January 2006 Featured Artist
Amy Lindenberger, CPSA, Signature Status
Colored Pencil Artist
Founder - Ohio Chapter Colored Pencil Society of America
Since childhood, I have had a fascination with the American Civil War and the people who experienced it. As a portrait artist, I often thought I’d like to base a drawing on that period. But what form would it take?
It seemed that all of the art based on this theme depicted either a battle scene or some legendary general preparing his troops for combat--two subjects I knew I didn’t want to depict. I’ve never been in combat (unless you count my first marriage) and wouldn’t have the faintest idea what it looked like, and I’ve always found it a little hard to “cozy up” to legendary historical figures. I knew I needed some direction.
As a way of getting started, I borrowed a lesson I teach on project development. I asked myself: what, specifically, is it about this era that holds my interest? I realized the elements that intrigued me the most were the human factors. While Americans (even my own friends and family) have been engaged in a variety of wars, they had never been on our soil. What was it like to experience war at home--sometimes against members of your own family and in your own backyard?
This series began in 1996. Never having created a thematic body of work, I initially tried to conceive of a single drawing that might, somehow, say all that I wanted about this period in American history. As I jotted down ideas, my thoughts started out simply, but rapidly began racing in different directions. It became clear that this was simply too large a concept to express in a single image, and the idea of drawing in a series was born. But where, exactly, should I begin?
My interest lay with the common soldier or ordinary American citizen, pulled from his or her peaceful and predictable way of life, and suddenly thrust into the chaos of war. Going back to examine the work of established Civil War artists, I noticed that they moved from subject to subject, in a sort of “hit or miss” fashion, depicting the war almost as a series of isolated incidents, depending on what struck their fancy at that time. To do what I wanted to do with my work, however, it became evident that a more systematic approach was needed.
I wanted to get to know these people in their pre-war identities and gradually move through the various circumstances with them, forgetting as much as possible all of the history, discoveries and inventions which had taken place between their era and my own. I determined to work through the war in a chronological fashion, taking events in the order in which they occurred, “experiencing” them as I might have, had I actually lived through them.
Research, then, became a very large part of my work. To develop a context for each drawing, I read general histories of actual events within a time frame. When I happened upon a person, incident or pattern of incidents that intrigued me, I searched for books and articles that focused directly on that topic. While the people I’m getting to know are gone, I develop camaraderie with them through the research and drawing process.
Working in a series has been an invaluable tool to me. Trying to distill a complex, multi-faceted subject into a single, representative image can rob the concept of its depth. Working in a series allows me to immerse myself in my subject by fully exploring and analyzing it. Each new drawing teaches me something new--not only about the topic but about my art and creative process--and each completed drawing suggests the path to the next one. I’m asked how many drawings I plan to include in this series. There’s no way to know. As long as the process remains intriguing and new ideas continue to unfold, I’ll enjoy the journey.