Posts Tagged ‘Fire King’

Pingo ergo sum

January 29, 2013
Finishing the Jadeite Fire King Mug and Percolator

Finishing the Jadeite Fire King Mug and Percolator

The history of literature . . . is a sum of very few ideas and of very few original tales; all the rest being variation of these.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Experience”

And so, this afternoon I thought myself clever to spin off the Cartesian dictum cogito ergo sum (“I think, therefore I am”) with my own pingo ergo sum (“I paint, therefore I am”).  But . . . not only has this been thought before, it has its own website and established following.  Oh well.  I still feel the ring of authenticity in the statement: I paint, therefore I am.

And so, as I paint in the cave this afternoon, aware of the threatening weather outside (darkening skies, plummeting temperatures and hard-driving rain), I muse over my painting, why I do it, what I am contributing, how much of it is actually distinct in style, or perhaps even new, and then I come back to reality–it is harder now than ever to create something “new” in art.  But that is not why I paint.  I paint to relax, to remember, and to enjoy the exhilaration of watching something emerge from a white rectangular vacuum, beneath the puddle of water before me, much like a photographer in a dark room, only it is I who am creating this picture, not snatching it from the observable world though a lens and transferring it to film.  And if I am ever successful in creating an authentic picture of an old man rising to make his coffee in the morning, amid modest surroundings, then perhaps I can paint in words as well.

The beginning and end of all literary activity is the reproduction of the world that surrounds me by means of the world that is in me, all things being grasped, related, recreated, moulded and reconstructed in a personal form and an original manner.

(quote from Goethe that Edward Hopper carried in his wallet)

My recent interest in still life painting arose when I realized I was spending much of my idle time staring at objects collected that remind me of my upbringing.  Years ago, in an antique store in Fort Worth, Texas, I found and purchased a pair of Jadeite Fire King coffee mugs, my eye delighting in seeing those celadon green colors that used to greet me in the mornings of my childhood.  I went out searching for those mugs in antique stores, because I enjoyed so much the motion picture Pollock, starring Ed Harris, when it was first released.  There are two scenes in the film where the actors are drinking from those mugs in humble kitchens, one in New York City, the other in Springs, Long Island.

The percolator I purchased at an old re-sale shop in Kennedale, Texas.  I wanted to put a percolator on my stove top burner and listen for the percolating sounds that I so enjoyed as a child.  And the aroma of the coffee steaming from that old percolator, wow!  I must admit that I have yet to make a decent-tasting cup of coffee from it, but at least I can enjoy the sounds and the smells!  Proustian.

I am trying to finish this small 8 x 10″ composition.  I’m not sure how to make the mug and percolator emerge except to continue darkening the backgrounds that frame them.  In many ways, I am flying blind as I attempt to solve still-life compositions.  I don’t write this in frustration, but in fascination–it’s a new world, and I’m glad to be ranging about in it.  I wish I could live to be 500, there is so much to learn about watercoloring and composition.  And I’m loving every minute of this.  I cannot regard myself as a frustrated artist at this point.

Thanks for reading.

Continuation of the Coffee Watercolor Series

January 28, 2013
Watercolor with Jadeite Mug in Progress

Watercolor with Jadeite Mug in Progress

Last night’s arctic blast clothed the weathered old man in an icy shroud that he sought to shed.  The patchwork quilt draped over his sagging shoulders hung like a duster down to his knees as he shuffled across the uneven wooden floor of his front room.  Holding his favorite Jadeite mug in both hands, he waited patiently for the gurgle to commence within his stove-top percolator.  In just a few minutes, the sun would be cresting the distant range to the east, and he wanted to worship Aurora this morning with an open book in his lap and fresh coffee in his mug.  On this day he had much to remember.  Today would be a day for remembering.

As the percolator hissed, steamed and finally began its chortling, his memory was carried back to a cold, pre-dawn morning in the small, cramped kitchen of a spare urban apartment.  It was 4:30 a.m.  He had only slept two-and-a-half hours, the result of another all-night study and preparation for his Humanities class that would begin at 7:35.  He still had to dress, eat, walk three blocks to catch a bus, connect with a commuter train, and meet his morning class.  He was only thirty-seven, but already felt that he was seventy-two and worn down by life.  He stood beside his small stove, staring at the stove-top percolator he had taken on many a camping excursion, waiting.  

Looking up from the percolator that seemed to be contemplating whether or not to  bubble, his eyes ranged over the pile of books, manila folders and hand-drafted notes taken the night before.  Hoards of writers and artists from the neo-classical and romantic persuasions, all struggling for his attention.  How on earth was he going to synthesize all this information within the next three hours?  All he could hope for was a percolating mind in synergy with the percolating coffee–but right now this just wasn’t happening.  As he stood, contemplating, vignettes drifted through his consciousness, remembrances of graduate study, of seminars, conversations in the study carrels and coffee shops of those days, mornings in the park with a soul-mate and late nights of discussions when ideas were born as muses stirred and whispered their affirmations.  

And then the coffee was ready.

As the solitary old man poured the brew, inhaling with delight the aroma, he couldn’t quite discern what it was that he was feeling this morning–contentment or melancholia.  He couldn’t determine whether the memories were filling him or emptying him.  And he wondered: is memory something you have or something you have lost?

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

By now, maybe some of my readers are wondering what is going on with these snippets of stories of an old man waking up to coffee.  These are just my attempts at writing fiction.  I have had these stories floating in my mind for over a decade, and wondered what to do as I began writing them out.  So, I decided, why not just fling them out on the blog as well?

Right now, there are probably some tears on this painting in progress.  I often enjoy playing VHS tapes on my small TV in the man cave, or listening to a DVD on the laptop.  While painting this, I’ve been listening to Neil Young playing and singing “Bandit” at his solo performance of Greendale at Vicar Street in Dublin.  The song is about a painter.  And I am not crying out of depression, just a fullness of feelings (if that makes sense)–a good cry, actually, a cleansing cry.  I feel a real connection as I hear this song and meditate on the words.  Neil Young has done a lot of that for me over the decades.  It is turning out to be a good night.

Thanks for reading.