When asked about her writing process, Toni Morrison described a ritual of rising early — a habit she developed by being a mother. “I always get up and make a cup of coffee while it is still dark — it must be dark — and then I drink the coffee and watch the light come,” she said. “Writers all devise ways to approach that place where they expect to make the contact, where they become the conduit, or where they engage in this mysterious process. For me, light is the signal in the transition. It’s not being in the light, it’s being there before it arrives. It enables me, in some sense.”
Yearly Archives: 2019
One of the fun things about Blackberry co-dependency is the ability to send and receive emails pretty well anywhere. Up here in the Rocky Mountains, however, the little darling is as mute as a dead gopher. Missing those soft vibrations of the pocket, I sent my unit with a day-tripping friend who was off the mountain overnight. The machine came back fully revived, her tiny cheeks bulging with fresh seeds.
“If you can’t paint, paint big,” said American photorealist Audrey Flack. My dad, a student of the classical school and reducing grand themes onto 8 x 10 mahogany panels, quoted Audrey when he visited me at art school and noticed a syndrome of sizes going up and quality going down. We discussed how size could have its merits, and I reminded him that Monet’s most ambitious and groundbreaking work was huge — work he didn’t begin until the apex of his creative maturation when he was in his 70s and 80s.
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”:
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.”