How art shapes our lives

Sal MaccaroneMay 22, 2013 

Imagination, contemplation, interpretation, and a lot of nerve; these are just a few of the important ingredients that go toward the definition of artistic creativity. The ability to produce something new and different requires a myriad of skills, and sometimes with art, what appears to be haphazard is really the result of long and attentive consideration. Studies of highly creative individuals have shown that they are deep thinkers and flexible. With that in mind, very creative people will often change from one genre to another.

Throughout history many artists have shown themselves to be multi-faceted. Leonardo da Vinci was an inventor, painter, sculptor and musician. Michelangelo was a painter, sculptor, architect and poet. Both seemed to move from one challenge to another with the utmost of ease, always searching for new venues to serve their purpose while exercising their creativity. This pair of luminaries existed more than 500 years ago, so it is hard to know what really drove them. However, the point is this: Creative people must express themselves. Now, I would like to consider some other examples of creative genius who lived and worked closer to our time.

Antonio Rodolfo Quinn (1915-2001), was a very gifted individual. He was a painter before, during and after his time as an actor. Born in Chihuahua, Mexico, there is now a statue of him in the town square posed for all time as, "Zorba the Greek." During his acting career he won two Oscars for best supporting actor (1953 & 1957), and was also nominated for two other Oscars.

After winning an architectural contest as a young man, Anthony Quinn was privileged to apprentice under Frank Lloyd Wright for a while. Wright helped give his fledgling a foundation in art and also encouraged him to take acting lessons. Quinn's painting and sculpture, which has been exhibited in every part of the globe, is considered "Modern." However, he was always exploring different styles. While on location during the filming of his many movies, he was influenced by the art of Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and, of course, the Americas.

Richard Bernard Skelton (1913-1997) was a gifted actor, comedian, painter, musician, and writer. Beginning his show career during the 1920's as a clown in a traveling circus, he graduated quickly through the venues of vaudeville, Broadway, radio, television and film.

Red Skelton approached his artwork with the same vigor as he did his acting. His paintings of whimsical, happy-faced clowns remind us of the comedy that he shared. These canvases now grace public and private collections all over the world. Known to only sleep a few hours a day, he was also a prolific writer credited with hundreds of short stories and thousands of musical compositions. Today, some original Red Skelton paintings are valued at $100,000 or more.

And then there is Jonathan Harshman Winters III (1925-2013), one of my personal favorites and the inspiration for this article. He was a marvelous comedian, actor, recording artist, author, and painter. His many different careers spanned across seven decades during which time he contributed much. His comedy and children's albums are classics earning a dozen Grammy nominations along the way. His appearances on ABC, NBC and CBS in hundreds of programs, episodes, shows and commercials always added a touch of magic.

Winters also spent a lot of his time drawing and painting as a way to relax. His demanding schedule always had him appearing here or there, so he relished his time alone. His art studio in Montecito was carved out nine feet below ground and only measured four foot square so as to not attract crowds. But somehow, he managed to crank out a lot of wonderful images in that small work space. A best selling book titled, "Hang-ups" is a great compilation of 50 or so Jonathan Winters paintings and what they meant to him. This gentle giant was the conscious of our country, the voice of Papa Smurf, a wonderful artist, and a reservoir of creative genus.

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