Posts Tagged ‘Walter Isaacson’

Taking Notes, on Paper

January 9, 2018

solo show

Take notes, on paper. Five hundred years later, Leonardo’s notebooks are around to astonish and inspire us. Fifty years from now, our own notebooks, if we work up the initiative to start writing them, will be around to astonish and inspire our grandchildren, unlike our tweets and Facebook posts.

Walter Isaacson, Leonardo Da Vinci

On Monday, I returned to the public library in Hillsboro to put the final touches on my solo watercolor exhibit which will hang till the end of February. Once the task was complete, I sank into a comfortable sofa at the end of the gallery and read for awhile, enjoying the perfect silence and rest. This marked a transition into my next enterprise–the Humanities curriculum for Texas Wesleyan University had just arrived via email, and I had only nine days till the start of the spring term. So . . . I sat in the soft light of the soothing gallery, surrounded by my art, and began reading and sketching out broad ideas in preparation for the new class.

That was yesterday. Today, Tuesday, I spent the entire day in my study, going over all my resources for the seventeenth-through-twentieth centuries of Philosophy, Art, Literature and Music. Once I laid out the scope and sequence of the spring semester and drafted a syllabus, I settled into writing an introduction to the seventeenth century, and then the reading of Francis Bacon’s Novum Organum, a treatise I had known about for decades but never actually read as a primary source. And as I read, I scribbled, in my journal, on index cards, on sheets of computer paper, sheets of legal paper and post-it notes. And the more I scribbled, the happier I felt, recalling the thrill of the search in college days and early days of teaching.

Humanities is a course I was privileged to develop for the public high schools way back in 1989, and then later was invited to teach at Texas Wesleyan University. But I haven’t taught the course for nearly ten years, and I am so enthused to return to the discipline. The history of ideas has always fueled my imagination, and now once again, I am granted access to these fine minds of history, with hopes of inciting interest in the young minds of our culture. A part of me is glad that I’m still a week away from the first day of school, as I’m still preparing, but another part of me wishes I could walk into that lecture room in the morning.

Thanks for reading.

 

 

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Warm Sentiments for 2018

December 31, 2017

new year

It stimulated me, roused my long-held desire to be an architect of ideas.

John Sculley, after his meeting with Steve Jobs about becoming President of Apple.

New Year’s Eve finds me enjoying a quiet one at home. For the past couple of days I have fought back against an upper respiratory illness (I’ve been dogged with it for over a week now) an spent most of today in bed. Fortunately, I’ve felt much better since around 6:30 and have been at my desk reading stacks of books, scribbling resolutions in a journal and focusing my mind and heart on 2018 just around the corner.

I hope I feel good enough to resume painting tomorrow as I have several ideas seething that want to come to expression. Meanwhile, I’m continuing to find inspiration from Walter Isaacson’s biography on Steve Jobs. John Sculley left Pepsi to become President of Apple, and the quote above moved me. I myself have wanted to be an architect, or designer of ideas since the 1980s, and have given my life to pursuing that dream, both in classrooms and in the art studio. I am just grateful to move into a new era of 2018 and lay the foundations for new endeavors.

Thanks for reading, and Happy New Year to all of you.

I paint in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

 

Weekend of Leisure

October 30, 2017

300 in progress

Taking my Time on this New One

It seemed to him that the hand was not able to attain to the perfection of art in carrying out the things which he imagined.

Vasari’s account of Leonardo da Vinci

A weekend of rest was so welcome to my weary soul. Walter Isaacson’s Leonardo da Vinci, after eighty-some pages, is a veritable literary feast. I have always been fascinated with the curiosity and endless journaling of this Renaissance Mind, and after reading several biographies already, am so thrilled at Isaacson’s way of bringing in new material on Leonardo’s life that I had not encountered before.

I posted the quote above because it fits what I’m wrestling with as I work on my latest watercolor. I had this notion of what I wanted to accomplish, and so far it is not happening. I’m not giving up, but rather, slowing down and spending more time looking at it, puzzling over it, than actually working on it. My November 11 show already has around twenty or so framed original watercolors of trains and doesn’t need this one to be completed. And, as a good friend said recently, it wouldn’t hurt for me to have this “in progress” painting in the gallery during show time. At any rate, I’m not under a deadline to complete it. I like that feeling: letting a painting emerge under its own time.

As to the Leonardo quote above, I’m reminded of a story I read several years ago about a guitar student frustrated while doing his lesson. When the guitar master asked him what was wrong, the student replied that he could always hear the music much better than he was able to play it. To this the master replied: “And why do you think that is  ever going to change?” That quote remains at the heart of my art work. I never complete a painting with the “look” that I was striving to achieve. Nevertheless, I love the process, and try not to let the end result frustrate me. Art is a gift. Art is life. And the thrill and leisure of making it successfully marks the time in my life as quality time.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to understand.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

 

Predawn Portals of Possibility

October 25, 2017

leonardo

. . . Yet did I never breathe its pure serene 
Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold: 
Then felt I like some watcher of the skies 
When a new planet swims into his ken . . . 
John Keats, “On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer”
For a month, I’ve waited for Walter Isaacson’s biography on Leonardo da Vinci to come out. I have been enriched by two of his earlier works on Benjamin Franklin and Albert Einstein. Finally, yesterday, I purchased this latest work and pored over its pages until I could stay awake no longer in the night. Retiring to bed early, I set an alarm and rose at 5 this morning so I could return to it. Throughout my life, I have known the exhilaration of Keats when he happened upon Chapman’s translation of Homer. Indeed, I feel the thrill of the astronomer discovering a new planet. A new portal opens before me, welcoming me to a broader, more enchanting world.
Isaacson has chosen to focus on Leonardo’s notebooks, and I’m finding that to be a refreshing point of departure. I have had the pleasure of reading a number of Leonardo biographies, and I’m fascinated with Isaacson’s emphasis on the curiosity of this Renaissance Man. I myself have journaled since 1985, and now have over 130 volumes on my shelf. Some of the pages are worth re-reading, many are not. Nevertheless, my mind has stayed fresh because of this habit of scribbling constantly the ideas fleeting across the screen of my consciousness. I believe that journaling has contributed to the energy necessary for writing and making art, and above all, believing. Journals, to me, are nets for organizing wonder.
I could never exhaust the list of creative spirits who have inspired me throughout my years, either through their scholarship, their creative writing or their visual art. The ones I find myself continually rethinking and re-examining include Paul Tillich, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, William Carlos Williams, Robert Henri, Edward Hopper, Andrew Wyeth, Robert Motherwell, Friedrich Nietzsche, Martin Heidegger . . . and the list continues to grow.
My interests, I admit, appear scattered. I make art. I read. I journal. I watch documentaries. I blog. I play my guitar. I get in my Jeep and drive. And I understand Leonardo’s attention deficit disorder that frequently left projects unfinished. But I take solace in Isaacson’s words: “Vision without execution is hallucination. . . . Skill without imagination is barren.”
The contemplative life has saved me repeatedly throughout the years. If finances go bad, relationships sour, employment stales, artistic momentum fades . . . I can always depend on this constellation of geniuses to inject new blood into my system. I am aware of the conventional wisdom urging us to maintain a broad network of friendships, and I believe my friendship network is rich. At the same time, I acknowledge that I am an introvert and many times find the need to draw my inspiration from the “dead heroes” who to me are not dead–they still reach out to me through the creative tracks they left behind.
Thanks for reading.
I make art in order to remember.
I journal when I feel alone.
I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.