I’m floating over southern Alberta in a hot air balloon. It’s autumn; the stubble fields are a random quilt leaning away in all directions. Hedges and tree-rows measure the edges; slips of water and oxbow bends catch for a moment or two in the sun. Our tiny shadow moves below, bumping on occasional barns.
Up here it’s silent and still; we move with the wind. To go higher we give a blast from the burners, to go lower we relax and let physics take its course. There’s no foreground, only a vast abstract of muted, subtle colors, made more real by the silence and the intervening air. There’s no seatbelts in this wicker thing. It seems I can almost reach and touch.
My heart is startled by the privilege. My breath, already short from the elevation, seems to gulp at the earth. An astronaut couldn’t have it better. “How to collect this?” I ask myself. “What can be done with it?” “What medium can be used?” I look at it through the lens of my perception — what I know how to do, what I think I’m good at. It has some sort of meaning, if randomness has meaning — it’s way beyond real-estate.
I squeeze out and my shaky hand tries my feelings. Ochre, Umber, Sienna. It’s a tough order. Trying to grab just a bit of this on a 16 x 20 canvas may be beyond dreams.
I paint with another mind. A vast and drugless high. I vow, in future, to look more closely at our earth, to pay attention to her clumps of grass, her stones, her very dirt. I will see better the little things that crawl. I promise never, never to waste my time again.
PS: We bump down safely and ignorantly in a place called the Sarcee Range, a classified area belonging to the Department of National Defense. A patrol comes out to get us. “We had you in our sights,” the officer says, “We didn’t know what you were.”
Esoterica: A little over a month ago I floated the idea that we might put together a “Resource of Art Quotations.” If you go to http://www.art-quotes.com/ you will see the results so far. There are two reasons I don’t think you should print it out. For one thing — it’s big — you may run out of ink. For another, there’s the same amount as now waiting to go in. This collaboration, ideal in the Internet environment, is ballooning with original research by contributors and associate editors who await your critique or input. Please take a look and drop off corrections or quotations, particularly by living, breathing artists you feel ought to be included. Eventually we’ll index the writers and artists.
Thank you, thank you, thank you.
The following are selected correspondence relating to this letter. If you find value in any of this please feel free to copy to a friend or fellow artist. We have no other motivation than to give creative people an opportunity to share ideas and possibly broaden their capabilities. Thank you for writing.
by Linda Timbs, Coquitlam, BC, Canada
I discovered the art of flying. After several frustrating lessons, I was handed the controls to do as I wished in an open sky that beckoned. My heart and mind soared like a fledgling bird that had thrown all caution to the wind. I had arrived. The joy was overwhelming. Everything behind me was but a distant memory, everything in front of me, a challenge. Now, when caught amid the angst of writing, I stop to remember the freedom of open sky and brilliant sun, the land below envisioned as a far away memory.
“Up, up the long delirious, burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace,
Where never lark, or even eagle flew;
And while with silent, lifting mind I’ve trod
The high, untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.” (Flight Lieutenant John Magee Jr., RCAF)
by Cassandra James, Texas, USA
On the other hand, perhaps you’ll move away from the bits and pieces of the landscape and instead paint the bigger picture — the one that requires larger canvases and speaks of places without borders, or fences or alligator wrestling — the sky, the common visual everywhere in the world — the view from above — the best of all our dreams, the flying dream — the metaphorical source of all things good.
by Helle Pedersen, Oslo, Norway
You can go higher. Through TM, yogic flying is available to everyone and is an excellent way to bring the mind into creative mode. Soon there are Yagya performances going on. The Sanskrit “Deva Prabodhini” means “Awakening of the creative impulses of Natural Law.”
by ‘Tex Tiny,’ Honolulu, Hawaii, USA
Flying takes your breath away, fills your soul with wonder, uses another part of the brain and prepares you for fresh creation. I regularly fly through rainbows.
Privilege of sight
by Jack Carlson
I believe that all sight is a privilege, whether extraordinary or commonplace, exalted or base. As artists, our job is to look into and see the world well for the benefit of others — we have an obligation — and we are at our most highly realized when we are performing this service.
Feel the magic
by Sophie Marnez, Lyon, France
I love abstraction and I have committed a few abstract paintings. Your balloon letter was the type to start a painting just after reading it. I did not see what you saw, but I could feel the emotion and the magic. Don’t you think that sometimes these feelings should be left as is and never painted, so they would never be spoilt? Just like a piece of music in a concert can be remembered, but never played again, because that day, it was more than the music, it was the musician in his music. Too few people take the time to close their eyes, remember and feel the magic. Well, back to good old earth.
(RG note) Sophie translates the letters into French and sends them to French subscribers.
Your quotations pages are above and beyond my expectations. I will surely make full use of it when teaching. Each statement speaks volumes. (Shirley Erskine)
Your inspirational quotations are wonderful! I teach art (drawing, painting, sculpture, etc.) to children and adults from 6 to 60+ who are always apprehensive coming to class. I try to reassure them and encourage them. I never criticize their attempts but only offer suggestions for improvement, and I always tell them that, “No one ever makes ‘mistakes’ in art, they are called ‘happy accidents.'” I wonder if you can use this? (Anne-Marie Swierz)
As an artist you may spend years searching for expression. When you find the medium you truly love, expression finds you. (Cindy Testerink)
One of my favorites; “Good artists borrow. Great artists steal.” Picasso (but who else?) (Jim Pallas)
“In the face of such shape and weight of present misfortune, the voice of the individual artist may seem perhaps of no more consequence than the whirring of a cricket in the grass, but the arts do live continuously, and they live literally by faith; their names and their shapes and their uses and their basic meanings survive unchanged in all that matters through times of interruption, diminishment, neglect; they outlive governments and creeds and societies, even the very civilizations that produced them. They cannot be destroyed altogether because they represent the substance of faith and the only reality. They are what we find when the ruins are cleared away, and even the smallest and most incomplete offering at this time can be a proud act in defense of that faith.”
(RG note) The most recent version of the “Resource of Art Quotations” can always be found at http://www.art-quotes.com/
“Worth looking at”
Sites of interest and value for creative people:
Off the wall fun, rampant imagination, visual puns and other three dimensional wonderments at Jim Pallas’ place.
Inventive, graphically sound drawings by Rio de Janeiro artist and poet Fernando Naxciemento.
You may be interested to know that artists from 75 countries have visited these sites since August 1, 2000.
That includes Greg Mandel of Capetown, South Africa, who says that the clickback letters are “simply the best art thing on the net,” and Albert Reck of Swaziland who says “Do not bellow into your garden, and neither should you toll the bell.”