I haven’t read Stephen King in a while, but I recently picked off a random shelf the last of his Dark Tower series — The Song of Susannah. I was intrigued enough to start reading. King has in the past written many nice essays on the subject of writing. The introduction to this book is no exception.
What caught my eye and what I’m relaying here is germane to all the arts, so I thought I’d bring it in.
From “On Being Nineteen (And A Few Other Things)”
I think novelists come in two types, and that includes the sort of fledgling novelist I was by 1970. Those who are bound for the more literary or ‘serious’ side of the job examine every possible subject in the light of this question: What would writing this story mean to me? Those whose destiny … is to include the writing of popular novels are apt to ask a very different one: What would this story mean to others? The ‘serious’ novelist is looking for answers and keys to the self; the ‘popular’ novelist is looking for an audience.
It is no stretch to extend this to other arts. I know what kind of artist I am. Which kind are you?
Well. It seems we have had a few quiet days here on A&P, so I thought I’d fill in the silence with a little thunder.
If you could see my face, you’d smile.
First, please enjoy this image of Rembrandt’s portrait of Jan Six. At this level of greatness, one must say, as did mmm, DeKooning? Stella? “He is on one mountain; I am on another.”
So I will not say “The greatest portrait in history,” but certainly an Everest. Sorry about the bad scan. It seems that all the better images on the net had that same irritating line about two-thirds of the way from the left.
Rembrandt van Rijn, Jan Six, 1654, Oil on canvas, 112 x 102 cm, Six Collection, Amsterdam
A recent comment asked whether any artist today could paint like Rembrandt, Titian, or Raphael.
My answer was that there were many.
But I’d like to add to that. There are not as many as there could be, or should be.
I did not say that I could paint like any of those guys, but I almost did.
Because I can.
Steve Durbin brought up the question of how do artists cook a while back, but I was not able to comment as much as I would have liked then; furthermore, I came across, again, some famous old thoughts on the subject, and I thought I’d share them with you.
First though, I’ve just been promoted from Sous Chef to Executive Chef at the resort where I work. Unfortunately, I’m always working now at least twelve hours a day. It’s my own fault, the long hours, for I fired all the lazy hacks on my first day on the job. I will have only focused professionalism in my crew even if it means pulling shifts for a time.
Involved as I am with the menu planning and presentation of our banquets for the coming season, the relationship between a practical, applied art, like cooking, and a more ethereal art, like painting, has been much on my mind. It’s been only on my mind and not expressed in art work because of my long hours.
I would not regard the following observations to be completely definitive statements for all art, merely facets of a diamond, and one possible diamond at that. I offer no images in this post, only ideas. But they are some good ones, I think.
Red Fir and Clouds
I do better work when I flow with rather than resist my passions. You are probably the
same. This winter my great passion was skiing.
I needed the exercise, for one. When I get out of shape, I lose my vim. When I lose my vim, I lose everything else. But exercise all by itself is boring, so doing something that is both fun and physically demanding is just the thing. This post asks no important questions. Probably, I should put it on my blog and not here, but I do share some photos for the first time, and I do get to an important theme to all artists at the end.
And yeah, this is a long post. But I’ve been gone. There’s some catching up to do.
The exigencies of life have ever had a way of intruding on art.
Today, for example, I had a really fun post in the works. I got a bunch of pictures from my various ski adventures this season, and I was planning a little art of life exposition.
Grammarians will recognize my use of the pluperfect, for all that is long in the past.
Instead of spending a few hours cooking fine cuisine for wealthy and highly appreciative guests — the usual case at the resort where I chef — I find myself having to serve up a cost effective buffet for a gang of miscreants who’ve grossly underpaid; furthermore, we just lost half our staff.
And so I take this brief moment to apologize once again for a non-post. Many people think artists are not able to deal with real life. To the contrary, I think we are generally as tough as they come. We have to be. The universe does not often agree with our dreams.
It is fitting, I think, to follow a post on vanity with a self portrait.
Self Portrait, February 2007, Charcoal on Paper, 9×12
This is no vanity picture, however.
Sometimes when no one loves you, vanity is a wonderful thing. At times, it is even good to be self deluded. Seeing your own work as worthwhile, even great, when no one else does can be all you have. Vanity can get you through hard times. Vanity is useful. It is a survival tool.
Gustave Courbet, “Bonjour Monsieur Courbet,” 1854, Oil on canvas, 129 x 149 cm, Musee Fabre, Montpellier