Answering the question “why”

drawing of a basket by Pierre Bonnard

As I said already, the path to a clean the house is not a straight line.  I take detours. Reading Marie Kondo’s book “the life-changing magic of tidying up” gives me ideas for how to clean my house and unclutter my mind. Once I am living inside that less cluttered mind, there’s the question of what to do. I am also reading a book on mindfulness.  I found it at the end of the aisle at Barnes and Noble.  It’s a “bargain book.”  Costs under eight dollars.  Thus even as I am moving other books out, I acquire new books.  Such is life.

This book on mindfulness asks me at the beginning of the third chapter (after I have tasted a raisin) why I am reading the book.  It’s kind of a talking book.  It asks questions and you’re supposed to answer them.

I bought the book because I read books on psychology.  Mindfulness is a topic that interests me.  But why now?  It was at the end of the aisle where it caught my attention.  And it cost less than eight dollars.  Seriously.  That was the reason.  Okay.  But why did I not notice the myriad other books on the ends of aisles?  Barnes and Noble stores have many aisles.

Psychological topics interest me. I buy the book to learn how to talk about mindfulness, but mindfulness itself is familiar territory. Of course, one can always learn new lessons from familiar things.  When I was a youth we called it “being lazy.”  In my family’s world sometimes you disparaged something that in fact you really believed you need — so don’t be mislead by the description. No one wanted to be always working and lack time simply to live.

The book asks me questions, I can ask questions too.  Why a basket?  Why Bonnard’s basket to illustrate this post? You don’t have to answer, though, not unless you want to.

WHAT?  What kind of question is that?  Why did I post a basket or why did Bonnard draw one?  Either question will do.  Or some other.  I’m not particular. But the topic is basket. My subconscious chose it.  If you have a problem with that, take it up with my subconscious.  Not my area …

An artist draws this and not that.  The subconscious is always posing suggestions — “draw this.”  And the suggestions raise questions, “why this?”  And the questions are often difficult to answer.  Sometimes the answer I offer myself is “why not?”  But that reply is not an answer, it’s an evasion.  It can be taxing to answer questions. Laziness (in the way my family understood it) is a way of getting answers by evading the questions in the first place.  You just let your mind wander around.  Not that we were even self-conscious enough to notice we were being mindful.

As for the book I read its name is, aptly, “Mindfulness: a practical guide” by Tessa Watt.  Someday — perhaps even soon — I’m going to begin writing a book called “Drawing: an impractical guide.”  But that’s a matter to take up in future posts.

Before the Koi was the Fish Whistle

Actually I think it’s a whale — it’s a whistle in the shape of a whale.   And if I ever locate it, I’m going to paint it again.  File that under “house-keeping” and add another tick to the long “to do” list. 

I made this painting a long time ago.  I had set up the still life aiming to compose large sections of bright color that didn’t necessarily go together.  My goal was to harmonize colors that were not coordinated, that were color uncoordinated.  I figured that if I got the life-likeness of the things, the harmony that they get from simply existing in the same light and atmosphere might be caught.  It’s a bit of Cezanne’s philosophy only I didn’t know it back then.

Meanwhile, I was painting something that swims in the water and swishes its tail though technically does not represent a fish.  I don’t really see the harm, however, in calling a whale a fish when it is so fish-like.  Anyway, this was proto-koi — an early whispering of the theme that has since occupied much of my thought. 

For the record the whistle is shaped like a whale, but is not designed for calling a whale.  One could try it, though, and see if having whistled on it, a whale comes.  If I ever locate the whale whistle again, after I paint it, I might try this other idea too.  And I’ll be sure and let everyone know if it fetches me a whale.

Flowers of the New


We spent lots of our holiday drawing, my ten-year-old (soon to be eleven-year-old) art assistant and I, but the cloud cover always seems to thicken whenever anyone reaches for a camera so I’ll have to keep you in suspense a while longer regarding our results. 

Meanwhile, I rearranged the studio today — always a heady experience as I realize that I’ve misplaced half the items I own and find myself becoming reacquainted with them in the shift and bustle.  Greetings! There you are!  Where’ve you been?  Whatever possessed me to put you there? But reunited now ….

In preparation for new still lifes I have been planning, I shifted stuff around once more, finding old things, no doubt losing new items by disturbing their places.  But I have accomplished my goal: I have two flower still lifes set up for work.

I have been dreaming about these pictures, imagining them in my head, contemplating the meanings of flowers.  Finally I can stop dreaming now and begin working.