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A Late Starter

One of Donald Silverberg's paintings
 A late start in learning how to draw and paint has given me surprising satisfaction 

When I was in kindergarten, I was particularly useless with crayons and a paint brush. (I was OK with plasticine). This frustration was confirmed in every art class I ever attended in school. My friend Freddy was brilliant in art which confirmed my absence of talent. This did not keep me from loving art. I just counted the number of art books on my shelf (32) – and I have read them all (including several on art history), and I have loved my visits to art museums in all 25 countries that my wife Myrna and I have visited throughout our travels. I also love art lectures.

Only eight months ago she casually suggested to me that that maybe I would be interested in a new art course that ESRA had organized in Netanya. I knew about this course at AACI run by "Gypsy" who was known as an excellent New York-trained artist and art teacher.I had seen several jaw-dropping exhibitions that her students (mostly around my age-80+) had produced.

But still my first reaction to her suggestion was that surely I had already missed the train…. after all I am 81! But then I said what the heck. I could now fit it into my "busy" schedule since I had recently retired as a nephrologist at Ichilov Hospital after practicing medicine for 55 years in four countries (and receiving a professorship at Tel Aviv University ten years ago because of my work, research and teaching.)

The art course lasted three months (once a week) but I was enthralled. Most of the people who were there were graduates of her previous AACI courses and were worlds ahead of me, but that only helped me because they would kindly make positive suggestions to me in a patient way. And Gypsy was inspiring with her stories, her guidance and teaching, er good humor and patience. When the course ended, I began a new course at AACI with Ruth and have had the same wonderful experiences for an additional three months. I was also directed by my fellow art course members to go into the Internet where by typing into Google things you would like to draw or paint you can be instructed by experts free of charge. This includes:

  • 1. How to draw or paint flowers, lakes, mountains, grasslands, forests, trees, buildings or people with pastels, water colors, oil, tempera, acrylics - all free of charge - by experienced, good natured and very articulate teachers from all over the world. I found these very helpful.
  • 2. The site "Pinterest" which give you pictures by the thousands on any topic you want, be it people, animals, and nature scenes - all by the thousands

Once I had learned the basics I could go into these sites and use pastels, water colors, Tempera, oils, and colored pencils and crayons ….. the world was my oyster. Now no flower on our porch would go unpainted (I disturbed the Wandering Jew long enough to paint him before he continued wandering, drove the poppies and daisies crazy). All the still fruits and vegetables became now STILL LIFE victims.No piece of furniture would go unnoticed and all and each will forever be honored and imprinted for eternity by my majestic strokes. 

 There were many classic painters whom I could now pull down from my shelf of art books to try to emulate their elusive styles. Vermeer's famous 'Lady with the Pearl Earring' was my first victim followed by Monet's lilies and lily pads (which we had just seen in real life in Giverny France). And while there I walked down the same beautiful paths that he painted and could try but vainly to paint them as well as he.

Van Gogh got my attention especially for his art during the time he spent in the last few years in Southern France where the world was brighter than Holland. I copied his methods of painting grass and flowers, enriched with my own style. Imagine me copying him and getting the same great results!

I had also liked Caravaggio even though he was a scoundrel, so when I visited Latrun I remembered that he had painted a scene of Jesus rising from the dead and walking from Jerusalem to Latrun to have supper with three villagers. Remember the song 'Abide with Me'?That's about this scene. So they got my treatment of him eating at their home before he upped and disappeared.

Three of Donald's creations 

I copied a David Hockney painting of someone watching a friend swimming in a pool. Sooo ordinary that I thought - Hey I can do that. But who will pay me 26 million dollars for my painting which is what this painting got in an auction?

Confession. My favorite paintings are of lovers walking hand in hand with an umbrella on wet streets or in parks or woods, with the sidewalk and trees and flowers glistening with rain. What can I say?I guess I am a romantic.

I discovered magic artists who could make sunsets that were as explosive and overwhelming and multicolored as the ones we see from our porch every night (we live on a hill overlooking the sea in Netanya). That gave me the inspiration to copy them with all the glorious reflections in the sea which double the effect. And the waves ... damn hard to learn how to paint them but worth the effort. As tricky as painting waterfalls. But those Google lessons and the Netanya art courses helped solve all these problems.

Perhaps there are others out there who, like me, have never conceived of painting and drawing as a pastime. You might be pleasantly surprised. As I look at 50 of my best paintings (out of the 300 I have painted) now hanging on placards in places of honor all around our house, I cannot express the joy I get seeing them. It is a feeling of love and accomplishment. And then, as Wordsworth said: "… my heart with pleasure fills, and dances with the daffodils". 

Go for it.

 

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Friday, 25 September 2020

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