After the electronic shower of your New Year’s resolutions, (and my own resolution to grow my hair this year) I was passing my easel and paused to note its magnificence. Like many artists who wrote to mention that they don’t believe in resolutions, looking at the upright, decent instrument that my easel is, I realized that, with its help, things pretty well take care of themselves.
In the new pile of books brought by Santa and others, I noticed an early edition of The Inner Game of Music. Written in 1986 by Barry Green, former Principal Bassist for the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, “The Inner Game” explores how musicians can temper the hang-ups that stymie heightened creative expression. After researching the nuts and bolts of peak performance with his co-author, sports psychology coach W. Timothy Gallwey, Green determined that performance techniques used by tennis players might also be applied to the arts. Artists, like athletes, while chasing flow and the truth, can instead be bound up with fear, perfectionism, rote ad bad vibes.
A subscriber asked, “What do you say to people who are acrylic snobs? One of the oil painters who is in a show with me said that it might not be a good idea for me to mention the word acrylic on the title cards. ‘After all,’ she said, ‘it’s just plastic goop.’ This hurt me and I can’t stop thinking about it. Worse, I couldn’t think of a nice comeback — nothing better than, ‘But I love acrylics!’ ”
Amid 20th Century masterworks here at the Art Gallery of South Australia glimmers a collection of small watercolour landscapes: delicate white ghost gums striped in creeping shadow, wisps of desert brush and tumbleweed, weighty, dirt-red hills under distant clouds. Unlike the museum’s flashier acquisitions, the landscapes hint at timeless spaces, their strokes describing light and leaves, inviting us in with a quiet ease. I drag my nose through a plump, dauby stand of sap green gums, whispering aloud, “Who, what, when, where?”
“Pride,” said Alexander Pope, “is the never-failing vice of fools.” This certainly applies when we kid ourselves that something we’ve done poorly is somehow worthy. Fact is, pride’s always suspect, even dangerous. Religions warn against it. Along with envy, gluttony, lust, anger, greed and sloth, pride is one of the Seven Deadly Sins.
In 1970, Geoffrey Bardon was teaching elementary school art in New South Wales when he could no longer ignore the emotional struggles of his Aboriginal students. In an effort to gain insight, he applied for a teaching post in a remote government assimilation centre 240 kilometres west of Alice Springs. In his diary, he described Papunya as “a hidden place, unknown on maps, considered by officials as a problem place,” where 1400 people had been gathered from scattered tribal groups, having been forced from their land and way of life.
In 1954, when Ernest Hemingway learned that he had won the Nobel Prize for Literature, he remarked, “This prize belongs to Cuba, since my works were conceived and created here, with the inhabitants of Cojimar, of which I am a citizen.” Attracted at first by marlin and swordfish, Hemingway fell in love with Cuba and moved here in 1939.
For Hemingway, Cuba meant new scenery, new people and a clean start.
At the foot of an apple orchard in the village of Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire stood a hut that for 36 years was off-limits to all but one person.
Nestled at the end of a lime-treed path, the hut paid homage to another, distant hut — a converted garage perched on a cliff edge overlooking the Taf Estuary in Laugharne, Wales. This is where Dylan Thomas spent the last four years of his life, writing, among others, Under Milk Wood, Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night, Over Sir John’s Hill and Poem on His Birthday.
Did you ever stop to wonder why Inuit art is so expressive? Swept up in its mystery and magic, did you ever wonder if you could learn anything from it? In my books, there are five main elements that have brought us this gift from the north. I think they’re worth taking a look at:
The natural, childlike nature of the artists. The Eskimo are playful. Traditionally, they met the stresses of long winters in close quarters with games and amusements.
In 1898, 28-year-old Charles Frederick Goldie returned to his hometown of Auckland, New Zealand after studying painting at the Academie Julian in Paris. He moved into his former art teacher’s studio in Auckland and the two began co-working on a large-scale, historical painting – like Raft of the Medusa – depicting the arrival of the Māori people to New Zealand.