Finding Our Sensibilities Through Art

“An Artist’s Date” is a new Little Patuxent Review blog series based upon a concept included in Julia Cameron’s book, The Artist’s Way. Cameron believes each person is innately creative and this creativity must be expressed, or it becomes a cancer. One can write or paint or sculpt or solve equations or woodwork or weld or build a tree house – but one must create in some way. When we create, we draw down energy and resources, which must be replenished, hence the idea of the artist’s date. Cameron encourages each person to make a list of potential excursions, which are fulfilling, fun and could ideally be done alone. For example, on my list are cooking/baking, scrapbooking, visiting art museums, going to the theatre, hiking, and attending other writers’ readings. Each of these activities fill me with joy, connect me to my inner child and replenish my creativity well.

An Artist’s Date, then, is determined by the blogger and shared with you, the reader, in hopes of igniting sparks, ideas of places to visit as well as providing a virtual date in the midst of an otherwise busy day. If you have an idea for a date to share, shoot me an email.

Welcome to this installment of “An Artist’s Date” brought to by LPR co-publisher Mike Clark.

Fall 1961, I left Madrid in a rickety bus after spending three days romancing the art of El Greco, Goya and Velazquez in the Museo National del Prado.  Toledo is 70 kilometeres south of Madrid.  I was alone and free to explore my attraction of El Greco’s art.

I  also wanted to experience the Toledo that El Greco had as a backdrop of landmarks of his paintings dramatizing classical or religious themes.

El Greco, "The Disrobing of Christ" (1577-79), Sacristy of the Cathedral, Toledo

El Greco, “The Disrobing of Christ” (1577-79), Sacristy of the Cathedral, Toledo

Losing myself in a maze of Toledo’s narrow streets in the promontory above the Tagus river, I wandered until I came upon El Greco’s art in the sacristy of the city’s cathedral.

He was born as Domenkios Theotokopoulos on Crete, which in his lifetime was under the auspices of the Venetian Republic.  There he painted static, intense icons.  From there he traveled to Venice, where he fell under the spell of  power of color of the Renaissance masters Titian and Tintoretto.  Then on to Rome, where the classical art of Michelangelo further influenced his artistic genius.

El Greco, which means “The Greek,” settled in Toledo in 1577, where his dramatic expressionistic style, elongated figures and capture of light gave an intensity to the religious figures under his intense brushwork.  He died there in 1614.

El Greco, "View of Toledo", 1600

El Greco, “View of Toledo”, 1600

Later that night in Toledo, I wended my way to a plaza with an outdoor café, and all alone I drained glasses of San Miguel beer, gazing up at El Greco’s inky sky with its sheath of clouds.

Four hundred years have passed since El Greco died and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., had an exhibit celebrating the artist who influenced so many artists of modernism, including Picasso. I traveled there as a student of Howard Community College’s Art Museum Field Trips via a bus with little room for my length and bulk.  I gazed to once again upon the works of the master who only 54 years ago sent me wandering a city, searching.

In viewing the sequential development of El Greco’s art, it became clear to me that whatever creativity we carry within us is multi-layered.  We are influenced by brushing up against a wave of artistic expression over our lifetime that with inspirational alchemy comes to define what we deem it to be.

Online Editor’s Note: Mike Clark is a retired Baltimore Sun reporter, who is known best for serving others. He started Christ (Episcopal) Church Link information and referral service to serve Howard County residents in need of assistance.  Along with others, he began the “Prepare for Success” backpack and school supply project for students in Howard County from low income families.  Clark helped start “Alianza de la Communidad” to provide support for Hispanic immigrants in Howard County; worked with county Sheriff’s office in establishing “Howard Holiday” project with sheriff deputies delivering gifts to children from low income families during the holiday season; was co-chair of Healthy Families when the program was managed by Howard County General Hospital; served on the county Homelessness Board; and served on Howard County government’s Grants Committee approving grants for the county’s non-profit organizations. Clark served three years as the editor of American Friends Service Committee’s regional publication on social justice issues. He received the Audrey Robbins award for community service and the Casey and Pebble Willis Making a Difference Award.  He has served as co-publisher of the Little Patuxent Review since it began in 2006.  In 1972, he and his wife, Lois, served a year as volunteers in Appalachia. he wrote articles on the environmental impacts of strip mining in the region and testified on its devastating effects on the mountain ranges  and people in the Southern Highlands before a Congressional subcommittee.   He also enjoys writing poetry.

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