The Spirit of Art

Sea Scene by John Henry Twachtman, oil painting, 1893.
Sea Scene by John Henry Twachtman, oil painting, 1893.

We received a phone call this week from the Board President of the Robert Henri Museum in Cozad, Nebraska. (To learn more about the early life of Henri, see Sign Posts.) The museum is receiving, on loan, four original paintings done by Henri – portraits of his family and himself for a new exhibition. The call reminded us again of the great inspiration we continue to receive from Henri’s classic book – The Art Spirit.

In our pursuit of mastering the necessary skills and art techniques needed to express our creativity, we must also never lose sight of our individual vision. Skills are important, but passion for our subjects and ideas is even more so. Representational painting, in particular, should never be about recording the facts of something – any camera can do that better. Technical ability aside, what really should be at the heart of every artistic work is the expression of our unique experience of life. How else can we connect?

Henri stated it perfectly:

“It seems to me that before a man tries to express anything to the world he must recognize in himself an individual, a new one, very distinct from others. . . in everyone there is the great mystery; every single person in the world has evidence to give of his own individuality, providing he has acquired the full power to make clear this evidence.”

Incoming Tide - Scarboro Maine by Winslow Homer, 1883.
Incoming Tide – Scarboro Maine by Winslow Homer, 1883.

“. . . For instance, contrast the work of Twachtman and Winslow Homer. The same scene presented by these two men would be not an identical geographical spot but an absolutely different expression of personality. Twachtman saw the seas bathed in mists, the rocks softened with vapor. Winslow Homer looked straight through the vapor at the hard rock; he found in the leaden heaviness a most tremendously forceful idea. It was not the sea or the rock to either of these men, but their own individual attitude toward the beauty or the force of nature. Each man must take the material that he finds at hand, see that in it there are the big truths of life, the fundamentally big forces, and then express in his art whatever is the cause of his pleasure. . .”

We’ve put examples of Twachtman and Homer’s works above. We would enjoy hearing from you. Are you able to maintain your individuality within your painting while learning the art techniques and skills required?  And, if so, how?

Join us on The Artist’s Road for more enlightening articles, interviews with top artists, step-by-step demonstrations and discounts in the unique Artist’s Road Store.

–John and Ann

Related Posts:

  • No Related Posts


The Artist's Life Blog
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.