This I Believe

Earle, Edwin

  • Edwin Earle recounts a lesson from a painting instructor at art school and the impact they had on him later in life when coping with his blindess and other adversity.
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And now, This I Believe. Here is Edward R. Murrow.
This I Believe. Edwin Earle operates a small insurance agency in Derby Line, Vermont. Much of his life has been spent in preparation for becoming a painter. He attended the Massachusetts School of Art in Boston and the Art Students League in New York. During the Depression, he lived in a Hopi Indian town in Arizona and published a book of twenty-eight color plates called Hopi Kachinas. But in 1948 he lost his sight and, with it, his hopes of becoming a great artist. Since then, he has had to content himself with what he has called "hanging pictures in the gallery of my mind," and with helping others to paint through the art classes which he conducts with an assistant. Here is Edwin Earle's creed.
It is difficult for anyone to speak for the handicapped. Every case is an individual problem requiring individual solution. Yet, I have passed close to the edge of the valley, and I've been touched by the wing of the dark angel. Large or small, I've had my problems and have attempted to solve them.
When I went to art school, I had a teacher who, I thought at the time, taught me very little about painting. Yet, in my times of trouble and panic, his admonition has come echoing back through the years to set my mind in order.
"Listen, mes enfants," he would storm--he was not French, but he had studied in Paris. To him, French was the language of art. He used it for effect.
"Listen mes petit enfants. You have a canvas. So, it has edges, n'est pas? It has these edges--here, here, here, and here. So, this is your canvas. This is your picture. This is your problem. What you see there," indicating subject, "is just so much spinach."
A dramatic pause.
"Spinach? Qu'est-ce que c'est, spinach? What do they teach you these days? Spinach, mes petits innocents, but bless you, spinach is confusing, of course. Everywhere is spinach. The world is full of spinach. But you do not paint it. You must take what you see there, and so organize it that what you have here is, behold, a miracle. That's why the good god created artists,
mes enfants. That's your purpose. It's simple, n'est pas? Now, attendez. Make your picture here. You have only this space, mes enfants. You have only to fill this space."
How often have I thought of that? "You have only this space to fill." All our canvases are of different sizes and shapes, but they all have, more or less, fixed edges. Should disaster strike, the mind is flexible enough to start a new picture within the new boundaries.
The unlimited resources, the unlimited opportunity, the unlimited talent, has often gone for naught, lost in the confusion of the "too much." It is sometimes possible, through chosen or inflicted limitations, to concentrate, more nearly, one's effort.
There is a preponderance of evidence that the race is not always to the swift. If you protest that you will do your picture later, when you feel better, I would only remind you that the late Dean Briggs of Harvard is quoted as saying, "Much of the best work has been done by people who didn't feel very well."
Don't let the confusion confound you. Whatever your particular situation, you have only your picture to design, large or small. Just paint it to the edges, mes enfants. Carry it to the limits.
That was Edwin Earle. Together with his wife, he conducts an insurance agency in Derby Line, Vermont.