Pre-Trip Errata

Getting on plane tomorrow so here are some quick sketches and thoughts in between closing up stateside studio:

I just finished the biography on Alexander Calder by Jed Perl. I had not been into Calder beforehand but developed a new appreciation for him after finishing. I have shelves of books on biographies/histories of Paris during different eras which include all the artists that where then on the scene.

For modern art eras, Calder was often featured. He was portrayed in a sort of often parroted shorthand, as an impish figure who artists in all the various movements liked (surrealists, futurists, cubists et al) even though he was never formally a member of anything.

Marcel Duchamp too was embraced by key figures in many movements which he purposely never joined. Duchamp had the glamour of enigma and an obvious influence to varying degrees on many artists who came after him for generations.

After reading this wonderful book the two had more in common than would be apparent from other books. Duchamp’s mien was always sphinx like which lent a sort of gravitas to whatever he was doing.  Calder was serious about his work but had a joyous disposition. If he did not get along with somebody, then he just did not bother with them. He had artistic theories & philosophy but he was reticent and never pontificated about  them. This lent a sort of playful veneer to all that he did to casual gallery & museum goers. There was a joy to what he did, but a serious joy.

This is the second book I have read by Perl on an artist to whom I was initially indifferent. It underscores that no matter how much one knows about art or how well formed their aesthetic sense, there is always room for more exploration and to pull new things into oneself.  And as I have often said, with certain non-fiction authors, it is well worth reading anything that they put out. Jed Perl definitely falls into this category.

 

9×12 quick sketch Calder

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It was just Duke Ellington’s birthday.  To people not well versed in jazz Duke Ellington is “Take the  A Train” or that sort of sludge of sound behind really old cartoons which utilized swing music before Carl Stalling came on the scene with his innovative sonic madness.

There was always forward thinking elements to what Duke & his orchestra were doing. He was constantly evolving and adding to his vision and sonic palette.

He composed in so many forms that it’s bittersweet to think of the years where he was lumped in with other, mere entertainers. Publicly, he never seemed to complain about this. In his final decade or so when he was starting to truly get his due,  in performance he still would often include medleys of the hits as to please the crowd. Remnants of when  this  American Mozart, despite his skill land ambition had to set toes to tapping.

For beginners to his oeuvre the best place to start are his later recordings. These works are more easily acceptable to someone  used to post bop jazz (used to be called “Modern” ). In his final years, Duke seemed to be allowed to record whatever he wanted. It runs the gambit in diversity. From Tone poems to suites, to soundtracks to trios and sacred concerts to teaming up with musicians young and old that he admired but had not worked with in small ensembles (John Coltrane, Coleman Hawkins, Louis Armstrong)

I first got into his work by delving into the later stuff. I enjoyed that so much i started looking backwards. Years ago I would not have been open to it, but now i treasure all Duke.

There is probably at least one of his albums to fit no matter where you are in the world and what you are doing. All around the globe, my pencil in hand and the rich coloration as envisioned by Duke wafting up out of the speakers.

Sir Duke Quick Sketch 9×12

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Soft Lead Pencil

Some time, way after the fall of mankind. Earth is a cleaner, if not kinder place.

“Bernie…yeah…Bernie…You’re killing me Bernie…”

A knock on the door, a head is poked in and quickly waved away.

“You forget, I cut my teeth starting in the copy room, working under the orangutans. Yes, yes it was very thoughtful of you to have remembered us during the holidays, yes my wife was very happy. No, c’mon Bernie…Bernie… we agreed on five percent…how good a quarter we had has nothing to do with anything…Ok, you know what, i can’t spend anymore time on this, you win, you get your seven percent. So much for ape don’t kill ape…ok..yeah-yeah no hard feelings, of course see you at the club…”

 

pencil & 5×4 Paper Quick Sketch

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B

(This is from a new series “Songs About Women”)

First Song: B

Did glitch art

As university student she sat at feet of a professor who was for her, one part jesus, one part father figure. He was infallible in all things which upped her worth by acolyte association.

She mentioned a tome, one of the dead Roman’s that I am into, which he had turned her onto.

I had just finished writing an essay on translations. This was the worst translation, full of errors. Politely pointing this out caused discord in her established narrative.

A picture I found while pruning my papers of no longer necessary accumulation. the drawing from it to serve as a tombstone.

 

9×12 Quick Sketch

 

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Falstaff ‘Riffing

It was magical in that the rain held out every day, aside from minor flare ups, until I was home for the night. I would lay in bed and see the lights of other people’s home’s flicker through the sheets of heavy Parisian rain. The steady rhythmic sound as it hit the zinc tiles made music unnecessary.

I was reading Harold Bloom’s “Falstaff Give Me Life”. A meditation upon the character & literature. Some of his pronouncements (in general) are controversial but he always walks the reader through his thought process. Unlike a lot of essayists of later generations, he does not insist he is correct because it is how he feels but instead presents evidence cited to back up opinion.

Of course personal taste enters into it too. I confess some works of which he is passionate about do nothing for me. The mark of a great thinker and essayist, I am still interested to read what he has to say.

For me, Shakespeare is not the same end-all-be-all. I prefer my Greeks & Romans. It did prompt me to revisit the bard and also the Verdi Opera. (In the book he mentions the opera, making a specific point of  “that Falstaff not being the one written about”.

I got more enjoyment from revisting the bard. I already owned the opera, bought originally solely because Bryn Terfel was in title role. I delved into it again and found I enjoyed it much more than at the time of my original purchase, now listening to it at least once a week.

Falstaff, just under the surface of his merriment can be glimpsed a bent to self sabotage or a fatal purity, to not play the game of politics & ambition but rather stay true to himself via  appetite. Appetite that is not always to be satiated but the attempt to do so being the best way to honor & live life.

It all makes for some great base material of art in any medium. Here are some quick sketches, riffing upon the theme.

 

 

 

M.Tom

I am working on an essay for my next collection which touches about the mid to late 70’s which was sort of classic age of vinyl culturally.

As I worked and had music playing I decided to do something different (for me).

This is 11×14

Sordid details following

 

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Seattle

Smaller works of art might be of ideal size for where it is going to be placed. There is resistance to this though, as on a subconscious level (at least),  some people equate “more” of something with it being better.

It is faulty logic, unless a work’s size is an intentional component, bigger to near on point of domination of a space, is not better. Bang for your buck should never be a cultural consideration.

In the age of consumerism, a sort of forced perception resulting from faulty logic.  Just as physically bigger books with higher page count are automatically deemed harder reads (most of the densest books I have read all have had relatively average page counts, it is ideas and style that create density) it is letting the wrong factors inform opinion.

More and more I lean towards smaller works. They lend themselves to lessening the “I am looking at art” sensation while furthering the “I am feeling something/something from this”.

It could be a generational thing, I am wary of deflated attention spans and lapsed concentration of gallery goers. People having become used to necks bent in worship of i phones or tablet will do a cursory look at larger piece, eyes flitting across the canvas to capture “the point” of it at cost of all the other things going on which contribute to a work’s tension & release.  Smaller works, there is no dead space all the poetry and flavor is enmeshed with “the point”.

I do vary the sizes of my works but with the largest being 11×14, no one will ever call any of them big.

Seattle 5.5×8.5

 

Seattle