Ernest remarked that there was no such thing as fiction. He talked of his “autobiographical short stores” and of the “combinations of characters,” he had used to make up one character in a book. ”He was making the point, and very forcibly, that there was no such thing as pure imagination in writing, that we simply did not pull ideas and characters and concepts out of left field. He intimated that his own novels could be called biographical novels rather than pure fictional novels because they emerged out of ‘lived experience.’”
Carlos Baker, Ernest Hemingway: A Life Story
I awoke without an alarm at 7:00 exactly. Breakfast was quick and simple, because I wanted to get back into the Cave as soon as possible. Brewing a carafe of coffee, I began the Cave morning, reading from the Hemingway biography (267 pages into it, still a long way to go). I was delighted with the above passage. He was drinking Irish whiskey and chatting it up with Irving Stone, who has just published Lust for Life, the story of Vincent Van Gogh. When Stone remarked that his biographical work was difficult because he had to research facts and stick with them, Hemingway responded with the comments posted above.
I find this true in painting, the blending of fact and manufactured composition. I have arranged this jumble of lures in the tackle box countless times, trying to make them look as they would with a spontaneous opening and shaking of the box. But of course, they never “shake out” quite the way I want them to, so I spend long stretches of time, pointing them in the direction I want them to point, uprighting the ones that have turned over, overlapping the ones that won’t, etc. And then, as I try to paint them as truly as I see them, I look for ways to make them “pop”, intensifying contrasts, enriching primary color contrasts, using all the tricks I have learned over past experiences.
This has been a glorious morning. While staring at these and making decisions with my brush, I have heard in my mind conversations from my past–Mr. Scucchi in 9th grade, Mr. Hoeh in 10th, Mr. Karl in 12th, Professor Unger in college–all these men giving me counsel in drafting, color, composition–the things that go into a successful painting. I find myself working at this very deliberately, though I remind myself it is only a sketch, only a dry run, only a practice session. I feel as though I have returned to the art class, and these great men of the past (two of whom are now deceased, sadly) are now whispering their encouragement, their affirmation, in my ear. I’ll never forget the way they gave themselves to make moments like this possible.
Thanks for reading.