Sunlight on Palmettos
A Kick to the Pants
definition: A forceful gesture or message of some kind (usually delivered with good intentions) that acts as motivation to the (previously unmotivated) recipient.
I had a moment a few months ago preceding work on this painting. As I reflected back on the incident, a statement that my father used quite often during our teenage years, when we were not moving how he wanted us to move, came to mind. He would suggest that what we needed was a "kick to the pants" to get us moving in that direction. This is about one of those moments.
Mississippi Art Colony met in August of this year after missing three sessions due to the covid pandemic. Everything was a "new" normal as we had to meet in a new venue and we were all a little bit out of our comfort zone. Besides that, we were all excited to resume this gathering of artists. Every Colony session has an invited, nationally well- known guest artist. They don't come to instruct, but to inspire, motivate, and share their knowledge as a working artist. I have never personally known any of them, but have always benefitted from our talks, which are usually low key and a quiet one on one experience. The first day is generally finding our spot to work and setting up our work area. Everyday the guest artist walks around and speaks to each of us and talks to you about your work in progress, your goals and visions, and answers any questions we might ask him. Since he has about forty artists to talk to, it isn't a very long talk. The room is relatively quiet, as a matter of fact, talking during painting time is discouraged. There is serious painting going on. I chose my work space towards the middle of the room, close to several other coast artists, assuming I would not see our guest artist till afternoon and I would have time to start on a painting to discuss. Well, you know what they say about assuming.
Our guest artist was a man by the name of Moe Brooker. He was introduced at dinner the night before. Many of my fellow artists knew him because he had been invited years before and he was excited to be back. Moe Brooker is from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and a renowned abstract artist. I later learned when he gave his formal talk to the group, that his father was a minister and he had been a professor at several prestigious universities and art institutes. Remember these facts when I describe our first encounter.
So, back to my "kick in the pants" moment... Day One! I am sitting in the middle, confident that I can comfortably ease into my painting time. Then, in walks Moe Brooker. Not from the front of the room, but from the outside door in the middle of the room and right in front of my table! And I am first! Here is the dialog between us:
Moe: What 'cha doing?
Me: Well, I have this drawing for the painting I am about to start.
Moe: What else you got?
Me: Well, I brought this painting from home.
Moe: Let me see it.
I show the painting to him. He steps back, throws his hands up, points at the painting and yells...
Moe: What's that!
The quiet room goes quieter. Church quiet! I'm not sure what he's asking and so meekly tell him...
Me: A still life?!
Moe: NO! What are you doing?
I have now time traveled back to being an eighteen year old college freshman in my first critique by a studio professor. I feel I am not getting much oxygen to my brain which could be my only excuse for my dim-witted answer...
Me: Ah, watercolor!?
Moe steps into my work space, gestures to my painting in question and loudly exclaims...
Moe: You are better than that!!
Now, I am starting to breath again and I am feeling a little backbone rise up by about an inch, and think (and fortunately do not say out loud), "He doesn't know me! How does he know I am better than that!" But then I look at the painting in question and I realize, he is right! I can do better than that. Deep in my art soul, I knew this wasn't my best. Moe then steps over to the the drawing on the table, taps on it, looks at me and says...
Moe: Now let's lee what you can do!
So, as days went by, I worked hard. We always have a formal critique session at the end of Colony. If you want, you can put a painting you have worked on during the week in line, and the guest artist will critique it. Now, during those days between our initial first meeting and this critique, Moe had come by each day for our one on one and had quietly given me his insight into my progress. But as he put my painting on the easel with all the talented members in attendance, most taking notes on his thoughts about each of our paintings, I sat in apprehension and anticipation. All the while thinking, I can do this and "that which doesn't kill me will make me stronger". Moe turns and looks at my painting, his back to the audience. He puts his hand to his mouth. He stares at it in silence and contemplation. In what seems like hours to me, but was really only a few seconds, I wait. Thinking back to that first day and our first encounter, I sit prepared for the worst. Thinking back to Moe saying he was raised by a preacher, I see his father's influence on his stage presentation. He turned to the audience, threw his hands up (similar to our first encounter) and he points at my painting and booms out..."Now that's what I'm talking about!" I look at him, I look at my painting, I look back at him, and I breath. I smile. I breath again!
I share with you a quote by Theodore Roosevelt in which he paraphrases my "kick in the pants" quote,
"If you could kick the person in the pants responsible for most of your trouble, you
wouldn't sit for a month".
Moe Brooker gave me the kick in the pants that I needed that day, but President Roosevelt had it right. I didn't sit down much during that Colony session. But Moe Brooker's "that's what I'm talking about!" will live forever in my art soul. Moe Brooker passed away this past January. I am so fortunate to have experienced his motivational skills. He may have given me a kick but it was done with a kind heart. I encourage you to check out his art work and his inspirational life on his website: moebrooker.net .
So I share with you my "that's what I'm talking about" painting, Sunlight On Palmettos.
Thank you Moe Brooker and thank you for connecting,