Posts Tagged ‘Alexander Pope’

Stirred by Alexander Pope

November 26, 2016


‘Tis hard to say, if greater Want of Skill
Appear in Writing or in Judging ill,
But, of the two, less dang’rous is th’ Offence,
To tire our Patience, than mis-lead our Sense:
Some few in that, but Numbers err in this,
Ten Censure wrong for one who Writes amiss;
A Fool might once himself alone expose,
Now One in Verse makes many more in Prose.

Alexander Pope, “An Essay on Criticism”

I do love secondhand books that open to the page some previous owner read oftenest. The day Hazlitt came he opened to “I hate to read new books,” and I hollered “Comrade!” to whoever owned it before me.

Helene Hanff, 84 Charing Cross Road

One of my deepest delights on this Thanksgiving vacation odyssey was perusing an antiquarian book store and finding these three volumes of Pope’s poetical works dating from 1853 and available for a price I could afford.  With trembling hands, I opened the very fragile volume II last evening and read his Essay on Criticism. The opening lines I believed were worth repeating. 

Awakening this morning, the words from Helene Hanff rose to the surface of my consciousness, and I felt the urge to rise early, post this brief blog, then get to work on some art.  Many times, essayists will stir me artistically because what they record of the act of writing I find apropros to the act of making visual art.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

Opening the Fountains

July 8, 2014
Finished the Latest Installment of "My Town" Series

Finished the Latest Installment of “My Town” Series

I am here only opening the fountains, and clearing the passage.

Alexander Pope, Introduction to “An Essay on Man”

I posted earlier about my discovery this morning while reading Alexander Pope’s Introduction to “An Essay on Man.”  Though I find his essay very comprehensive in scope, he regarded it as only a beginning, a first movement, a poetic push at a subject to which he intended to return in greater detail later.  I immediately recognized that this principle could be interpreted on so many levels.  The one that resonated most with me was the nature of drawing and watercolor sketching as a preliminary to larger comprehensive, framed paintings.  Andrew Wyeth dashed off sketches as preparatory pieces for his egg tempera panels.  As for myself, I still have not returned to the world of oil or acrylic painting, and never tried tempera.  I still wish to treat watercolor as a finished work of art, occasionally working on larger 22 x 28″ scales.  With the crush of a summer school schedule, however, I have found solace in these smaller pieces, and have tried to find ways to speed them up in their execution.  I thought the small watercolor posted above was finished last evening, after only two studio sessions.  But today I accepted an invitation to join a group of Bedford artists and work in the studios of the Trinity Arts Guild immediately after I finished summer school.  As I peered into this work, I found a myriad of details that I wanted to pursue, so I took delight in taking up the pencil and ripping through the existing watercolor composition, inspired by something I read from Robert Motherwell late last night:

Painting can overcome one with its seriousness, like the soft warm skin of a woman, in a way that drawing cannot.  But drawing can be as clear-cut as one’s father’s precepts.  Drawing satisfies our sense of definition, even if we cannot define “drawing” itself.  Drawing is a racing yacht, cutting through the ocean.  Painting is the ocean itself.

Robert Motherwell, “Thoughts on Drawing,” 1970

It’s been another good day, in the classroom as well as the studios.  Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.





Pope’s Essay on Man

July 8, 2014
Alexander Pope Drawing/Collage

Alexander Pope Drawing/Collage

This I might have done in prose; but I chose verse, and even rhyme, for two reasons.  The one will appear obvious; that principles, maxims, or precepts so written, both strike the reader more strongly at first, and are more easily retained by him afterwards:  The other may seem odd, but is true, I found I could express them more shortly this way than in prose itself; and nothing is more certain, than that much of the force as well as grace of arguments or instructions, depends on their conciseness.  I was unable to treat this part of my subject more in detail, without becoming dry and tedious; or more poetically, without sacrificing perspicuity to ornament, without wandering from the precision, or breaking the chain of reasoning: If any man can unite all these without diminution of any of them, I freely confess he will compass a thing above my capacity.

. . . 

I am here only opening the fountains, and clearing the passage.  To deduce the rivers, to follow them in their course, and to observe their effects, may be a task more agreeable.

Alexander Pope, Introduction to “An Essay on Man”

After several halting attempts to teach Alexander Pope and his ideas, I found this statement this morning to be more insightful than any I’ve read before from his collection.  Maybe it was the fulness of time for me.  Back on my 60th birthday, I sat on a balcony on Easter Sunday morning, and recorded in my journal two observations on why I should work at composing poetry and music–the economy of language and the discipline of couching words and phrases in conducive syntax.  This was a revelation to me, and I have returned to it several times in the past two months.  But to sit this morning and read these words from an Enlightened mind truly launched me.  Several hours later I still am quivering from the experience.  Naturally, I felt I had to sit and crank out a drawing/collage of Pope, record this moment in my journal, and try to wax poetic in my writings (I guess two out of three tasks is O.K.).

I would like to say that I devoted the rest of the day to reading Pope and writing poetry, but alas, life/art happens: the Trinity Arts Guild invited me to join several artists for a paint-in at the studio in Bedford immediately after school.  So . . . I went there and worked on watercolor, and I shall post the results of it next.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not really alone.



Painting a Still Life, while Contemplating Neo-Classical and Romantic Matters

February 1, 2013
Fishing Still Life Composition

Fishing Still Life Composition

. . . with an eye made quiet by the power

Of harmony, and the deep power of joy,

We see into the life of things.

William Wordsworth, “Lines Written a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey”

As a watercolorist or draftsman, I think I have a Neo-Classical eye for detail and composition, but as an artist, I believe I have a Romantic heart that beats with emotion as I engage in creating art.  The way I breathe, the serenity I know and the memories that stir my blood convince me that I am a Romantic at heart, though probably Classical in mind.

As my eye explores every cubic inch of this assembly of objects before me, my heart throbs at memories of fishing in my youth.  On this particular day, I cannot stop thinking about an adolescent day on a neighborhood lake in House Springs, Missouri that found me in a rowboat with a gorgeous blonde goddess who took my breath away.  I was there reportedly to fish, and I did have a Shakespeare combo rod & reel in hand, but I could not keep my eyes off this striking girl as she struggled with the paddle, trying to navigate us toward a popular fishing hole.  I was supposed to be the helmsman, but as I recall, I successfully guided us into a cluster of low-hanging tree branches.  I guess, to me, fishing and women never mixed.

I stayed up late last night, blocking in shadows on this composition.  I plan to post the in-progress painting later this afternoon (for now, it doesn’t look very presentable, and there is more faint pencil line than pigment to display on this blog, hence mostly a white rectangle.  That should be changing within the next few hours).

As an English teacher, I am conscious of my shortcomings in trying to lead seniors to an appreciation of Pope and Wordsworth, but today the students seemed to give the task a serious try.  I have Wordsworth’s “Tintern Abbey” experience dripping all over me, as my mind is awash in good primal memories of presence and loss from my youth, and as I ponder these memories, I am glad to keep my eye engaged on the surface of this paper, watching the puddles of water, the billows of watercolor wash, and the pencil lines emerging slowly to give shape to the forms  that lie in front of me.

Thank you for reading.  I’ll have more posted later this afternoon.