Tad Anderson: Art’s Disciple


“I like the semi-religious aspect of doing something devotional and with discipline. Because the root of discipline is “disciple.” If I’m practicing, this is a form of worship, and I have to have a disciple’s severity towards myself.” ~ Tad Anderson

Everybody can draw and paint, believes Laramie artist Tad Anderson. But the act of taking out a brush, chalk, or any instrument capable of rendering art doesn’t necessarily mean the art will be good.  When one undertakes learning to become an artist, one needs to be comfortable self-criticizing and understanding quality.

Even so, Anderson works to approach drawing with a sense of freedom, a willingness to “follow the course of a drawing.” Then the work of listening to your gut and “hearing” if what you’ve completed is good begins.

“Just as you do in climbing, and I am a climber,” says Anderson. He’s dedicated much of his life to climbing and says his friends are all climbers.

“I’m just kind of a wild man–that’s who I am. So I have to try to discipline myself to make anything happen,” Anderson explains. “I might follow my emotions to the point of extremity. I have to hold on to a certain discipline to maintain sanity or relevancy; otherwise I risk floating away, into the air. My friends are kind of a rag-tag group, but they are dedicated, heartfelt rock climbers. It’s what they do all the time, make new climbs and explore new territory. You’d never know they were climbers, in the Jackson sense, because they’ve got no fancy equipment and aren’t in magazines.”

Anderson has been drawing 10 years and climbing for 20.

“I figure if I draw another 10 years, I’ll get to the level of understanding it at the same level I understand climbing. Climbing enforced discipline. If you’re not good, you don’t do it—you have to learn how to be a “learner,” which means that you can’t be nice to yourself all the time. That’s discipline.”

Anderson’s art, climbing and exploring rarely relent. A family member says Anderson often takes his brother out climbing or long walking adventures for 36 hours or more.

How did Anderson teach himself to stop?

“That’s one of the hardest things to learn, when to stop. You could draw this once, and think it’s done and think it’s a cool, pure sketch~~~or you could keep going over and over it and totally ruin it. Or make it better, either one,” laughs Anderson.  “It’s kind of like letting yourself be free—because good climbing is really—-a difficult part of rock has a path. And you have to read it. If you read it correctly you’ll follow it beautifully, and it’s an amazing thing to experience.”

Anderson is “pretty angry” at the mountains of what he considers bad art in the world. Most galleries leave him cold, but he loves visiting great museums–Chicago’s Art Institute is his favorite–because he can see what’s truly dynamic.

“It can be landscape, but also sculpture and certain abstract expressionists, certain religious painters,” says Anderson. “You can feel the strength of their heart in what they’re doing. And other people, all I feel is their education. I don’t care what you learned—-that doesn’t mean your heart is really doing something. It may be making you money but it’s not good art, I don’t think.

You can’t do a WRONG drawing—you are free to do whatever—but there’s still good and bad in art. A lot is either connected to money or formulaic. Too many people think everyone should draw or paint. It’s taking it too lightly. I always understood that physical composition and color composition is what art is. You can choose your subjects, but you have to trust your instinct—and you keep a rigorous mindset.”

Not one of Anderson’s works is “so-so.” A mystic clarity pervades his drawings. His sensibilities are visionary and fearless.

I believe Tad Anderson is an art clairvoyant. Beauty blossoms from severity, from being a disciple. It’s a privilege to know his work. To view some of Tad’s work, contact Mark Nowlin, at Master’s Studio, in Jackson, Wyoming.  You may also email John Anderson at andersonj@unk.edu.

Tad Anderson also has work hanging in Laramie at Night Heron Books and in his hometown of Thermopolis, at the Flying Eagle Gallery.






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