Give It Everything You’ve Got

Or Perhaps Lose it Forever

Newberry, "Lynia", 1980-81, bronze, life-size
Newberry, “Lynia”, 1979-81, bronze, life-size

I sculpted this around 1979-80, I was 23 years old and living in Holland. It is my only sculpture. Of my friend Lynia. It was sculpted in clay then used the lost wax technique to get to bronze. I was moonlighting as a professional tennis player playing for the Metselaars Club, for 2 months out of the year which paid for going to art school for 9 months. It was uncanny but I invested everything into art those 9 month periods, 1978-1982/3? Didn’t pick up a racket till about a month before the season started, and I managed to beat the Dutch no 1, he was top 50 in the world, a Venezuelan Davis Cup player and a few other guys that were in the world’s top one hundred.

Michael Newberry, competing for the Metselaars, circa 1980
Michael Newberry, competing for the Metselaars, circa 1980
Michael Newberry, circa 1978
Michael Newberry, circa 1978, in The Hague, Holland, attending art school, at Academie Psychopolis.

I refused to go on tour because I wanted to be an artist, knowing accurately that I would have lost valuable time learning, like doing this sculpture. I took 3 figure non-instructed classes a day, 9 hours, 5 days a week, and 2 classes on Saturday during those 9 month periods. My ability to effortlessly switch that energy into tennis, was puzzling, perhaps it was because I was intensely focused on depth perception in drawing/painting? Normally a tennis player on that level has to practice four hours every day of the year. Without those early art studies I doubt I would have fulfilled my passion for art.

Michael Newberry, Idyllwild, 5/19/2021

2 Replies to “Give It Everything You’ve Got”

  1. It’s a beautiful sculpture Michael, and I enjoyed the personal story. Often I come across the idea that there is some opposition between the arts/sports (silly when you think of the performing arts, and not to mention other false dichotomies often suggested). I have played squash my whole life, and I have no doubt that it assists drawing, and vice versa.

    Whilst it’s certainly no formal research, I have also often noted that amongst my pupils, the skilled sportsmen/women – racquet sports and cricket in particular – are also typically good at drawing; though I wonder whether a study would support my observations or whether this is just coincidental. I am very aware of myself shifting in and out of left/right brain mode as I draw, and the manner in which language deserts me in that process (I think there is recent research suggesting this is a very overly-simplified picture, but the experience of that happening still stands). I wonder whether there is a similar experience that happens as one strikes a ball? Perhaps that is part of “being in the zone” that is sometimes said of sports people.

    Anyway, a bonus to get a mid-week post. Thanks, well worth the read as always.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Greg for the thoughtful comments, very much appreciated. The tennis great Jimmy Connors commented when he wasn’t playing well, he concentrated on the sound of the ball striking! When it sounded right his game was back. So there must be something to the sensory awareness. Also there is chef, Christine Cushing, on YouTube, that comments you should be aware of the sounds and smells while cooking, like the particular sound of sizzling or the smell when a baked good reaches its zenith. Athletes are extraordinarily aware of their surroundings, and artists as well. Jan Koenderink and Andrea Van Doorn are doing phenomenal research into visual perception, though, I don’t think they have studied it related to our motor skills. So much to still learn. : )

      Liked by 1 person

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