Golf and Art
Golf season ended almost a month ago for my high school golfer. His team qualified for Sectionals (hurray!!) so we drove 3 hours one-way, on a Sunday morning, to the golf course that he would play on. It was a pleasant autumn-feeling day and he played his practice round very well. Then came Monday, the day of Sectionals. All of us got up early, before the crack of dawn, the kids to practice, and us to reserve a golf cart. My son’s tee time was 8:48 a.m., and after his name was announced at hole #1, his very first shot of the tournament veered off to the left in a patch of taller grass. Parents and players searched and searched for that little white ball to no avail. Humiliated, he had to trudge back to hole #1 and tee off again. He finished his first hole with a triple bogey.
And so began the no-good, horrible day of golf. The course was difficult and tested the limits of each inexperienced young golfer. High scores abounded. Moms prayed and Dads cursed, growling under their breath like irate grizzly bears. Hours and hours of practice had not prepared my son for the pressure, fear, and terror of playing a high stakes tournament on such a tough course. When it was over, parents and players looked dazed, and no one felt like celebrating. Everyone just wanted to go home.
Wait, isn’t golf supposed to be fun? Haha! Ask my son! He’s already practicing for next year’s season. I’ve been an artist all my life and people often remark how wonderful it must be to be an artist. It is! Holding a finished work of art is amazing. But there’s a whole process of creating a piece of artwork, from start to finish, and it’s not always pretty. It’s a bit like any project. In the beginning, you get an idea, which is very exciting, and you start. The middle part, which is the longest, is messy, and if you are inexperienced, there are moments when you feel like all hope is lost, and you should give it all up and take a job, any job, elsewhere. But... with experience you learn that if you can push through to completion, you wind up with something that may not be exactly what you had in mind originally, but you are pleased with it, nonetheless. Happy accidents happen.
I’m sorry to say, though, that there can be a lot of angst in the drawn-out middle part. Throughout the years, during my many, sometimes painful hours of working alone on a piece of artwork, trying to develop a technique, striving to produce a successful sculpture or painting, I have often said that I pray to God, but I talk to Bob. Bob is Robert Bateman, aka the King of Wildlife Art across multiple industries. In fact, I have never met Mr. Bateman, but it helps to imagine him there with me, giving me advice. What would Bob do? Just knowing that another artist, somewhere else in the world, is going through exactly what you are, makes you feel less lonely. I have a couple of his books in my library and refer to them all the time.
In the 1981 book, The Art of Robert Bateman, Ramsey Derry writes “ He (Robert Bateman) appears cheerful and playful about his art, though he admits that most of the time spent on a painting is a struggle. ‘It certainly is not a pleasant relaxation, any more than playing golf is a pleasant relaxation for Arnold Palmer. It’s serious work and very often it can get, well, almost depressing. I get very, very discouraged soon after I start a picture. The first five percent is exciting and I think it looks great, but then it starts looking worse and worse and eventually I put it to one side. I know from experience what is going to happen, so I don’t give up. I start another picture, and then perhaps another, each of them getting to this awful stage. Eventually, by comparison the first one looks better to me, so I return to it. It isn’t until I get to the last two percent that it begins to look good to me again.’”
Therefore, although we could talk on and on about the golfer and the painter, and the pain they share, one thing is certain. The end result is all for the sake of the viewer. You. The pleasure of watching a great golf game or viewing a wonderful work of art is indescribable. Through our momentary suffering as artists, we leave behind works of beauty that lift up all humankind. The process is all worth it in the end, and the message is clear. Keep on golfing! Keep on painting!