No spring nor summer beauty hath such grace as I have seen in one autumnal face.
No spring nor summer beauty hath such grace as I have seen in one autumnal face.
Today we are searching for things in nature that are hidden behind the veil of appearance…
We look for and paint this inner, spiritual side of nature.
For one swallow does not make a summer, nor does one day; and so too one day, or a short time, does not make a man blessed and happy.
The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places.
With the coming of spring, I am calm again.
Emmett Ardie Williams has had a profound influence on my thinking, especially my perseverance in creative pursuits. His willingness to share insights is remarkable. I discovered his art long before I had the opportunity to “meet” him on FaceBook. I have learned much from him over the years.
Emmett was born in Washington, D. C. in the early 1960s. He lived and studied art by drawing and painting street-life in D.C.’s notorious 14th Street corridor. Emmett’s introduction to art began with drawing animated cartoons from television. Later he created his own comic books. He did portraits of musicians and sold handmade posters as a child. His family briefly relocated to Ohio where he attended The Columbus College of Art & Design on the weekends beginning at age eleven. His mother agreed to match half the class fees if he earned the other half himself. He was told that his grandfather was an artist, and his father dreamed of becoming an architect. When he was fifteen his family returned to D.C. He had studied the Impressionists since age ten from books and began creating self- portraits. On his return to Washington, the city streets became his focus. Drunks, cops, pimps and streetwalkers permeated his sketchbooks for the next five years. He occasionally went to Atlantic City to the Playboy Club to draw gamblers and bunnies.
His earliest mentor was Georgette Seabrooke (Powell), the Harlem Renaissance painter. She created Tomorrow’s World Art Center and occasionally hired young Emmett to capture her events, such as “Art In The Park,” live on canvas.
Emmett’s talent didn’t go unnoticed. His work was shown at The District Building (City Hall) with adults. “Spirits: The Makings of Masters” was his first group exhibition. Accepted at The Corcoran School of Art, he became the first recipient of The Marie Fredenburg-Torsani Memorial Award in 1983.
Emmett has donated musical murals and paintings commissioned by the District Government to D.C. Village retirement home, formerly “Junior Village,” an orphanage where he was a resident for a few months in the 1960s. While there he was taken to the White House for a Christmas Party and viewing of “The Wizard of Oz.” He met Tricia Nixon who approached him as he drew her shoes. She wanted the drawing and she traded him candy for it.
After leaving the Corcoran, Emmett grew bored with Impressionism. Everyone was working in that style. He had always been attracted to Cubism and found new ways to make it work for him in a current world. He could appreciate and apply any technique that had already been tested and accepted. He wanted to be as unique as Duchamp and Picasso. His intent was to capture actual moving figures on city streets, figures that will not sit still; he wanted to find a way to capture the intangibility of musicians at play, from rock stars to jazz singers.
Emmett talks about his use of Cubism and some of the ways his work differs from other artists on his website:
“Cubist Art can be as simple or complex as an artist wants to make it. What makes the style impactful is the visual power of a form when broken down to basic bold elements used in depicting the subject matter. Everything that makes the image stand out is exploited by emphasizing bolder contours than one might normally use. Everything that is subtle usually included sparingly at the end of the painting process to somewhat soften the brutal technique. Cubism is not without beauty these days. I often wondered why the subjects could not be painted prettier and with more finesse so I tried it and feel I added something new to it. What appealed to me most about the style was the opportunity to explore various angles and views within one work. After that I rethought the static nature of cubist works, and experimented on applying not only angles and views but expanded my focus to capturing the motions of moving subjects. I was inspired by various works by impressionist painters who seemed to reflect movement in a delicate painting treatment…and wondered visually if the same qualities could work in depicting a more visually confrontational style. Certain types of persons fit better with certain painting treatments. If I am painting a ballet dancer, I would want to use impressionism but if I was painting an athlete or banker I would use a more impactful technique like cubism to capture the essence of that subject.”
His work found its way onto the walls of some local Jazz Clubs in D.C. He soon landed his first solo exhibition in Bethesda, MD. This was a pivotal moment in his understanding of life as an artist. During the massive traveling exhibition of the works of Van Gogh, the press refused to cover him. He was employed as a concierge. People were buying tickets to the Van Gogh exhibition, paying $50 or more. Then a reporter told Emmett that no one was going to cover him; not one person was going to write about his own solo show.
Emmett began writing them letters and sending postcards with his imagery to reporters who covered art. He finally found one writer who wrote a series of pieces about Emmett and his show. The gallery kept extending his show. It was a near sell out; the gallery even bought some works.
I first saw his paintings of jazz and blues musicians at the African American Atelier in Greensboro many years ago. They were evocative and memorable, so much so that when I later saw some of his paintings of horses I remembered his earlier work. Horses are one of my favorite subjects. Emmett’s were dynamic, expressive, and reflected his knowledge of equine anatomy and behavior. It turns out he has worked with horses and has an excellent understanding of their moods and motion.
Emmett relocated to Greensboro, N.C., opening his own studio in 2003 after a successful solo at a gallery there. Numerous features appeared in print and press. His work attracted captains of industry to his door. Then his work was featured at the Design Institute of America-Planum Showroom. That led furniture executives to his door, where they began to buy out his studio. They returned with offers to have his works featured on their high-end club chairs. Eventually this led to his work receiving continuous inclusion at The High Point Furniture Show for a decade or more. Emmett now makes his own furniture designs, available by commission.
His interest in comics hasn’t been lost. He creates graphic works for his “SuperPen Comics Line Up,” begun in 1979. New characters are in the works.
Collectors would do well to take a look at his work.
Emmett Ardie Williams provided much of this information.
I was honored to collaborate with him on this piece.
We all live inside bodies that will deteriorate. But when you look at human beings, they’re capable of very decent things: love, loyalty. When time is running out, they don’t care about possessions or status. They want to put things right if they’ve done wrong.
Spring has returned. The Earth is like a child that knows poems.
Rainer Maria Rilke
Spring is such a strange time of year. I love the newness of everything, but there is a part of me that cannot shed winter so easily.
by Ford Madox Ford
All within is warm,
Here without it’s very cold,
Now the year is grown so old
And the dead leaves swarm.
In your heart is light,
Here without it’s very dark,
When shall I hear the lark?
When see aright?
Oh, for a moment’s space!
Draw the clinging curtains wide
Whilst I wait and yearn outside
Let the light fall on my face.
This poem is in the public domain.
Winter is a season of recovery and preparation.
I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape.
Something waits beneath it; the whole story doesn’t show.
January is proving to be a strange month in many ways. It is winter, yet the temperature outdoors swings from low 60s to low 30s and back during the course of a single week. There are hurricanes in the Atlantic, the Pacific, and an immense storm over the Arctic.
My projects are equally strange this month: drawings of frogs, designing new logos featuring leaves and birds, and rewriting several stories.
Creating stories and art requires working months ahead, in seasons not yet here. I think I will do a few snow families in pencil. If it snows, I will create a few outside and photograph them.
Writing about spiritual issues can be a lonely occupation.
Those of us who struggle to understand where we are in the greater scheme of things, our place in existence, often find ourselves slogging through the quagmires of religious institutions, social conventions, revolutionary ideas, and human foibles. It’s a messy place and light seems to get sucked into it, never to be seen again.
Truth remains, however, and can be found in hearts and minds, our own and others. To see that light again we must scoop our brains out of our fractured skulls onto our blank pages and sweeten them with the blood of our broken hearts. We must pierce both conscience and consciousness in order to find truth’s core.
It is a painful process. Some believe that it begins at birth and ends at death. Some, myself included, believe truth is more river than pond, never-ending, part of a cycle of rain forming rivers that work their way to lakes and seas that, in turn, offer their water to the heavens once more. Thus, our own hard-won understanding, when shared, contributes to the understanding of all around us and will outlive us in some small measure.
I continue to learn, and to be puzzled by the tension between people and peoples around issues of faith, spirit, and what it means to be human. Admittedly, these are among the most intimate issues for all of us. They are intensely personal and yet anchor our communal core, our cultural and social co-existence.
Why then do these issues drive us apart as often as they draw us together?
Happy New Year!
I am very happy to be back at the keyboard for my WordPress weblogs (NC Sun Dog, NC Prism).
Back in late 2014, I was an unhappy camper with far too much work for others and far too little work on my own projects. As a writer, photographer, and artist I was aching in my heart and my head. At some point I realized the only cure was to jump back into my creative work. To that end, I stopped working on most of my online sites and did only what was absolutely necessary for my “day job.”
It was the best thing I’ve done for myself in decades. I wrote until some letters on my keyboard vanished and I had to rely on that touch-typing class to remember where the letters are. I took photographs of people and animals and places. I sketched my way through several bins of pencil shavings. I ruined several pairs of jeans wiping paint off my hands while I finished many canvases and boards.
By mid-2015, I had actual manuscripts and full sketchbooks with enough drawings to organize into series of works. I had so many paintings I had little wall space left in the house.
I was happy again.
Now it is December of 2015 and I am moving to the next stage: organizing and completing current projects, envisioning a few new ones, and beginning to step back into the light of day. It is time to rejoin the flow of creativity that surrounds me.
My weblogs are a first toe-in-the-water. I have focused a bit more on what I want to accomplish, found designs I am comfortable using, and begun research on some of the things I hope to cover.
2016 will look different on NC SunDog. I will be posting into five categories this year.
May the strength of three be in your journey.
–Old Irish blessing