Part 1 – How I Became a Painter
I gained insight into the nature of my painting by going back to what I wanted to be when I grew up.
I saw Star Wars in 1977 when I was 7 years old, quite possibly the perfect age to have seen that movie. I spent my whole youth wanting to be a film maker. And 10 years later, in 1987, that’s what I went off to college to try to be. I had to enroll in a freshman arts foundation curriculum, which exposed students to a whole gamut of creative disciplines, like drawing, sculpture, interior design, and commercial art.
It was in these classes I discovered painting. From the first moment I tackled a big surface as a student project I was hooked, although it took a long while and several changes of majors to understand this. But now I’ve been painting seriously since 1991, and it remains as fascinating as ever. I’ve never stopped working at it in all those years.
I’ve found the way to show my vision and tell my stories without needing the resources of a film studio. As I’ve gained comprehension of my art, I’ve been clearer about what it is I do.
I’m showing you stills from the movies in my mind. The possibilities are endless.
Richard Bledsoe “Gentlemen Astronomers” acrylic on canvas 24″ x 30″
Part 2 – Where Do I Get My Ideas
I am an intuitive artist, working not from observation but from visions that arise in my mind. The potential subject matter is limited only by the freedom of imagination, my capacity to comprehend what is presented to me, and the skill I have to render it visible.
I am not after a naturalistic recreation of the world. Painting is a dream world, and requires its own particular forms of creation. Its beauty transcends realism.
Other artists might work in the great traditions of landscape, still life, portraiture, or figurative painting. The visions I present are a blend of all these different explorations into a single unified image.
I’m sort of a mutant form of a history painter, the genre once considered the highest form in the hierarchy of Western art, but much neglected in the modern and contemporary art worlds.
The difference is story telling. Rather than make a detached work of art for art sake’s, emphasizing merely formal concerns, history painting depicts a moment of drama. It shows action arrested for contemplation, rich in implications of past, present, and future activity. It injects the element of time, suggests consequences and resolutions are pending, and extends the liveliness of the art beyond the edges of the canvas.
In my book Remodern America, I described how the images come to me:
I can sum up my art with one simple statement: The Good Lord told me to show you this.
I have visions. They come at the most random times. I could be washing the dishes, or driving to work, and suddenly the picture is there. It usually arrives now with a title, dimensions and suggestions for technique.
These visions tend to come in waves, or clusters. I’ll receive multiple suggestions over a few days or weeks, then experience a lull which can last weeks or months.
I maintain a notebook where I jot down the ideas so I don’t lose them; usually the title and a one line description is enough to recall the intact image to my mind. The book has hundreds of entries already. I will never live long enough to paint out all the pictures that have been presented to me, and new visions keep arriving all the time. I have to prioritize…
Like in a dream, the imagery is full of symbolism. The specific details shown are significant, though like in a dream it’s not always obvious, and not clear cut. There are nuances and connotations and above all, the final wordless mystery.
As I work on the paintings, I come to interpret them. Patrons will often share insights with me on my works as well, telling me meanings that I didn’t even realize, but which become clear once indicated.
Such is the seductive beauty of symbolic expression; even when manifesting universal archetypes, a symbol caresses the spectator in an intimate manner. While symbols can communicate concepts shared in common, each person experiences the thrill of recognition in a unique way, different as fingerprints.
Symbols give hints. They gesture. If you follow their indications, you find yourself gazing upon the unknowable complexity and profundity of existence.
I no longer work from preparatory drawings or grids. I create the images by painting them directly out on the canvases. While working on the paintings, the most effective results happen when I’ve become so absorbed in the process that I’m aware of nothing else. In fact, it’s like I’m aware of nothing at all.
I vanish while my paintings get applied to the canvas. I have the continuous experience of stepping back from the work to see it, and it’s like I’m stepping out of a trance. I’m constantly surprised by what I see has appeared on the painting, because I have no memory of doing it. Turning myself over to this receptive state allows something beyond my own capacities to take over. My best achievements are works done through me, rather than by me.
Richard Bledsoe “Mothman” acrylic on canvas 24″ x 30″
My wife Michele Bledsoe has written her own inspirational book, Painting, Passion and the Art of Life.
Remodernism Video: BEFORE THERE WAS FAKE NEWS, THERE WAS FAKE ART
Visit other posts for more commentary on the state of the arts.
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