Letter to the Editor:

I feel it is necessary for the future of art in Newfoundland and Labrador that this yearly competition should be the standard that best demonstrates our diverse artistic talent.

I have a few artistic friends who feel entering into the Arts and Letters competition each year is something they refuse to do. Along with the 6 month wait to get your painting back, it can also be the way the judging is usually done.

I have total respect for the coordinator and staff and know my art will be well respected, looked after and returned in pristine condition. I have always loved and respected how our great province would host the Arts and Letters competition every year. It has been an annual thing since I can remember. This is a chance for all types of artist to show their work as equals. As a self-taught, primitive, artist I have always felt equal to all artists. 

Occasionally I have been entering, winning is not, for me, the important part, it would be nice, but the goal is to get the painting displayed at The Rooms in the spring. The paint on this year’s piece was still drying in the car on the way to be entered on the Arts and Letters competition deadline date of November 20th, 2015.

"Hun' we got angels in the back yard...again!"

“Hun’ we got angels in the back yard…again!”

The judges for this year’s Arts and Letters competition sent me their adjudication of the entered piece, and not expecting to win, I was not disappointed, but the goal of getting it in the Arts and Letters competition show at the Rooms between April 26th and May 15th has been achieved!   It has been accepted for the show.

Before I share the judgement, this I need to say I have always heard and felt one of the main purposes of adjudication is to allow the judges to take a serious look at the depth of the art piece, not just render helpful advice to an upcoming artist who may need guidance or even direction.

We all have heard the lines in movies and TV show, with what seems like artist babbling, about depths and understanding beyond what we see on the canvasses.  These are usually describing the sub-conscience reasoning behind why the artist has chosen to do this or any piece of work.

The reason I asked for an adjudication note was to judge the judges, after all, their very words can tell me and everyone what they truly know about art and their understanding of the piece of art in front of them.

This is the Judges adjudication of my piece “Hun, we got angels in the backyard again!”

“We really like this painting especially the careful brushwork and the Paint quality. The foreground tree is excellently executed, But some other foreground elements, particularly the wheelbarrow, look a bit out of place.” 

Had they just left it at that, all would be cool, but, they added a ‘but.’ Okay it may seem fine and I am sure the judges meant well, but, this is what I was looking for to understand the judges, and I am not impressed at all!

After 40 years struggling as an artist, thousands of different art pieces, they basically told me that it was not a pretty enough of a picture because of the wheelbarrow being ‘out of place.’ By saying that they are letting me know they have a basic understanding of art and think that art means “pretty pictures.”

It is my opinion a true art judge would have asked “why” the wheelbarrow was there and maybe would have associated it with the title term of ‘backyard.’

Well, people, the reason that the wheelbarrow is near the bottom corner of the left-hand side of the painting and next to a clinging-to-life, nearly dead ‘excellently executed foreground tree’ is the f’n painting!

We are living in a paradise; our backyard is the barely disturbed wildness of Mother Nature herself.
I took my time to paint this one, with a bit of a rush in having spent the last few days sleeplessly pushing to meet the deadline of the competition.

While painting images of Mother Nature herself started showing up among the trees, in shape and forms, sending hidden messages and creating designs of faces and animals both land and sea based. It was as if her spirit was desperately trying to reach out to me trying desperately to get me to listen, please wake up it is still not too late!

Faces and animal shapes would appear while painting and would fade afterwards, throughout the hills of trees in the background to the reflections in the misty water. Even the “excellently executed foreground tree” has life still trying desperately to regain itself and grow again despite the fate created by the “wheelbarrow” next to the tree.

It tells a story that someone has been using that pond as a personal dumping ground resulting in the reckless killing the tree next to it.

I may have a Bayman’s reflection of life on this island, and grew up where the wheelbarrow was turned over out back in case a neighbour needed it, and not locked away afraid of it being stolen, and have always thought of it as a backyard item. This is where the poor restricted townie judges lose out on their understanding of Newfoundland life; the wheelbarrow is not “out of place,” it is where it should be, in the backyard!

I had hoped people would see what is hidden behind all the ‘careful brushwork and the paint quality’ with the tree patterns. I only attempted to show that what one person does affects all, that one person can make a difference by just not recklessly killing a tree in their own backyard after all Mother Nature is watching.

To all artists, would be , want to be, and like me, one of the unknown yet unwilling-to-stop artists, we are not just here do pretty pictures, be true to yourself, be true to your art. Sure do one’s best to make a few bucks, we all have to, just know the difference between ‘bread and butter art’ (pretty pictures) and true art.

Never let anyone tell you your idea is wrong because they did not take a second of their time to understand what you are doing. When some judge says ‘but’ and not ‘why’ then you know their heart is not in their work, they’re maybe too busy planning a kitchen remodeling or a vacation, and never let it be a source of discouragement.

To the winners and the fellow entrees in the show I offer my congratulations, I am sure you all did amazing work; I look forward to seeing all the pieces in the show. Hopefully, it keeps the flame alive and more art produced by all the talented people we have here in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Letter by Thomas Hutchings