Since my retirement from teaching music in 2001, I have spent a good
deal of time working on my ‘second career" as an artist. I have two brothers
who are professional artists, and my son was trained by the Minneapolis
College of Art & Design. Yes, art is in the family, led by my father,
"Art," Arthur Adams, who was a talented sketch artist who kept us children
entertained during the long sermons of his beloved Missouri Synod Lutheran
Church by drawing animals for us on a little pad. We were amazed that s
mere human being could bring so many creatures to life with the stub of
an ordinary pencil.
I actually began drawing again in the summer of 1995 when my father,
Art, died, so perhaps I was trying to recover my lost father, or maybe
it was just that it brought back memories of him. In any case, I drew pen
and ink animals and landscapes much influenced by Krenkel and St. John
for five years.
For some strange reason, I had been waiting until my retirement to start
doing watercolors again, but as soon as I walked out the school door for
the last time I picked up my brushes and rediscovered Andrew Wyeth, who
quickly became my favorite artist. I had looked through all the art books
I had on my shelves and found his watercolors to be the closest to how
I thought good watercolors should look. And so I painted landscapes around
Minnesota for three years and tried out many other media, including pencils,
charcoal, pastels, and acrylics. However, watercolors remained my media
of choice, and I think I did my best work there, showing my paintings in
a number of local galleries and events.
Way back in 1969, I started doing a set of small 4x6 inch collages on
note cards. I was living at home with my parents during the summer before
I went back to the University of Minnesota for my Master’s Degree in Music.
My little brother was in his senior year in high school and headed toward
his career as an artist. We worked in the basement, the coolest place during
that hot summer (our parents did not believe in air conditioning) I worked
on ideas for a thesis, and my brother on large acrylic paintings. The small
collages were just a whim, based upon my reading of Dada and the Surrealists.
I tried my hand at a dozen, then forgot about them for about 35 years.
Sometime during the past couple of years while organizing my notebooks,
photographs, and writing (the thing one does during retirement) I came
across those old collages and found them to be very powerful. They inspired
me to take up collaging again, and I have done little else with art since
March of this year. I now have over a hundred small pieces on various size
cards and a number of larger ones, which I showed at a recent gallery exhibit
in Bird Island of regional Minnesota artists.
My collages are all surreal and deal with archetypal images based upon
my interest in the writings of Carl Jung. Most of them so far start with
backgrounds upon which I build up images, however, recently I have started
combining colored and black and white pictures with watercolor, gouache
My new interest in collaging began with a series of pictures for Bruce
Bozarth for one of his Ras Thavas short stories and the ones displayed
on this site based upon the Tarzan stories. After this I seem to have worked
in the direction of shamanism with images of animals and people combined.
I started a series on the 12 labors of Hercules, doing a number of 11x14
pictures and have recently begun working with 8x11 stock. I have a great,
large Noah’s Ark, 14x20, which is my usual large watercolor size. I guess
collaging is in my blood, at least, I’m still up for them after 4 months.
Like all of art, collaging is a method of seeing rather than just something
placed on paper or canvas. For me, it more about doing than the product
you get by doing. I do these things to see the world better and to see
myself with more clarity. I have found that collaging teaches one to see
images in relation to the things around them and how they lie upon backgrounds.
I do some collaging every day in my garage studio. I cut and glue while
I smoke my pipe. Art is expansive and works together with my piano playing
and reading. There is a time for everything in my world, and it is wonderful
to portion out my time doing what I want to do. As K’ung Ch’iu wrote: "At
fifteen I thought only of study; at thirty I began playing my role; at
forty I was sure of myself; at fifty I was conscious of my position in
the universe; at sixty I was no longer argumentative; and now at seventy
I can follow my heart’s desire without violating custom."
July 30, 2004