Capt. Clark extended his hand. “Take a seat left-tenant,” he said. I did, opposite him on an 81-Mike-Mike ammo crate. He brought me up to speed on enemy movements, their strength, weaponry and combat readiness. We were operating 20 clicks from Phouc Tuy, and the intelligence would prove to be fortuitous.
With devilish good looks, Clark was an image from a Kipling novel. He was an Aussie, SAS (Strategic Air Service). The Viet Cong called them ma rung, phantoms of the jungle.
As he spoke, his eyes consumed his surroundings and his hand danced across the page of a sketch pad. “That’s all I have for you, left-tenant.”
He then tore a page from his pad and handed over a caricature of me sitting pensively. “I’m an artist; it’s who I am,” he said.
I didn’t understand, but something touched an inner chord. I wanted to know about artists. Why does the artist’s way define their being?
Creation is an artist’s true function. However, my fascination is not with talent but with an artist’s innate ability to see the world in color. It’s a way of thinking and perceiving.
My quest to find the source of creation led to a morning tea at Penelope’s with Anne Tryba, La Cañada’s artistic savant. Anne, a local artist, designed graphics for theme parks for Disney Imagineering. Her credentials include involvements from literary contributions in art publications to executive staff of artistic societies. Anne is the founder of Studio A, an art school for children.
My questions were numerous and I probed Anne’s mind relative to vision, creativity, process, beauty, connection, and history. As she answered my inquiries I thought of Faulkner’s perspective regarding the true purpose of an artist, “To arrest motion, which is life, by artificial means and hold it fixed so that a hundred years later, when a stranger looks at it, it moves again since it is life.”
I continued to listen and began to get closer to intellectualizing the artist’s way. Somehow I thought if I could do this I could be an artist by assimilating this particular methodology of thinking. Aristotle said, “The aim of art is not to represent the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance.” If I could only do that!
Anne spoke of a subliminal connection that she feels with artists. “Why do they create what they create? How are they different from me? Having a connection to the past makes their work and history personal. If you learn to draw you can make a personal connection.” Anne said, “When I make something from a lump of clay, it is personal.”
Anne’s website, annetryba.com is a link to her work and to Studio A. She quotes Plutarch as her school’s mission statement, “The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled.” As a teacher she takes her students through a creative process, “Hoping that they can bring something beautiful into the world.”
I asked Anne her philosophy of teaching, “You have to teach with love while respecting the process of learning; the product is never as important as the journey. I want to change the world; that’s why I teach. The reward is to change someone’s life in a positive way and I do that though art.”
Our conversion continued and delved deeply into the labyrinth of creativity. I was no closer to touching this magic and began to think that there are certain people whose perspective into their passions is almost Zen like. Anne and Captain Clark saw things that I could not imagine.
The artist’s way is the ability to see creation within a block of marble. Anne Tryba can do that. I have not evolved to that point of vision and perhaps I never will.
Get in touch: JOE PUGLIA is a practicing counselor, a professor of education at Glendale Community College and a former officer in the Marines. Reach him at email@example.com.