Monthly Archives: September, 2016

Letters bruce-springsteen_e-street

A subscriber wrote, “What are harvest tools? You say they’re tools to help extract more value from ideas, but can you be more specific?”

Beneath autumn’s extravagant moons, I’ve been mulling over the same question. Art season’s cotillion boogies under these gibbous globes — it’s reaping time. For all the summer plantings, think of your harvest tools as multi-pronged — in both your equipment and your means of distribution.

Letters edvard-munch__ashes

At exam time in university I used to notice a curious burst of wild creativity. Due to the pressure — when I ought to be buckling down and attending to study — my mind somehow overflowed with inviting new projects. It was at that time I invented a method of applying paint to canvasses from great distances with the use of a hot-air balloon. Another time it was an idea for a series of paintings based on microscopic examination of a campus quad. I call this phenomenon “Anxiety creativity” or “AC.”

Letters peter-schmidt_flowing-in-the-right-direction

Acting on a tip, I downloaded from the app store a deck of imagination prompts. Originally created in 1975 by musician Brian Eno and painter Peter Schmidt, Oblique Strategies began as a box of index-sized cards for artists, made of cut up, discarded prints from Schmidt’s studio. Now, in 2016, the cards can arrive on your phone. I found them by following the breadcrumbs from a story in the New Yorker magazine describing a world-renowned food critic who sometimes emails his editor around deadline time to say that he’s forgotten how to write. For him, Eno and Schmidt’s “strategies” have been a go-to during moments of creative malaise. But what about deadlocks at the easel? The “strategies” include:

Letters stephen-quiller_8

Rain drums on the studio roof. We wait for spring and I’m fooling with the colours of summer. A slip, perhaps, to a borderline zone: the goofy idea that colours are people. It started with a quote from Marc Chagall: “All colours are the friends of their neighbors and the lovers of their opposites.”

Letters glen_hansard

Several years ago, my dad asked me to join him for a workshop at Hollyhock, an island retreat on the West Coast of Canada. After a crisis of confidence, I agreed and we found ourselves a few months later on the beach with a group of keen and diverse painters. We took turns with demos, talks, exercises and crits, working as a gelled but paradoxical unit. Our students seemed to enjoy the yin and yang of our strokes.

Letters the-eishin-campas-cafeteria

Architectural visionary Christopher Alexander has produced a four-volume “essay” that attempts to cure architecture. The Nature of Order: the Art of Building and the Nature of the Universe makes some valuable assertions. Apart from being interested in the “universals” that he thinks ought to apply to buildings, I was playing with the idea of applying his principles to art in general and painting in particular:

Letters diane-warren5

Every morning at 8:30 a.m., Diane Warren drives from her home in the Hollywood Hills to an office on Sunset Boulevard she calls, “the cave.” There, she sticks to a strict schedule, working 12-16 hours per day, finishing one song per week. She credits her process to an obsessive attention to detail and a singular, one-song-at-a-time focus on melody, lyrics and chord choices.

Letters Claude_Monet_les-nympheas

There are eight paintings in these two rooms. Each is two meters high and they vary in length from six to seventeen meters. You already know I’m talking about les Nympheas — the water-lilies of Claude Monet, painted between 1899 and the end of his life in 1926, now permanently on display at the Orangerie in Paris.

Letters marina-abramovic_artist-is-present

In post-war Belgrade, Marina Abramovic’s parents were war heroes, having fought against the Nazis with the Yugoslav partisans and been rewarded with positions in the Communist party. Marina’s father was part of Marshal Tito’s elite guard, her mother director of the Museum of Art and Revolution. Her family of four lived in a larger-than-usual apartment and Marina had few responsibilities other than to do well in school.