Sunday, March 17, 2013

What the heck's that?

(1)  a frightened, tight-lipped bald guy submerged in water, trying to remember how to keep afloat?
(2)  a camel-faced  animal, quietly swimming by in a pond, smiling?.
(3)  the remains of someone's uneaten lunch (burnt pita-bread sandwich that got smooshed)?

Or is it:


(4) a fellow sticking his head out of the shower curtain, wondering, "Now where did I put the towel?"

or is it:

(5)  a discarded  scary Halloween mask hanging on a nail in the closet.

Actually, it's a block of gray clay, worked over first like bread dough, then punched into some random shape and placed under a tiny bright lamp in a darkened room.  Our job, as beginning art students, was to draw its lines and shadows.  It was the first time I had ever used a charcoal stick (so there were lots of smudges).   (Did I mention we were timed?)

It wasn't ever intended to "be" anything, except a sketchy rendition of something observed.
The interpretations come later.

My final drawing looks nothing like the original clay blob, because I'd begun playing with "shadowing".   And somewhere during the process of "Draw what you see", I began seeing more than just lines and shadows and angles - I saw what looked like a kind of mask.  I looked again and saw a nervous guy submerged in water, or a goofy animal in a pond. 

Response to any work of art is subjective (justso with poetry and fiction). Not everybody is talented or skilled at the crafting of it.  Sometimes all you want to hear (in the way of feedback) from someone, is "Did you like it or not?  Did it say anything to you?"  (or, if there was an intentional message the artist/writer wanted to convey--"Did you 'get' it?")  But instead, sometimes it gets analyzed to death, "It's too detailed, it looks unfinished, it's clearly been influenced by the X-school,  it's not up to the your usual standard, it's too dark a subject, it's too vague, it's "cute", or--what they say when they don't want to tell you it sucks (because they don't want to hurt your feelings)--"it's .... interesting."   ha ha

This is not "art", it's just a timed, beginning-level,class assignment.But it's good practice in training one to be more observant of a thing's nuances and delightful possibilities..

I see now why sometimes what you start out to create, with a very clear idea of what you intend,  it suddenly starts turning into something totally else.  I find this happens equally in making art, writing poems or stories or  non-fiction or in organizing some project    It's like something grabs your attention during the creative (or putting together) process, a kind of voiceless voice that seems to whisper,  "Hey, why don't you do this, instead of that?"  or "Why not change the focus?" or "Damn, this isn't working.  Let's rethink the whole arrangement".  And you begin looking at the thing in a  completely different way and realize: "Eureka!  That's IT!"

So, vis-a-vis the art class, the "how to" part is important, and the practice essential.You have to pay attention.  It's hard work.  (So much erasing, messing up, starting over!)  But it starts getting more interesting the more you get into it..  You start "seeing" more possibilities.  It gets to be more fun.. You become addicted. 

I'm calling this image  "Clay Blob I, II and II" ( the same drawing, seen from three different viewing positions).

I almost didn't take this course (Art for Beginners) initially, because it meets at night and if you're a  morning person, it means you have to rush through or skip dinner, and you get  hungry, tired and risk dozing off when you should be alert and focused.  Inner rhythm and all that.  So I'm not continuing beyond Spring and will just have to rely on "How To..." books from the library and YouTube videos to get more specialized training.  Visiting artists' blogs, seeing what others are creating, and talking with artists helps enormously.  You get all sorts of wonderful advice ("They'll never tell you this in class but here's a hint about how to ..." etc.).  Invaluable!

Anyway, so that's my art assignment for last week. Only two more sessions and then we're on our own, so to speak.  But it's got me completely hooked,.  Ask me how many hours I could spend in the local art store now, looking at brushes and pens and sketchbooks and tubed oil paints and watercolor kits and charcoal pencils and ink and ......

Friday, March 15, 2013

Paper is not dead

 Amusing little French advert.
 (Only one word is ever spoken, so subtitles not needed.)

Saturday, March 9, 2013

If You, If I

 My mate got up at 5:30 this morning because Pepe the cat was whining for his breakfast.  When the two of them went downstairs I yawned and stretched out and snuggled back up under the covers.  Ahhhh, I have the whole bed to myself, I thought.

If you were not here, I could have the whole bed to myself.
(But then there'd be no one to keep me warm these long cold snowy nights.)

If I were not here, you could have the whole bed to yourself
(until the cats come and claim the extra space.)

If you were not here, I'd have no one to fix my computer,
listen to my stories, eat dinner with,  hug me and
make me feel everything will always forever be okay.
If I were not here, you'd probably never eat another vegetable again and
live on peanut butter sandwiches and ice cream and chips
or rice-and-pasta, rice-and-pasta, rice-and-pasta, rice-and-pasta,
and gain 50 pounds.

If you were not here, I'd feel as if a big part of me'd gone missing.
The emptiness would scream out
the absence of You.
If I were not here, I think you'd miss me too.

If you were not here, I would remember your touch and your laugh and your kindness
and always save the last dance for you (even though you don't dance). 
If I were not here you might be lost for a time but the universe will see to it that
you're not alone for too long.  After all, it brought us together,  right?
Two ships in the night that otherwise might not have crossed paths.

And if we both were not here -
       who would feed the cats!?

Friday, March 1, 2013

Thoreau's little house in the woods

Earlier this week I was down in Massachusetts and on Monday after visiting some old friends in Concord, stopped by Walden Woods to see if we could find Henry David Thoreau's little house.  It no longer exists but there's a replica there of the one-room structure in which he lived from July 4, 1845 to September 6, 1847.

The original building stood on a slope overlooking Walden Pond about one-half mile from here [in the photo].  It was possible to create an accurate reproduction of Thoreau's home because he described it in such detail in Walden, the book he later wrote about his two-year-long experiment.  Thoreau built most of the home with his own hands.

The 10' X 15' cottage, as seen from the back

Someone had been there before us.  Footprints going in,
circling the house, coming back out

Walk up and peek into the window at the side
and you see:

a desk and 3 chairs

This is the front of the house.
Looking in at the other side window, you see:

Thoreau's desk, on top of which sits what looks like
a Visitor Book where guests can sign their names.  

To the left, Thoreau's fireplace, stove and woodpile;
underneath the opposite window, a single bed

Cost of Materials for Thoreau's House (from Walden)

                                            Boards                                       $8.03 1/2            Mostly shanty boards
                                            Refuse shingles for 
                                            roof and sides                            4.00
                                            Laths                                              1.25
                                            Two second-hand windows
                                            with glass                                     2.43
                                            One thousand old brick          4.00
                                            Two casks of lime                      2.40                  That was high.
                                            Hair                                                 0.31               More than I needed.
                                            Mantle-tree iron                        0.15
                                            Nails                                               3.90
                                            Hinge and screws                      0.14
                                            Latch                                              0.10
                                            Chalk                                              0.01
                                            Transportation                           1.40                  I carried a good part on my back.
                                                                                               $28.12  1/2


Sculpture nearby.

While at Walden, Thoreau chopped wood, cleared land, made bread, grew
vegetables (2 acres of beans), did repairs, and of course, read books and wrote.
He often had visitors (hence, the 2 extra chairs), and regularly trekked into town for news.

I imagine Thoreau walking these woods,
spring, summer, autumn, winter . . .

"Soon the ice will melt, and the blackbirds sing ..." 

listening for the birds,
contemplating snow

Thoreau claimed he never found a companion that was so companionable as solitude.  Who of us has not at one time or another wanted to get away somewhere, to some island or seashore or cabin in the woods, to be alone to think or write or meditate sans distraction?   And yet he was distracted (by the sound of the passing trains, for example, which irritated him; by visitors, by inclement weather). 

 "Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity!"  A dead writer's temporary work and living space reproduced repositioned, and preserved for generations to come.  Honoring the writer, remembering his writings. Which most captivates here--the writer, his former dwelling/experience of living alone in these woods, or his words? 

My two most remembered Thoreau quotes:

          If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because
             he hears a different drummer.   Let him step to the music which he hears, 
          however measured or far away.

          It is not what you look at that matters;
          it's what you see. 

My favorite part of these grounds is Walden Pond, one of the absolute best places for swimming in the area [IMHO].  Walks in the woods in the winter, anywhere though, always a pleasure, with or without encountering a reconstructed famous writer's former house.  Unlike Thoreau, though, I love the sound of trains.  And you hear them all the time here, still chugging along the tracks - train whistles and bird tweets and silence: life in these Walden woods.