Jim Housley


HOW IT ALL BEGAN: When does the artist begin and what is this beginning. We can follow a river to its source – or sources, know what springs or what snow melt surface feed the river. We can never know that beginning, never know when all that started, even imagination does now allow us find that moment when that river began. All of nature and natural effects presents this same dilemma. When did Mt. Everest begin? And when was the North Sea formed? The study of natural objects is not the same as the study of an artist, how a river began is not the same as how an artist began being an artist. The artist in me had no beginning, it was always there. I was an artist before I had an art form. The ability and the need to express something were potent and undeniable. To create, to say was there before I had any techniques to say it. Finding that way of saying was rich in failure and frustration. I failed as a musician and I failed as a poet. I lacked the resources to philosophize and enough experiences to write fiction. When I was twenty three, in the winter of 1967, by design or by accident, I don’t know which, I found my art form. U.C.L.A. that spring mounted the first American retrospective of the work of Henri Matisse. I attended that retrospective and was transformed by the colors, the freedoms the expressions of form and the depth of content in that art. I didn’t have even the smallest hint of his biography or even a superficial knowledge of the arts of that time. Impressionism, Post- impressionism, Surrealism or Cubism were not words in my vocabulary. I couldn’t tell the between watercolor or gouache. Even oil technique was not even a mystery – it was an unknown. Even with all these lacunas I walked out of that exhibit knowing I was an artist. Within in days I had watercolors and oils and had done my first paintings. A tree in the garden of my rented room was my first subject, it wasn’t a challenge it was a joy. That simple tree (could it have been an ornamental flowering plum?) sang through my colors, the sky was my special blue; I wanted to color the very air. Since that beginning I never doubted my calling. The art of Matisse found a flowering bed in a soil that was already present.