On a boat there can be a cargo of wisdom. I’ve brought along some marvelous books. Ghanaian-American artist Samuel Adoquei’s How Successful Artists Study is an up-to-date, practical guide for the transition from art school to the professional world of art. In it he talks about the “Five worlds of artists”:
Monthly Archives: July, 2019
When Alexander Girard and his wife, Susan, moved to Santa Fe in 1953, they finally had room to properly display their massive collection of folk art. Mexican Day of the Dead papier mâché dolls, Japanese wooden kokeshi dolls, Hopi beadwork dolls, Eskimo miniature dolls dressed in sealskin parkas and every other kind of doll from every corner of the planet had served as inspiration to Girard’s career. As a textile designer for Herman Miller, furniture and industrial designer and what is now known as a “total concept brand identity designer” for restaurants, an airline, private homes, corporate offices and museum installations, Girard worked from the magic of colour, graphics and expressive, anthropomorphic forms to spark joy in his signature worlds.
I’m walking a labyrinth in Sedona, Arizona. I’m repeating the words, “My higher self is guiding me.” As well as thinking of something else, I’m wondering if there’s “something else.”
Sedona is one of those spiritual hot spots where visitors come for all sorts of body work, yoga, self-improvement, or guru-inspired transformation. In the USA, this kind of stuff is a $10 billion-a-year industry.
One day at school, my art teachers Jenny and Carolynn gave me a book of paintings by Georgia O’Keeffe. I was 12 and O’Keeffe was 96, still living on a 31,000-acre ranch in New Mexico. I didn’t know this at the time, but it would be Georgia’s last year there after summering on the ranch and wintering in nearby Abiquiú for over 50 years and now having lost most of her vision to macular degeneration. She would pass away peacefully in Sante Fe two years later.
One of the benefits of travel, particularly if you are staying as someone’s guest, is that you get to look over their libraries. Further, you find out what they are reading right now. Here, The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp has caught some eyes. Funny to be reading a New York choreographer while hanging out in Tuscany. I have a hard time putting down books by achievers. They are often clear and practical, and speak with first-hand authority.
Earlier this week, a person whose opinion I respect came into my studio and made some remarks about the surface quality of my paintings. While deeply encouraging, the following day I found myself longing to make my work better. Ways of refining an already technical process suddenly became apparent to me and, like a door opening to an unknown room in my house, the new idea expanded in discovery and play.
At the easel yesterday I was listening to a stockbroker on the telephone headset at the same time as my assistant Carol Ann was holding some cheques for me to sign. Just then one of the city fathers came in the door. “When do you find time to paint?” he asked. I told him that sometimes it seems like I do my work in my coffee breaks. Then, inwardly, I had a little silent epiphany: “If you’re having interruptions, you need them.”
My family’s resolute belief that the music of The Beatles is the foundation of a proper upbringing isn’t limited to the 1970s. Just this year, my big brother Dave, a parent, a bona fide Rocker and a person who could devote his life to musically evangelizing the Beatles as the greatest composers of popular music and the greatest band in history, gave me a ceramic yellow submarine cookie jar for Christmas. “This is the most special present I have ever given to anyone,” he whispered, as if in church. “I hope one day that I, too, could receive the gift of this cookie jar.”
There’s something to be said for families and extended families who live and work together in a creative hothouse. Think of Robert and Clara Schumann — they took in a boarder, Johannes Brahms, who managed to fall in love with Clara. She had eight kids and still had time to produce twenty compositions. The boys did quite a bit of work as well. Under one roof they made beautiful music. And then there are William Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy up there in the Lake District writing poetry together among the daffodils.