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Interview with Claude Howell, #189 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

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Interview with Claude Howell, #189
In this art history lecture from the Gwen Ward videotape collection, artist Claude Howell (1915 - 1997) discusses his work with an audience assembled at St. John's Museum of Art in Wilmington.
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Interviewee:  Howell, Claude Interviewer:  Lecture Series Date of Interview:  n.d. Series:  Arts Length  60 minutes


[Please note: the audio quality of the source has degraded over the years, resulting in gaps in the following transcript.]

Tiffany: Welcome to St. John's Museum of Art. It's my great pleasure to introduce Claude Howell. Claude was born here in Wilmington, and as a teenager began his art studies under Elisabeth Chant. He then went on to study at the Olympic School of Painting and Sculpture in [inaudible] Maine. He also studied in New York and Europe. He founded and chaired the art department of Wilmington College, which is now the University of North Carolina in Wilmington. He has served on the advisory council of the North Carolina Arts Council, and on the boards of St. John's Museum of Art. He has had exhibitions, of course, at the North Carolina Museum of Art, the Hyde Museum in Atlanta, the Fortune Gallery of Art, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and he has received numerous honors and awards, including the [inaudible] Fellowship, and the North Carolina Award in Fine Arts for his contribution as a painter, arts educator, supporter, and leader in individual artist. Claude is talking with us tonight, on this wonderful retrospective exhibition Claude Howell, Carolina interpreter. Join me in welcoming Claude Howell.


Claude Howell: I want to stay seated, so I won't get too high on myself. Tiffany said a few things about me. Nothing compares with Friday night a week ago. I never seen anything like that in my life. I think it was the most exciting birthday, and in fact the most exciting time I've ever had in my entire life. I was completely overwhelmed by a great show of love and affection for me. I always try to be nice, but I didn't realize that I came close.


Claude Howell: What I'm going to do tonight is probably very silly. I'm going to show slides of paintings, which you could very easily look at yourself, and the slides can never touch the real canvas, but the reason I'm doing it is because this is was a first schedule of a art [inaudible] across the way. We thought it was going to rain, so we've moved it in here. However, I am showing a number of slides of paintings which are not in this show, and it will give you a little better picture of what happens, or what I'm trying to do. I'm very pleased with what Grant [ph?] has done here. He has bright cameras selected 37 other paintings that he considers to be important paintings. However, I have paintings over 4000, so you're only seeing a minute part of the work. A lot of you have asked me in the past, and I'm sure you continue to think this, "What is it that makes an artist? What is this magic thing?" because most people are a little bit mystified by anybody who paints. Well, I can tell you three words what it takes to be an artist. It takes first of all, dedication, and secondly, it takes hard work. I don't mean talent. It's roughly important, yes. I mean, it's necessary, you could have all the talent in the world, if you don't have those first two things, you still don't get anywhere. Some of the best students I have ever had I knew would never amount to a world painter, because they didn't have dedication, and they weren't ready to make it work. To be a painter, it takes years and years of study, of actual working, of painting. All of this is not just throwing paint around on a canvas. A lot of my most important work is done when I'm sitting at my table with a drink of scotch in my hand, looking at sunsets and painting. That's when I plan what I'm going to do. It's why, and I believe in asking questions, they pose questions which have to be solved, and I spend my entire life trying to solve the questions that I ask myself. I don't think I'll ever solve them all, because you never solve all of the questions, all the problems. Everybody who paints a picture, you may solve one problem, but that means that some other powerful painting has raised another problem, which you haven't solved. So that leads to your next canvas. So there's end progression from one canvas to the next, to the next, and so on, forever. I don't see how people can suddenly say how "I will be non-objective this month," the style changes the next year, there's something else. The next year, there's something else. You have to have a point of view. You've got to believe something, and you've got to have a continuation. There never has been a complete break in my work, but if you will notice when we look at the slides, there's a tremendous difference between the early ones and the later ones. I would certainly hope that this is true, because if you just remain the same forever, you wouldn't be improving, would you? You wouldn't get anywhere, and you'd have a tendency to hope that your latest works are a little bit better than the ones you did ten years ago. Sometimes this is not true. I've been shocked looking at some of the older paintings in this year and I discover that they have things that I'm really not doing now, so maybe I haven't progressed; maybe it just changes. But what is a painting, anyway? I think it's the result of everything that has every happened to you, everything that you know, everybody that you know, waving behind me, the civilization in which you live. This is what makes your painting. I happen to be a North Carolinian. I live in Wilmington. It's not like Africa. I can't paint like an African. The culture of America is different from that of Europe. Now, you can be influenced by Europe, and by Africa, and by Asia, and I think it's very good to know these things, but you certainly cannot hold to anything the Europeans. This is why I think it's very important to know art history, to study the art of every period, of every civilization, but you certainly can't copy any one. You take what you need from every period, and every civilization, you put it together, and the result is you. A lot of my students used to worry so that they'd say, "Oh, we've got to express ourselves." Can you all hear me? They would say, "We have to express ourselves." How can we do it? And so they'd do all these strange, wild things. I said, "You're not expressing yourself. You're expressing adolescence. That's what you're doing." I said, "It boils me down to see what you're doing." I said, "Concentrate on becoming a human being, a real person, and you can't help but express yourself." I said, "You can't force a style. It comes. It is you. If you did force it, it's false, and believe me, people can tell if you're not truthful in a painting." There is something else in art which is not proving a lot relevant, I'd say jobs. If you are relevant in a big company, you'd get a big promotion, and you rest on your laurels. This is not true in art. Every time you paint a picture, you're going to be judged just on that painting. It doesn't matter what you've done before. You have to keep proving yourself over and over and over again. This means it's pretty strenuous living the life of an artist. You can never retire. If you work hard enough at a job, when you're 65 you retire, and you get your retirement. Well, an artist can't do that. He has to continue working as long as he's physically able. Now, recently I have retired from the university, but that was teaching. It was making a living. Well, painting a living, that brings up another point. Do you paint to sell a picture? I would say 90 percent of bad painters in the world do. The good ones do not. The good ones paint because they have to paint. Miss Chant always taught us that you didn't paint to win a prize, you didn't paint to sell a picture. You painted to get better, and this is what I have always done. I have sold a lot of paintings in my life. A lot of them, but I've never painted a picture to sell. Somebody had come along and seen them. I've never accepted a commission, because what happens when you do this? What happens when you paint to sell a picture? You lose your freedom. An artist has to be free. He has to be free to do exactly what he thinks should be done. If you're painting to sell a picture, you're bound to be influenced by popularity. You're bound to make a little change here, because this would look prettier, somebody won't like it. Somebody won't like the use of colors, and so many other things. You don't do that because it's art. This is why a man I mentioned Van Gogh, who turned out to be so bright, only sold three paintings in his entire life. He painted because he had to paint, and because he really wanted to enjoy painting. At the same time, you are miserable the whole time you're painting, because your goals are so high, that you never can possible achieve what you want to. This means that the minute you paint a picture, painted to say, "That's pretty good. I did a good job." Do you know there's one thing that you can do, and that's all. Hang up your paint brushes, but them in your box, and never take them out again, because it means that you can never get any better. You've got to realize you have to be self critical, and self analytical constantly, and one of the hardest things that you can possibly be is self critical. I've found that very difficult, but you have to be, you have to force yourself to look at what you've done as if somebody else had done it. well, this means having to compare it with art, other art. You compare and say, "Am I the best painter in my class? Am I the best painter in the world? Doesn't matter anything. How about North Carolina? Doesn't matter to anything. In the United States? Still doesn't matter to anything. Do you paint yourself? The greatest artists who ever lived at any time in history, this is the only valid comparison. When I look at painting mine, I think of maybe Michelangelo, Matisse, Di Vinci, Jacqueline, some of the really great painters. How would I stand up by them? Well, I hate to tell you, but the truth probably is it wouldn't be very high, and this means that if you paint this way, you've got somewhere to go. You have a goal. Now, I'm not going to talk much longer about my philosophy of art, but I wanted to give you that, so that when you look at these paintings, you will know what I'm trying to say. I'm not trying to paint a beach scene. I'm not trying to paint just the sunlight on the coast of North Carolina. I'm not trying to paint the light behind the net, even though I do. I'm trying to paint the best picture I possibly can, and the reason I'm painting it is because I enjoy painting, and I am using this subject matter, because I know it. I strongly feel that you have to know what you are about. You have to have roots. You have to paint what you know. Well, when I went to Paris to live, I didn't paint French scenes for a very good reason. I didn't know a thing about France. I took my sketchbook with me of the drawings of North Carolina, and I painted North Carolina when I was in Paris. If I had painted scenes of Europe, they would have been like travel postcards. I'm not interested in that. Also, there is something else. You look at these pictures, all of them, and you probably won't like them, because you can recognize what everything is. There is nothing naturalistic in a single painting in this exhibit. Picasso said, and I think of that night, going to repeat it, "Art is a lie which creates a reality and truth." Now, he says reality. He doesn't say naturalism. There's a big difference between reality, or realism, and naturalism. Naturalism is when you copy what you see. That is not realism. The world is not the way it looks. It's the way you know it to be. Think about Miss America, who happens to be the biggest bitch you've ever heard of your life. She's also the most beautiful girl in America. How are you going to paint her to be truthful? What is reality? It's something underneath the surface. It's something that you know and feel. Okay, you've got to paint her so she looks pretty, but you've got to suggest that there's something else there, too. This is what I try to do in all of these paintings. I have never copied nature in my life. To me, that is not creative. Art is creative. Art is creation. So an artist is the only person who dares to be with God. He is creating something, just like God did. Well, we'll always [inaudible], I'm sure, but anyway, if you are copying what already exists, you're not creating anything. You are simply a very technically astute craftsman. That's all you are. You are not an artist. An artist is when you go beyond that. When you go beneath the surface. When you begin to analyze what makes a fish a fish. And everyone knows that a fish looks like, but unless you really know what a fish is, why, then you can't paint a fish. When I wanted to paint people mending nets, the first thing I did was go down to Wrightsville beach, find an old fisherman, and have him to teach me how to tie a shrimp net, so I was familiar with all the movements. Then you begin to draw, you can feel what you're painting. When you got to perspective, if you look at these paintings, the perspective is terribly wrong. What is perspective, anyway? Well, essentially an invention of the Italian Renaissance. We never had perspective before the Italian Renaissance. We have seldom had it since about 1930 in America. Very few people use it anymore. It was simply a way which lasted for a number of years to make things look right. I've got to make it look right, but I do it in a different way. I do not use all lines going to one vanishing point on the line. And I'm well aware of this. You have to learn the rules, but then you can begin to break them. I know all about color. I studied color charts just as intensely as I could for years and years and years, so I can begin to play with color. So you can break the rules. Certain colors work together. You learn about the difference between values and intensities, and you can create a vibration, or you can create a psychological feeling in color. Look at the end of the room, and you'll see two paintings. One has a light gold sky. One has a red sky. Well, I know the sky's not red and it's not yellow, but what was trying to do? I was trying to create this psychology of a hot summer day. The same as the white, there's no breakage. Look at the nets. They're hanging still. You can almost know that [inaudible] are the same for those children. I used color this way. I know how things go, but I don't choose to draw them that way, or paint them that way, because they wouldn't say what I want to say. Picasso knew exactly how the human figure went, his master drawings were perfectly painted of the human figure, but he wasn't interested in that. He was interested in something else. When I started painting, my paintings were light and dark. They were very romantic. I think everybody, when you are a teenager, is more or less vulnerable. Then you begin to investigate things, and your art becomes a little bit more relaxed. Before I saw [inaudible], I think it's very important to a painter, knowing who he is, and what he likes. So I took the largest Art History book, and it had 100s and 100s of reproductions, some of them in black and white, and some of them in color. I went through rapidly, and I just put a check mark by every reproduction of something that I liked. I didn't analyze it, didn't say why or anything. Just said yes or no. Well, then I took the Art History book, and went back and looked at all the check marks. Well, there were check marks be some of the early Egyptian tomb paintings, by archaic Greek sculpture, by some of the Byzantine manuscripts, by Cezanne, by Picasso, Matisse, by some of the modern American. Some people were missing. Reuben's was missing. Michelangelo was missing. Leonardo was missing. They weren't the people that really did something for me. So, I thought, "What do all of these seemingly opposite things have in common?" And I discovered that all of them had one thing in common. It was an intellectual approach. There was a greater attention given to abstract designs, and all of the patterns, most of them had fairly flat colors. Then I knew what I liked, and what I could begin to work to achieve myself. It did me a tremendous amount of good because before that time, I painted this way, and then that way, and then this way, trying to find myself. Finding myself takes a long, long time. When we go through the slides, very shortly, you will notice that in the first ones, I'm still working. Then you begin to eliminate. You begin to eliminate extraneous details. Why put in two folds in a garment, if one will tell the story. This the older ones. Things that are not necessary simply, cluttered things up. This room could be fresh, or hot, but if you put too much of anything in there, you don't see anything. So I began to eliminate and get down to bedrock, just the barest essentials. This means that you have to learn to look, what is it that makes a fishing boat different from, say, a party boat? What makes a beach house different from a land cottage, land house? What makes a sand dune a sand dune? You ask questions like that, and you're not trying to just copy the sand dune, you're trying to really find out what the sand dune is, and always I've tried to analyze things, and every one of these problems called paintings, I accept the problems which I am trying to solve. Sometimes it's been mathematical. Sometimes it's been psychological. Sometimes it's been purely science. I haven't always solved them, but this is why I find that painting is certainly the most fascinating thing that I'm ever going to do, because it's so complicated, and so difficult, that it's not an easy thing. You can't get your hands around it all the time. There's always something else that you can do. Now, technique-- we need some slides. Now you're seeing slides of those paintings. Can you see it? Does this light bulb go off? Is this in view? I just turned it off a little bit, so it wouldn't flash. Okay. This is a painting just like the ones Kaplan bought years ago, and gave me when I came to St. John's. Not because it's a good painting, because it is early. I was about fifteen years old. It's a watercolor. [inaudible] Same subject matter as I use today, but the interesting this is that it is not going to be surface much. It's the way the sand looks. Not the way the sand is. Okay, next. This is Caroline Chang's baby, but I'm still beginning, I'm beginning now to take certain liberties. This is the same market when it used to be so good, way back. This is before the prices and we had vegetables. This is on Saturday morning, and you can see that there is some attempt there to show depth in the aisles which keep receding just at there, and they were balanced by the perpendicularism of people and the clothes. And you'll notice from the man in the white shirt, he comes right out here. So the eye goes all the way through the canvas. There are certain lines that carry your eye through the picture. The sun is kind of there in composition. Okay, next. Can we? That's bad. That's [inaudible]. Just a minute. I think it'll be okay. Well, this is apparently the beginning of the Second World War. This painting is in my living room. This was a bad time, when we were always being arrested as spies. Couldn't go around and draw so forth, this was out of bounds for about five years before everybody could go around and sketch. Couldn't go to the beach. Couldn't draw the Court House up and City Hall. Couldn't do anything at all. Finally the sheriff told me, and also told my father, "Can't he just paint a still life, so he won't get into trouble. I'm tired of bringing you into the Court House." So I painted people in the house for four or five years. But still I [inaudible]. But I did enjoy painting these two girls, because I was trying to learn how the human figure went. At that point I had not been to a life class. The drawings downstairs were done in a private study. A bunch of us got together, and [inaudible], and we did it for one purpose only. It was to learn about the human figure, and the drawings I could have done these paintings up here, because this is the way you learn about the human figure, by drawing it. You'll see that this painting is not done in color. It's only light and dark. There are colors in it, but they're either light colors or dark colors. Okay, next one. St. John's owns this. This still has a lot of black lines around it. It has light and shadow, but the shading is blended. It's not turned into a shape as yet. I begin to be aware of some of the moments in modern art. Back of the man, left side, is a dark rectangle, a perpendicular rectangle. The left side is a light rectangle. So you see I'm trying to figure out these two shapes, and at the same time trying to keep the validity of it. The perspective in that is not correct. Things do not go correctly to a magic point. I know the building and the background. I put the angles of the shrimp boats, or the fishing boats, at the angle I want them. Not the angle they were at, so there [inaudible] composition. There are a lot of angles in that one, and the color is, while it's not painted with color, it still painted with black here. The color is pretty well placed around the canvas, so that you can get a spot of this color out. I begin to think a little bit about color. Okay, next one. This is bright green and orange dots. You can see the steeple of the Presbyterian Church in the distance. [inaudible] is the big building right, the tall building in between the two pink buildings. This had to be a barge on the river, and I was fascinated by the shape of that cap sidle. I was also fascinated by the hanging break ways. I will always like the shape of a half circle of watermelon. Always, all my life, I've liked that shape, and you can see it in the drapery here. You can see it hidden in the curves of the brush. This is the beginning of that. I very consciously eliminated some of the details. There was an awful lot of mess down there on the water line and painted there you had, you'd have some buttress painting, too, so I began to eliminate [inaudible]. I couldn't put in everything that you saw. I would begin to take liberties of taking them out. Well, in 1947, I got Rhodes Scholarship. I'm proud of that. And my project was to spend six months on the coast of North Carolina, and make sketches, which I did. I put on a get the breeze, get some clothes, go wash clothes, then stay a week or two until I got too dirty, and then I'd come home, get a change of clothes, go back again, and I did that all summer long. Then I was to spend six months in New York working on paintings from the Bronx. Well, I did that, too. Then at the end of that time, I still had a little bit of money left. It wasn't very much. I had $1500 to last me over a year. I thought I was a little bit, so I went to Paris, and stayed there for over year on that same money. This painting was done in Paris. I was still painting North Carolina. Two blacks on that porch. At the side, it was so dark it was hard to see, but the painting is insular, and look at it. There's a bicycle on the right, and these are the only two black people in the east of North Carolina who have a French bicycle. But there, again, you see the [inaudible] shape of the [inaudible]. By this time I had been very much influenced by one of the new movements that I saw for the first time in New York City. Modern Art, and I was blown away by what I saw, and then I went to Paris, and I was bowed over, not by the new movements, but by Romance itself, and the stained glass from the 12th Century. [inaudible] from the 12th Century. This is the result of intense looking at Romanesque churches, and stained glass windows. Can you see the brilliance that you get from color against something very dark? Well, for a year or two, I surrounded everything with dark, with dark lines. And then I decided that that was a cheat, that any two colors looked good if you put a black line between them, and that is true. You can make two horrible colors look great, if you put a black line between them. So I kind of eliminated the black line. Then I began to use black as a color, and in more recent years, I've eliminated black altogether, and the palette in the painting's in this color are much, much lighter in value than the paintings out there, because there [inaudible]. I use black in mixing with other colors, but I don't use-- I very seldom draw a black line anymore. I found that it was much easier to get where I wanted to go if I could use the black line. Look at the arm of the man with the white shirt, and look at the shape of the black woman, the orange shape to the right. That becomes a shape in itself. I only [inaudible] the back of the woman. I'm trying to get to live on two levels at this point, which is something I hadn't done before. Okay, next. Here's another one which was influenced by the stained glass windows. Now, the subject matter is important in all of these, I'm trying to say something about social traditions as well, but I never lost sight of the fact that a painting is something that catch the way the fence of. So I never let that propaganda overcome the means at the disposal of an artist. In this one, there's a lot of things. I changed my opinions at that, but you see that, those poles in the fence. They are still under control. The upper class and this class, but you begin to see [inaudible] So this was a subtle way of being a protest painter. I have never been violent, and if I do not approve much of art which is seen today, in which words make the protest. That seems to me to liberate rather than paint the vision, and I think that art should make its point by using the means at the disposal of the visual artist rather than a political artist. So I've never done that. I entered the paintings into words, but I've never tried to paint stable just by using words. Okay. Here we have another one. Look at the arms in this one. A little bit more abstract. But I think you get the feeling of what I'm saying. You'll notice in this one, there's no hole in why I paint. The half-moon shape is there. It's upside down in the hat, it's in his face. It's all over the place. It's in his arms. The pine tree is very standardized. A lot of my very liberal friends in Paris were furious with me painting this, because they thought I was making fun of black people. I said, "I'm not making fun of black people. I'm making fun of the white people who think of black people this way." And that's really what I had in mind when I painted that. Okay. You'll see in all these that color is getting a little flatter. Shadows now become shapes. This is nearest thing I have ever done to a copy. There was a Romanesque Fresco that I had seen, and I was fascinated with the composition. It had a perfectly straight line from the top to the bottom. It split the canvas in two, and I wanted to see if I couldn't do it. So it was the Last Supper. I changed it to a church supper. There's something on the right side which actually cuts the canvas in two. It's just a perfectly straight black line, which has no variation in what's been cut. I wanted to see if I couldn't paint both sides of that great line so that they would work within themselves, and also as a unit. I had to do it by making the arms of two women go up and down. They crossed behind the pine tree. Now, let me, look at the little church, what's happened to perspective is, I think you know that is a black church in the country. If you've ever seen it, you'll recognize it, but there's a certainly not a thing about that looks correct. Even the color is not correct. The color on the clothes is exaggerated. The color of the top of the table is now being contained. There is no perspective whatsoever in the painting. That table would never be [inaudible]. Why'd I do that? Cezanne tried to do it, and he has been very successful, and I know if he could do it, I could try it, too. He tilted everything forward, so that, as he said, "You keep the picture plain." A painting is two dimensional. The world is three dimensional. When you are painting, you're painting on a two dimensional structures. You've got to be true to the two dimensions. If you're not, you're going to lose the feeling of the flatness of the canvas. I've always tried to keep the feeling that two-dimensional quality of what I'm working on. I think it's being truthful to the [inaudible] on which you're painting. Okay, the next one. These are very dark, they really are. I have a lot more color in this. This is the tobacco sprayer. I was fascinated by this intricate machine, which I didn't understand at all. I didn't understand the machine, but I'm fascinated, though, by the shape of it. So I don't think this machine would work. I didn't try to get it to work. I got it to look like it was a very peculiar instrument of the devil, and I beat it. There are a lot of lavender primaries in that one. I was playing with those lavender primaries all over, and that is balanced by the green triangle of the tobacco leaves. This [inaudible] in Europe. Okay, next. Then I came back home, and I still hadn't found what I really love, which is [inaudible]. But I really hadn't studied the biggest [inaudible]. I was teaching at the university. I went in 1953. It was highly Fair then on the Market Street. This was before we moved to the new campus, so this was done in [inaudible]. I went into the chemistry laboratory, and there I saw more instruments that I didn't understand at all, and so I thought they were just beautiful, so I put them all together, and did this painting. There's something very strange about that painting. You know, Cezanne does it all the time. [inaudible] Look at the table. The top of the table. Follow it across. You see how much lower it is on the right than on the left? I was just reading it across. Why'd I do that? You're looking at the table from the view approach, not the table. View approach. This enlarges what's been painted tremendously. If you walk around something, later on this came in pretty good stead when I began to paint the beach. You're walking down the beach, do you paint exactly what's in front of your eye as you paint the beach? No. You only paint what's in front of you. Where else is the beach? It's on both sides of you, and it's behind you. You're standing alone in 360 degrees, so you've got to paint the feeling of being in 360 degrees. You can't paint it by just looking out and painting that little bit there. You're only painting the shape. There are lots of things like this that are in art, which cause the spectators sometimes to say, "Oh, I don't understand this painting." The artist is often trying to work at a fairly complicated, a very intellectual problem. This is what I always tried to do. I always tried to look at it. Sometimes the naturalism is lost in the process. Don't care. I'm not concerned about that. I'm concerned that other things than people. I'm now beginning to get to the coast and the fishermen. The fishermen have small heads. They have big hands, they have big bodies. Why? They use their hands and they use their bodies. They do not use their heads much. If you're going to paint an intellectual, I would paint them with a big head. A whole lot of them, but here, it's just the reverse. What happens here? This is play of circles and ovals. The nets and the bodies, so it's attempting on several levels you can read this and a picture of men and his hands. You could read it as a theme and variations of ovals. You can also read it as a minor variation of triangles in the background, which you see also in the nets in the foreground. So I get something, and I could feel it in its many different variations. The sparkle comes when you get them all trying to work together. But there's one thing that you have to remember when painting a picture, and that is you're only painting one picture. You're not painting ten, and a lot of people end up by painting ten and don't know it. You've got to concentrate on one thing at a time. If I saw that, if you get another idea in the meantime, don't incorporate it into that painting. Start another painting, and work on that. That's what I've always said. Okay, next. Well, this brings me to the next phase that I dearly love. There's light, and there's space. I love space. This is the beach at Ocracoke. Now, if you look at it, you can make out what it is, although that is not the point. I was trying to get the feeling that I got when I was in that spot, in that space. I was out on top a sand dune, at dusk, with not one soul. Okay, it as changing to dusk. The sky was almost black. Those are red clouds way back in the distance. The sky was a much lighter blue than the ocean, which is on the left. The beach had turned mauve. The squares and rectangles that you see get smaller and smaller as they recede into space. They are the dunes, flat sand on those mountains. This is the feeling I was trying to create. I was trying to get the feeling of isolation, of loneliness, and space. I don't think I could have gotten it, if I had, say, taken a photograph. I don't think it would have been quite as isolated. Okay, this one, by the way, I'll mention this right here. You see in the foreground, there's a red on the left, and red in the white, very close. Okay, follow those lines. That's an enormous rectangle. Look at the red rectangle on the right. What is it part of? A smaller rectangle, which is not the big rectangle, but a part of it. Then look at the lavender in the small rectangle. It's part of the perpendicular rectangle going through the perpendicular one. You get going and you get tired and confused as to where you are. You can go in almost any direction, and that's why I do these, it's like a puzzle, that I try to put together so they can work in hundreds of different ways. So you can look at it and keep going back and seeing new relationships. I think that painting should give you something new every time you look at it. This is why I cannot abide the law of Norman Rockwell. I look at Norman Rockwell, and I can tell exactly everything that was in his mind in one instant. I can never go back and see anything new. In the work of a great, old master, the more center I have, the more I get from what he did, because I can see what this amazing person had in mind. But not all because I keep going back and finding different things. This is the joy of art. You can keep going back to it. This is why you never get tired of looking at a great painting, and you get bored to death with a bad one. Okay, next one. This again, is the beach. Well the marshes, you see, marsh with a little bit of sand. The boat in the water on the left. It's all mixed up, isn't it? There again, I'm trying to get deep space but keep the perpendicular picture plane, the two dimensional plane. It's also a play of all of those angles and curves. You'll notice that some are very large, and some are very small, and very broken up. I tried to use a lot of variety in the shapes, because if you use the same kind of shape everywhere, you just end up with [inaudible], and that would be dull. Next one. I painted this because I live in Wilmington, and this is the bay capital of the world. But this is Ringfield Lake. This is Ringfield Lake at the height of its bloom. I did this because I had done so many horrible paintings of Ringfield Lake. I'm not so sure that this is it, but I think it feels more like Ringfield Lake than a lot of the bad paintings. The darkness of cyclist, the brilliance of the color against the cyclist's form. That's what I was concerned with. Okay. Now, this is on the causeway, going out of [inaudible]. This is the gangway leading to the pit fire. I turned to various colors and shapes. There I used words [ph?]. That was the first time I was ever able to use the vertical in the painting, and I think it sort of works, but I picked an easy word. They are really pleasant shapes. That's the reason I picked it. [inaudible] I liked the repetition of the "e".

(crew talk)

Claude Howell: This one, by the way-- sorry. Did you hear that? This one was done for the public school in Canada. They photographed what I was sketching came in sketch the canvas, everything. It took almost a year to make the movie. It was in Hemingway, which was set on fire, and the whole movie burned up, [inaudible] completely. I was very upset by that. Not the painting. I still have the painting. Okay, next. Now we get to Ocracoke. I found about Ocrakoke, which was a wonderful place. Unfortunately, the tourists found it so there's not much anymore, but here's a kid who was just marvelous. I got to know all the fishermen and I was able to draw and they were completely unself-conscious. From those drawings, and there were hundreds and hundreds of them, I would come home and work in the studio, and paint the picture. I never painted outdoors. Nature is too upsetting. You have to put in something for speed, and if you're working in the studio, your intellect can keep control. So I always work insides. Besides, mosquitoes bite outside, and [inaudible], and you're just miserable. The wind blows your canvas down, and then the paint is all over you, so it's much easier to work inside. Okay, next one. There will be a whole series of here of fishermen, nets, boats, shrimpers. It's pretty much the same subject matter, but each canvas is quite varied in its composition, in its use of color, and I hope the sort of depth. Okay. We'll go rather rapidly through these. There also is another side of the coast. It's a side of pleasure. That was a Jonny Marson's pier, and these are people who come to the beach to play. But I thought you just can't eliminate all the people, because that's a part of the world we know. Pop art had come into being, and pop was focusing on everyday thing. Things that you wouldn't think of as subjects for it, like Camel cigarettes. Just ordinary stuff. I painted people. I painted the babies on the beach, rather than the fishermen pulling the nets. [inaudible] Well, it's almost taken over. In fact, it's very difficult to find the fishing that I used to know. This is a guy on our street. I used words. I cheated a little bit, because I grew up, someone up. I [inaudible] even more right at the bottom is a little turquoise. [inaudible]. I did it because I was interested in repetition of a role of circles. You'll see three years down with the rolls of stars. If you look even more at the top of the pier, it was built on the cold red sand, land of triangles, red and white triangles. Repetition of triangles, and squares, and circles. The railing is simply a pattern of horizontal rectangles. So it become abstract in one sense. In another it happens to be a real place. Okay. Now, this is the object and the pier. This is Crystal pier. It wasn't as green in the background. My mother, she was furious with me when she saw the painting. She didn't like it. She wasn't on the beach. I never saw her, but I did put her in there. This is a country family, who has come to [inaudible]. They used to rent bathing suits with aluminum on the back. They hated it, renting bathing suits, and they couldn't bear to be in the sun, so they were always on the pier. This was done, I guess, with 90 percent of the men, because I haven't seen that in years, but I have seen the people like that all my lfie. You see a printing press. Always in Wrightsville and always in September the farmers would come to the beach, and they always had their shirt rolled up, and had what we called country sunburns. They didn't have bathing suits under it. Okay. The boardwalk in Carolina Beach. Doing what? Look at the ocean. An old woman just sitting there, doing nothing. I was fascinated by the people against the space, and also the road of shapes, the shapes [inaudible]. Okay. This is on the outer banks. It's a [inaudible] hunting club that J.D. Marlin built. I did this. The problem that I detected was to put two big circles in it, and see if I couldn't get them all to disappear. Did you notice that? In a black and white photograph, you can't see them. They're exactly the same pattern. [inaudible] takes you back and back and back into space. The one thing that struck me there, this is way up in the coast nothing looked the same, and in the middle of all this vast expanse of sand were all these new buildings. It seemed so incongruence. That's what I tried to get here. Okay, next one. This is a shrimp boat, but could be any shrimp boat you've ever seen. I tried to simplify and eliminate details that were peculiar that particular things. There are times when you look for the [inaudible] characteristic of something. There are times when you try to get the universal characteristic of something. I was trying to get the universal here. It's a square, which is bisected through that long pole. It's purely mathematical. I tell you, excuse me, take the right angle, and there is a perpendicular of the maple. I drew the square, I drew the curve, the diagonal of red, and then the rest of it I just filled in. But I was dividing a rectangle into interesting shapes, I hope. Okay, next. In Ocracoke, this was called "Claude's Room," because I wanted it so in a may be. My window looked out on the east coast but [inaudible] through the window. What am I trying to do here? It was hot in Ocracoke, but there was always a good breeze. There were very thin white curtains. I was trying to capture the feeling of the light breeze in the shape out of the sun. [inaudible] that's what happened every afternoon. So that's what still happens. I think the next slide is a [inaudible]. Yes. You see, I have painted still life. Good to paint to. You will notice there's no perspective in the table. It doesn't go to any magic point. I was so pleased at the way the yellow would sing against all of those blues. That's why I put the lighting there. Next. This happened to be when I was in the area of Boone when I was at the university. It was the Phillip's gas station. Frequently I'd get out of gas and I go there. Well I thought that candle of red and I climbed against the intense Carolina blue sky. I thought it was just spectacular. So I thought why not paint it? Okay, next. You'll notice that in these, there is almost no variation in value, values of various. You're beginning to see the use of color now rather than lighting to create the composition. There are [inaudible] on the pants and the shirt of the standing man. They're very close, and I limited myself to two, the light and the dark. But there's not much change, although in this [inaudible], I had to succumb to the changes of the 20th Century. I used to paint wire shrimp baskets, something I discovered that is non-existent, that they all use plastic laundry baskets, so that is a plastic laundry basket, and the more I painted it, the more fascinated I became. It's beautiful color, and it had the little squares all through. You will notice when you look at the painting, the painting is at the end of the hallway. Okay, next. Ocracoke again. Here the problem was to get space between the dark and the water, to get it to look like the water was down and allowed to them. That is a hard thing to do. You're looking down at the water in the foreground, you're looking across the water in the distance. Space is very strange. When you're on the beach, or anywhere near water like this, you're aware of two things. You're aware of what the heck your feet [inaudible], but you don't have to move your head much, and you see infinite space. I tried to get that in a lot of paintings, the close up and the distance in the same canvas. [inaudible] and I almost came close one time, but I had to bend the whole world to do it, bend the lines. Okay. This has been turned into one of [inaudible]. This is down at [inaudible] Water. A hot still day. This is one [inaudible]. The two women are sitting there, waiting for the shrimp boats to come in. They probably have to sit still it's so hot. I painted man because [inaudible]. That's why I painted him. Okay. Another. Again, water. I did paint water without painting every reflection, every ripple. The water behind the boat is one color of blue, all the way to the horizon. The man has only two values in that one. You can't get much simpler than that, but I hope at what is there says a great deal. Okay, another one. This has been on the Pacific this past week. The North Carolina seminar. It's called Handsome Rose. Now, I have never seen the green wind like that. I've never seen the green rows, but I was doing sort of variations on colors, and the wind is blue that is there. It took forever to paint those rows, because they really do go around and painting all of that color. That's a lot. Another one. Now this is Wrightsville, "Mending Nets on a Sunny Day." And here I took a strange color. The pink of the shirt, the white-pink in the shirt, is the natural color of the pink on the man on the left, the flesh. I wanted it to be flesh color in one place, and a pink shirt in another. Often I will take one color, and paint it in two or three places on the canvas, and make it different colors. This is a wonderful game to play, because you're so happy when it works. Okay, next. This is Saint John's "Sunlight on Second Street." Now the sunlight there, I think you can feel the sun coming down, but look at the shadows. They don't dark at my. The darkest thing there is the top of the grey boot, which is in the sunlight. Okay. I believe. Do we have one more? Yeah. This is geometric exercise. It's an exercise in mathematics. It's an exercise in pop art. Now, pop means optical illusion. If you put opposing colors of almost the same value, they begin to vibrate, and if you look at it long enough you'll begin to get in the habit. And that's what I'm trying to do here, make all the values [inaudible]. In the big triptych behind you, of the pier, the striped shirt of the woman [inaudible] and also in the polka dots of this other woman you'll see I'm fascinated by what you can do with the color. Okay. Suppose we just go through the four or five of these just went through it. This one was very difficult because it's easy enough to paint a fish in the ocean, but to paint a fish close to the hair and these days nothing but temper, and it really determined to break out of the net. Well, I was determined to try to see if I [inaudible]. Okay. You'll have to pretend they're real paintings. And there's one thing I want to tell you about this, and that is that it's a triptych, but you can take it and rearrange it any way you want to, because see, that's upside down, too.


Claude Howell: But the railing in the pier goes through all three panels, and so you can take one and put it at the other end. You can split a bench so you can see two benches. Look at it [inaudible]. Okay. Here, the problem was the wonderful lights through the plants, their yellow plants in spring. I can see this light made everything glow. And this I call The Holy Family. There is a table for rent. Joseph is out of the hole. Jesus is [inaudible] and he is falling asleep on his mother's lap. Often [inaudible] you see wonderful patterns. So I go down there and just look at them. I don't necessary draw them, I just wonder. Okay. And two girls. I don't think they're swimming that much. They just liked to visit. Okay. And this is an earlier one of a sailboat race. I did a lot using the perpendicular triangles to see if I could get a feeling of all the triangles on the side of the back and forth page. There's one in this show of the [inaudible]. And of course The Sunbathers. Okay. And A Northeastern. You see how cool it all becomes. Even the pink is a cold pink. Everything about it. But this is in [inaudible] the color of the sky, so psychologically, it's a [inaudible] picture but doesn't stop the work. I was interested in the way the nets come up into the pier. Every night it carries you into a person. Okay, I think that's it. That's the end.


Claude Howell: That was just a little bit. I could go on for hours, but I don't want to bore you any longer, but I hope it's helped to understand just a little bit of what I've been trying to do, and what I've been faced with. These are horrible problems and it's enough to give you a nervous breakdown, but I wouldn't change it for anything. I mean the life of being an artist. It's very, very satisfying. Sometimes you think you almost are on the right track. You aren't sure, but you think you're on the right track, and that's what keeps you going. I hope you all will stay a few minutes and look at the real paintings now on the other side, and you can tell some differences. Okay, thank you very much.


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