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Monday, May 25, 2015

James Joyce in The Studio

James Joyce, graphite stick with #6B Berol, 6 x 8"; reference photo by Alex Enrenzweig, 1915
The author was thirty three years old. His eyes are what got me.

Why suddenly am I interested in James Joyce?  Respect I think for his stream of consciousness writing technique which is all so true when we consciously notice our line of thought.  I picked up a book with both The Dubliners and A Portrait of The Artist as a Young Man in it a few months ago and it sat on my to reading table untouched till last month when there was nothing more I cared to read on The New York Times Fiction list and was in want of some writing by a  giant in literature. 

The Dubliners is a collection of short stories published in 1914, Joyce's first publishing success.  A Portrait of The Artist As A Young Man published two years later has got my book marker in it now.  While I noticed a bit of stream of consciousness technique in a couple of his short stories, there's more of it in this novel.  I find the technique fascinating for being the queen of the semi colon, colon and dash, dash in my own writing, I understand tangents and second thoughts butting into my subject all the time.  Joyce, however, uses no punctuation to separate these interjections. I like that.  I do think I get carried away.

Joyce was born February 2nd, 1882 and exited the world on my birthday fifty nine years almost to the day.  He left us with five outstanding works one of which few  have read not that we're not smart enough but not that we're not smart enough to get the intense mix of
"linguistic experiments, stream of consciousness writing style, literary allusions, free dream associations and abandonment of narrative conventions,"
Reference photo by Alex Enrenzweig
James Joyce's masterpieces:

The Dubliners, published in 1914 at the age of 32

A Portrait of The Artist As A Young Man, published in 1916 at the age of 34

Exiles and Poetry, A play that was turned down for production by Yeats, but produced in 1970 and a collection of his poetry, which I didn't know he wrote, published in 1918 at 36 years of age.

Ulysses, published in 1922 at the age of forty.

Finnegans Wake, begun in 1923 and finished seventeen years later in 1939 at the age of 58
And we think eight months is a long time to work on a painting!

Reference photo enhanced by LWR for drawing purposes (feel free if Joyce is your cup of MS).

I do have to give those eyes another pass.  I did not get the intensity in this first sketch.


  1. Beautiful homage to James Joyce. ..and a great job on the portrait.
    His eyes are intense - for sure!

    1. I do wonder why I chose to read James Joice. I suspect his stream of consciousness connects to the choices I make with regards to subject matter. I am fascinated by people and what they reveal about themselves when they think no one is looking. I also appreciate conversational tangents and interjections and unspoken thoughts. His writing is beautiful, picturesque, a mind trip.

  2. A beautiful tribute to this man Linda! The portrait is AMAZING!

    1. I loved the photograph, but thought it begged to have the contrast increased. My sketch isn't quite there, but it's close. I find it fascinating to look back at notables in history and read about their lives. The number of years it took him to write Finnegans Wake made me wonder how is a painting so different than a novel and why is it that we artists think we have to finish in a day, a week a few weeks?

  3. Oh my goodness, you've taken me back to my English studies in which one module dealt with 'Points of View & degrees of knowing!' Here Stream of Consciousness featured heavily - a phrase coined by a namesake of James Joyce, a psychologist named William Joyce. As I remember it, James Joyce, Dorothy(?) Richardson and Virginia Woolf were the main exponents of the technique. I seem to recall that the last sentence of 'Ulysses' was 15 or 16 lines long without any punctuation.

    Ooops how very rude of me not to mention your art I think your drawing is incredibly good with his eyes captured perfectly and his spectacles chime with those of the the guy across the aisle although he was in colour and James is mono but you know how much I like mono so you won't be surprised at me saying so especially as I reminded you that I was doing a large pen and ink of St David's Cathedral although I'm changing the subject away from your thread which I found incredibly interesting :))

    1. You didn't weave in a dream or literary allusion in your "run away" sentence. The weird thing is I can follow the story with all the time jumps forward and backward. It took me a few pages, but after a while the prose all made sense.

      Since I was mostly reading over the weekend, I thought to take a bit of time out to look into Joice and his eyes blew me away. He died young right after Finnegans Wake which followed Ulysses which knocked him out. He reminded me of Seurat and his thousands of dots which drove him mad I have no doubts old sepia photographs stroke soft like velvet. Just practicing.