WORDS David Wright
I’ve always thought that historical artists march to a different drummer. We paint something that isn’t here anymore, something from another time. And we try to tell a story. And to get the story right means research. As a painter of historical subjects, I feel it’s my obligation to our present generations and future ones to paint the subject with as much historical accuracy as possible.
I try for my work to be as accurate as possible within the parameters of what I know. This can be a moving target—what I think, today, is set in stone as fact may change tomorrow by some new historical discovery. So, I’m always researching, and I’ve spent a lifetime doing it along with my painting. Even so, I’ve made my share of mistakes with some historical detail or another. Comes with the territory, I reckon. I try not to be rigid, but I do want my paintings to be not only good but historically accurate, too.
I’ve had a good run, can’t complain. Maybe to be more successful, I could have done a few things differently; worked harder or been savvier business-wise. But all in all, though I’m not considered at the top of the heap, I’ve done well. I have met and become friends with a lot of great artists whom I admire, have quite a few arts- educated collectors who have also become friends through the years, and have paintings in several museum collections. I’ve even won a few awards, which are nice, but are they the most important thing?
So, what is important? Aside from being content with your personal life, making a living is pretty high up there —putting food on the table, providing for your yourself and family. (I’ve never been inclined to live in a garret and paint for art’s sake). It’s important that I’m doing work I am satisfied with. I know that not every piece is going to be a magnum opus, but as artists, we’re able to leave behind a body of work for future generations. Along with people in science, medicine, diplomacy, and philosophy, who all also leave behind bodies of work that are important for future generations, we as artists, whether it’s in the visual arts, music, or literature, hope our work will be a gift to be enjoyed by those who follow us. We don’t know. Maybe our work will be criticized or even ignored. Will anyone know who we were and what we did? Does it even matter?
At my age, I still enjoy painting and get just as much satisfaction out of completing what I think is a good painting as I did forty years ago—and that’s what matters. I don’t put in the hours I used to when I was young and full of piss and vinegar. The fire in the belly is still there, but just not roaring quite as high. Other things seem to gain in importance the longer I go: spending time with my family and friends, going places and seeing new things.
The end of the tunnel is out there somewhere, roaring down like a freight train. It’s a thought that’s hammered home every time I lose a family member or a long-time friend. It’s a reminder that good health and doing work that means something to you are more important than a healthy 401(k).
Every day is a blessing. We should make the most of it.
David Wright is represented by Legacy Galleries (Scottsdale, Arizona, and Jackson, Wyoming) and Lord Nelson’s Gallery (Gettysburg, Pennsylvania). www.davidwrightart.com.