Tag Archives: picasso

The Death of Me… (Reboot365-5)

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By the time you get to the end of Romeo and Juliet there are bodies everywhere… There’s Paris, for example… about to be discovered in the dark by the Friar. Come to the Canmore Summer theatre Festival (coming up SOOOOOON!!!) to see who else winds up sprawled across the grass…

Here, though, in my world (which has shrunk to the dimensions of my computer keyboard), I’ve been obsessing about death. Still. Again. I’m deep into revisions of my book about medically-assisted dying and oh, my – it isn’t getting any easier. The subject matter, or being a writer.

 

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Mountain Graveyard, by Kurt Schwitters, 1919

 

How is it possible that I can get to this point in a manuscript after so many years of writing books and still feel that I should perhaps be looking for other work? But it happens with every manuscript – I get to a point where I completely lose perspective and think that the whole project is worthless. It’s more boring than anything ever written by anyone – the subject is boring. My opinions are boring. Death is boring. Life is boring. Being a writer is definitely boring. Everyone in the book is boring because – guess what – they all die!

Sigh. This is the point in my day where I push back from my desk and throw in the towel. There is no point in flogging this sorry horse to… yeah, death any longer.

 

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Thanks, Picasso. I can always count on you to have painted something appropriate to my bleaker moods. This is “Minotaur With Dead Horse in front of a Cave Facing a Girl in Veil” by Pablo Picasso, 1936

 

 

On Sketching in Public – A Sketchy Business (22/365)

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Sometimes there’s not a lot of choice when it comes to choosing a subject to sketch… my knee and foot were handy while waiting at the hospital…

For whatever reason, I am happy to pull out my phone or camera or even the awkward iPad and take photos wherever I find myself. The exception to that is portraiture – bad enough when I know the subject, beyond daunting when I don’t. That’s why, when you look through my billions of images, you’ll rarely see one that includes a recognizable person. It’s a shame, really, because people are endlessly fascinating and certainly worthy of being photographed. But there’s something about invading people’s privacy and stealing their souls that makes me anxious. So, I generally wait until passers-by get out of the way before snapping the photo. 

 

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People? Who needs people when you can photograph your dog? This is Pippi, looking adorable as always… 

 

Maybe that’s why I enjoy Humans of New York so much. Brandon Stanton’s work taking photos of people in New York is both disarming and captivating. The combination of deceptively straightforward images and the stories of the people he photographs is endlessly entertaining. Not in a funny way (though, sometimes the anecdotes are pretty amusing) but also often in deeply touching ways. More than once since I became a HONY groupie (groupy?) years ago I have been moved to tears after seeing an image and reading the accompanying text. 

 

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Sunflower experiments… various waiting rooms

 

Not that this is a post about street photography or candid portraits. Over the past couple of weeks as I’ve been trying to draw something every day, there have often been times where the available time to do a sketch was in public somewhere… in a waiting room, at a ferry dock, on a plane or at a coffee shop. 

I have forced myself to surreptitiously pull out my notebook and draw something, but oh my, it’s excruciating. First, it’s physically challenging to contort myself so I hide as much of what I’m doing as I can from curious eyes. I cross my legs to make a sort of angled platform for the notebook and then ‘rest’ my right arm over the page while leaving just enough of the drawing peeking out that I can sort of see what I’m doing. People are curious, of course. I would certainly wander over to peek at someone’s work if they were sitting out in public somewhere, drawing. So why the shyness? I’m keenly aware that I’m not very good – and, that this does not matter. But who likes to think that the response from an onlooker will be ‘dear God, why is that woman wasting her time? What is that she’s trying to draw?’ 

At the hospital the other day, I was waiting with Dad in a small room off to the side of the main emergency room waiting area when the lab tech came in to take a blood sample. I was sketching something from a photo I had taken over the weekend (oh, how much do I love having so many photos at my fingertips on my cell phone???) and the lab tech stopped and asked, “Are you sketching?” I nodded and blushed but before I could say anything else she started going on about how in all the years she had been working at the hospital she had never seen anyone drawing while waiting. “People are always on their phones! Their heads are down. They aren’t paying attention to anyone else. This is so cool!”

 

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Pretty soon, I’m going to have quite the collection of waiting room chairs in my notebooks…

 

She didn’t actually come over to see what I was working on, but the whole time she was busy with Dad she kept talking. “We all used to draw, didn’t we? And color? They say it’s very therapeutic – relaxing. Why did we ever stop? Why did we ever stop playing? Why do they take the swings out of the middle school playgrounds?”

 

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Children’s Playground in Tiergarten Park in Berlin by Max Liebermann, 1885

 

What excellent questions! What the heck happens to us when we grow up and get all serious and think that everything we do either needs to have a dollar sign attached to it or has to meet someone else’s standards of good enough? She wasn’t the only one to note the strange shift that happens at some point in our childhoods when we stop experimenting and trying stuff. Dani also made a comment when she was looking over my shoulder at a truly awful rendition of a lily I was struggling with and observed, “We all stop drawing as eight-year-olds. That’s why our drawings all look like they were done by eight-year-olds.” 

It’s true. My lily was crude, but not in a good, sophisticated Picasso-esque kind of way. It was just badly drawn and the colour was wrong and there was something terribly skewed about the perspective. Kind of like what I might have come up with when I was about eight. For so many years I have kept that eight-year-old kid artist wannabe locked up, banished to a darkened room without access to coloured pencils. Now, suddenly, she has burst out of her room and gone mad!

 

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Just a bunch of squiggly lines, right? Any kid could do that, right? Wrong… Artist and his Model by Pablo Picasso, 1926

 

What is interesting about my recent efforts is that for some odd reason I seem to have reconnected with my eight-year-old self and am treating her much more kindly. I am so enjoying exploring different materials, techniques, subjects, approaches as I blunder my way from page to page in my notebooks. It’s fun to be messy, to be wrong, to make mistakes. There is nowhere to go from here but up! To facilitate this progress (because I have to believe that if I keep going, there will be progress), I am determined to get as comfortable whipping out a sketchbook when I see something interesting as I am pulling out my camera or sitting down to write in my journal (or, as I am doing right now, typing on my iPad). I used to be a bit embarrassed about that, too, but in terms of writing in public, I have done it so often I don’t even think twice about settling in wherever I find myself. 

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I’m writing this while on a plane heading from the coast to Calgary. I’m inches away from my seat-mate, who is watching something on her iPhone. Outside the window, we are descending into fields of crazy big puffy white clouds… I stop my writing, flip the iPad over and aim it out the window and snap a few reference shots. I’ll sketch those clouds a bit later. Maybe even in the airport, at a coffee shop, while I’m waiting for my shuttle to take me back to the mountains. 

 

G is for Goya, Guernica, Gaugin and van Gogh (AtoZChallenge)

 

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This portrait of the Spanish painter, Goya by Vicente Lopez Portaña was completed in 1826. Though it’s in the collection of the Prado Museum in Madrid, I don’t remember seeing it… Hardly surprising considering just how overwhelming that museum is. 

It has been said that Goya was the last of the great masters and the first of the modern painters which makes him a transition, of sorts. (If you haven’t been following along this month, my theme for the AtoZ Blogging Challenge is Travel, Transitions, and Transformations… ).

 

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I’m including this painting by Goya because of its title, The Second of May, 1808 (my birthday is on May 2nd… and isn’t a birthday often a time of transition?) The French invaded Spain and the two nations battled during the Peninsular War (1808-1914). The painting is rather gory, gruesome, and grim…

Goya, like a number of Spanish painters, spent time in France (he hung out in Bordeaux for a number of years). Picasso is another with strong ties to both nations.

 

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Picassos’s Guernica (1937)   Guernica is a Basque town in Spain that was bombed on April 26, 1937 by Germany as a means of lending a hand to the Spanish Nationalists.                                                                     (La exposición del Reina-Prado. Guernica is in the collection of Museo Reina Sofia, Madrid.Source page: http://www.picassotradicionyvanguardia.com/08R.php (archive.org), Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1683114)

While I was in Paris I went to a lecture which I thought was going to be about Picasso’s painting, Guernica. I imagined slides that would focus on specific details and then describe how and why Picasso chose the imagery he did.

The talk (in the basement of the Picasso Museum) was all in French, so I only caught bits and pieces, but it seemed to be more about Picasso’s role in the Spanish ex-pat artist community in Paris and his involvement with bringing what was going on during the Spanish Civil War to a broader audience than it was about deconstructing the painting in great detail. Despite the fact I struggled to follow along, it was a pretty cool experience to attend the lecture and doing so made me all the more determined to PRACTICE MY FRENCH between trips.

 

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Jug in the Form of a Head, Self Portrait by Paul Gaugin

I am including this jug by the French artist Gaugin because of the macabre story behind its creation. Gaugin had been visiting with Vincent van Gogh when Vincent lopped off part of his left ear. I’m not sure why, but Vincent left the ear at a brothel both he and Gaugin liked to visit. What does seem to be clear is that all of this ear-lopping upset Gaugin, who left town shortly after the incident. Back in Paris, Gaugin was unfortunate enough to witness the beheading of a criminal. This jug/self-portrait makes reference to both these traumatic incidents and goes to show that no experience in life is wasted when one is an artist. It’s a great example of transforming trauma into something compelling (I was going to say beautiful, but I don’t find the jug to be beautiful… but yes, compelling).

 

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Vincent van Gogh painted this portrait of Gaugin in 1888  ( Man in a Red Beret)

 

 

I hadn’t planned to include so many works of art in these posts, but art really is transformative in the way it can make us take another look at pretty much anything we experience (or can imagine). From some initial spark or idea or observation, artists create something worthy of our attention. Then we consumers of art respond and dissect and analyze and are moved by the product of their labours, which is a strange kind of alchemy indeed.