Monday, April 8, 2019

Moments of despair, Glimmers of hope.

I had no words, I could not speak.

"If you don't know what to play, play nothing."
Miles Davis

I glanced darkly at serious sounding those familiar choruses.

Tweaks, to serious sounding choruses.



Dada dada...

Tweets, so many characters... that said it all.

They...that... said it all.

They...that...didn't speak to me.

They...that...didn't speak for them.

I heard not a jot.

Nothing but...

Serious, sounding, tweets.

Tweaks, to serious sounding choruses.


Tweaks, to serious sounding choruses.

To a Skylark

Hail to thee, blithe Spirit! 
Bird thou never wert, 
That from Heaven, or near it, 
Pourest thy full heart 
In profuse strains of unpremeditated art. 

Higher still and higher 
From the earth thou springest 
Like a cloud of fire; 
The blue deep thou wingest, 
And singing still dost soar, and soaring ever singest. 

In the golden lightning 
Of the sunken sun, 
O'er which clouds are bright'ning, 
Thou dost float and run; 
Like an unbodied joy whose race is just begun. 

The pale purple even 
Melts around thy flight; 
Like a star of Heaven, 
In the broad day-light 
Thou art unseen, but yet I hear thy shrill delight, 

Keen as are the arrows 
Of that silver sphere, 
Whose intense lamp narrows 
In the white dawn clear 
Until we hardly see, we feel that it is there. 

All the earth and air 
With thy voice is loud, 
As, when night is bare, 
From one lonely cloud 
The moon rains out her beams, and Heaven is overflow'd. 

What thou art we know not; 
What is most like thee? 
From rainbow clouds there flow not 
Drops so bright to see 
As from thy presence showers a rain of melody. 

Like a Poet hidden 
In the light of thought, 
Singing hymns unbidden, 
Till the world is wrought 
To sympathy with hopes and fears it heeded not: 

Like a high-born maiden 
In a palace-tower, 
Soothing her love-laden 
Soul in secret hour 
With music sweet as love, which overflows her bower: 

Like a glow-worm golden 
In a dell of dew, 
Scattering unbeholden 
Its a{:e}real hue 
Among the flowers and grass, which screen it from the view: 

Like a rose embower'd 
In its own green leaves, 
By warm winds deflower'd, 
Till the scent it gives 
Makes faint with too much sweet those heavy-winged thieves: 

Sound of vernal showers 
On the twinkling grass, 
Rain-awaken'd flowers, 
All that ever was 
Joyous, and clear, and fresh, thy music doth surpass. 

Teach us, Sprite or Bird, 
What sweet thoughts are thine: 
I have never heard 
Praise of love or wine 
That panted forth a flood of rapture so divine. 

Chorus Hymeneal, 
Or triumphal chant, 
Match'd with thine would be all 
But an empty vaunt, 
A thing wherein we feel there is some hidden want. 

What objects are the fountains 
Of thy happy strain? 
What fields, or waves, or mountains? 
What shapes of sky or plain? 
What love of thine own kind? what ignorance of pain? 

With thy clear keen joyance 
Languor cannot be: 
Shadow of annoyance 
Never came near thee: 
Thou lovest: but ne'er knew love's sad satiety. 

Waking or asleep, 
Thou of death must deem 
Things more true and deep 
Than we mortals dream, 
Or how could thy notes flow in such a crystal stream? 

We look before and after, 
And pine for what is not: 
Our sincerest laughter 
With some pain is fraught; 
Our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thought. 

Yet if we could scorn 
Hate, and pride, and fear; 
If we were things born 
Not to shed a tear, 
I know not how thy joy we ever should come near. 

Better than all measures 
Of delightful sound, 
Better than all treasures 
That in books are found, 
Thy skill to poet were, thou scorner of the ground! 

Teach me half the gladness 
That thy brain must know, 
Such harmonious madness 
From my lips would flow 
The world should listen then, as I am listening now. 

Tweaks, to serious sounding choruses.

Oh, tweets, I regret.

I had no interest in reading them.


The thought of opening up the computer was an anathema to me.

Associated as it is with marks, tables, charts and mail.

Blogging every day? 

I had no words, nothing to write.


Drawing energy from somewhere.

"Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life." Pablo Picasso.

Drawing everyday, drawing everyday?  Not if it becomes a bind.

I will not be a slave to what brings me freedom.

Drawing prompts can become a bind.

Drawing encouragement?  Yes, gratefully accepted.

Drawing for likes? Not if it becomes a bind.

Drawing commissions? Not if it becomes a bind.

Drawing free-hand.

"Life is the art of drawing without an eraser." - John W. Gardner.

I took to drawing in ink, portraits - fast - one false move of the hand and I ruined everything.

That beautiful child, I stole her image, I destroyed her here.

I am thoughtlessly privileged, she is a distant disposable soul.

I look up at the rough sketch above and I see only its faults when what I was striving to express was beauty.

I feel despair at my clumsiness.

Ugliness, crude ragged strokes, often depressingly scribbled expressionism, always seemed easier.

I am less forgiving now of the child who didn't always hold onto his dreams.  

Dreams are resistant fifty years on...

"This art is still alive to me.

Resistant to academic form, I make do with child-informed imagery.  It has a keen edge."

Now 57, I discover that drawing aged, wrinkled, lined faces is more forgiving.

I have become wrongly or rightly, more forgiving.

I still play with digital filtering, I don't see that as an easy option, years of messing has widened my artistic palette. 

If I am concentrating on ink drawing, or water color, or training my eye, expertise only comes from days and days of practice.

"As practice makes perfect, I cannot but make progress; each drawing one makes, each study one paints, is a step forward." Vincent van Gogh 

I return to the challenge of beauty, I find an unlined face.

I see faults in my translation, there are so many aspects to work on.

I remember my mother's hopeless despair at her art:

"Oh it's just useless."

I treasure her drawing.

I find myself becoming more and more aware of the subtlety of touch, of weight, of respecting minimalism, of space, of the blank page. 

I remember a quote about mastery 

I am reminded of a variously attributed quote on music.

"The music is not in the notes, but in the silence between them."

I find sense in what I am doing here and now in writing. 

Taking time to pause, to reflect, to share that reflection with whoever may find meaning in it.

Quiet, Slow, Solitary, Study.

A comment of Gardner Campbell on a post here -  Are we not content ?  comes back to me.

"I want to emphasize....the value and necessity of study."

I go back and study tutorials of Alphonso Dunn and others on Youtube concerning portraiture.

I am reminded of a post here, years back - Stillness in Frenesy.

I take the portrait of the Korean girl, recognised in passing, by my teenage daughter (expert in Korean youth culture) and seek to add color to her bare lines.

The digital palette takes her elsewhere, towards, what I feel I need to

It is no coincidence that I looked to beauty in "nature" for a rest from human ugliness....

Landscape may become a refuge.

“If you truly love nature, you will find beauty everywhere.” 
Vincent Van Gogh

A single image of  Amy Burvall sparks an afternoon of water play.

The artist is a receptacle for emotions that come from all over the place: from the sky, from the earth, from a scrap of paper, from a passing shape, from a spider’s web.” Pablo Picasso 

Taking a few steps back, redrawing ones lines.

I decide to take a larger format, risk wasting a more expensive paper, and sharpen my pencils.

I draw fairly quickly a portrait outline from a vintage hand-colored photo, chosen deliberately for its clear tonal range and limited color.

I improvise a means to correct my first draft, using an app to superimpose the drawing with the original image.

The problems of proportion, of angle, of position are immediately brought to light. 

I use the digitally composed image to correct my drawing.

This time, I have decided to challenge myself with a water color portrait. 

After all, doing the same old thing is dull!  

An old photo becomes seen in a new light.

I start to wonder about the story, the soul, behind the anonymity of the Googled object.

Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” Pablo Picasso 

What is behind her expression? What is bound in her tight bow? 

Is there life beyond the dust soiling our net curtains?

No words so much to express...

If I had no time for words, I needed time to express my feelings clearly.

Even silence is too loud a word, being a word.

If I could say it in words there would be no reason to paint.” Edward Hopper 

I needed water, pigment, line, page, flow, peace.

This act which I had considered an escape, I find myself sharing with students in my work.

This art, far from being irrelevant to scholarship, is intimately connected to my research.

This is what I come back to time and time again here.

It is to care enough for oneself, one's becoming that one is fully present in the here and now.

This, I discover is what "Les maux des mots..." was all about.

It is about freedom.

Freedom from definition, from category, from measure, from market, from seductive hits of likes, friends, impact rating, elite validation.

“I can't change the fact that my paintings don't sell. But the time will come when people will recognize that they are worth more than the value of the paints used in the picture.” 
Vincent van Gogh

So many words in a struggle to express...

I felt so much for Paul Prinsloo recently.

"Despite my broken compass, I walk, questioning. Like Sandra de la Loza and Eduardo Molinari, I am overwhelmed by the complexities of the world I live, work and breathe in. I am looking for ways to consciously inhabit my situation, to find a language to speak about, but also speak to my situation. I craft daily ‘to do’ lists and scribbles on serviettes in an attempt to archive my history, my situation.
In an act of archivist witchcraft I dance naked in this blog, to “unlock and reveal obscured narratives and hidden ghosts” in my life as scholar as archival material. The opening of the archive to my scholarly identity, despair and praxis, is an intentional ritual of scholarly witchcraft, of ‘cruel optimism’ as I shake my compass, and keep walking.

Fear is a broken compass.

Fear is medication that does not work anymore.

Fear is convulsions at night.

Fear is not-knowing and to continue walking"

"And yet, despite the unraveling, and the smell of drowning,  I have to figure a way out of being attached to the very situation or life that is causing the drowning."

This is hope Paul:

“Your profession is not what brings home your weekly paycheck, your profession is what you're put here on earth to do, with such passion and such intensity that it becomes spiritual in calling.” 
Vincent van Gogh

Spinning yarns, following twine.

Now I come to think about it, I see hope everywhere, when not many days ago all I saw was despair.

I see hope in Paul's despair.

How can you not despair when confronted by the ugliness of human cruelty, the avarice of market stall holders, the insanity of  masters of war, the measurement of "learning", the simplification of the wonder and complexity of nature,  the idiocracy of academia, the kleptocracy of those few who seek power over the many?

If forgiveness is all the hope we can cling to, my rage remains for what is done, will be done, to what is being done to those who deserve better.

Anger is an energy.

No Future? Rise UP!

I see hope, beauty and nature in small acts of kindness, the eyes of children, in the generous comments, small stories and images shared freely by my friends and mentors.

"A picture is a poem without words." Horace

I see hope in those who seek escape, in those who demonstrate, who remonstrate, who weep.

If I have been silent here, it means that I am, like Paul,

"overwhelmed by the complexities of the world I live, work and breathe in. I am looking for ways to consciously inhabit my situation, to find a language to speak about, but also speak to my situation."

Words just won't do.

I am present in silence, but I refuse to be a by-stander.

I people a painting of a deserted beach with my children looking out to sea.

While just across the channel, over the page, I draw the children of others drowning.

Painting is just another way of keeping a diary.” Pablo Picasso 

I put together a collage of this, my silent diary.

There, in a struggle for meaning, for forgiveness, for grace, are clumsy touches of sense: feelings of joy, of sadness, loss and despair, glimpses of fleeting beauty....glimmers of hope.

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