≡ Menu

Noted in Passing: Trodden Weed, 1951

“Andrew Wyeth painted this picture shortly after the muscles in his shoulder had been severed.  He couldn’t even hold a brush without supporting his hand using a sling suspended from the ceiling.

“Wyeth suffered from bronchiectasis, a frequently fatal disease, and had most of a lung removed in a major operation in which he nearly died. During the operation, doctors severed his shoulder muscles and it was questionable whether he would ever paint again. While recuperating from his operation, Wyeth struggled to paint this picture. Every blade of grass must have been painted in pain…

[… Fast Forward 70 years …]

“I’ve thought about this in recent years as I’ve read about disputes at some of today’s prominent art schools for illustrators. I’ve read complaints on social media from students who say that their instructors don’t make them feel “validated” and aren’t sufficiently “encouraging.” I’ve read web platforms that have been set aside as “safe spaces” where art students can complain about their schools or instructors without the school or instructor being permitted to respond or dispute the story. I’ve read complaints that instructors have given poor grades without due consideration to how students have been traumatized by the recent political environment.” — ILLUSTRATION ART: UNCONQUERABLE SOULS

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • wildman June 21, 2021, 8:31 AM

    Traumatized? since they are so effected shouldn’t they emulate the Buddhist monks of Vietnam and set themselves on fire? that would surely show how traumatized they are.

  • julie June 21, 2021, 9:14 AM

    I was watching a video the other day about the importance and usefulness of keeping a sketchbook. Recorded by an older guy who is obviously an experienced artist, but about a quarter of the way in he called the sketchbook a “safe space” where you can… I don’t know what, I stopped it as soon as he uttered that phrase.

    Back when I was in art school, you could tell the students who were probably going nowhere (or else Somewhere*), because they worked almost exclusively in abstract painting and pretty much just did the same painting over and over again. But usually had long dissertations explaining the importance of their work. Big swirly circles, or a fake horizon line with a little vertical track at one point, that kind of thing. Stick them in a drawing class, and let the wailing and gnashing of teeth begin.

  • BillH June 21, 2021, 9:19 AM

    Never have and never will give a rat’sass about artists, artistes et al. It’s the mental and physical well being of my plumber, yard guy and carpenter I worry about. If they stay OK, I’ll be OK.

  • Sam L. June 21, 2021, 9:47 AM

    Awwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww, poor BABIES. Poor, poor, POOR babies!

  • Dirk June 21, 2021, 10:10 AM

    prefer sunsets sunrises, non of the masters could truly replicate any single of those, turns out it’s man made, not nature at her finest.

    That’s the thing about our worlds natural wonders, their changing at sometimes 1 second at a time, we may not see it in real time yet it’s happening right in front of us. That’s the real magic!

    Haven’t embraced this world in which everybody does Selfies, 24/7, seems vain to me, hollow. Prefer to preserve those moments in my minds eye.


  • jwm June 21, 2021, 10:32 AM

    True story. Abstract art *almost* always has the Pee Wee Herman Clause underwritten at its inception. (and this from someone who does it)
    No matter how egregiously you screw up an abstract, you can always say, “I meant to do that, so there.”
    Not so easy with representing Nature, particularly the human body. If the picture picture is wrong, everyone sees it.


  • gwbnyc June 21, 2021, 11:47 AM
  • Mike-SMO June 21, 2021, 1:07 PM

    Yep. “Poor Baby”. “Art School” doesn’t teach “art”. “Art school” teaches how to learn technique so the student can accomplsh what they desire. “Validation”?! Get a puppy, or go visit Momma. “Unconditional” is part of their job description.

  • ghostsniper June 21, 2021, 1:27 PM

    Once more:
    The joy is in the doing.
    If you don’t like doing something for the joy it brings you, you should probably be doing something else.
    There are plenty of exceptions of course, but I have devoted and arranged my life so that I do what I like much of the time. I don’t need the money, I don’t care about your opinion, and I won’t expend long prose explaining myself. Because, in the overall, it doesn’t matter, and I will still do what I like.

    When you start from the premise that almost everything now a days is either childish or from a child’s perspective it starts to make sense why things are as they are.

  • ghostsniper June 21, 2021, 1:33 PM

    JWM sed: No matter how egregiously you screw up an abstract, you can always say, “I meant to do that, so there.”
    In the woodworker world you can spend a lot of money on tools and materials, and spend a lot of time making sure everything is exactly right. But in the end, if you take that magnificent reproduction 17th century dining set and beat the hell out of it with chains, gouge it with crowbars, burn it with torches, then throw 5 different colors of paint all over it, then hit it with 60 grit on the belt sander, some nitwit will pay you twice as much for that now “distressed” art.

    The world has been upside down for some time.

  • jwm June 21, 2021, 2:54 PM

    Ghostsniper, you just popped a memory.
    One of my pals in high school metal shop was doing a project on a rectangular steel plate about ten by twelve inches. He was drilling and tapping holes of different sizes, drilled at random all over the thing. His dad had an antique shop. He’d put various bolts, and stuff threaded into the holes and use the plate to burn table and dresser tops. He had it set up so it wouldn’t be the same pattern of burns on everything.


  • gwbnyc June 21, 2021, 3:05 PM


    all that guy would have to do is turn my mother and her pack of Raleighs loose on it.

  • PA Cat June 21, 2021, 3:40 PM

    It isn’t just the critters in the visual arts who demand “safe spaces”– the musical folks are looking for playpens too. From the Juilliard School’s “Student Diversity Initiatives” page: “The Juilliard School is dedicated to creating a welcoming environment for all members of the community inclusive of race, ethnicity, national origin, culture, language, gender and gender expression, sexuality, religious and political beliefs, age, and ability. The school stands against all forms of discrimination, whether directed against individuals or groups.
    As a part of this dedication, numerous trainings and programs are provided to students addressing equity, diversity, inclusion, and belonging. . . .
    Land Acknowledgment
    The land on which The Juilliard School stands has been home to people for thousands of years. We acknowledge that we are on the traditional homeland of the Lenape people. Juilliard honors and respects the diverse Indigenous peoples connected to this land on which we gather. . . .
    The Diversity Dialogues for the academic year 2020-2021 are:
    September 16: Microaggressions and Battle Fatigue
    Join this Diversity Dialogue as we explore the impact of microaggressions on battle fatigue and its impact on mental health.
    October 14: Catcalling Culture
    Catcalling is not only an annoyance, but is a form of harassment. Bystander intervention techniques and resources will be discussed.
    November 18: Communicating Across Culture
    As part of International Education Week, join the Office of International Advisement for a discussion on how communication can vary across cultures and ways to bridge gaps.
    December 9: Passing: Racial and Gender Stereotypes
    Stereotypes and expectations on racial and gender roles can lead to presumptions on what it means to “pass” for certain identities. Learn to address these implicit biases to combat these assumptions.
    January 13: What is Beauty?
    Beauty standards around the world can vary, but how does media play a role in our expectations? Join us for a discussion on how societal expectations around beauty can impact our community.
    February 10: Dating Apps and Biases
    As apps play a larger role in our everyday interactions, are we aware of how our biases impact the way we socialize?
    March 17: It’s Okay to Talk. Period.
    Menstruation is often a taboo topic. Breaking down stigmas can lead to a larger conversation around societal implications impact access to menstrual products. . . .

    Not one word about vocal or instrumental music, dance, or any of the other traditional performing arts. But if you go to the link, you will see the school’s name in the upper left proudly lit up in the colors of the gay/trans rainbow:

  • Vanderleun June 21, 2021, 4:08 PM

    What a bunch of pussies.

  • PA Cat June 21, 2021, 4:44 PM

    “What a bunch of pussies.”

    Yeah, I think Olive the Editor and her inner panther could teach these wusses How to Cat:

    As for “Catcalling Culture,” in my house that happens whenever my Feline Americans hear the sound of pop top removal from the Fancy Feast can.

  • ghostsniper June 21, 2021, 4:56 PM

    “The Juilliard School is dedicated to …”
    You know what they say.
    The ones that talk about it the most do it the least.
    They aren’t progressive.
    They aren’t LIEberal.
    They aren’t democrat.
    They aren’t even communist.
    They are criminal.

  • EX-Californian Pete June 21, 2021, 5:05 PM

    “Safe spaces.”

    What the hell is that supposed to be? Someplace where libfag snowflakes can hug their teddy bears, cry, and be far away from reality, the world, and Conservatives? Gimme a break…

    As far as “art” goes, it’s a way overused term in my opinion. I’ve seen stuff that looked like a dumpster was emptied onto a pile of dog crap, yet sold for beaucoup bucks. And I’ve seen things created or painted that are truly inspirational and beautiful, looking like a human soul was poured into it. There’s a lot of “art” that I don’t understand, but I can appreciate beauty and human expression.

    Many years ago, a very wise old guy who was an instructor at the Carpenter’s Union Apprentice School told me something that became my creedo.
    “A laborer works with his hands.
    A craftsman works with his hands and his mind.
    An artist works with his hands, his mind, his heart, and his soul.
    Be an artist in everything you build, create, and achieve.”

  • julie June 21, 2021, 6:13 PM

    JWM, re. “I meant to do that,” indeed. I didn’t mean to pick on abstract art, by the way, I was just thinking more of the people I knew who were doing it because learning the most basic essentials was just too hard, and they did literally whine about pretty much everything.

  • julie June 21, 2021, 6:14 PM

    Pete, what a lovely credo. Thanks for sharing it.

  • Mitchell Strand June 21, 2021, 6:16 PM

    In the fell clutch of circumstance, Wyeth did not wince nor cry aloud.

    Under the bludgeoning of chance, his head was bloody, but unbowed.

  • James ONeil June 21, 2021, 6:44 PM

    JWM, Ghost, hey distressing’s kinda fun. I remember distressing a table I made with a 12 gauge and birdshot (nice, random wormholes.). The table flew around 3 or 4 feet, but all the joints held.

    Art; I paint, sculpt, write, etc., purely for pleasure not for profit nor posterity (If posterity wants pickures, let’m paint their own!), though I have traded items for beer in numerous bars around the Pacific Rim, and a sketchbook’s almost as good as a puppy for meeting nice young ladies (-or, I now must note, mature ladies as well.).

    Doing art keeps me sane(er) than I would be otherwise. Not faulting others, I’m glad, delighted if others can made a living from their art. Do what you do for whatever reason, if I like it, I’ll applaud, if not I’ll keep my mouth shut.

    & Gerard, I’ve no problem with the pussies having a safe space, hopefully over a thousand miles away from me.

  • Jim June 21, 2021, 7:01 PM

    My Mom died in 1978. Bronchactisis, with emphysema as a complication. By time she died, they’d excised one complete lung, and one lobe of the other.

    I was 19 years old, and flew home on Emergency Leave from the USAF, barely in time to get one, weak squeeze from her hand, before she went. She was 54 years old. And I still miss her, terribly. She spent all her remaining strength to see me through High School, and I went into the AF in order to make her a dependent. This, because my Dad having proceeded with divorce, left her without the means to survive, meager alimony aside.

    They didn’t sever her shoulder muscles, thank God. I’d have flown home on Emergency Leave, and they’d have buried the doctor too, had they done that.

    And no 19 y/o should have to be the executor of his own Mom’s estate, but there I was, and that I did.

    Sunk New Dawn
    Galveston, TX

  • John Venlet June 22, 2021, 4:51 AM

    And now, in competition with abstract art, there is the new genre of invisible art. Start your collection now, before they all disappear into the hands of those with too much money and no sense.

  • steve walsh June 22, 2021, 5:18 AM

    I’m with you Gerard. Pussies. Pansies. Wimps. An artist does the work, creates the piece, for its own sake and to satisfy his curiosity. These whiners and complainers seek positive reviews for work they must already know is sub-standard and poor.

    “The satisfactions of manifesting oneself concretely in the world through manual competence have been known to make a man quiet and easy. They seem to relieve him of the felt need to offer chattering interpretations of himself to vindicate his worth. He can simply point: the building stands, the car now runs, the lights are on. Boasting is what a boy does, because he has no real effect in the world. But the tradesman must reckon with the infallible judgment of reality, where one’s failures or shortcomings cannot be interpreted away. His well-founded pride is far from the gratuitous “self-esteem” that educators would impart to students, as though by magic.”
    ― Matthew B. Crawford, Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry Into the Value of Work

  • Casey Klahn June 22, 2021, 1:52 PM

    Abstract: (said in Enigo Montoya voice) “I don’t think that words means what you think it means.” It means the component parts, or structural elements, of art. I use Andrew Wyeth to demonstrate abstraction in art. One of his major collectors, in PA, insists on hanging a large work in his Wyeth collection, upside down. The reason is that it demonstrates the perfection of design in Wyeth’s work. No contemporary art student would ever consider painting in every blade of grass (leastwise with a broken wing! – First time I ever heard that story, but I love it), however there is a trick to it that AW employed.

    Before the war, one could look in the dictionary and in references, and find phrases such as artistic courage, and artistic character. Yes, my friends: courage had a whole category that resided in the realm of art. Almost totally lost to us now. The first move the artist must make is to say to the world: “I don’t give a flying fuck what you think”. If he doesn’t say this, he’ll never be an artist.

    No, it ain’t safe. It’s the full opposite of safe.

  • Missy June 22, 2021, 4:08 PM

    I have lived for all but two years of my life within 16 miles of the late Andrew Wyeth’s Chadds Ford, PA, compound. Please note in the painting shown here the wildly expressive boots. They belonged to Howard Pyle who taught AW’s father, NC Wyeth, a splendid illustrator and painter, as was the possibly more gifted Howard Pyle. I have keys to Howard Pyle’s Wilmington, DE Studio (as an associate member of the Studio Group, lest I brag, and I am, indeed, bragging!).

    AW’s studio is accessible to the public, and seeing it is deeply moving and highly recommended. It is a part of the Brandywine Art Museum. These men could draw, and they could paint, and they did so with bravado.

    As an art major (1967-71) I was taught very little, as abstract expressionism ruled. I had to teach myself to draw and paint many years later in a process that was tortuous, and then miraculously I wound up doing veterinary illustration, portraits of show dogs and landscape paintings for a gallery. And, Casey, AW did the blades of grass in tempera, mixing his magical egg and pigment afresh each day. But I suspect you know this already….

  • Casey Klahn June 22, 2021, 10:25 PM

    Missy, I may need to borrow those keys!

    Actually, I have a friend and mentor, of sorts, who paints in egg tempura and in the manner of AW. He goes there to your area to drink in the brilliance of the Wyeth legacy. In fact, he told me the upside down painting story.

    The secret to the grass is that it is a large area massed in the same color-design. Essentially, all one object and not a thousand, because they present as all ochre, in small range of tones.

  • Missy June 23, 2021, 8:17 AM

    Casey, somewhere I read that underneath what I now understand, thanks to you, is a block of ochre values, there was India ink applied to the ground, and perhaps the darks are simply left unpainted which would certainly simplify things, and, because tempera is so thin, could work. AW often slashed at his watercolors with a knife to create whites. Talk about a conservator’s nightmare. Anyhow, the study for the painting is sublime as well.


    And aside from coming here, get thee to the Farnsworth in Maine if you have not yet gone. Also there is Winslow Homer’s now restored studio in the ‘hood (at Port Clyde) to visit. All this plus lobster rolls…

  • Casey Klahn June 23, 2021, 2:04 PM

    @Missy. Wow – great itinerary! I did go for work to Maine, and got there the week after the lobster harvest. Otherwise, they treated me great, but that was a bit harsh. LOL. Winslow Homer: also among the absolute best. His rendering of the sky at the water is perfection.