Showing posts with label books. Show all posts
Showing posts with label books. Show all posts

April 13, 2017

what does success mean to you?

I'm posting this on my birthday, in the hopes that this year will be more successful than the last....

IN THE COMPANY OF WOMEN: Inspiration and Advice from over 100 Makers, Artists, and Entrepreneurs is a très interesting book of interviews. The founder of Design Sponge, Grace Bonney, asks this diverse group of inspiring women a series of questions describing their creative paths.

A book like this, with artists answering the same questions over and over, makes me imagine how I would answer the questions myself. It's only natural to make those comparisons. I won't bore you with the details, but what I want to talk about is the one question I was stuck on.  

What does success mean to you?
This is, of course, a completely subjective thing but don't you find the very notion of success a bit fleeting? It seems to change with the times, at least for me. When I was young I thought fame and fortune played a big part. Recognition, accolades, raising a family, being a good person. But any one of those things just by themselves doesn't really do it for me. I've thought about it a lot.

And then I read Ping Zhu's reply, that "when things are harmonious, even for a moment, I try to savor it." 

Paul Klee, New Harmony, 1936
That's it! That was the answer I was looking for. Success is not a concrete thing after all, it's a moment when everything is working together in perfect harmony. And if that's true, then there's the possibility for moments of great success every single day in everything we do!

I recently watched an episode of Chef's Table on Netflix. I can't say enough about this series, I absolutely love it. This one was about the Korean Buddhist nun Jeong Kwon.
Jeong Kwon used the word orchestra to illustrate the kind of unifying harmony where everything is working together. She was referring to nature and her place in it, but it's indicative of her all-inclusive philosophy about her food, her means of expressing her life, and her gratitude. Even more interesting was Ms. Kwon's notion that that very harmony was what she considered true freedom.

Hmmm.
I love this idea that maybe what success really means is true freedom. A freedom almost like a weightlessness, where all the elements are equally balanced, where nothing is too heavy or too light, nothing unnecessary or out of place, no interference, no mistakes. Even if it's just for a brief moment.

It's so simple isn't it? True freedom, true success, is the ability to get past our own selves, our own disappointments and desires. To not be burdened with expectations but to allow things to fall into place. I think the more we get away from the idea that we are the center of the universe, that life should wait for us, should adhere to our every want and whim, the closer we'll get to feeling at peace with ourselves and the things around us. Everything has a place and a purpose if we choose to see it that way. If we get out of our own way, perfect harmony can be happening all around us.

Henri Matisse, The Dessert: Harmony in Red, 1908









Success is harmony and harmony is freedom.

And there ends my sermon for the day! haha


December 23, 2016

"Gorgeous Nothings" Envelope poems and paintings

Emily Dickinson's Envelope poems



 

This morning I came across a review of the book The Gorgeous Nothings, which highlights Emily Dickinson's Envelope Poems. I was immediately reminded of the Envelope Paintings of my Facebook friend and artist Julia Schwartz, so I thought I'd share. 

Julia Schwartz, Envelope paintings
Julia Schwartz, Gouache on found, repurposed envelopes, various dimensions, 2016

Julia Schwartz, Envelope paintings
Julia Schwartz, Gouache on found, repurposed envelopes, various dimensions, 2016

Julia Schwartz, Envelope paintings
Julia Schwartz, Gouache on found, repurposed envelopes, various dimensions, 2016

Julia Schwartz, Envelope paintings
Julia Schwartz, Gouache on found, repurposed envelopes, various dimensions, 2016

Julia Schwartz, Envelope paintings
Julia Schwartz, Gouache on found, repurposed envelopes, various dimensions, 2016

Julia Schwartz, Envelope paintings
Julia Schwartz, Gouache on found, repurposed envelopes, various dimensions, 2016

Julia Schwartz, Envelope paintings
Julia Schwartz, Gouache on found, repurposed envelopes, various dimensions, 2016

Julia Schwartz, Envelope paintings
Julia Schwartz, Gouache on found, repurposed envelopes, various dimensions, 2016

Julia Schwartz, Envelope paintings
Julia Schwartz, Gouache on found, repurposed envelopes, various dimensions, 2016

If I could curate a show with all of these lovely pieces side by side I would! Here is the full article which was posted by Tupelo Quarterly and written by Hannah Star Rogers. Sounds like a good idea for a last minute Christmas gift too!

Gorgeous Nothings: Emily Dickinson’s Envelope Poems Hold New Pleasures


 
Emily Dickinson’s The Gorgeous Nothings offers an incredible inquiry into the material practice of Emily Dickinson’s poetry and an argument for why we should take not just the visual culture of poetry into account, as so many new editions of Dickinson’s poetry do, but also the materiality—as both constraint and possibility.
The Gorgeous Nothings, from Christine Burgin/New Directions, edited by Marta Werner and Jen Bervin with a preface by Susan Howe, is the first publication of Emily Dickinson’s complete envelope writings in facsimile from her visually-oriented manuscripts, rendered here in full color and arranged as if they were pressed into a scrapbook. The book is no doubt the dream of poetry and visual culture scholars (very literally as it took Werner, a Dickinson scholar, and Bervin, a visual artist, to bring the book together), but beyond important academic contributions, this book is a lot of fun to open and toss through as though it was a box of Grandmother’s letters—if your grandmother was the Belle of Amherst.
The editors made great choices that allow us these pleasures: the facsimiles are collected together in such a way that we can enjoy the puzzle. The book replicates the material experience of opening an archive, while the shape of the envelope and text is detailed for legibility in schematics that reflect the envelopes’ shape and dimensions. A 252 gives us a sense of the Dickson we recognize, while adding an the extra layer of the material constraints of the envelope:
ED2 copy
What is added by knowing that Dickson met the corner of the page with the word “power,” and arranged her lines to fill the space, gives us a new sense of the space that the poem occupies and of her agility in working not only in acoustic constraints and vital rhythms, but also in another layer of formal concerns. Even a glance at the forms of the envelopes tells the reader something magical is happening in the details of the poems:
ED1 copy
Dickinson’s work has been unfolding for us slowly, revealing her mastery in new ways. First, as Howe writes in the preface, in the 1951 Johnson edition with those characteristic amazing capitals and dashes, then with the word lists of alternate possibilities, and finally, here, with the full materiality of her envelope letters. Maybe it is only now that the reading world is ready to embrace the found and the forgotten in this work, that we are really ready to revel in the glory of the envelope poems. Our own material turn is making these artworks no longer something difficult or illegible, but a celebration of the parts of her poetry that only words not born in typeface can offer.
What may not be immediately legible in the material constraints surely informed the publication choices regarding what parts of the manuscripts would be preserved. These acts of legitimation may have been a part of creating the Emily Dickinson legacy. Perhaps “scraps” (the Dickinson community’s easy reference word for these poems) did not a major poet make, particularly if they came from a woman who largely wrote for herself. In any case, the poetry universe is certainly ready for a revised visual understand of Dickinson’s work that this text brings us.
Yet another wrinkle in the story of why this is the moment for considering the material elements of these poems may be the digitization project at Amherst College’s Archives & Special Collections, which preceded this edition. Poets (and indeed humanists more generally) are being asked often to account for the effects of technology on their work. In this case, the appearance of Dickinson’s work in a digital form precedes an important account of new dimensions of her poetry. Rather than simply spreading copies of her work more broadly, as in so many digital humanities projects, a real discovery and novel way of thinking of Dickinson’s work has been revealed by its digitization. Of course, it has long been possible to imagine an exhibit (as Howe does) or color copies of these poems being created for a book, but the ease and availability of scanning may have given both affordance and occasion to study the material aspects of this work.
Bervin’s essay also leads us toward a new image of Dickinson. Rather than a poet grabbing at envelopes when she was struck by inspiration, Bervin calls our attention to the variety of ways the envelops are folded and cut, suggesting that the poet had prepared these envelops in advance for the moment when an inspiration struck. Her lines flow across surfaces that we perceive only by her attention to them: stops at corners or folds and changes in handwriting and letter size to accommodate her poems to the space the material alots, while transforming the envelope to make spaces for words which readers might not see without the poet filing them. This preparation points not just to thrift, but to how Dickinson perceived her poems as objects rendered with care, what Howe calls, “visual productions.”
This curation of the envelope poems reveals the way the poet turned the borders of the envelopes that she cut and tore into shapes to write on into constraints to complicate her poems: making them fascinating visual objects. Like metrics, rhythms, and rhymes which structure as they aestheticize, Dickinson’s envelope offered her a new method for inspiration. The folds and corners of her thrifty paper uses create new layer of self-imposed limitation which generated new possibilities for the poem. The Gorgeous Nothings is proof that one of our most important poets can still amaze and teach us new thing about the practice of poetry.
 

June 6, 2016

Secrets of the Muse

Stephen King's On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft is such a good book. Even though I don't consider myself a writer per se, most of what he talks about could easily be applied to any artist of any discipline. He may have a whole chapter on vocabulary and grammar but it could just as well be about color, line and composition. There's so much to talk about with this book. His fascinating personal history, cool background information on some of his best novels and the Hollywood movies they turned into, the realities of being a working artist, the pragmatics of writing and persevering, etc. I've earmarked so many pages I will probably have to read the whole thing all over again.

Louise Bourgeois, The Insomnia Drawing no.14, 1995
One of the major things that struck me was the idea of a muse or an "ideal reader". It's been on my mind since page 215 which was like 2 months ago. King writes,
Someone- I can't remember who, for the life of me- once wrote that all novels are really letters aimed at one person. As it happens, I believe this. I think that every novelist has a single ideal reader; that at various points during the composition of a story, the writer is thinking, "I wonder what he/she will think when he/she reads this part?" For me that first reader is my wife, Tabitha.
Gerhard Richter
The first thing I thought about when I read this was a blog post I wrote almost a year ago that started with that very person's name who said the thing about writing like you're writing to one person. I never published the post, ended up deleting the whole thing, and subsequently cannot remember who the person was either. crazy.

Anyway as soon as I read it it was everywhere. It's like every article I've read since then has some artist naming his/her spouse as their muse or "ideal reader", the person they show their work to first and whose opinion they most rely on. It's been an epiphany for me. It's one of those subconscious things that you're aware of without realizing you're aware of it. Like when you're stuck on a piece of artwork. You know something is wrong but you can't articulate it until someone else comes in and points it out. Then it's, oh my God of course, that's what I knew the whole time.

Cy Twombly
The epiphany is that I realized I do not have a muse, and what's worse, I think I need one... badly.

So what the heck is a muse anyway? King writes,
... she's the one I write for, the one I want to wow... when I write a scene that strikes me as funny... I am also imagining my Ideal Reader finding it funny... He or she is going to be in your writing room all the time... You'll find yourself bending the story even before Ideal Reader glimpses so much as the first sentence. I.R. will help you get outside yourself a little, to actually read your work in progress as an audience would while you're still working.
There are plenty of arguments about the role the audience or viewer plays in works of art. Some artists claim they don't care and only make the work for themselves. I have a hard time with that. My thought is that visual art is visual. It needs a pair of eyes on it to complete the whole process. King seems to agree, at least about writing, when he says, "if you really feel that way, why bother to publish at all?"

Louise Bourgeois
Since I believe the viewer is an important part of my  work, then it goes along that a muse might also be important.
It's nice to have someone to want to impress, and what artist can't use another pair of eyes? If not to lavish their opinionated bits on you then at least to point out the things you can't easily see by yourself. It's kind of like having an extra standard to hold the work up to. A criteria that's outside yourself. That's what makes it useful. Because as artists we are so absorbed in our own heavy heads, it's important to step away sometimes and see things from a different point of view.

So the big question is, do you believe in the muse. Is it important? Is it necessary? Do you have one? Do you need one like me, and if so, where do you find one??????????


February 12, 2016

Artist's Daily Rituals

Here's a great book for artists I recently read that I must share with you,
Daily Rituals: How Artists Work, edited and with text by Mason Currey.

Daily Rituals by Mason Currey
It presents detailed descriptions of the daily routines of 161 artists, mostly in their own words. It includes artists of every genre throughout history including writers, composers, painters, choreographers, playwrights, poets, philosophers, sculptors, filmmakers, and scientists.

I am so fascinated by books like this. I love to hear how other artists spend their days in and out of the studio. With all the vagaries of artist temperaments, and all the disparate ways of getting things done, what amazes me is that in the end I think we are all exactly the same, all fighting with ourselves over one thing or another, and for the same end purpose: creating. So many quirks and peculiar habits: charts and time clocks to track the time, pots of coffee and chocolate and opium and whiskey to keep us up when we should be down and down when we should be up. Rising at 3am or at noon or not sleeping at all, working in pajamas or while lying in bed or at the kitchen table. All leading up to the most important aspect of our lives, the work. I think most artists agree that inspiration is either non-existent or so constant we don't think of it as inspiration at all. The key is getting to work, whether we feel inclined at the moment or not. I love reading about an artist who lived two hundred years ago who went about his day similarly to the way I go about my day. Not to get too overly sentimental (if it's not too late), but I think it's important for artists to feel this connection, like we're continuing something important, something we can't help to begin with.

Willem de Kooning
photo of Willem de Kooning
I was thinking the other day that I can't remember an article I've read about contemporary painting in maybe the last five years that did not mention de Kooning at least 4 times. I wonder how he would feel about that. I used to imagine de Kooning's work ethic the epitome of what an artist's life should look like. Like being in your art studio 12 hours a day seven days a week was the only way to be a real artist. The man never stopped working. After years of struggling with that notion I've finally accepted my own way of doing things, which needless to say is a far cry from someone like Willem de Kooning.


Willem de Kooning
Woman Landscape XII, Willem de Kooning

Everyone needs to find their own way, so if four hours gets me to the best work I can make, so be it. 

Books like Daily Rituals confirm all my ideas about being an artist. It's wonderfully encouraging to see how other artists have been dealing with all the same issues but in so many different ways for so long...

For Like Ever, poster
for like ever.



December 28, 2015

Which Of These



I've been picking up new books like crazy lately and can't decide which one to read first. Started two of them already but haven't gotten very far, two are brand new from Christmas, and the Secrets and Psychology of Waiting in Line I half read out loud at the bar at Spotty Dog.  

What do you think? Which of these should I read first??
 
clockwise from top left: Hold Still by Sally Mann, M Train by Patti Smith, Why Does The Other Line Always Move Faster by David Andrews, Daisy Miller by Henry James, Lady of Yaddo by Lynn Esmay, This Is Not It by Lynne Tillman, A Backward Glance: An Autobiography by Edith Wharton, New York Diaries edited by Teresa Carpenter, Solitude by Anthony Storr


 

August 25, 2015

Is happiness a talent?

That seals it. I need to go to Italy soon... very soon.

Spaghetti Carbonara
Life is taking an unexpected turn toward trying new things. Like Spaghetti Carbonara. and Elizabeth Gilbert. I know. Spaghetti Carbonara is not a new discovery, but it's new to me, and let me add that it is an absolute revelation. Not sure why I've never made it or ever eaten it. And here's where a good blogger would research all sorts of historic details about the origin of the recipe, but I don't have time for that now and it's not really what this post is about... Anyway, like the Carbonara, Elizabeth Gilbert is also a revelation. Author of Eat Pray Love which book (also not new but new to me) I am now midway through has some very interesting insights. I admit I watched the movie, which is irrelevant, and I also admit I only checked the book out of the local library because I liked a recent article about seduction she wrote for the New York Times Magazine, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/28/magazine/confessions-of-a-seduction-addict.html
Regardless. Here I am midway through characters like Luca Spaghetti and phrases about genius Italian culture like,
The beauty of doing nothing is the goal of all your work... The more exquisitely and delightfully you can do nothing, the higher your life's achievement... Anyone with a talent for happiness can do this, not only the rich.
If you've read my blog you know that the beauty of doing nothing is a wonderful goal I do wish to achieve, 
but the thing that caught my attention most was the idea of happiness actually being a talent. 

As if you could be born with this talent or not born with it. As if there could maybe even be the possibility of learning how to do it better, or do it at all.
It got me thinking about my own happiness or unhappiness. And then of course, how does this translate into my artwork...
I don't know if I'd consider myself a happy person or if I have a talent for making happy paintings... but lo and behold I just found an entry in my journal from last December telling myself how happy I was and that I thought I was actually making happy paintings! Who knew.

Do I even want to be making happy paintings?

Samantha Palmeri painting
"abstract painting #7"
Samantha Palmeri painting
"abstract painting #9" two paintings I imagine I labeled at the time as happy
I've read some interesting theories about what makes for more popular art. As in what do collectors like to purchase, and what do commercial galleries like to sell, etc. It has been suggested that brown paintings do not sell, blue paintings do sell, red paintings are exciting, and if you can't fit it in the elevator you're probably not taking it home with you.
Ms. Gilbert remarks that,
Ours is an entertainment-seeking nation, but not necessarily a pleasure-seeking one. Americans spend billions to keep themselves amused with everything from porn to theme parks to wars, but that's not exactly the same thing as quiet enjoyment.
As the two words arts and entertainment are so entwined in American culture, it doesn't seem that far off that art, fine art even, is a form of entertainment. Not that the pleasure you get from a wonderful piece of art could really be considered entertainment, but at the same time you need to want to spend most evenings hanging out with it. Enjoyment. Entertainment... it's close.
So then the question is, do people want to be happy and hang happier paintings on their walls??
Death and murder make up a huge part of our entertainment as well.  
I imagine that there must be a comparable number of melancholy art collectors as there are happy ones, right? 

I for one have no intention of choosing my paint colors based on statistical data that I do not presently remember the source of. I do admit, however, that I spend a lot of time thinking about things like this. In fact it crosses my mind each time I unload a very murky brownish mustard color off my paintbrush. I am a painter who loves color and puts a lot of meaning into the colors I choose and the emotional effects they will have on the viewer. So I can't really help it.

Anyway it turns out, and I am happy to report, that in the theme of trying new things, along with planning my trip to Italy, the crisis of happy or unhappy and brown versus blue is currently being solved, at least temporarily, with plans for a new series of paintings... all in black and white.

Samantha Palmeri painting
"ADT" what will turn out to be one of the last paintings I made before the new black and white series






June 10, 2015

"You see, I want a lot"

One of my favorite books of poetry is
Rilke's Book of Hours/ Love Poems to God
by Rainer Maria Rilke

detail of current painting in progress titled Save me from my Desires

I've read it through so many times yet I always find something inspiring.
Written in German and translated, here are two worth rereading:
 

Ich glaube an Alles noch nie Gesagte

I believe in all that has never yet been spoken.
I want to free what waits within me
so that what no one has dared to wish for

may for once spring clear
without my contriving.

If this is arrogant, God, forgive me,
but this is what I need to say.
May what I do flow from me like a river,
no forcing and no holding back,
the way it is with children.

Then in these swelling and ebbing currents,
these deepening tides moving out, returning,
I will sing you as no one ever has,

streaming through widening channels
into the open sea.


Du siehst, ich will viel

You see, I want a lot.
Maybe I want it all:
the darkness of each endless fall,
the shimmering light of each ascent.

So many are alive who don't seem to care.
Casual, easy, they move in the world
as though untouched.

But you take pleasure in the faces
of those who know they thirst.
You cherish those
who grip you for survival.

You are not dead yet, it's not too late
to open your depths by plunging into them
and drink in the life
that reveals itself quietly there.








January 26, 2015

Taking Advantage of Art History

I'm currently reading a fascinating biography on Arshile Gorky.

Arshile Gorky

Arshile Gorky
One of the things I think is so interesting and that I'm discovering more and more as I read other artist biographies, is the reverence, devotion, and obsession in some cases, that these old great artists had for art history, and even for their fellow artists. Gorky walked around with a book on Ingres for years. De Kooning followed Gorky around for years even though it sounds like he was a real jerk to him before they became friends. And it seems like everyone from that 1930's era was completely fawning all over Picasso and his cronies.

Picasso in his studio

They copied each other, they studied each other, they knew every drawing and painting ever made. They became apprentices, and when they'd copied every single work they could, they suddenly emerged with their own voice and their own way of making things. Amazing.

Amazing because we don't do things that way now. I mean, we learn art history in school because we have to. We collect our heroes along the way, but I think one of the downfalls of my generation of artists is that we don't think we need those old great artists from art history. For some reason there is a whole generation of artists now who think they've invented the wheel and are actually making art that is that most ridiculous and impossible word of all... original.

I suffer from this myself. Not that I believe in originality, but I definitely do not hang out at museums nearly as much as I should. Outside of school assignments I can't think of a time I ever sat down and started copying another artist's work. I think maybe it's time.

Even at this point in my artistic life it still makes sense why it would be beneficial. As an abstract painter I'm pretty much dealing with the same issues that every abstract painter has ever dealt with. So why not take a few cues from artists who've already figured it all out?

Cezanne
I just need help figuring out whose work I want to copy...


Joan Mitchell

Picasso










January 15, 2015

"don't try"

the house all to myself for a couple hours last night,
I thumbed through some poems from Charles Bukowski's  
The Pleasures of the Damned

here's some Bukowski inspiration:

Charles Bukowski's gravestone reads "DON'T TRY"
When asked What do you do? How do you write, create?
Bukowski replied,
You don't. You don't try. That's very important: not to try, either for Cadillacs, creation or  immortality. You wait, and if nothing happens, you wait some more. It's like a bug high on the wall. You wait for it to come to you. When it gets close enough you reach out, slap out and kill it. Or if you like it's looks you make a pet of it.

a short poem from The Pleasures of the Damned:


secret laughter

the lair of the hunted is
hidden in the last place
you'd ever look
and even if you find it
you won't believe
it's really there
in much the same way
as the average person
will not believe a great painting


for all his raucous persona in real life,
I always thought Bukowski's poems were exquisitely perceptive and charming

here's a good documentary if you don't know much about him






December 3, 2014

food glorious food


So sorry to veer off the topic but I just read one of the greatest forewords to a book and had to share it with you. I've been doing a lot of reading lately, on pretty much every topic under the sun. My books from the library are probably all overdue but I don't care. Splayed on the coffee table right now are:  
Bauhaus by Magdalena Droste, An Affair to Remember, The Remarkable Love Story of Katherine Hepburn & Spencer Tracy by Christopher Anderson, Nora Ephron's I feel bad about my neck and other thoughts on being a woman, Josef Albers' Interaction of Color, and Ex Libris, Confessions of a Common Reader by Anne Fadiman, who is so ridiculously smart and funny I can barely get through the book.

The foreword I read this morning, however, did not come from any of these. The massive Great Italian Cookbook published in 1986, given to me by my mother-in-law several years ago, literally fell off the top of the refrigerator over a week ago and has been sitting on the kitchen table ever since waiting for me to either open it or set it back up on the fridge. Since I decided on pasta for dinner tonight I figured I'd open it up for some inspiration. Lots of inspiration of course, the book weighs about 6 pounds. But the foreword, fervently written by Giovanni Nuvoletti Perdomini, the president of the Italian Academy of Cookery, really caught my attention. What other cookbook foreword quotes Descartes, Horace and Dante, or compares "a voluptuous layer of polenta" to a sculpture by Antonio Canova? My favorite quote:
Our belief is that God, having punished the sinner with hunger, then rewarded human endeavor with appetite. At the divine invention of water to quench thirst, man's ingenuity responded in turn with the invention of wine... As a reward for this inspired invention, God - in admiration - bestowed on man alone among all creatures on Earth the gift to enjoy drinking without being thirsty... man found a way to transform hunger into a chosen pleasure, elevating it to appetite. On this foundation civilization built up the science of gastronomy.
              
creepy photo by James Ostrer
I love this guy! He not only insults an entire century of anxious pill-poppers who are "terrorized by faddish diets, hounded by food technology's fiendish new weapon, deep-frozen convenience meals", he boldly pledges his allegiance to the institution of the family, to cuisine as a rich and evolving creative expression, and to Italy's national culture, exclaiming, "we will associate with neither posturing gourmets nor blase nostalgia mongerers." Was 1986 really an atmosphere of 'devastating haste and vulgarity'? My Sicilian head is shaking yeah, maybe.


1986 might be a little dated but here in the 21st century I just this instant came across a holiday advertisement, "8 Words for Eating" which included gorge, gobble and scarf. I am certain this persistent pitch for callous gluttony would put Giovanni over the edge. After all, "this art is major; it nourishes the mortals." Note the word ART.

In the spirit of holiday feasting I thought it fitting to bring this all up now.

I'm wishing all of you a holiday season filled with "large family meals, where laughter and spirited conversation are felicitously married with a noble and unashamed pleasure in good food"!


May 15, 2014

HOW TO BE IDLE

Here's a question for you:
Is there a way to have your work, your career, to climb that ladder of success, AND to enjoy your free time, your moments of solitude, family, and nature simultaneously?
Can you have your cake and eat it too?

I can hear my mother saying "all things in moderation", 
but that idea doesn't seem to go over too well in the 21st century. We are way too busy working way too hard in an effort to obtain every single thing under the sun. Every single thing, that is, except the time to actually enjoy any of it. 

As an artist who has owned several businesses throughout the years, along with trying to run my household, take care of my daughter and focus on my artwork at the same time, I have seriously pondered this one.
The answer seems to me a resounding NO. You cannot live two or more lives at once and actually have time to enjoy them all. One or more items will have to be shelved, forfeited, neglected. There are just not enough hours in the day. Here's the part I think about a lot: which parts am I willing to neglect? and more importantly whose rule book is telling me I need to even want all these things simultaneously?

illustration from The Idler 
Now let me refer you to the amazing work of Tom Hodgkinson, his Idler Magazine, and specifically his book from 2005, How To Be Idle: A Loafer's Manifesto. I cannot say enough about this book. They should be teaching it in every poetry class in the country along with every business, liberal arts and fine arts program as well. It's such a simple message that it flies right over most heads with hardly a thought, and it is this:

Take the time to actually Enjoy Living... and stop feeling guilty about it. 

According to the Idler Magazine web site, also known as

Literature for Loafers:



The Idler magazine was founded in 1993 by Tom Hodgkinson and Gavin Pretor-Pinney in order to explore alternatives to the work ethic and promote freedom and the fine art of doing nothing. In that time it has passed through many incarnations, and inspired thousands of people to cast off the shackles of corporate or bureaucratic life, and find freedom. It now exists as an annual collection of essays, published in hardback book form. The current issue is a compilation of twenty years of interviews from the Idler, and includes David Hockney, Damien Hirst, Terence McKenna, Jeffrey Bernard and many more.
It is astonishing how relevant this book is right now, and I bring it to your attention because there are a few items I've touched on here at the Art Wrestler that you might recall. It was just about a year ago that I wrote about my affair with a lounge chair and learning to relax without the guilt. There was also my post on solitude and needing time to think for yourself, being in the moment with my artwork, and most recently enjoying the pleasures of good food and drink. Although I can't agree with ALL of Tom's thoughts on rioting and debauchery, mixed messages about the bible, etc., I can concur with 99% of it.

Let's put it this way, there's a whole chapter on how to enjoy a good hangover. The man is a genius! 


Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh

Artists are usually the dreamers, idlers, and starers into space of society, and there is a lot of animosity that goes along with that. More to the point there are things about being an artist that society is constantly trying to make us feel guilty about. Things that I have learned to accept about myself- like not having a job because I would rather stay home and paint and take care of my family. Things like spending more time reading and writing in my journal than cleaning my house, going for long walks to think about the day, not for the exercise, a glass of wine before 5pm, and spending whole days in the middle of the week lying on the beach. 
I do not frequently drink my coffee "to go" as I enjoy it in a real cup with a real saucer. I do not wear a watch because no one is waiting for me. I get most of my best work done alone, in complete silence and often seemingly staring into space, and I do not use a cell phone because I don't want my silence or staring to be interrupted. Yes, I do not use a cell phone. I admit I have one, but it stays in my bag for emergencies only. Does that count?

Anyway, How To Be Idle has a whole chapter dedicated to almost every one of these things. It is laugh out loud funny and has wonderful references to almost every historical genius from ancient to modern times. It has taught me a lot about history's warped ideas of progress, and where my own thoughts of progress and success fit in. Art is often considered a leisurely activity, a hobby, an unnecessary luxury. I of course consider it a necessity. I would much rather luxuriate in my own space with my own creativity on my own time than lend myself out to a boss who could never give me enough time or money.
photo by Stacey Kath


As I mentioned my mother, it turns out there's a few things the mothers were right about after all. Mostly all the things that required us to be patient and wait our turn, like being sent to our rooms to "calm down", like not running or talking with your mouth full, or sitting down to eat and not getting up until everyone at the table was finished. I've also heard the phrase "sit there and think about what you just did!" My mother would make us sit next to her and not move until we behaved. These days they call that a time-out. How To Be Idle is all about giving our adult selves a whole lot of time-outs,

and who couldn't use a moment to sit completely still in the midst of the turbulent tantrums of life?

I think time only goes as fast as we allow it. There are moments that desperately need to be "savoured not endured", as Mr. Hodgkinson puts it, and look at it this way, your boss is not willing to give them to you, neither is your babysitter or the daycare center. You're certainly not going to get back the time you've wasted on your cell phone, computer or TV set either.

There is no going back- so enjoy the moment right now!







April 10, 2014

It may not always start in the art studio, but somehow, eventually, it all gets there!


..been going to the local library a lot lately. 

Being that to me the local indicates Manahawkin New Jersey, you have to understand that there are not a whole lot of cultural reading materials available (and I'll get to that word cultural in another post I'm working on). The only art books are on knitting, crafts, and the most general art history chronologies. Occasionally there'll be something so unexpected you'd think someone slipped it in there when no one was looking- A rare head turner like Gerhard Richter: Panorama by Achim Borchardt-Hume, which I've taken out twice already.

One has to get truly creative when poring through the non-fiction shelves, and amazing as it is there are plenty of gems to be found. You just have to look. 

Lately I've been looking in the cooking section and other random areas. 

My new absolute favorite book to read before going to bed, and one I'm hoping I can somehow permanently renew, is All the Time in the World: A Book of Hours by Jessica Kerwin Jenkins.



I think I accidentally picked it up because I thought part of the title was "Encyclopedia of the Exquisite" which peaked my interest, but it turns out I didn't notice the words "Author of" above that. Either way, it is just as well an encyclopedia of the exquisite with every chapter a remarkable tidbit of life from every era, genre and subject in the world, like "feasting on fresh crab" at 12:50pm in China's Ming era (1368-1644), and Henry David Thoreau breaking from his solitude every day to eat lunch at his mother's house, 12:20pm. The author's incredible wealth of knowledgeable information, not to mention wit and charm, is very contagious and has prompted me to pull a few forgotten gems from my own dusty bookshelf. 

Cooking with Italian Grandmothers by Jessica Theroux has been another pleasant surprise and has prompted me to seriously consider writing a cookbook with my own 91 year old Italian grandmother. What I really liked about the stories had much less to do with cooking than with the art of living itself. And of course I couldn't help but relate some of the author's challenges to some of those I face in the art studio.

Last but not least this week I picked up The French Women Don't Get Fat Cookbook by Mireille Guiliano. A little revelation by a woman who used to run one of the most successful champagne companies in the world. I've always felt that a cookbook is only as good as the stories the cook can tell about the food they're making, and here I was captured by the author's charming childhood memories of France. The most endearing character in the book was not breakfast lunch or dinner but lovely Tante Berthe who reminded me a lot of my great aunt Edith. The first recipe in the book is called Magical Breakfast Cream and is said to keep you satisfied for half the day and healthy as can be. So I tried it. I kept checking to see if I'd forgotten something because it was, well, not exactly what I was expecting. Anyway, today for lunch I decided to give it another try after reading about all the variations one could attempt. Delicious!

So here is my version of 
Magical Breakfast Cream:

1/2 cup plain greek yogurt (2% Fage)
1 teaspoon organic flaxseed oil (Flax Liquid Gold)
Juice and pulp of 1 Clementine
1 teaspoon organic honey
2 tablespoons shredded wheat (100% whole wheat with no salt or sugar)
1 tablespoon coursely chopped almonds
Pinch of ground cinnamon
& my secret ingredient that makes everything better: a drizzle of almond extract
Start with the yogurt in a bowl and mix each ingredient separately into it. Eat right away!

I know I know, what does magical breakfast cream have to do with art, right? Well, all I can say is, these things are part of an art wrestler's life too. Sometimes we're led to find truth and meaning in roundabout ways. It may not always start in the art studio, but somehow, eventually, it all gets there!



December 12, 2013

Art Books


I'm making my Christmas list and checking it twice. 
Hopefully Sharon Loudon's new book Living and Sustaining a Creative Life 
will soon be added to my collection! 

hint hint..

Here are a few others from my pile 
all about artists, their studios, memoirs, & interviews





all great books by the way