Sunday Morning Stirrings in the Gallery

Ancel E. Nunn’s Dream. 11 x 14″ framed watercolor. $250

That, precisely, is the deadliness of second-handers.  They have no concern for facts, ideas, work.  They’re concerned only with people.  They don’t ask: “Is this true?” They ask: “Is this what others think is true?” Not to judge, but to repeat.  Not to do, but to give the impression of doing.  Not creation, but show.  Not ability, but friendship.  Not merit, but pull.  What would happen to the world without those who do, think, work, produce?  Those are the egotists.  You don’t think through another’s brain and you don’t work through another’s hands.  When you suspend your faculty of independent judgment, you suspend consciousness.  To stop consciousness is to stop life.  Second-handers have no sense of reality.  Their reality is not within them, but somewhere in that space which divides one human body from another.  Not an entity, but a relation—anchored to nothing.  That’s the emptiness I couldn’t understand in people. 

Ayn Rand, The Fountainhead

It’s rare to find me in The Gallery at Redlands on a Sunday morning. But we had an event last night in the Redlands Hotel that kept the gallery open late, so we decided to spend the night rather than journey two hours home at such a late hour.

Over coffee, I am re-reading portions of Ayn Rand’s Fountainhead, a book I’ve read twice in its entirety, and still go back to read highlighted and underlined texts as well as my marginal scribblings. In the passage above, our hero/architect/individualist Howard Roark is sounding off about his disdain for “second-handers”. I have other words for those kinds of folks, but I’ll keep those in my pocket.

I didn’t meditate and journal over the passage this morning for the purpose of ranting over the wasted energy of second-handers. Rather, I pointed the passage into my own heart, hoping to improve my life in areas that continue to lag. I’ve never felt like a second-hander. I’ve always tried to carve out my own niche, and usually know what I need to do. I’m always revising my priorities, and now believe I have three main areas that need consistency if I am going to develop as an artist rather than push out the same old products for the market.

My number one priority is unchanged, and I remain consistent in it: study, reflection and writing. I do this religiously every morning without fail. My years as a graduate student made me an addict for research and writing. So I never have to make myself open a book and journal, and set to work in the study. Usually I have this going over coffee seven mornings a week.

But priority number two is moderate, and number three is on life-support. Number two is consistency–making art DAILY. I just don’t do that as I could/should. I have the most beautiful Studio Eidolons in my home, more lovely than any studio I have ever occupied. There is no excuse that I’m not in there every single day (even if for the space of thirty minutes) to engage in making art. It just doesn’t happen. And I have no excuse. I’m fully retired, and I really do not have a demanding daily schedule, so I could and should enter that studio every single day and work on something, even if for a short time. Consistency matters. Because if I miss one day, next thing you know, a week has passed with no new work in progress. I am without excuse. I cannot use the Thursday-through-Saturday gallery schedule as an excuse either. A dear friend gave me a drafting table to keep in the gallery. And there is wonderful light that floods the space daily. So, The Gallery at Redlands is also a studio for me. No excuses. Every day, my dwelling includes a studio. And so, priority number two now has my attention.

And then, priority number three (and this is an embarrassment): sketching. I have a stack of partially used sketchbooks for drawing as well as watercolor. For years I’ve told myself that a “real” artist (vs. the second-hander) sketches every single day. The sketchbook should be carried everywhere I go (the journal does, but not the sketchbook). And I find myself going weeks, months, without one single, paltry sketch. It is in this area that I feel the ultimate embarrassment and hypocrisy. I am frequently asked by enthusiastic emerging artists: “What do I need to do to improve my work, to become more marketable?” And the first thing that enters my mind is the sketchbook, but it stays in my mind, never passes my lips, because I myself don’t do it, and I keep telling myself I believe in it. I wonder if I should make the sketchbook my NUMBER ONE priority? Hmmmm. Maybe that’s what it’s going to take.

OK, let’s put all the cards on the table: I’m writing today’s blog because two days ago a flash of inspiration jolted me and I scribbled it out in my journal to pursue this new idea. And now I am finally stopped long enough to blog it and meditate on it. The idea is reform, revival, renewal. I decided two days ago that I was going to up my game in the areas of blogging, sketching, and daily creation. So now I go public in this blog, no longer keeping it a secret. I intend to blog more consistently and thoughtfully, sketch every single day, and enter the studio to make art daily. And I’ve decided now that the priorities will be 1) sketching, 2) research & writing, and 3) daily creation in the studio.

Time to go to work on these matters. Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

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