do is scroll down and scroll down. I’m pretty sure your them will allow both those features, so we can navigate your page easier. It can probably be tucked into your “menu”, which is what I did. Just a thought.

  6. Hi Eric, on my page when I look at it, on the right hand side, I have Top posts, Category cloud, Recent posts, a search field (it’s just an unlabelled box that can be typed in) and archives all listed out. Could it be the device you are using doesn’t show that sidebar? I’m no computer genius so don’t know how these things work. But thank you for the suggestion, I definitely want the site to be user friendly. I’ll do some research into it, thanks again!

  7. I’m looking at it on my lap-top with a large monitor attached. I see a menu on top, but it only has two subcategories: “home” and “about”.

    Oh, now the right sidebar suddenly appeared. It wasn’t there last night. If I zoom in it disappears, but I’m not sure if that was the reason, because you have to zoom in quite a bit before it disappears.

    Anyway, it’s back, and with it the search and archives and all.

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