Posts Tagged ‘Ayn Rand’

Late Night with Walter Benjamin

February 5, 2019

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Back in my Study Sanctuary

The pressure disappeared with the first word he put on paper. He thought–while his hand moved rapidly–what a power there was in words; later, for those who heard them, but first for the one who found them; a healing power, a solution, like the breaking of a barrier. He thought perhaps the basic secret the scientists have never discovered, the first fount of life, is that which happens when a thought takes shape in words.

Ayn Rand, The Fountainhead

Staying up late at night is not my habit, but last night I slept poorly, and so was tired all day today. By the time I made the two-hour drive home, I collapsed onto my bed late this afternoon and slumbered deeply for a few hours. An evening exercise walk only managed to stimulate me beyond hope, so here I am, after midnight, wired, and continuing my delicious reading of Walter Benjamin’s 1936 essay “The Storyteller.” After reading only three pages of it in the gallery this morning, I opened my journal and scribbled out a plethora of pages of ideas, and now I am continuing that this night. Hence, one of my favorite quotes above from Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead. Writing affects me that way, but sometimes I go for weeks without that thrill from writing. Lately I have been quite dry, and wondered when the winds of inspiration would blow again, when would the muse whisper again. Thankfully, this morning’s stroll around downtown Palestine, Texas, along with the reading from Walter Benjamin, brought stirring breezes back to my soul.

What I find stirring in this essay is the way in which Benjamin describes what newspapers in the Germany of his day (1936) did to the general public–the same as what the media in general does to people in our society today–deluges them in data, facts, trivia, with no interpretive weaving. People no longer listen to stories; they swallow facts, events, statistics. No one weaves stories; people merely report the news, changing the subject by the minute. There is no longer any sustained narrative.

I am still absorbing the contents of this engaging essay, but right now, I am stirred deeply by this statement that storytelling “does not aim to convey the pure essence of the thing, like information or a report. It sinks the thing into the life of the storyteller, in order to bring it out of him again. Thus traces of the storyteller cling to the story the way the handprints of the potter cling to the clay vessel.”

This is what has me spinning tonight. As an artist, I constantly struggle against becoming a mere illustrator. I often think that illustration does no more than convince the viewer that the artist is talented. That is not enough for me. Like Van Gogh used to lament, I wish to make art that moves people, touches people, heals people. I want people to be drawn in by what they see. I want them to enter into my pictures (my stories) with their own imagination, their own history, their own feelings, and re-emerge more fulfilled. Yes, I want to convey the “fact” of my subject matter, but above that, I want to put flesh on those bones; I want viewers to see more than the bare facts, the bare skeletal structure of the painting.

I don’t know when I will get to the end of this essay. The more I read from it, the more I end up scribbling in my journal. So many fascinating ideas from this fertile mind of Walter Benjamin. Such fascinating late-night company.

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.

 

Feeling the Surge

September 20, 2016

claude-start

Beginning of a Watercolor of an Abandoned Gas Station in Claude, Texas

The pressure disappeared with the first word he put on paper,  He thought–while his hand moved rapidly–what a power there was in words; later, for those who heard them, but first for the one who found them; a healing power, a solution, like the breaking of a barrier.  He thought, perhaps the basic secret the scientists have never discovered, the first fount of life, is that which happens when a thought takes shape in words.

He built like a composer improvising under the spur of a mystic guidance.  He had sudden inspirations.

Ayn Rand, The Fountainhead

What an extraordinary day at my high school! I have volunteered to oversee the Lunch & Learn tutorial service offered by A.V.I.D. students. Today was our first day, and I was ecstatic to find all four of my tutors present and ready to help students who actually showed up the first day to get help in their math classes.

While the students worked on their problems, I was engaged in conversation by one of our senior girls who had encouraged me to read The Poisonwood Bible. I finished that book a couple of weeks ago and still am vibrating from the experience. The student who engaged me has finished the book as well, and her Advanced Placement English class is now discussing it. How enlightening it was, listening to her take on the story and her own extracted ideas from the text.

After the tutoring session, I found that I still had about fifteen minutes of the lunch hour remaining, so I dashed upstairs to see if any of my “lunch bunch” was still assembled. They were, and what was the conversation over as I entered the room? Literature by Joyce, Melville and Hemingway! Wow. If I harbor any regrets from this splendid day, it is that I only got to sit with my colleagues for fifteen minutes to engage in a discussion about reading. How enriching to sit with colleagues over a simple lunch and listen to conversations soaring above the small talk.

When I got home, I felt the surge to begin a new watercolor, so I quickly sketched in a line drawing of an abandoned filling station in Claude, Texas that I have painted before:

route66memories-from-website

As I prepared to lay in the sky, I decided to pull out a limited edition print of mine with a winter sky that pleased me:

cold-desolation

A number of years have gone by since I’ve attempted a wintry sky.  So far, what I’m trying on the new painting is working.

Thanks for reading.

I paint in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

 

 

The Power of a Well-Placed Idea

May 11, 2015

The pressure disappeared with the first word he put on paper. He thought–while his hand moved rapidly–what a power there was in words; later, for those who heard them, but first for the one who found them; a healing power, a solution, like the breaking of a barrier. He thought, perhaps the basic secret the scientists have never discovered, the first fount of life, is that which happens when a thought takes shape in words.

Ayn Rand, The Fountainhead

As the soothing strains of Copland’s “Appalachian Spring” play softly in the darkness, I sit with coffee and books under the warm glow of my desk lamp, grateful for the past several days of events. Last Wednesday, I was notified that I’ve been chosen as Artist in Residence for Texas A&M University Corpus Christi this summer, and that I will spend days alone on an island in the Laguna Madre to make art, explore ideas, and fly fish. Saturday morning I signed up for a four-hour fly fishing class in Fort Worth, having heard from two reliable sources that if I cannot fly cast at least fifty feet with accuracy, that I will catch nothing while down there. Arriving thirty minutes before the 8:00 class, I sat outside in the cool morning that threatened rain, and began reading one of Martin Heidegger’s pivotal essays, “The Origin of the Work of Art.” In my reading, I came across Homeric Hymn #30 “To Earth, Mother of All,” and trembled at what I read (Later, after I got home, I found out to my delight that I have the Greek text to this piece in one of my Loeb Classical Library volumes!). The editor of the Heidegger writings, David Farrell Krell, discussed how this poem, along with works by Johann Christian Friedrich Hölderlin, fed into Heidegger’s notion that “all artwork and all thinking are . . . participations in the creative strife of world and earth: they reveal beings and let them come to radiant appearance, but only by cultivating and safeguarding their provenance, allowing all things the darkness they require and their proper growing time.”

In Heidegger’s thought, “earth” is what I like to call “nature”, that primal force that generates our activity, whereas “world” is that matrix of people and activities that we are forced to accomodate. The text above is a distillation of his philosophy that creativity occurs in that juncture of earth and world. I was fascinated to read these things, but suddenly it was 8:00 and time to go to the park for fly casting lessons. I was delighted to learn that I could actually cast up to sixty-five feet with accuracy, dropping my fly into a hula hoop placed in the grass. However, I have acquired bad habits over the past decade, and this instructor was patient in helping me erase as many of those habits as possible. My casting improved greatly. And then! We had a crash course in fly tying, and I tied my very first fly!

Since the fly fishing lesson, I have had the privilege of returning to my thoughts on Heidegger, art, and my pending experiment on the Laguna Madre. The university’s science department sent me a fabulous powerpoint of photos taken of the island, and I’ve been scrutinizing them and coming up with compositional sketches of the kinds of things I want to render in watercolor. I’m even fascinated with how the field station rises architecturally from the natural environment of the land mass. Devoting hours this weekend to writings by Frank Lloyd Wright and Tadao Ando, along with my reading of The Fountainhead (I just love that novel’s discussion of architecture and ideas!), I pulled out some antique drafting kits I had acquired a few decades ago and began playing with some ideas in my sketchbook.

Noodling with Fresh Ideas

Noodling with Fresh Ideas

Working on fresh ideas and sketches has taken my life to a different level, and just when I thought things could not possibly improve, I arrived home from school today and found that work has finally commenced on removing that giant corpse of a tree that filled my entire back yard!

Clearing the Debris at Last

Clearing the Debris at Last

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.

Watercolor Respite

April 21, 2015
Picking up the brush again

Picking up the brush again

Thanks to art, instead of seeing one world only, our own, we see that world multiply itself and we have at our disposal as many worlds as there are original artists . . . 

Marcel Proust

A gentle reminder from a special friend sent me back to reading Proust last week after another long hiatus. Then I had to close up my shop and leave for a three-day art festival. Once the festival closed, I returned to two days of grading hell, promising me not one minute of down time. Finally I return home late today to find a surprise in my mailbox–a gift book Paintings in Proust. I’ve had some wonderful rocking-chair time with this beautiful volume. Now I’ll need to design a way to continue my reading of Proust’s novel, as well as The Fountainhead.

I managed a little time today on the watercolor I abandoned last week. The more I stare at the sprawling land around that house, the more I think of a passage from The Fountainhead as an architect surveyed the surrounding landscape:

The earth was like the outline of a great story, like the steel frame of a building–to be filled and finished, holding all the splendor of the future in naked simplification. . . . Wynand wondered what reins this man was gathering from all the points of the landscape into his hand.

Between this Ayn Rand novel, the writings of Proust, and a library book I checked out today on Andrew Wyeth, I am getting a profound itch to explore the land in watercolor and pencil, and find a way to fit the architecture into its natural surroundings. So many things are starting to come together in my mind, and it’s been frustrating that I’ve been buried in administrative details to explore them. To borrow again from The Fountainhead:

It was as if an underground stream flowed through the country and broke out in sudden springs that shot to the surface at random, in unpredictable places.

Sometimes I think our decades of ideas and experiences from reading and living life form a deep, still reservoir which from time to time bursts forth like an artesian well. Over the past week, these streams from Rand, Proust and Wyeth have comingled with ideas gleaned from Thoreau in my Philosophy class and certain twentieth-century ideas in my A. P. Art History classes, particularly Frank Lloyd Wright. In a perfect world, I would shut down my school for a week, crawl under a rock, and give these ideas time to hatch and develop. But alas, the hour is drawing late, and I have school again tomorrow. It just never ends.

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.

The Art that Lies Within

April 4, 2015
Trying to Bring the Art that is "In Me" onto the Paper "Before Me"

Trying to Coax the Art that is “In Me” onto the Paper “Before Me”

“Do you know that the Enright House is the most beautiful building in New York?”

“I know that you know it.”

“Roark, you worked in that quarry when you had the Enright House in you, and many other Enright Houses, and you were drilling granite like a . . .”

Ayn Rand, The Fountainhead

Despite the many long hours devoted over the past three days to gathering tax data for filing, I’m still finding a little time to paint as well as read and write in my journal. I loved coming across this dialogue tonight between Dominique and her lover/adversary Roark. In the philosopy classes, I try to stress Aristotle’s notion of potentiality, namely, that the oak tree is already inside the acorn and it must come out. In theory I have always said this about art–the works are already inside us, waiting to be born. Michelangelo saw the human figure trapped inside the marble, and believed his only task was to extricate it. “The end is in the beginning,” said Anaximander, Aristotle, T. S. Eliot, and a host of other celebrated thinkers.

The Messy Studio, where Dreams Take Shape

The Messy Studio, where Dreams Take Shape

The gift of this day has filled me with a spirit of good will. Granted, I chafed at the long hours spent poring over spread sheets and receipts. But still, there were those sublime hours of reading and working on the watercolor. Even while working on taxes and reading from an excellent book, I kept the watercolor propped across the room from me, under a good clean light, so I could look up at it from time to time, and make decisions on the next step. I’m glad there is no deadline for its completion. The complimentary reds and greens are delicious to me, and I’m looking forward to seeing where the painting will take me tomorrow when the natural light returns through those windows.

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.

Life Surging with Details and Challenges

April 29, 2014
Small Watercolor Sketch of a Fly Fisherman

Small Watercolor Sketch of a Fly Fisherman

             He went to his library.  He sat reading for a few hours.  Then he stopped.  He stopped short, without reason, in the middle of an important sentence.  He had no desire to read on.  He had no desire ever to make another effort.

            Nothing had happened to him—a happening is a positive reality, and no reality could ever make him helpless; this was some enormous negative—as if everything had been wiped out, leaving a senseless emptiness, faintly indecent because it seemed so ordinary, so unexciting, like murder wearing a homey smile.

            Nothing was gone—except desire; no, more than that—the root, the desire to desire.  He thought that a man who loses his eyes still retains the concept of sight; but he had heard of a ghastlier blindness—if the brain centers controlling vision are destroyed, one loses even the memory of visual perception.

Ayn Rand, The Fountainhead

I’m surprised that I’m finding time to fiddle with my watercolor sketching, being absorbed with a novel I began reading at the end of last week.  I am about 500 pages into it and cannot seem to put it down, yet somehow I’m still preparing my classes, grading, writing in my journal and experimenting daily with watercolor in my studio.  I don’t know how this is all happening, but I’ll accept that gift with gratitude.

This is a small watercolor that I began while sitting in a festival booth a few weekends ago.  I forgot about it until last evening and decided to push onward with it.  I’ve just now peeled away all the masquing, so there are quite a few raw areas that now have to be doctored and detailed.  It looks as though the painting will have to be abandoned on my drafting table for the rest of this night, however.

I am moved by the words I’ve posted above from the novel I’m reading.  My Advanced Placement Art History students challenged me last week to read it because of our recent studies in twentieth-century architecture.  I’m finding to book to be very engaging, and am really enjoying what I read of the characters.  I shuddered this morning, before dawn, as I read this text.  The words are spoken of a successful New York City publishing mogul who at age fifty-one comes to this flat level of existence.  I would hate to come to that state of mind.  Currently I find myself wishing I could split into two or three persons so I could have time to pursue every challenge that interests me currently.  I cannot understand a sentiment of emptiness, of vacuity.  I have to leave soon for a social function this evening, and knowing that when I return I will be crowded to finish grading before bedtime, and probably have zero time remaining for reading this novel or working on this watercolor already frustrates me.  I cannot understand one’s being bored, or feeling that life has reached a stage of non-purpose.  To the contrary, my life has always had more details than I could ever chase down and solve.

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.

 

 

A “Plein Air” Watercolor Attempt in the Solitude of Stovall Park

April 28, 2014
Solitary Tree in Stovall Park

Solitary Tree in Stovall Park

“Did you just want to make it pretty, because you had to patch something together? . . . You get an idea like this and you don’t know what to do with it!  You stumble on a magnificent thing and you have to ruin it!  Do you know how much you got to learn?”

Henry Cameron, critizing Howard Roark’s architectural drawings in Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead

Texas temperatures were O.K. Saturday, though the winds were fierce.  I decided to drive to nearby Stovall Park for an exercise walk, taking along a good book to read, my journal and my watercolor supplies.  I only managed 3/4 of a mile when I saw it–a solitary tree in the natural grasses, throwing a canopy of shade below and filled with dynamic color.  I couldn’t resist.  I jogged back to the Jeep and retrieved my supplies, and found a picnic table near enough to the tree that I could sit, relax, study, and not think about time or deadlines.

I am reading The Fountainhead with great pleasure, and read extensively from the book at my picnic table while waiting for portions of the watercolor sketch to dry and trying to make decisions on how to execute the compostion.  I posted the text above because it made me laugh out loud.  I do laugh at myself when I chip away at a watercolor, with no clear cut idea of how to accomplish the objectives I’ve set up.  For instance, I saw in this arrangement an incredible range of greens–warm, cool and neutral.  And I took my time, trying in earnest to separate the background field from the tree leaves and the grasses below, both in and out of shadow.  I divided my time between drawing, painting, masquing, reading this book and writing in my journal, and taking refresher walks.  By the time the day had passed, I had walked over three miles, came to the end of this sketch, and covered another 125 pages of the book I’m enjoying.  And it turned out to be a beautiful, rewarding day.

Looking over the watercolor now, I believe I solved a few problems, and created some others.  I am intrigued at the plein air challenges I’ll face in nearby Waxahachie, Texas beginning this weekend.  And I’m glad I had a Saturday to work on this one.  It’s been awhile (Spring Break) since I tried my hand at a plein air subject.

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.

 

Studio Litter

April 24, 2014
Piles of Watercolor Projects

Piles of Watercolor Projects

. . . there were few clothes and too many drawings; they were stacked
high in one corner; sometimes she thought that the drawings lived there, not the man.

Ayn Rand, The Fountainhead

I seem to be spending so little time in the house recently that my watercolors seem more natural, steady residents than I.  That is why I laughed at this quote I ran across yesterday afternoon when I began reading The Fountainhead.  Rand’s comments about the drawing practices of the expelled architecture student renewed my interest in drawing disciplines, and I hope to return to them this evening, after I finish this heavy preparation load for tomorrow’s art history sections.  In the meantime, my watercolors and sketches wait patiently on my drafting table . . .

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.