Monday, February 18, 2013

Henry Miller and Virginia Woolf

Today I will share several recent sketches from my favorite sketchbook, a series of patterns and shapes that I have been fiddling with, and my thoughts on some reading that I have been doing lately.  I want to start trying to get a little more out of this blog, specifically for me, and so I am going to be sharing some of the thoughts spawned from my readings.  I hope that you find this interesting and not overly informative or a chore to read.

I have been doing a lot of reading as of late.  This is at least in part because I have been teaching; searching for a golden nugget of information to pass onto a classroom full of people who may or may not have any interest in the thoughts and information that I can pass their way.  Today as I woke from a nap in between jobs I picked up Henry Miller, Big Sur, a book that I had borrowed from a friend and intended to finish long before now.  The excerpt that I read was incredibly apropos.  A group of uninvited visitors falls upon Miller's house in the rural area of Big Sur.  A woman seeks to look at his watercolors because she thinks that she has always needed a Henry Miller watercolor.

Miller gets incredibly excited, bringing out all of his paintings and laying them out in front of the woman.  The woman remains aloof, searching through all of the watercolors and then on to a painting that Miller's wife has done and then back to the watercolors, where she proceeds to pick out Miller's favorite to have.  Miller makes the case that that is his favorite, and so, he considers charging double what he would normally, but ends up selling it for shy of what it was originally to sell for. 

The group leaves and he is left to his gardening.  He ponders what people think of his work and his intentions and then relates it to his own failures in the garden.

"After dinner that evening, thinking to empty my mind of images, I took the lantern and going to the spot in the garden where the poison oak was thick, I hung the lantern to the bough of a tree and fell to.What a pleasure, what a ferocious pleasure, to pull up long, vicious roots of poison oak! (with gloves on.)  Better than making watercolors, sometimes.  Better than selling watercolors, certainly.  But as with painting, you can never be sure of the outcome.  You may think you have a Rommel, only to find you have a scarecrow.  And now and then in your ferocious haste, you pull up pomegranates instead of camphor weed."

Miller's words make so much sense.  It is not that I am an incredible gardener in the time that I am not painting, but I do understand having meticulous hobbies which take your mind out of creation and into a realm of comfort.  I understand also, how making errors in these hobbies, helps to alleviate some of the pain, and provide necessary perspective in dealing with the reception of your work.  Sometimes it does take reading another person's logic in order to realize that this is in fact what you are doing when you are cooking or tending to cacti, however.

I have also recently been reading excerpts from Virginia Woolf's diary.  She was an intense woman.  I find it immensely interesting to read her thoughts on other writers and on taking manuscripts to publishers.  Every bit of anxiety and unintentional contempt that I have ever felt for other people's work and for the people who elevate that work to that invisible pedestal that implies "good" is mirrored in these thoughts.  But I realize as I read these diary entries, that they are in fact thoughts.  They do not represent her overall feel towards the people around her, as my jealous thoughts are not the thoughts that constantly overwhelm me and my art making, however, they are natural thoughts to have and represent honest questions to be addressed when in a better state of mind.  In other words, this is the artist's moodiness that time has told us about.  All in all, though, I still find it a little terrifying to share that I do in fact feel occasional moments of jealousy or anger for others success.  Please do not think less of me.

These three drawings were part of a very cathartic Sunday.  There is something in the drop pieces about finding order within the jumble of thoughts that I have had since leaving school this second time.  There is something more there too, however.  I am not sure what it is yet, and so I must keep drawing them and figure out what it is.

Hope I didn't bore you.

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