Monthly Archives: August, 2017

Letters tom-thomson_the-tent

There’s a challenging creative method which produces surprising, often mind-boggling results. Some artists do it instinctively; it’s the way they habitually work. This is such a good system that I would appreciate if you didn’t let it go any further than between you and I. It seems dangerous, but I almost guarantee it won’t kill you:

Block off a big chunk of private time. Prepare a batch of supports — panels, canvasses, paper, whatever. Get everything ready as if a big event is going to take place. It is.

Letters oscar-niemeyer_international-cultural-centre_asturias-spain

When Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer discovered reinforced concrete as a way to construct shapes that seemed previously impossible, he was suddenly free to explore his vision of form following beauty. “The artistic capability is so fantastic — that is the way to go,” he said of his new favourite material. “There is no reason to design buildings that are more basic and rectilinear, because with concrete you can cover almost any space.” Niemeyer’s projects — mid-century houses, government buildings, the United Nations in New York City, even Brazil’s new capital city — were lauded and criticized as “sculptural monuments”

Letters clementine-hunter_doing-laundry

A friend phoned and brought my attention to a study done at the Harvard Medical Center. It seems that nurture, not nature, is the big factor in the making of creative genius. Talent and genius are not inherited. These were the findings of Dr. Albert Rothenberg, the principle author of the study. Thirty years of research concluded that creative intelligence is due largely to parents’ own unfulfilled dreams of high creative achievement. Researchers used Nobel Prize laureates, Booker and Pulitzer Prize winners, and other cultural and literary awards as evidence of literary genius.

Letters wandjina-with-serpents

Last night, I dreamt about being part of a group of friends who, one by one, were consumed by a giant python. Before anything permanently terrible happened, the python spit us out and everyone survived. This morning, I went to Google and, according to Carl Jung, the snake dream was a kind of subconscious, impending transformation. As soon as I read this, I felt my skin loosen and start to peel.

Letters hiroshige_crane-flying-over-wave

It’s raining in Paris. The open-air book and print kiosks along the Right Bank of the Seine are clothed in plastic sheeting, their owners huddled in overcoats. They smoke soggy cigarettes, pull down their caps and complain to their neighbours how the weather is ruining the business.

Notre Dame Cathedral rises up behind, a grey eminence, as if it has always been there. Through the streaming droplets, I’m looking at contemporary Japanese woodblock prints, clothes-pegged alongside inexpensive, shrink-wrapped reproductions of Hiroshige, Hokusai and Utamaro.

Letters dad-proofing-my-poster-for-french-childrens-festival

“Shall I tell you what I think are the two qualities of a work of art?” asked Pierre-Auguste Renoir. “First, it must be indescribable and second, it must be inimitable.” With these two celestials in mind, how might we get closer to our own highest expression of quality? And in these days of conceptual spectacle, deskilling and verbosity, how is it even properly measured?

Letters pablo-picasso_the-muse_1935

When I was a student at Art Center School in Los Angeles, California, I used to lift the odd glass at a certain suburban bar. One evening I was sitting next to an elderly gentleman who looked vaguely familiar. When he said something to the bartender I knew immediately it was Stan Laurel. Stan, if you remember, was part of the comedy team of Laurel and Hardy. We struck up a conversation. Stan told me that Oliver Hardy, the round one, had died some years before. He also told me that he was now living in reduced circumstances, having, he said, “sold my rights to the films for a low price.”

Letters sarah_ballerina2

Ballerina Sarah Murphy-Dyson, once First Soloist for the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, wrote recently to share her new passion. “I’m a little embarrassed to be asking you this… I started drawing and painting ballet-themed stuff a year ago and can’t stop. My style has continued to develop and grow and I feel I’m finding my voice on paper and canvas. I wanted to ask you about galleries and shows and such… I have no idea about that world. Might you be able to connect me with people from there or advise me yourself? I’d love to have a show and could perform at it, too…”

Letters aelita-andre_the-infinite-world_2017

Subscribers often email me the reasons why they don’t go to work. One should not work for money, they say, or for relatives, intellectuals, selves, instructors, men, dealers, patrons, governments, customers, the masses, or religious organizations. The variety boggles. Every day I spin this sort of information in my ever-boggled brain.

This inbox also fills with comparisons of fine art to other art forms — particularly film, literature and music. Film, they say, has now become work that is fit only for a committee. In film, apparently, no one knows what’s going on any more.