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Stewardship of the Seed (4 of 5)
Series: Stewardship of His Gifts
OPEN: One of the most beloved of American artists was Norman Rockwell. But, though many of the common folk loved and cherished his paintings, many other artists did not, deriding him as nothing more than a common illustrator.
Rockwell once explained the difference between his style of painting and that of many modern artists with this story:
Ten or fifteen years ago a Bohemian art student - complete with the beard, long hair, sandals - kept hanging around a studio I'd rented… One day he interrupted my work on a painting of Johnny Appleseed which showed an old man with an iron kettle on his head and a burlap sack for a coat striding across a hilltop, flinging out handfuls of seed.
''Whatta ya do it that way for?'' the art student asked.
''What do you mean?''
''Whyn't ya do it with more feeling?'' he said. ''Like this.''
He pulled out colored chalk out of his pocket and outlined a tall rectangle on a big piece of paper. ''Now'' he said, filling in with light-brown chalk a shape like a hawk's beak, ''that's old Johnny's body. It was browned by the wind and sun. O.K.?''
I nodded, startled.
''O.K.,'' he said, and he divided the rectangle into a red area and a white area. ''He was kind of a religious fanatic, right?''
I nodded dumbly.
''So the white's his spirit,'' he said, ''and the red's the physical part of him and they're contending, the physical and the spiritual.''
He rubbed blue chalk over the area below the hawk's beak - ''that's nature.'' He made the base of the rectangle dark brown - ''that's earth.'' And then he added a hand casting a seed.
When he'd finished I said ''But, nobody knows it's Johnny Appleseed. Only you know it's Johnny Appleseed. Nobody else can tell who it is.''
''So? What difference does it make about anybody else? I know it's Johnny. I'm painting it for myself. Who cares about the unwashed masses?''
(Norman Rockwell, Saturday Even ...
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