By Kristin Hoerth
About a year ago, I attended an art show where Everett Raymond Kinstler—one of the top portrait artists in the country—served as the awards juror, and during the awards banquet he entertained the audience with some wide-ranging thoughts about art. I’ve always remembered one point he made in particular: Feelings must come first. An artist must first have something to share, something to communicate; then he or she must have the technical skills to successfully communicate it. But no amount of technical ability can substitute for the feeling or emotion that must motivate the creative act in the first place.
Several of the artists featured in our pages this month prove this point beyond a doubt. Take wildlife painter Bonnie Marris, whose passion for animals shines through every bit of writer Mark Mussari’s story. Here’s how Marris describes her motivation: “I want to make someone take a second look at an animal, to make others feel more affinity for the wild. When I’m with a horse, or a dog, or a wild wolf, it’s an unbearable passion. I want others to feel that same thing.” And we do. Looking at one of Marris’ paintings, we glimpse the depth of her feeling for her subject matter, and we are moved by the power of the image.
It’s the same for Stephen C. Datz, who is passionate not about animals but about the western landscape. As Rosemary Carstens writes, Datz “fell passionately in love with Utah’s dramatic canyons on his first backpacking trip there” years ago. “It was my first dose of how sublime nature can be,” Datz says. “Something just clicked. When I’m out painting [now], I often recapture that first experience and how profoundly it affected me. My hope is that my connection to these wild places comes through, that viewers of my art get some hint of the wonder I experience there.”
A passion so strong that it must be shared—that is the starting point for great art. Without deep emotions behind it, even a well-executed piece feels flat and hollow. But a deeply felt passion, coupled with a solid foundation in artistic fundamentals, is a magical formula. It allows the artist to say to the viewer, “Here’s what I feel. Do you feel it, too?” And we as viewers can respond with a resounding “yes!” -June 2011