I always like that scene in the movie The Jerk where Steve Martin leaves home saying, “that’s all I need…” He takes only a chair. Then he takes a lamp. He apparently doesn’t take a belt because out on the sidewalk his pants fall down. I think I identify with his situation because deep in my heart I know I can do quite well with less.
This time I left home without any art materials. I knew there was a box of old art materials in the closet of our friend’s home — enough to get started. Then I bought the basics in Liquitex, a brand I haven’t used for a while — I lucked into the only art store on Kauai. Keep it simple, I said. Limited palette. I couldn’t resist the Alizarin dark hue — haven’t tried it yet. And their Naples yellow. I was just curious. A few stretchers and a roll of Fredrix Polyflax — never tried that either. Just curious. I bought a staple-gun — I needed that. Gesso, molding paste, medium, gel, varnish, a small roller; you really can’t run even a Spartan studio without them. A new little easel. I needed that. I had to buy a throw-sheet so I wouldn’t mess up the patio. Had to have that. Oh, and Mozart. I need him. Portable CD and earphones. I’m all wired up. This all leads to a kind of virgin feel to the stroke. Simplicity perhaps in the work as well — a better design. Experience, yes, but somehow new. A new start.
It’s brilliant out here on the patio. Golden days. Simple, simple life. Oh, and I had to buy a bag of birdseed to keep the birds coming. My camera’s primed and ready beside my new palette. 400mm lens — I need that. Time off for shots of Java finches, cardinals, zebra doves, white-eyes, mynas, white-rumped shamas, overhead a long-tailed tropic-bird. What a place. I need the little tape-recorder. Also the bird-book, cell-phone, and this laptop. Oh, and a flask of wine. That’s all I need.
PS: “How difficult it is to be simple.” (Vincent van Gogh)
Esoterica: The idea is to avoid true clutter. Here, there’s a feeling that everything at hand is being used in its proper time. Nothing is extraneous and the only real distraction is the personal inadequacy of the human spirit. “Out of clutter, find simplicity.” (Albert Einstein)
This letter was originally published as “That’s all I need” on January 18, 2002.
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“If I had to choose, I would rather have birds than airplanes.” (Charles A. Lindbergh)