W h i t b e c k N o t e s
Fruit and Wine
12" x 16" oil on panel
Welcome to the Summer 2018 Whitbeck Notes
I sit and watch as the wind whistles through the oak leaves, the sun light flickers pleasantly through the shaded forest, birds sing even in the hottest part of the day, and in 1521 Martin Luther writes in isolated Wartburg castle, hiding from his imperial enemies. Peace and quiet seems to open up so many fresh new ideas and possibilities, even where you least expect it.
No more canvases or spacious cabins to set up a make-shift studio in, no more panels to paint, so ill planned! I started the Chicago/Denver art show tour with my easel loaded into the van, as well as two partially finished panels ready to be worked on during my off time on the tour. In between Chicago and Des Moines I fell into my regular studio routine of painting, efficient, just like back at home, and before I knew it, some weeks later, I had both panels finished and varnished. So the Des Moines show is finished and we now have about two weeks before Cherry Creek in Denver. There is no way to have a new painting ready in that small amount of time, but all time can be put to good, productive use, and the thought of not being productive in between the art shows sets me off in a bad mood.
As the roller coaster ride of well laid plans usually go, thinking that it just wasn't going to work out for me to continue with painting, I was then able to purchase two more artists panels at the one and only art store in Des Moines. So things were looking up! Plus we have about a week or so booked in our great stone cabin at Dolliver State Park in Iowa, that great make-shift studio. Perfect. But at set-up day for Des Moines we get a call from the State park, "The Des Moines river is flooding. Sorry, but we have to close the park." That is a lot of unproductive time ahead of me. So I resign myself to the fact that I will get a lot of reading done and put in many miles of running the trails. Not so bad, I guess.
11" x 14" oil on panel
So much reading. Martin Luther happens to be my book. A fat, sometimes wordy book, exciting here and sleepy there. But he is my story teller for the rest of our time away, and I have always been interested in getting a bit further into his life then the nailing of his 95 Theses to the Wittenberg church door. I wanted to know more about the man and what made him who he was.
After his meeting with Emperor Charles the Fifth, who tried to dissuade him from his heretical ways, which he was unsuccessful in, Luther was "kidnapped" and swept away to a safe, out of the way place before the authorities could lay hands on him and eventually turn him into a martyr. This safe haven was the castle of Wartberg, safe from papal officials and imprisonment. And here is where this little story ties back into our tour. And indeed it does.
Breezy and pleasant, sitting in my camp chair, I read this: "The period of isolation in the Wartberg, without his library (panels, paints and brushes, for me) and largely without the advice of his friends, enabled him to encounter the New Testament with a rare directness and intimacy." - excerpt from Martin Luther, Renegade and Profit by Lyndal Roper-
Nothing special really, but it struck me in the right way. I am not at all comparing Luther's 1521 translation of the bible from Greek into German to my paintings or my experience here, but I am drawing a comparison between his forced solitude (10 months) in his stony Wartberg chamber to my unexpected expanse of unused time during the tour, and how inspiration and creativity can arrive when you least expect it, or where you least expect it. For me, what at first was the frustration of losing time, the feelings of being unproductive were later realized to be very productive, and in a way that is most essential to a good painting = the original creative inspiration that drove it in the first place. In my quiet, peaceful time here at our state campground, my Wartberg Castle, amidst the rustling of the oakleaves in the breeze and the bird songs from the forest, I have found many tiny epiphanies of inspiration, and with great eagerness I look forward to seeing if any or all will come to fruition back home, once again in my studio.
20" x 16" oil on panel
Old town and 57th Street in Chicago, Des Moines and Cherry Creek in Denver all tuned out to be a great tour. A long time from home and studio, but well worth all the effort and I will definitely apply to those shows again next year. Now back home again and with time to paint, I look forward to getting ready for my next show in Mystic, Connecticut (so close!). After that are three shows in September: Longs Park in Lancaster, Pa. , Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia, Pa. and ending the season with the Plaza Art Fair in Kansas City, Mo. Be sure to take a look at my website www.jameswhitbeck.com to see all the latest paintings. You can also follow me on Facebook and Instagram.
All my best,
cell: 413 695 3937