David Costello : Brunch with Winslow Homer and Whatever Else

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By David Costello

One of my favorite quotes from Winslow Homer is tacked to the wall in my studio, it reads; “When you paint, try to put down exactly what you see. Whatever else you have to offer will come out anyway.”

That quote from Homer has lodged itself in my spirit and it surfaces often at the oddest of times. It popped up recently as I was ordering breakfast at one of my favorite restaurants. When you find a place that makes great Eggs Benedict, on a consistent basis… well, you just keep going back. I’m not entirely sure why the quote came to mind at that moment, but this writing may serve as an explanation.

The “whatever else” in my opinion, is the heart of the matter. Of course as a visual artist “seeing” is important. But what one sees depends entirely on where one’s focus lies.

In the past five years my attention has turned to creating Landscapes. I am inspired by the beauty of nature that surrounds us here in Maine but my vision is not entirely directed there. I am convinced we can see more through the eyes of our hearts. The landscapes that shape our “whatever else’s” reside deep in the heart and can only be accessed by focusing there. What makes us uniquely us, is seen and experienced there.

Through the eyes of our hearts we sometimes see more clearly… for it is in our hearts where we find the substance of all our hopes, where we discover the evidence of things not seen. In essence, when an artist draws from this place, he is sourcing from what is invisible and making it visible – it’s the “whatever else” that makes the artwork unique and elevates it from being just a picture – it becomes an expression of the heart, and thus it reflects the essence of it’s creator.

Everyone has “whatever else” within them. Getting in touch with it though can be scary… often painful. The very phrase “whatever else” is descriptive and scary; It is all inclusive. Bundled there together are all the joys and all the painful brokenness – the victories as well as the failures of a human life.1 Costello

“Whatever else” doesn’t just randomly show up in the work of an artist. Homer makes it sound easy, but its not. The artist must pay his dues by spending time embracing all that is found in that place where “whatever else” resides. It takes a lot of time and courage but healing can be found there. Regardless the subject matter, a successful work of art will always reflect the time spent in that place. In that sense it is natural and effortless even unintentional, but it is a matter of being, not doing.

So why is Homer in my head when I order eggs? Perhaps “whatever else” is like Hollandaise sauce. The sauce transforms plain old poached eggs into Eggs Benedict. The sauce can be tricky to make, but the effort and time spent making it is well worth it. The sauce elevates the eggs from mere poached status and places them squarely above all egg dishes. It changes everything… breakfast becomes brunch and brunch includes exotic drinks that cause one not to care so much about the exorbitant bill.

An Egg becomes “Haute Cuisine” – A picture becomes “Fine Art.”

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