Higher Ground

Sunny Morning on the Hudson River by Thomas Cole, 1827     Oil painting.
Sunny Morning on the Hudson River by Thomas Cole, 1827 Oil painting.

We often talk about the myriad tasks of life that seem to buzz around us and can become distractions from our artistic focus. We call it “ground clutter”, a term borrowed from radar used to describe unimportant signals in the landscape. While it is important not to trip on or bump into ground clutter as we move through life, there are  times when we have to remind ourselves to quit watching our feet, look up and see the bigger picture.

One of the things that increases the buzzing and can sometimes completely obscure the larger vision comes from comparing and competing. Although it may be rewarding for one’s art career to be accepted into a national juried show, or even win a top prize, this should never be the goal in art.

Acceptance is affirming, but it is often only the temporary opinion of a juror. Plenty of deserving art gets rejected from these shows every year. Likewise, the social benefits of working within an accomplished group of artists at a plein air painting event may be stimulating, but again, it is often only a temporary benefit. We have interviewed many professional artists for our Voices of Experience articles, and a common thread which winds throughout their lives is the dedication to the continuous development of their personal visions over the long haul, come hell or high water.

Joseph Campbell described the artist’s role best when he said:

“Creative artists . . . are mankind’s wakeners to recollection: summoners of our outward mind to conscious contact with ourselves, not as participants in this or that morsel of history, but as spirit, in the consciousness of being. Their task, therefore, is to communicate directly from one inward world to another, in such a way that an actual shock of experience will have been rendered: not a mere statement for the information or persuasion of a brain, but an effective communication across the void of space and time from one center of consciousness to another.”

At those times when it becomes difficult to see the bigger picture and we begin to minimize our work by comparing and competing, it is vital to remember how important our individual statements of art can be. We are witnesses to the world around us, recording, reacting and sharing our sensitivities. We see this as the higher calling of art – higher even than winning that competition or being the quickest to finish a quick draw.

(Joseph Campbell was an influential teacher and American mythologist, writer and lecturer, best known for his work in comparative mythology and comparative religion. He was an expert on religious and mythological art in particular, and studied the role of the artist in society throughout history.)

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–John and Ann

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John Hulsey and Ann Trusty

About John Hulsey and Ann Trusty

John Hulsey and his wife, Ann Trusty created the website, The Artist's Road - Painting the World's Beautiful Places.  The Artist's Road inspires with practical art tips and painting techniques for the traveling artist, video painting tutorials and demonstrations, workshop resources, artist profiles and interviews and remarkable painting locations.  The Artist's Road is an artist community for oil, watercolor and pastel artists.  Articles cover intriguing art travel experiences artists have had while painting the world's beautiful places. "I believe I must speak through my art, for the preservation of Nature and the natural landscape from which I take my inspiration and living." John Hulsey is an accomplished artist, author and teacher who has been working professionally for over thirty years. In addition to producing new work for exhibition and teaching workshops, Mr. Hulsey continues to write educational articles about painting for national art magazines, including Watercolor magazine and American Artist Magazine. He has been selected as a "Master Painter of the United States" by International Artist Magazine where his work was previously chosen to be included in the top ten of their international landscape painting competition. He was awarded residencies at Yosemite, Glacier and Rocky Mountain National Parks. "I strive in my art to celebrate the mysteries of Nature - the fleeting light on the landscape, the unimaginable diversity of creatures, the beauty of each leaf and flower." Ann Trusty  is an accomplished third generation artist whose work embodies the natural world and is created through direct observation and translation of her subjects into her paintings. She has found inspiration in the dancing light across the water of the Hudson River (where she had a studio for ten years), as well as the big sky and waving tall grasses of the open plains of the Midwest (her current home). Her work has been exhibited throughout the United States, France and Turkey in both museum and gallery exhibitions, and has been reviewed favorably by the New York Times.

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