Friday, March 8, 2013

Jefferson's Shove; Bach's Nudge

Blue Shadows, Golden Horizon, pastel, 5 x 5"

I've been hiding out. Reclusive, actually. And living in solitary has made me nasty, lazy, dissatisfied and self loathing. So I was delighted when I came across something that Thomas Jefferson wrote describing what solitude had done to him. I wasn't alone. His words calmed me, then shook me up and out. Just like that,  I signed up for a workshop at the Birmingham Bloomfield Art Association, scouted out a class that interested me,  went to lunch with a friend, and started two Pinterest Albums.  I owe Thomas for the shove.
"I am convinced our own happiness requires that , we should continue to mix with the world, and to keep pace with it....I can speak from experience on the subject, From 1793 to 1797, I remained closely at home, saw none of those who came there, and at length became very sensible of the ill effect it had upon my own mind, and of its direct and irresistible tendency to render me unfit for society, and uneasy when necessarily engaged in it. I felt enough of the effect of withdrawing from the world then to see that it led to an antisocial and misanthropic state of mind, which severely punishes him who gives in to it; and it will be a lesson I never shall forget as to myself."  --Thomas Jefferson. Quote taken from Jon Adams by David McCullough.
Living in a cold, blue world, without social contact, threw a wet blanket over our social life and worse, over my artistic inspiration. I cut myself back to only working in pastels on unexciting, tiny paintings just to use up the costly supplies I bought for the class I took last summer.

Self Portrait, charcoal, 20 x 20"
Dissatisfied with what I was producing and too lethargic to begin an oil portrait, I chose to bury my nose in books. I had a stack--all half read and in need of finishing--John Adams, (from wence the Jefferson quote came), A Being So Gentle, (the history of Rachel and Andrew Jackson's relationship), Painting and Photography, (using photographic references for painting), and Alla Prima, (an artist's observations on the oil painting process).  Four books on the stand about two subjects of major interest, history and art, both non fiction, filled most of my time. THANK GOD!

 I wasn't totally lost. I was percolating, not vegetating. Reading non fiction was a healthy sign I hadn't sunk  to the pits, but rather that something was brewing and it was  urgent.

 The Spring workshop I impulsively signed up and paid for one day gave me a strong clue. It's called Selling Your Art.    It seems I have reached the end of painting for my own pleasure. It seems I want more than the quiet satisfaction achieved with the last brushstroke. It seems I want to fly beyond these walls.

Richard Bach is encouraging. I wonder who Jefferson read just before he rode away from  Monticello after a four year time out ?

"Don't believe what your eyes are telling you. All they show is limitation. Look with your understanding. Find out what you already know and you will see the way to fly." 
                                                                             Richard Bach, Jonathan Livingston Seagull

Jefferson's haven, Monticello.

Jefferson did a little remodeling in every place he lived, both here and abroad.
But Monticello, he tore totally apart and put it back together as grand as any
European palace he had visited.


22 comments:

  1. This one both expressive and abstract, I love it and it's colors. Well done.

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    1. Thanks Roger, abstraction seems to be at home on these small sizes--or as much as I care to do?

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  2. Linda!
    Great words and great art!
    Enjoy your class!
    Love reading Thomas Jefferson!
    More snow in my area! Almost two feet!
    Keep on painting friend!
    MIchael

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    1. Oh I am so sorry Michael. We can finally see the grass. I thought I detected a slightly lighter shade of yellow in the weeping willow branches yesterday, but not as yellow as I would like them to be. Today, the temp will be in the forties. I'm going to cut down the spirea bushes along our front walk. Being a weed bush, they will repay my labor by giving me brilliant magenta blooms in Late June. Gardening will get my head out of these books. --Did you know that Jefferson was a spendthrift who had tons of personal debt all because he was a dandy and wanted only the finest?

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  3. Aw, I love this post! I applaude you for taking this long introspective time to let your thoughts process, and you had ideas that were hidden deep down inside come bubbling up to inspire you.... that's wonderful. Have fun at the workshop and with your newfound conviction to start a new path!

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    1. I am glad you do. It took me a long time to put my withdrawal into a positive light. I always feel guilty when I haven't painted in a day. It's part of me and I was ignoring it. It wasn't till I wrote this post that I saw what was going on. I should have recognized what was wrong when instead of registering for a plein air class, I registered for a business class. The very fact that the association offered one gave me a tremendous lift. The study of art and running a business should go hand in hand, but for most of my life art has always been placed above such drudgery as merchandizing and artists have had to do some stupid things to draw attention to their work just to reimburse themselves for their supplies, the sale of which were making a living for others. Oddly enough, I have another book on my shelf, Selling Your Art. It deals mostly with online sales, but I intend to read it before that workshop begins. Earning my way through art has always been a sore spot. I just wanted to make it for sustenance, not teach it. I must admit, I do have a political streak. Always have.

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  4. I am happy some of us still think and do intellectual work. Enjoy your class, enjoy life, dear Linda.

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    1. Artists are the most intelligent people I know. They can express themselves verbally, in writing AND WITH IMAGERY. Best of all they can see truth quicker than most. We are totally sensitive and capable of expression.

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  5. I am in awe! I can never articulate my thoughts, desires, state of mind...etc, etc. I hate analysis...but I can relate entirely with these thoughts here. Thank you. Onward and upward!

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    1. Don't be in awe. You could articulate if you wanted to sit at the keyboard long enough. The writing process is a good one to work out what's really on your mind. And artists, I think, are pretty adept at seeing what should be discarded as superfluous and what has value and should be kept.

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  6. Wonderful to share your thoughts and the quotes from your inspirational reading.

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    1. My pleasure to share them with you--just in case you're ever overcome with the desire to shut out the world. My message is : DON'T DO IT.

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  7. Fascinating post. I am glad you came round the bend sooner than Jefferson did. I think it is so interesting the continuing impact great folks before us have on our lives.

    My whole life I dreamed of going to Monticello. I never thought I'd get there. Then my son ended up at Richmond, Virginia for a few semesters and we went. Jefferson is so inspiring to me. I especially like the idea of interdisciplinary education, knowing about a lot of things and having that knowledge influence varying activities.

    Stay out of bed - I love what you produce. "Blue Shadows, Golden Horizon" is a frenzy of color and nature! Love the scene; I think it is a great little pastel work. Looking at it, I can in no way imagine you as a recluse, except in the way a butterfly is reclusive before it leaves the cocoon. It screams "life!"

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    1. Can you imagine cutting yourself off for four years! It blew my mind--and a man who was so much a part of such an important time in the nation. McCullough should have written the history text books we had to read. He brings the people and the world back then to life here and now--and there is quite a few similarities in the politicking that went/goes on.

      I'd love to see Monticello now that I know more about Jefferson, the man. How fortunate you were. I've been talking to Ellis about driving out that way. I've been to Philadelphia, New York, Washington D.C., but never further South on the coast or North towards Maine. It would be a great driving trip that would take us months, just like in colonial days. We can't sit that long in the car without rigamortis setting in. :-))

      I'm not in bed, what made you think that? I am back in the gym working out--light weight resistance training, stretches and cycling. I'm getting physically fit to walk to that damn lake now that my knee is almost as God intended. --Truth is I am expert at entertaining myself. I like painting and drawing and reading and writing and working out and today, gardening. There are really very few days that I need or want company. There is never a day I want to perform according to someone else's clock. I hate that. And that's really what keeps me from making social plans. What worries me is: I don't think it's healthy to live a solitary existence. You need some social interaction (aggravation/enlightenment) to keep you in touch and thinking--but not much, just enough.

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  8. You, LW, are such an interesting person--the world would go dim without you moving around in it! I completely relate to your post on all levels. Though I am seen as a social person--I have this same tendency...to shut myself off for long stretches. Your post reminds me of the authors who have shined the light on various issues for me. I remember once being very torn about playing golf (it was a long time ago). I had an opportunity to play, but I was feeling torn and sheepish about the work that needed to be done. Then I read a passage about Babe Zaharias..(in a nutshell, she made me see that life was short, so I played golf that day). I'll always remember how it seemed like "The Babe" had reached right through years, and spoke directly to me! Such is the power of the written word!

    I love your painting blue shadows...and the charcoal self portrait. I'll be watching with interest to find out how you like your workshop! Great post on reading...my go-to guy if I have really big problems is Winston Churchill! Man. That guy was smart!! :)

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    1. It looks like we're two birds of a feather. So it was Babe Zaharias that got you out and about everyday. You do reserve time to yourself to refill your cup though I hope? I have a feeling you are a very giving woman. Don't give it all away.

      The only thing I like about Blue Shadows, Golden Horizon is the title. Pastels are very trying and annoying. I started out realistic, then realized I liked the scene for its abstractions. Then things clicked.

      I don't have any problems other than what do I do with my artistic gift when it seems to be
      in portraiture and landscapes, (I do know what I know)? Landscapes are salable, (I like that). My portraiture skill needs more years to reach the polished stage of development. I don't know whether I have them? (I don't like that). --I just thought of a movie title: The Agony and The Ecstasy with Anthony Quinn (who was quite the painter in real life--if a bit sullied by the modernists) and Kirk Douglas as Gauguin and Van Gogh. Ain't it the truth. The artistic sensibility subjects us to highs and lows and our greatest challenge is how to deal with that. It's a seesaw.

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  9. Dear Linda, it's great that you react to the situation and you dream new projects!
    I hope the spring coming soon ... in and out of you!

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    1. From my lips to God's ear, I do believe that spring is nearly here. There's sun. There's birds building nests. There's pansies at the nursery. Our clocks have sprung forward. And my car is in tact and back in the garage. I'm no longer a prisoner of the weather or an unfortunate accident.

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  10. Sorry for the rotten weather. Glad you're back!

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    1. I wasn't the only one this winter's severe weather affected. Indeed, my problems didn't come close to the problems others faced, particularly along the Jersey Shore. My prayers and support have been sent their way.

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  11. Su "autorretrato" me ha parecido un bello logro. Un dibujo hecho con mucha destreza y con un medio tan difícil como es el Carboncillo. Me gusta el dibujo que va más allá de lo aparente, aquí puede sentirse hasta el silencio que rodea a la persona que lee.
    Felicitaciones y un cordial saludo.

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  12. Gracias Ruben, por sus amables palabras. A mi me gusta captar la esencia de la persona en el momento.Es bueno saber que fue un éxito.

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