True Confessions

LONG HILL (plein air), Russell Steven Powell acrylic on canvas, 10x8

“Art after all is but the extension of language to the expression of sensations too subtle for words.”

–Robert Henri, The Art Spirit (1923)

IF ANYONE WONDERS why I publish so many posts these days, the answer is quite simple: I am a journalist. It is my job.

Obvious as the explanation is, it only came to me recently.

I am not a print journalist exactly, although I began my writing career as a newspaper reporter more than 40 years ago. I still write essays from time to time.

I do not consider myself a photojournalist, either, although I have been taking photographs for as long as I have been writing, often in service of the latter; and for 25 years, apples and orchards.

Nor I am a video journalist, although I have documented topics as disparate as a convention of Airstream trailers at the University of Massachusetts, integrated pest management, and the artist shacks in the dunes of the Cape Cod National Seashore.

We have no term for “painting journalist,” yet my work symbolizes my life experience in something resembling real time and often references current events.

Painting is what I do more than anything now. Yet I only became serious about it in my 50s. That doesn’t quite capture it, either.

I AM A JOURNALIST in the broadest sense: as documentarian and witness, recorder and reporter, using all of the tools available to me to reflect the uniqueness of my times.

“Today must not be a souvenir of yesterday, and so the struggle is everlasting. Who am I today? What do I see today? How shall I use what I know, and how shall I avoid being victim of what I know? Life is not repetition.”

–Robert Henri, The Art Spirit (1923)

My newspaper is cyberspace. I publish on this website, and contribute to Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube, choosing my medium as the topic fits.

My beat is the New England countryside, from orchards to dunes to rivers. I walk it every day.

I am a journalist of the 21st century, reporting what I see and feel in my small corner of America.

GATHERING STORM, oil on canvas, 48×36

“Technique must be solid, positive, but elastic, must not fall into formula, must adapt itself to the idea. And for each new idea there must be new invention special to the expression of that idea and no other.”

–Robert Henri, The Art Spirit (1923)

It is imperfect.

The Internet cannot convey the heady fragrance of an orchard or the distant, ever-present lap of waves upon the shore in the Provincetown dunes.

The postage-stamp images online of my heavily layered paintings, large and small, do not do justice to the real things.

I live in a visual age, when everyone has a camera in their pocket,

in a culture of great, often reckless, speed, especially in how we communicate.

Yet amid deadly winds and a global pandemic, sorting through noise and bluster and short attention spans,

I find myself in a world of inexhaustible beauty. I don’t know half of what is in my own backyard.

“To study art is to study order, relative values, to get at fundamental constructive principles. It is the great study of the inside, not the outside of nature.”

–Robert Henri, The Art Spirit (1923)

In sharing my life’s story, my hope is that you see something of your own.

The clock never stops. I work seven days a week. I am always on call, at all hours, in all weather. Opportunity and inspiration are just a snowfall away.

Everything has a purpose, everyone must do their part.

Long Hill (plein air) Russell Steven Powell acrylic on canvas, 10x8
LONG HILL, acrylic on canvas, 10×8

6 Replies to “True Confessions”

  1. “Everything has a purpose, everyone must do their part.” That’s my new mantra for today, tomorrow and as far ahead as I can see. Thank you for that, Russell.

  2. and having offered us, the viewer, an extension of language, in Gathering Storm, we continue the dialog of sensation:
    I’m invited through the portals into the beauty and danger ahead
    I’m sheltered by flags as I go through
    But must hurry! They are tall, fragile stalks of life supporting leaves now withering
    Their strength, like mine, gathers force as I bend to reach out for others
    and embrace what’s ahead

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