My book is entering its final phase of production. I have written and mailed off mind-numbing checks from my mortgage account, all while I wait for the KickStarter page to close and payout. There are four more days left while the KickStarter page is still live and accepting pledges: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1149501600/an-early-work-late-in-life-the-art-and-life-of-dan The marked-up galleys have been modified and are winging their way down to me for a final once over with my editor. As a result, I’m taking stock of things–lots of things–not just Dan’s art and life, but my own as well. Dan’s book is now written, and I’ve done my very best.
When I first met Danny, I was attending college at RIT studying to become a painter and illustrator. I was awestricken by Danny’s natural ability. He was self-taught–unspoiled by formal education and it was humbling. His talent set my own course on a different path. Danny introduced me to the idea of striving for perfection. He also taught me to enjoy creating art, teaching me that the act of the work was the joy that went into it. Art instructors often forget to instill that in students–perhaps because they, themselves don’t realize the importance of balancing hard work with the sheer pleasure of working. After I met Dan, I stopped painting and drawing and began building scale models. I started to carve miniature furniture, partly because I loved doing it, and admittedly I wanted to do something different from Dan, so as to not invite comparison. I wanted to impress him and meet with his approval. Dan’s approval was incredibly important to me. It wasn’t until decades after he died, that I began to paint and draw again. Now I paint with a more “painterly” hand bearing in mind that I’m older and vision impaired. But while my eyesight was in acceptably good condition, Dan’s influence set me on a direction I cherish in retrospect.
Back in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Dan did paintings on pieces of scrap Masonite he found on the street–cast into the trash with piles of rubbish left behind by workmen restoring old houses. His painting, The Mandrill is roughly the size of a light-switch faceplate. Who knows what those odd scraps were left over from. But one of those scraps is now in a museum collection (Sunny Ducks). I built my miniature furniture carved from scraps of cherry. Small artwork has a dynamic all it’s own. Dan and I were both miniaturists of a sort. Danny urged me to try and push my limits to carve tiny things that looked exactly like the full scale originals. Doing so became part of the challenge, and I listened, because anyone who could take scraps of Masonite and turn them into jewels was clearly way ahead of his time.
Dan taught me not to be lazy about my art, and to put everything I had into every project and enjoy it as a labor of love. One thing Danny could do (which is a natural talent I do not possess), was his ability to plant a brush loaded with ink, confidentially on a piece of paper, and make quick and subtle movements with his hands as if the brush would talk. Out of nowhere an image would appear. I call that an “Asian” hand. Not everyone can do artwork of that sort, but Dan could. He admired the arts of Asia, and it often came out in his own work. Not everyone can simply load a brush–smack it against a surface–drag the brush one way or another–and have a recognizable image emerge. Danny was uniquely gifted.
Today marks the one year anniversary since I began writing An Early Work Late in Life. A special thanks is in order to Sarah Gerin for igniting this project. So Thank you, Sarah.
While it may be cutting it awfully close, the book will hopefully be available in advance approximately three weeks from today exclusively at the Rochester Memorial Art Gallery at 500 University Avenue, Rochester, NY 14607. Dan’s painting, Sunny Ducks will be featured in an exhibit at the MAG titled It Came From the Vault–opening to the general public, Sunday, March 17th, 2013.