Lifelong Learning: Try Something New

Kendal resident John Elder shares his Artist’s Statement for the current show in the Kendal at Oberlin Community Gallery.

TRY SOMETHING NEW: A Decade of Art Exploration – Artist’s Statement by John Dixon Elder

Although I studied art in high school and thought I might be a studio art major at Oberlin College when I entered in 1949, I took only one art course here and did hardly any more art until my retirement in 1999.

Painting by John Dixon Elder

Painting by John Dixon Elder

After moving to University Park, Maryland, I began taking advantage of classes and workshops at the University of Maryland, OASIS Senior Citizen Center, The Smithsonian, and Pyramid Atlantic, a center for paper-making, print-making, letter-press and other book arts. In the summer I studied at Cornell University and the Cedar Arts Center in Corning.

I had done no watercolor painting until 1999, when I decided to give it a try. My first attempt is on display – #50. I was encouraged by my first watercolor teacher, Bill Preuter (#22), who, although his multiple sclerosis prevented him from painting, was a sensitive critic. Sometimes I experimented by copying oil paintings in water color, as #7.

At Pyramid Atlantic I experienced the delights and frustrations of paper-making with various fibers and techniques, including pulp-painting, in which the wet paper is painted with colored wet pulp. Several of the works on display were done at weekend workshops on such print-making methods as woodblock, carved rubber stamps, linoleum block, drypont, etching, aquatint and lithograph. Other workshops taught dyeing and marbling, including suminagashi marbling and paste marbling. I also tried my hand at book binding and letter press. My fantasy was that I might become competent enough to write a story or poem, make the paper, set the type, print the text, do the illustrations in a variety of print techniques, and bind the book with marbled paper and gold embossing – but that project remains to be realized.

At the Smithsonian I took courses in calligraphy and watercolor, at Cornell a class in working with gesso – the material used to prime canvas for oil painting, and at the University of Maryland classes in drawing and lithography.

During summers at the cottage on Seneca Lake purchased by my wife’s family, the Cartmells, in 1940, I paint and sketch the nearby scenes and the fruit for which the Finger Lakes are famous. My first parish, while I was a graduate student at Harvard, was in the lovely village of Annisquam on Cape Ann, north of Boston, and several of these works are from my sketching on brief visits back there.

Show at Kendal's Community Gallery

Show at Kendal's Community Gallery

My hope is that this exhibit will encourage my fellow residents to Try Something New!