Posts Tagged ‘contemplation’

Contemplation

June 3, 2014
18 x 24" Watercolor in Progress

18 x 24″ Watercolor in Progress

No one can get anywhere without contemplation.  Busy people who do not make contemplation part of their business do not do much for all their effort.

Robert Henri seemed the perfect combination of thought and action.  We read about how much of a fireball he was in his studio at 806 Walnut Street in Philadelphia.  Students from the Pennsylvania Academy of Art filled his apartment and hung on his every word as he read to them from Whitman and Emerson, challenging them to find a style all their own.  The Ash Can School emerged from this leader and his band of disciples.  I had always known Henri from history as a man of action.  But now on my second reading of his book The Art Spirit, I am continually shocked by his erudition, his depth and breadth of thought.  Such powerful ideas as his could not have been drawn from a life on the run.

This week’s schedule is horrendous.  It is our last week of high school and the beginning of Paint Historic Waxahachie.  I am teaching school by day and dashing forty minutes south to Waxahachie to create plein air paintings in late afternoons and evenings.  On top of that, I have some studio projects that must be completed as well.  Today during lunch, I chose to go home and work on this 18 x 24″ watercolor of a nineteenth-century historic home in Louisiana.  I spent the first half of the lunch hour working on some of the small details, then decided to sit in a chair with my journal, a good book and a cup of coffee.  Henri’s comments about contemplation affirmed what I have believed for decades.  We need to stop in the midst of the hustle and let our thoughts even out.  I tossed the watercolor into the middle of my living room floor so I could look up at it occasionally from my book.  Andrew Wyeth always put up his works in progress so that he could catch glimpses of them “from the corner of the eye” when leaving or entering a room.  The first time I looked up from my book, I uttered “Wow.”  This painting was much better than I thought.  I had only been looking at it from a very close and tight focal point.  I was unprepared for how it actually looked from across the room.  Now I cannot wait to get to the end of it.  But  . . . I have another high school class to conduct and a trip to Waxhachie for the purpose of making another painting.

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 New Year Approaching and Thoughts on a Life of the Mind

December 30, 2013
Another Dellicious Morning for Reading and Reflection

Another Dellicious Morning for Reading and Reflection

Bob told me the reason he’s after Newsweek is so they’ll do a cover story on me, but I don’t want one.  I mean, what’re they going to say?  Reporters will just rehash.  “He lives on the Upper East Side with two dachshunds and he’s a sometimes walking-stick for Paulette Goddard.”  Well maybe they’ll feel the same way I do, too, that it’s too boring.  I mean you have to do something different like get married and have a couple of kids or take a few drugs or lose a few hundred pounds or die, to be good copy.

The Andy Warhol Diaries, September 17, 1979

I was amused beyond words when I read this from Andy Warhol this morning over coffee.  As I think of the life he lived, I don’t think of the details he just dropped; I think of an artist who was driven hard by creative endeavors and business decisions during the morning and afternoon hours each day, who then spent every evening chasing parties, nightclubs, gallery openings and headlines.  And from my own personal perspective, I find his nightlife boring material for reading, but his art and business affairs I find endlessly fascinating.

I remain surprised at the vacuity of the Warhol Diaries.  I don’t know if he thought the gossip was good copy worth selling, or if he really did not spend much of his life in contemplation.  There is the testimony from one of his staffers that he spent the morning “paying the rent” (working on commission portraits).  Then, in the afternoon he would go into the Think Tank with his associates and ask: “But what can we do for Art?”  After reading several more pages of him, I pulled from the shelf my copy of Hannah Arendt’s The Life of the Mind and began experiencing deeper satisfaction in reading.  I should have read this treasure decades ago.  I love her introduction as she discusses the classic Western disjunctive between thinking and acting.  Citing the work of Thomas Aquinas, she presents the following:

Seen from that perspective, the active way of life is “laborious,” the contemplative way is sheer quietness; the active one goes on in public, the contemplative one in the “desert”; the active one is devoted to “the necessity of one’s neighbor,” the contemplative one to the “vision of God.”

As a school teacher, I surprise and disappoint some in that I’m almost never seen at school-related extra-curricular events.  I go home.  And I don’t read long hours in the evening because I feel the compulsion to create better lesson plans (I know that after a quarter-century of teaching, I could enter the classroom with zero preparation); I read long hours in the evening because I love the contemplative life, and have at least since before my years in graduate school.  It has become my lifestyle.  And currently, my division between thinking and acting is my division between reading and making art.  The two dimensions feed off each other.  And I would concur with Andy Warhol that my lifestyle would not provide good copy.  By today’s standards, it would be judged as boring.  However, I am not bored.  This holiday season has been bliss-filled because I have been able to devote entire days and evenings to reading, journaling and making art.  And I offer no apology for that.

We are not on this earth for long.  Part of what a midlife crisis is about is figuring out what gives you pleasure and doing more of that in the time you have left without asking for permission or a financial or emotional subsidy from anyone else.

Howell Raines, Fly Fishing Through the Midlife Crisis

Hannah has been excellent company this morning, and she has inspired me to begin a second watercolor, to work on alongside the one I began yesterday.  Who knows, tomorrow I may choose to begin a third.  It’s great to have some time and space to chase these delights.

Thanks fo reading.

I paint in order to remember.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.