I have a memory from my childhood of walking alone with my Dad, somewhere in Brittany. I was about eleven. We were talking about the Post-Impressionists and about waiting for the day’s end, the best painting light — the “magic hour.” It was one of my “firsts”: my first recollection of our first conversation on a subject my Dad and I are still getting to the bottom of. I remember how we walked together side by side, Dad and I, his ideas tumbling out of him like paving stones on a path in front of me. He had given me my first journal and my first camera, and he’d even ordered for me my first endive salad, but it was our back and forth that etched the journey.
Today, Dad and I are dividing our time between trips to the BC Cancer Agency, and near-idyllic hours in the studio going over our usual themes: art, music, writing, love. You’d think we’d almost forgotten about the cloud now hanging over us — our timer (a little obscure, dodgy) — brought to our attention by Dr. Cheyne and the CT results.
Today, I also remember Dad sharing with you some words I delivered at his 75th birthday party — just two and a half years ago. It was a rumination on how I might get the entire contents of Dad’s brain into my own brain before the end of our allotted time together. My only solution to the panic I was feeling was to keep in mind something I’d recently read in a book on creativity, Stoking the Creative Fires, by San Francisco author Phil Cousineau. The author quoted his own grandfather: “Step by step a path, stone by stone, a cathedral.”
Now, it seems, our steps are a little quicker. In these early days of our new paradigm, with the exception of the abrupt awareness of time, I’ve realized that it’s business as usual. Dad’s mental leaps around the creation station remain bubbling and intense. He’s still tamping down his routes between the writing, painting, thinking, reading and bathtub stations. I’m here, my face in his sweater, or leaning forward in the chair across from his. We’re going over the same stuff we started in Brittany. The only difference is our unspoken acknowledgement: It’s magic hour.
PS: “Time is a river which sweeps me along, but I am the river; it is a tiger which destroys me, but I am the tiger; it is a fire which consumes me, but I am the fire.” (Jorge Luis Borges)
Esoterica: A lifetime of creative output – what we artists call our oeuvre – is called an “estate” after our death, and is something we all dream of building. It’s a privilege to make one. Dad and I have talked for as long as I can remember about this hour. It’s a privilege to bear witness, to participate, and to be part of the bridge.
Sustained and enriched
by Tony Angell, Seattle, Washington, USA
What an inspiration of collaboration. The creative energy and artistic work that lives well beyond our presence is something that you have uniquely provided all of us, whether as artists or as those who simply have their lives sustained and enriched by it.
Plumbing and philosophy
by Patty Grau, Redondo Beach, CA, USA
I lost my dad in 1989. He was only 68. He wasn’t an artist; he was a plumber/philosopher. We had many similar chats I cherish to this day. On the back of his business card he had the quote, “The society which scorns excellence in plumbing as a humble activity and tolerates shoddiness in philosophy because it is an exalted activity will have neither good plumbing nor good philosophy: neither its pipes nor its theories will hold water.” (John W. Gardner)
After the funeral I told his closest friend, “I still talk to Dad and, strangely, he answers.” He responded, “As long as you can recreate your father’s voice and know his intention, he will always be with you.” This has proved to be true. I can even ask him how to fix the leaky faucet and he helps me figure it out.
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Art of living
by Darcy Schnurr, Victoria, BC, Canada
My husband is the artist in the family and he is the one that your emails have been addressed to. I started reading the email a number of years ago and look forward to the message in them that not only applies to painting, but the art of living a full life.
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by Hannah Beck
I wake most mornings to put eye drops in my eyes to prevent Glaucoma from further progressing. While waiting 10 minutes for the next drop, I open my phone to check emails. The excitement always jumps inside my body when I see that your Dad has posted. I have 237 posts since I found this wonderful site, and no matter what is posted, it’s pertinent to what is going on, not only in my artistic endeavors… but my life as well. So without even knowing who I am, I’ve been touched, guided, encouraged, and moved by this wonderful man who is your father.
I will simply miss the man I never knew except in print. Your Dad has and will continue to be my mentor, my guidance counselor, my friend who somehow knows me inside and out.
by Nancy Sorensen, Edmonton, AB, Canada
I can just see the two of you pouring over all the magical creations you have shared. I was given a gift when I joined you & your dad on the Bugaboo art trip this last August. Painting up there in the mountains with you & Robert was a wonderful experience. I know many of us on the trip feel that this… was our “magic hour.”
by Carolyn Newberger, MA, USA
We all face this journey, and its reminders of the preciousness of life and the power of love and legacy. It is with both a heavy and a happy heart that I realized that today’s voice is Sara’s, and what a fine voice it is. You don’t need to fill your head with your Dad’s wisdom, Sara. It’s in your DNA, to be absorbed in your own way, juggled and reinterpreted, and then expressed and enlarged in your own voice.
Many magic hours
by John Unbehend, Seattle, WA, USA
Your posting started a cascade of memories which resulted in my realizing that, as artists and photographers, we live our whole lives for the anticipation and revelation in the magic hour. Many artists think that there are just two magic hours in a day – just before and just after sunrise and sunset. For me there is no contest – it is the hours before and after sunset that make my day magical. I realize that it is the culmination of a life time of magic hours that result in the last ones being the sweetest.
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by Dr. Edward Hughes, Burlington, ON, Canada
This is so beautiful to read and feel. It makes me cry, having felt that same sweater against my cheek. I can’t stop thinking about Robert and you and all of it. I talk to folks about your situation often — it has become a piece of me. And if consciousness is organic and alive (which I think it is) that means that there is now a mesh or web of love across the entire globe that surrounds you. All because of Robert’s (and your) creativity, generosity and sweetness. I deeply regret not making my trip to Hollyhock happen, after talking with you about it in NYC (with Cait and Janelle). That is a lesson learned again, to seize the day and make the most of the light.
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by Robin Timms, North Vancouver, BC, Canada
Meeting both of you at Hollyhock this summer was truly a gift. While being excited about the joy of learning all things painting, there were other special gifts you unknowingly shared with me that I treasure now in my day-to-day living.
I inhaled your spirit of adventure and natural energy that I cherish so much. I believe it was Paul Cezanne who said, “First of all, I am a sensationalist.” In sharing your own adventures, you have captured this natural energy and it flowed out of you like some kind of river. I felt this symbiotic energy of father and daughter love for all that is around you. (And as an aside I get now what Sara told me about painting from real life into an expression of abstraction… it was one of those light bulb moments for me).
Another gift is the one you shared of the joy of being in the moment, which is a feeling I listen and look for every day now that I can more often choose how to spend my time. I have a love of The Impressionists as well, Sara, and walking the places where they painted and lived, can’t you just feel the connection to the moment, the natural energy each was painting ? The joy of painting in the moment? One must breathe life to the fullest before one can paint a single darn thing. You both talk about these moments, live and breathe these moments, and helped me understand how connected joyous living and successful painting are.
I have become more of an introvert since getting away from a daily earning my living “grind” — more like the child I once was. Each day I am becoming more myself — more like my father. I was Daddy’s girl growing up and we shared a bond like no other. My earliest memories were going for a drive in the country with my Dad to check out what was growing in the fields, or “what the day would bring.” It was our quiet time to just be alone with nature and the big Prairie skies and sometimes talk about things just between the two of us. It was our time. And since we both had a terrible passion for ice cream, the day most often ended with a stop for ice cream cones (rain or shine, winter or summer). Of course, it most often ruined my dinner but there was no telling my mother.
I lost my Dad unexpectedly — he died in his sleep of a brain aneurysm at the age of 56. I was just starting out in the world, trying to find myself. To this day I wonder what advice he might have given me about this thing or that thing or what he would have thought about some particular thing. I think about all the things I didn’t get a chance to ask him or to say to him that I wanted to say. But really, none of that matters. When I close my eyes I can still feel him holding my hand when I was shy, or calling me “Sweetie,” or bragging about all the things his girl could do. It’s my Dad’s warm touch and, most of all, his love that I remember and that stays with me.
Enjoy the past comments below for The Magic Hour…
Doing life, Italy
oil on canvas, 8 x 8 inches
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, 2013.
That includes Richard Gagnon of Knowlton, QC, Canada, who wrote, “Keep absorbing. Keep writing. Enjoy the time.”
And also Ken Campbell of Kelowna, BC, Canada, who wrote, “Sara, it’s nice to hear your “voice.” May we all “live in the jaws of a blacktail deer.”