About a month or so ago I was painting with artist Jake Gaedtke along the Elk River near Steamboat Springs, Colorado. Whenever I paint next to other artists I am impressed by the unique vision each of us have. Even when looking upon the same scene, each individual filters the vast information in a very personal way. We each find the essence of the subject that inspires us. What inspires me is different from what inspires someone else.
John F. Carlson wrote so eloquently in his book, Carlson's Guide To Landscape Painting:
"The beginner in painting begins by copying nature in all literalness, leaving nothing out and putting nothing in; he makes it look like the place or person or thing. By and by he will learn to omit the superfluous and to grasp the essentials and arrange them into a more powerful and significant whole. And it is wonderful to know that these "essentials" will be essential to him only (and herein lies the secret of originality). Another man will choose another group of essentials out of the same fountain of inspiration."
Me (left) and Jake Gaedtke (right) painting along the Elk River, Colorado. Photo by John Taft.
To have originality, an artist simply needs to find what is important to him or her. The artist needs to simply be true to himself. Originality does not necessarily mean being avant garde or shocking the viewers with something bizarre. Though, for some, that may be a true and genuine expression. But for many, I think it is forced.
I would rather paint something (a landscape of a river, for example) that may have been done a million times and stay true to who I am. Because of my "essentials", my painting is a completely original idea. It has never been painted the way I painted it. It is unique.
So is Jake's painting. We painted side by side along the river, but found vastly different ways to express our response to the scene. Compare our two paintings below.
Elk River Reflections, by Keith Bond, oil, 10 x 8
Backlit River Bank, by Jake Gaedtke, oil 8 x 10,
Jake's beautiful painting captures the light exceptionally well. You can feel the warmth of the light as it illuminates the scene. The trees and brush glow in the afternoon light of September. The light becomes the subject as everything else becomes secondary. Anything which does not add to the painting is eliminated.
My painting is less intimate. Though light is important to me, it is not the subject. I chose to show more of the scene, capturing the unique textures of each of the characters. The fluid water, the hard rocks, the delicate foliage all coming together as various actors in a play. My painting is about the interplay, it's about the relations they have to eachother. Each contributes to the story, with the cottonwood tree having the lead role.
So, yes, both Jake and I were inspired from the same fountain. But we found our own set of essentials. We each created original works that never have been, nor never will be created by anyone else in history. That is originality. That is creativity. That is art.
Visit Jake Gaedtke's Website