The cookie jar


Dear Artist,

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.”

The Creation of Adam, c. 1512 fresco, 9' 2" × 18' 8" by Michelangelo

The Creation of Adam, c.1512
280 x 570 cm
by Michelangelo

Because of the modern miracle known as The Beatles, artists have a template of an oeuvre that expresses the heights of melody and harmony, of joy, imagination, experimentation, composition, pathos, play and magic, storytelling, fecundity and artistic evolution. The fact that their special genius did not emerge individually or in a vacuum — they were inspired by the American blues and the rock and roll of Chuck Berry, Carl Perkins and the the wails of Elvis, by Roots music, folk, Indian, Baroque and the psychedelic — speaks to how all artists, great and small, have pulled from the diaspora of the collective imagination to re-imagine and advance art itself. “Good artists copy,” said Picasso, “great artists steal.”

Three Labours of Hercules, c.1530 red chalk drawing on paper 27.2 x 42.2 cm by Michelangelo

Three Labours of Hercules, c.1530
red chalk drawing on paper
27.2 x 42.2 cm
by Michelangelo

So what would the world be, for everyone and especially for artists, had The Beatles never existed? Director Danny Boyle and screenwriter Richard Curtis’s new rom-com Yesterday explores the possibility of such a travesty through the guitar of a failing street busker. Jack Malik, on the verge of giving up on his dream, discovers through a small set of fantastical circumstances that he’s the only person on the planet who remembers The Beatles. Jack takes it upon himself to capitalize on this glitch.

Whether as a plagiarist or a vessel — a deliveryman transmitting a vital, world-bettering message — Jack’s journey hints at the deeper mystery of where ideas germinate, how they come to life and the nature of auteur-ship and credit. “Ideas spend eternity swirling around us, searching for available and willing human partners,” wrote Elizabeth Gilbert about inspiration’s mutable nature. “The only way an idea can be made manifest in our world is through collaboration with a human partner. It is only through a human’s efforts that an idea can be escorted out of the ether and into the realm of the actual.” Jack, alone in his parable, knows these are not his songs and as his adventure unfolds, he learns what all artists do: that the ownership of ideas might mean everything and nothing. What he does with this knowledge reminds us of why we make art in the first place.

Unfinished cartoon for a Madonna and Child c. 1525-30 by Michelangelo

Unfinished cartoon for a Madonna and Child c.1525-30
by Michelangelo



PS: “I don’t believe in Beatles.” (John Lennon)

Esoterica: What are we, collectively, without our brothers and sisters, our heroes and heroines, the celebrated and forgotten fathers and mothers of the infinite Canon, those who came before us and on whose shoulders we work? “The basic project of art is always to make the world whole and comprehensible, to restore it to us in all its glory and its occasional nastiness, not through argument but through feeling, and then to close the gap between you and everything that is not you, and in this way pass from feeling to meaning,” wrote Robert Hughes in his hundred-year history of modern art, The Shock of the New. “It’s not something that committees can do. It’s not a task achieved by groups or by movements. It’s done by individuals, each person mediating in some way between a sense of history and an experience of the world.”

“And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make” (LennonMcCartney, The End, 1969)

The Letters: Vol. 1 and 2, narrated by Dave Genn, are available for download on Amazon, here. Proceeds of sales contribute to the production of The Painter’s Keys.

michelangelo-david“Though I know I’ll never lose affection
For people and things that went before
I know I’ll often stop and think about them
In my life I love you more” (LennonMcCartney, In My Life, 1964) 




  1. Elizabeth Baier Mahy on

    OK. Here’s the deal…………………………..
    I would like to have the cookie jar. I am willing to send my address. Please enclose forward paintings also. I’d like to really study how Michelangelo began working.
    Thanks so much,

  2. The world was more than ready for the Beatles when they materialized. I remember being absolutely horrified by the behavior of those frustrated teenage girls at the movie theater when I went to see “A Hard days Night”. All that female repression rose to the surface in what I perceived as a continuum of stupid submission….and all the young males wanted a piece of the action too! BUT….I still love the Beatles….know all of the lyrics and sing along….their music isn’t dangerous like that which they “borrowed” from (until LSD).
    Michelangelo was a bit more dangerous, but his artistic career was commissioned by the powerful patrons of his day. He was under orders to create what they wanted. The Beatles created what the world wanted/needed at the time, and both phenomenons continue to entertain and inspire.
    “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometime, you just might find….you get what you need”
    “All you need is LOVE”

    • Kate Beetle on

      Pedant alert: of course “You can’t always get what you want” was the Rolling Stones…
      A Yellow Submarine cookie jar would be awesome. What kinds of cookies would be appropriate to fill it with? I am old enough to have been at BOTH of the Beatles’ Shea Stadium concerts as a young teen. My dad lived in Jackson Heights, got us tickets, I have no idea how he pulled that off. The electronics had not caught up–years later, a band like Pink Floyd could easily drown out any noise from the crowd. But you could not hear a thing over the screaming in the stadium and the Beatles stopped doing live concerts not long after. Wish I still had my ticket, could probably buy a lot of art supplies.
      I have heard the Picasso quote as “Immature artists imitate, mature artists steal”. End Pedant alert.

  3. Kate Beetle on

    OK after I hit send I checked Google and OF COURSE there are yellow submarine cookie cutters available. Heh. Sara, got a good recipe for sugar cookies? I think your holiday baking is cut out… er, predestined.

  4. Wonder what art could be inspired by listening to Beatles tracks!!? Thanks, Sara, for the trip down memory lane or Penny Lane! Creative blessings to all, Suzanne

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