"There's a long-distance loneliness rolling out over the desert floor." So croons Jackson Browne in "The Fuse". With this painting of emotion, the pen becomes the brush, the mind is the canvas. With but one line, a picture is painted. More than a picture, a feeling is painted. "A long-distance loneliness." It's beautiful, it's immense, and it's depressing all at once.
It's a challenge when one attempts to resolve the dilemma of the greater of two artists: the one whose canvas is transformed with the brush, and the other, who uses words to stir the senses.
When I was a child, I could examine picture books for hours on end, imagining I was there on the pages, in the story, one of the characters. I was three inches high as I scooted into the little mouse hole in the wall. There I would take refuge with my friend, the mouse. There we were safe from the cat, safe from the elements outside, on the little couch, in the little home in the wall.
I was the cowboy in the fort, the Indian in the canoe, the army man in the foxhole. I was a giant, walking through the sea, able to touch the ocean floor. Sloshing to the shore, I owned the city as I trekked through the streets, using cars for my own personal toys.
As I grew, pictures brought on different feelings. I felt sadness, romance, and elation. That magnificent painting of the waterfall with the calm pool beneath, took me away. I put myself into the picture, drenching myself in the icy water, hiding behind the massive liquid sheet, falling asleep in the sunlit afternoon on the bank of the sandy shore by that waterfall.
The otherworldly feelings of space exploration and interplanetary travel sparked the very core of my childhood as I gazed upon, no, as I gazed into the pictures spread before my young mind. Anywhere I wanted to go, pictures took me light years away. Anyone I wanted to be, pictures made it so. If it could be transferred to canvas, or paper, or board, or glass from the mind of an artist, I was there!
But where can the visual artist take me that the writer cannot? Is it enough to paint the cave in the shadows? Does the visual artist take me into the cave, or does my own imagination? In the scene of the cabin in the woods, surrounded by a winter wonderland, do I feel the warmth of the fire because of the light I see in the window and the smoke emanating from the chimney? Does my mind take me there and supply the warmth?
Does the painting on the canvas move my psyche? Is it true that I need to have experienced warmth to imagine it? Do I need to know snow to feel the cold? Is it the viewer who brings the canvas to life, or the artist?
So to the visual artist, and I am one myself, I say paint the cold without showing me the snow. Then paint the warmth of the cozy fire in the cabin without showing me the fire. Paint the wet of the waterfall and the depth of the valley and the height of the mountain. Yes, the visual artist can do these things and more!
But the dilemma remains, canvas or pen. How does the visual artist paint the "long-distance loneliness rolling out over the desert floor?"
Les Anderson is a Telecommunications Engineer, a freelance writer and artist. He is a former student of the late great Hollywood portraitist, Alexander Rosenfeld, and Southern California watercolorist Margaret Hunter.