The other night while hanging out at a party a friend reminded me of Walter de la Mare’s “Look thy last on all things lovely, every hour.” Together she and I relished the idea that regularized, fleeting time might be added to an intensified appreciation of our world. Today I’m reviewing a system for nailing down my seeing. I call it “Eyeku.” Off and on I’ve filled a few trip-books and ring-binders with cryptic haiku-like items. Sometimes I’ve used a chiming watch to prompt the opportunity. Here’s a few from my patio right now:
Creamy, dappled lichen on the gray trunk and branches of a flowering dogwood tree.
On high pilings, Purple Martin young, fluffed out, windswept, waiting to be fed.
By binoculars, two yellow kayaks with yellow-haired paddlers, girl and boy, heading out.
Airedale half in, half out of the sun, carefully licking up the last of my ravioli.
The potential of this system is to regularly exercise our powers of observation, to build on the joy of simple gifts. While it’s not possible to make a painting of everything within reach, nor would it be desirable, there is value in enhancing a wider life. By writing it down it becomes monumentalized and somehow more poignant. It gets you seeing potential in the little things, the mundane, the ordinary.
The early Japanese Haiku writers like Basho and Buson recognized the value of codifying simple observations. They adhered to a strict number of syllables in order to keep the form pure. “The octopuses in the jars, transient dreams, under the summer moon.” (Basho, 1644-1694) “Leaves, fallen on a rock, beneath the water.” (Joso, 1661-1704) “The cricket, climbs up the pot hanger, the night is cold.” (Buson, 1716-1784) My Eyeku are not so pure nor so poetically evocative, but they grab the eye-stuff and hold it. Any look at any thing could be a last look.
PS: “The faculty of creating is never given to us all by itself. It always goes hand in hand with the gift of observation.” (Igor Stravinsky)
Esoterica: What about sharing? Emailing four or five short and sweet Eyeku often results in surprising returns in kind. Give it a try. Copy your best to friends and see if they respond. You hardly need to explain what you’re up to but you can add “You can reply with yours if you wish.” I’ve asked Andrew to put up a selection that I’ve recently received. I’m collecting them. They help us to realize that our universe is our constant and replenishing inheritance, and how diverse and great it all is.
Purple cone-flower, softly a bee on yellow-speckled spikes, swaying in the breeze. (ab)
Young sparrow fluffed, momentarily left behind in gravel bath, camouflaged. (ab)
Headless white in shallows, bobbing heavy in swells, then stretching up long eyes to horizon. (ab)
A tiny bar, a lightning speedy robotic maniac bartender mixing apple martinis for 250. (sg)
At 3 a.m. we cross cobblestones and through a signless door, two chicks and a chaperone. (sg)
French toast and our respective cabs, we disturb the rats and climb our bedtime stairs. (sg)
A horizon glow, a prism up to the sky’s green center, shooting stars cutting. (js)
Green lace overhead, trembling, somewhere a big frog speaks. (lv)
A long dock, the sound of water, a cloud of flies hovering, one mad dragonfly. (lv)
(RG note) We’ll include a wider selection of your “eyeku” in the next clickback. We’ll identify you by your initials only, but if you wish them to be totally anonymous please just say so. Please send your “eyeku” to email@example.com. Thanks for the fun and the friendship.
by Marney Ward
I always think it’s good to attempt to capture moments of eternity in more than one medium. I have written poetry and painted all my life, and sometimes one mode of expression seems more appropriate, or more fully able to capture the essence of what I want to express, while other times the other mode will. In my PhD thesis on William Blake’s poetry and painting, I delved into the inherent differences between text and design. I decided that the immediacy of painting made it more appropriate for expressing Blake’s state of Innocence while the grammatical intricacies and linear development of writing made it more appropriate for expressing Blake’s more complicated state of Experience. By using both together Blake was able to express two different points of view, two different ways of looking at the world, on the same page. Poetry is more like painting than prose, capturing the image (or the feeling) in a moment of illumination, whereas prose is more linear and better suited to telling a story. All the arts enrich us and each art form we embrace helps to make us whole.
by Elizabeth Azzolina
For artists, “Eyeku” should be called “InnerEyeKu.” The principle of “seeing” is not just with an artist eye but with an artist heart, the true inner self. That moment of observation returns the artist to some subconscious inner place. The actual physical objects in front of them are merely vehicles to their own inner workings. Seeing soft sunlight falling on a garden rose brings me back to my aunt’s garden in Brooklyn. It is the inner self that attracts the artist to a particular subject because it emotes feelings from within. As communicators, artists should not just portray a subject. Their work should be a window to the thoughts and inner workings of their artist lives and minds. Art should move the audience to the aesthetic of the artist inner light.
by Julie Rodriguez Jones, Sparks, NV, USA
What a coincidence that you should mention Eyeku. Being new to Nevada, seeing lightning light up the entire eastern sky for hours (just two nights ago) from a phenomenal vantage point, was a marvel. And then the next day actually seeing a strike hit the ground not far from where we were in the car, was awe inspiring and terrifying at the same time. I sent an e-mail note off to a few of my friends. It was just 2-3 sentences about each event along with a watercolor of the area where we were at the National Weather Service’s hilltop vantage point in Reno. I feel fortunate to have witnessed such splendor. I’ve done this several times recently and enjoy hearing about what others have seen and how they respond. Now I have a name for it.
Lightning strikes, skies afire, bellowing thunder on a warm summer night.
by Max Elliott
That was a great reminder to me that hiking/painting trips are best remembered not only through the resulting art works, but also through journal entries and poetry — here are a few Haiku poems from the summer of 2002, when I was lucky enough to paint one beautiful glacial location after another for a show at the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies, in honour of the United Nations International Year of Fresh Water:
Iceberg’s cold hourglass
The curvature of time
By gravity’s thaw
Lake McArthur, Yoho
A diamond necklace
Encircles McArthur’s throat
My heart in her clasp
Haig Glacier Base Camp
The silence and the freedom
Creep slowly downhill
A spider on the ice rests
All sense of scale fails
Paint to Haiku
by Rosemarie Manson
I am a novice watercolor artist. As such, I am still learning how to transform photos into painterly images. During our last 10-week series of lessons, my art teacher gave us a focus: painting to Haiku. It was a step up in the painting process for me because now I wasn’t using photos or pictures as a starting point. Now I had to evoke an image from the poetry.
After painting images formed in my mind from the haiku of Basho and Buson, the next step was to write original poetry from observations in nature and then paint a picture.
The process was intimidating at first, then I realized it was a very freeing experience: freedom from expectations (Did the mountain look like the one in the photo?), freedom from using the usual materials (I experimented with different types of rice paper and I combined Sumi-e ink with watercolor paint). I realize now that veteran artists, as well as beginners, need to take that ‘last look’ in order to keep creativity alive.
Here are samples of my original haiku:
Fading bouganvilla, crisp, light — floating on a journey to new life.
Undulating seas, taking me home at sunset, stay right, little boat!
Rhododendrons waterless under a great cedar, leaves brown, rolled, crackling. (ll)
Entering the cool forest path, light dappled, the way ahead disappearing. (ll)
Reedy pond edge, boy and girl crouching, waiting for a frog. (ll)
Light summer dresses, through the trees, fluttering, billowing. (jy)
Plaintive miaows. Black and white cat, stuck on the roof, refuses up-reached arms. (as)
Glowing in the almost-dark, pink roses, drinking from my blue watering can. (as)
Hot. A wasp, overly interested in the grout I’m forcing between these purple tiles, persists. (as)
Wee kitten—striped—stuffed—in child’s knapsack—–Me-owch! (sv)
Sleep Coming, Early Morn, Day Long, Nightfall—Gone (jch)
Desk of curly walnut, smooth and worn, bright flat screen, balmy jasmine night. (atl)
Grey cold sky, wind swept trees, dancing emerald lights, smell of damp earth. (hk)
Peeling trees, stark sound of crows, cold and bleak, a shaft of golden sun. (hk)
The sounds from the TV, faraway, the constant hum of the computer, a buzz in my ears, the phone rings. (hk)
A wall of leaves waving goodbye, or is it hello? (seb)
A tilt of the head, a twitch of an ear, serious horse talk. (seb)
Lush green Georgia. Day is ending, tree frogs start singing. (seb)
Dappled yellow green through gray shadows, peek-a-boo sun! (lrgs)
Brief glimpses of glittering lines blowing in the wind, the spider’s art. (lrgs)
Blades rise above the manicured lawn. Urrrgghhh, time to mow again! (lrgs)
Diamond glints, dark leafy silhouettes, smoky blue-gray outlines, against luminescent eastern sky. (lrgs)
Furry tan and black, sometimes on guard, lolls lazily in the shade. (lrgs)
Special highlight of my week, thought provoking RG letters. Ahhh, inspiration! (lrgs)
Silent trout, speckled and sure, cuts silently through the slow-moving brook. (at)
Squirrels scamper up and around, soft tails, coarse bark, leaves and sunshine swish. (mj)
Black cat, red fence, timing tail, endless patience, got the picture? (mj)
Window lace, statuesque, “I know I am a picture,” says the cat. (mj)
Two alone walk my beat, strange and familiar, we know each other but cannot speak. (mj)
Honeysuckle, straggling around the studio, some berried branches, but still bearing heavy scented blossoms in the warm still summer evening. (no)
Mallards landing, disturbing the pool, ruffling tail-feathers. (pl)
Green mosses like doilies laid over the ends of the sawn logs. (pl)
Exhausted picnickers dragging loads of stuff from the wide fields. (pl)
The forest bench, rustic, weathered, interrupted by its occasional inhabitants. (pl)
An insignificant boy shatters the silence with his big flopping shoes. (dd)
Children, running, screaming with delight, crying babies, then silence. (dd)
When all is quiet the ducks, in and out of the water, stir a commotion. (gh)
Helmeted boy, too small for his bike, demonstrates confidence. (gh)
Brilliant bands of colours persisting peering through the white windowblind. (th)
Assemblage of activities, interests, and energies, waiting patiently to be organized. (th)
Bare birches flicker white against the darkened sky like silent lightning. (ca)
Plastic cups with straws, backlit ashtray, bottle of lotion, rag, wet ring on the bar, breasts. (wc)
Cold and empty, drained of fun, motionless toys wait for flood. (jf)
Motionless dancing shoes, night before’s exhaustion, coffee calls us back to earth. (jf)
Water slaps the skiff, buoyancy gone, the smell of fish gone by, the wharf settling to a watery grave. (hl)
Hard drive humming, keyboard glistening, trashing spam. (dm)
My eyes, changing yearly, wrap happily around your words. (eb)
Purple cone flower, sitting still in the sun, waiting for inspiration to come. (sb)
Unfinished dreams on wood panels on the floor, the child has left by the back door, apple eaten to the core. (sj)
Stretching, stretching, ever skyward, swaying in the breeze, candled pine trees. (lc)
A row of white grannypanties hangs modestly on the second story porch to dry; the rest of the laundry flies above the lawn. (mk)
A birds nest, twined with fragile twigs, awaits new life. (rd)
Honeyed tea, hot at dawn, invites the day. (rd)
Spinning, whirling, deliciously breathless. (rd)
Lemony yellow throated frog resting vigilantly at the sunny pond edge. (no)
White rhino roll, sleepy leopard yawn, giraffe stretch to drink. (mc)
Hippo slick under water, up for air, close nose and submerge. (mc)
Red disk, growing redder, slipping into glistening sea. (mc)
This morning I stepped on my dead lover’s comb. I now know the true meaning of loneliness. (dv)
Green lizard on a rock, Mourning Dove brown and sweet, fussing squirrel, mad because her nest is near. (sm)
Moist and sweetly smelling
Confettied by a thousand peony petals
Dropped by bowed and waterladen heads
All at once
In a gushing surrender. (mw)
On large webbed
Pools of pink
On the long grey sand
Of evening. (mw)
Swimming laps at the gym, 4:15 a.m.
Purple night sky through foggy windows
reflected in the transparent indigo of the pool. (eb)
I swim past walls of mauve, beige and teal…
patternless, relentless designer colors
until, at last! a girl in a red bathing suit slips into the water. (eb)
Golden butternut squash, tofu, ginger, lemon and thyme, cooked and blended.
Pale yellow soup oozes into my green cup. (eb)
Sweet the sounds, Rushing water, Bird’s Twittering Call,
Breezes thru great Oaks and Pines, This is Beauty Rest! (jt)
Daylight causing sparkles on Paint Creek’s waters;
Showing off God’s glorious garden of blooms, my front window. (jt)
Sweet grass yesterday mowed, fresh damp air this morning’s rain,
coffee’s aroma floating, Good Morning. (jt)
Dappled light across the deck,
Her first light on the lily’s leaves.
Flickering shadows on the lawn
A gentle breeze.
Flickers of gold and sometimes silver,
Making ripples glide
Across the pond’s surface.
Bursting in pink profusion,
Celebrate your birth.
Swinging, I listen to
the chirping of sparrows,
while one cloud hovers in a cerulean sky.
The flowers look parched.
Their time spent
In too much light.
Gone to seed
The spinach heads
have also had their season.
The large metal dragonfly,
In the shade of the zucchinni leaves.
If daisies are for friendship – then
I am blessed
For there are many. (ld)
Early morning, tongue in cheek,
The sun orginates from your rear.
Abreast the canna lily crock,
The squirrel savors the opium poppy pod.
A smokey haze above parched lawns,
One red truck with two blue hard hats,
Sporting tanned muscles underneath.
Pale golden nipples,
The soft turquoise edges of the spruce.
Up on the boat ramp, somewhat sheltered,
No gloves, fingers stiffening.
A white garage, almost demolished,
And in its foundation,
A pink happy face. (ld)
Purple and fuschia bougainvillia, dancing over and
between leaves of sun soaked green.
The Royal palms face and kiss the wind, their fronds
dancing behind them.
The banana trees, clothed in lustrous greens, browns
and ocher cluster together in joyful groves of
Soft lake breeze bends
wild oregano purple with spicy bloom
Soon to be a painting.
Blissful siesta on a summer chaise;
landing pad for long-tailed chipmunk
seeking handout… rude awakening.
Yellow tansy high over white yarrow
and purple butterfly bush
No Monarchs this year. (jc)
Tree in full bloom of leaf,
dots of blue sky peaking through,
window image. (ih)
Green lily pad
white lily flower
sunlight on water. (ml)
A lone heron stands motionless in the pond, his reflection mirrored
before him in the still water.
Cicadas hum in the warm air.
Suddenly he rises on powerful wings and disappears majestically over
This is summer.
This is peace. (ng)
wind, gently blowing boughs, unbroken, yellow sunlight shouting
drops slipping silently down the window, washing away
looking through the glass, ghostly images appear, slipping away in raindrops
crumpled paper in the fire, words silent, unspoken, dreams in dusty ashes
morning mists rise languidly, pale orange sun burnishing dawn’s blanket of gray (sa)
Proud swans visit estuary humans,
fluffy cygnets follow. (mc)
Clouds drift on Everest dream
crested by shining silver jet. (mc)
Night birds celebrate stars and moonlight;
bird song fills the night with joy. (mc)
August sunlight dapples Mountain Ash
Branches bobbing with orange fruit
Summer wanes. (bb)
Morning dew quenches browned-out grass
Night lengthens, Summer retreats
Whiffs of Autumn. (bb)
The sun, perched on the western mountain tops, breathes a firery “Good Night!”
Bluebirds flash pieces of the sky as they dive to earth.
Summer shrouds herself in smoky August mists as she begins her slow farewell
spin around the seasons’ dancefloor. (jaf)
by Sheila Kernan
Recently I have been having a hard time trying to figure out prices for my artwork. I am an art student at Alberta College of Art and Design, and I am beginning to get commissions and sell other works of art. I want to get paid for my time, supplies and still provide a reasonable price for my clients. What factors go into pricing your work?
(Andrew Niculescu note) Robert’s letter Principles of pricing art along with the 13 published responses from our community will provide answers for Sheila and the many that ask this question.
Transparency in oils
by Drena Hambrook
Could you please tell me where I might purchase Shiva Signature Permasols? As you have stated they are transparent oils. If not readily available perhaps a substitute. As I understand they make water appear wet and translucent.
(RG note) Shiva Signature Permasols were, for a while, a complement to Shiva’s standard oil colours. They contained additional medium and filler that made them more transparent and consequently somewhat weaker out of the tube. A time saver for those who glazed in oil they can be reconstituted by adding one or more of Shiva’s excellent and well-priced oil media. I’ve used Shiva copal medium with good results and also their sun-thickened linseed oil in combination with thinner. All brands of oil paint can be rendered more transparent and useful for glazing with the addition of non-yellowing medium. If you wish to extend whole tubes it’s possible to open tubes from the back end and squeeze out onto a clean, non-absorbent surface and fold in a desired amount of oil. Then replace the paint into the tube and put the remainder into a jar. Paints worked thus are slippery and give a juicy and extended line and are fun to use when working alla prima. Also, wet into wet stays wet longer. Add oil sparingly as too much oil may cause paintings to darken with time. You can find specific information on the Shiva line here.
Letters in French
by Pierrette Labonte
Your writings interest me in the most point. I saw that one can read them in French as for those of 2002 and part of 2003. Where can one read, in French, those which you write in 2004. I arrive at reading in English but I seized not all and that seem to me so interesting, I do not want nothing to lose.
(Andrew Niculescu note) The 2004 letters in French can be found through our letter archives.
Witless autumn wind
You may be interested to know that artists from every state in the USA, every province in Canada, and at least 115 countries worldwide have visited these pages since January 1, 2004.