Perhaps it’s the unsettling variety or the mind-bending sunshine. I’m at sixes and sevens and my stuff is all over the place. Maybe it’s just being away from the home studio. Maybe I’m coming up on another period. Last night, with the lazy fan turning and the wall-geckos chirping, I was dreaming of Corot.
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Artist Damien Hirst, describing his spot paintings made by offsite assistants at undisclosed locations, said, “They’re all a mechanical way to avoid the actual guy in a room, myself, with a blank canvas.” For Hirst, it was a way of avoiding the possibility of his own mediocrity.
Weekly, an email comes in describing similar avoidance. They usually have an elaborate end-goal in mind, but struggle, for years sometimes, to get into the activity that the goal requires. What’s the matter? The matter is fear, and fear breeds avoidance.
The activities of most plants and animals are timed to the cycle of day and night. These natural rhythms are called circadian rhythms. The most obvious example is the sleep cycle. As well, many plants and animals are sensitive to other time cycles. “Phototropic” sunflowers, for example, turn their faces to follow the sun’s path. Others make their moves in guaranteed light. Some sea animals time their activities to changing tides. These creatures seem to know such times even when away from their home waters. Yep, if you put clams into your kitchen sink, they will try to feed when the tide is rising down there in the bay.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In looking at quotes, you have to ask two questions: “Is it true?” and “Is it true for me?” You have to be careful in this quotation game. Take, for example, this quote of Claude Monet from a letter to Gustav Geffroy: “No one is an artist unless he carries his picture in his head before painting it, and is sure of his method and composition.”
An art photographer friend recently revealed she was emerging from a six-month fog. “Clients put my personal work on hiatus. I was in such a creative block I just dove into helping others and forgot about myself,” she said. “I got stuck in fear.” I asked her if she were to put her fears into words, what would be her Top 3? “Me?” she asked. “Okay, here goes:
“Fear of no one caring, or my work being worthless.
The following is part of a letter from an artist to an architect friend: “I asked him for some of the money I need to continue my work. He told me to come around on Monday. I went on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday and there was no money. On Friday someone else came to the door and threw me out. I’m discouraged about getting paid for this job.”
Sound familiar? The date on the letter is May 2, 1506. The artist was Michelangelo and the patron was Pope Julius II.