Browsing: Letters

Letters
6 The packer’s prize

My picture framer of the past 25 years, once my dad’s, turned off his air nail gun for a chinwag: “What do you think of this barn?” he asked, gesturing toward an oil in for framing, a bucolic scene painted all over with a very small brush. I squinted past a tight foreground of scotch broom and looked around at other paintings in the shop, stealth in their charm or worldly importance and leaning in the shadows amongst their waiting moldings. I asked him how many paintings he’d thought he’d framed over the years and suggested that he’d probably seen more stuff than almost anyone.

Letters
17 External validation

An artist who wishes anonymity asks, “What of artists who get hooked on external validation? What do you think of artists who constantly seek some sort of approval from their peers, in clubs, even online?”

At the risk of being one of those who divide the world into two main kinds of people, there are two main types of artists: Those who have a need to listen to the opinions of others, and those who do not.

Letters
13 Building blocks

When Swiss philosopher Jean Piaget was marking intelligence tests at a school for boys in Paris, he noticed that younger children consistently gave wrong answers to all the same questions. Piaget concluded that children of a certain age were simply not yet ready for these particular questions, having not yet developed cognitive abilities in these areas. It was 1921 and Piaget returned to Switzerland to propose a global theory of cognitive developmental stages — laying out age periods and their patterns — basically showing how knowledge is built.

Letters
19 Aesthetic arrest

Joseph Campbell was one of those thinkers who constantly asked himself, “What is the meaning of this?” In books, lectures and interviews, he made frequent skirmishes into the field of art. And like a lot of those who never took brush to hand, his thoughts were idealized and sometimes muddled. Campbell had attitudes about what was “proper” art and what was not. He thought the personal was dangerous in art. “When an artist’s images are purely personal this finally is slop and you know it when you see it,” he stated. He didn’t often say what “slop” was.

Letters
11 Running away with the box

James Harvey, not yet one year old, moved with his family from Toronto to Detroit in 1930. After studying painting at the Art Institute of Chicago in the 1950s and designing window displays in Detroit, James moved to New York to try and break into the art world. He took a job for $55 a week in the studio of industrial and packaging designer Egmont Arens and started showing his abstract expressionist oil paintings around town. For two years, he worked with a team to redesign the Philip Morris cigarette package — an also-ran to the post-war streamlining going on over at Lucky Strike.

Letters
17 Why do you make art?

A subscriber asked us this question for a university thesis: “Why do you make art?” I included it in a previous letter and some responses came in.

I knew we were onto something when another subscriber wrote, “The gift was recognized very early in my life. There were marvellous tools at hand: pencils, crayons, coloured pencils, poster paint, etc. Producing art was an extension of myself on some other plane or level — spiritual.

Letters
29 Give me the artist at seven

Artist and Purpose Guidance Coach Sam Kaczur recently put out a call on social media asking her friends, many of them artists, the following question: “Around the ages of 6-10, do you have a memory or pivotal moment in your life that you feel set the trajectory or tone for your future?” She offered some examples, like meeting an artist or scientist, discovering a talent, or winning a prize. From among the responses, a theme emerged that painted a picture of family and parenting. “My mother took me to the theatre,” “My dad beat me and so I wanted to be peaceful” and “I assembled my first computer,” were among the replies.

Letters
18 In praise of crazy

Some people think she’s crazy. She’s a bronco-busting, motorcycle-riding, video-making, sky-diving, giant-picture-painting kind of girl. She makes loud noises in social situations. “Man, look at that tree,” she shouts. She can laugh like a logger and giggle like a baby. She disappears from view for long periods of time — nobody knows where she is.

Letters
8 Boomtown

At the top edge of Joshua Tree National Park and skirting the edge of the Mojave Desert is a place called Wonder Valley. In 1938, the U.S. Congress put forward the Small Tract Act, encouraging homesteaders — mostly World War I servicemen — to lease five-acre federal land parcels to convert to private ownership if they built structures, businesses or recreational facilities there. By the ’50s, thousands of cabins had been built but, after infrastructure like roads, water, power and schools failed to appear, were later abandoned.

Letters
16 The Mozart Effect

The Mozart Effect by Don Campbell makes some startling claims. By listening to Mozart you might just turn out to be more creative, productive and healthier.

This book is full of scientific studies and lots of anecdotal evidence. For example, premature triplets were separately incubated; one was fed Mozart, one silence, and one Rock. Guess what? The Mozart-fed kid gained weight faster, didn’t fuss, was smarter, and did more with his life. That sort of thing.

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