blast from the past

early pastel from book

I’ve been away from wordpress because I’ve been busy housekeeping.  Housekeeping is a humongous big job when you don’t manage it well, and since I spent decades ignoring the task, it has come back to bite me big time.  But bit by bit, I bring the situation under control (thank you Marie Kondo).  During my excavations, I have found some rather amazing things — amazing to me, naturally, since these things of which I speak are emblematic in my life.

So, for instance, I found the drawing above.  It’s the earliest pastel drawing of mine that still exists.  Not much in itself, but it’s something I made when I was still a kid.  More significantly I realized that the drawing is actually a copy of another artists’ work and now I know who that artist was.  It was Leonard Richmond who was author of a little pamphlet called “Landscape Painting in Oils” published by Grosset & Dunlap who put out a series of how-to books on art.  Either I bought it or my father’s younger sister gave it to me (my Aunt Mary encouraged me to paint early on).  Now I discover that Grosset & Dunlap “is a United States publishing house founded in 1898. The company was purchased by G. P. Putnam’s Sons in 1982 and today is part of Penguin Random House through its subsidiary Penguin Group.”

Here’s the image I copied:

early pastel from book source Leonard Richmond

Until my house cleaning, I would never have identified Leonard Richmond as one of my teachers — but I suppose he was not only my teacher but perhaps my first teacher.  Thanks to the internet, I learn this about him:

“Leonard Richmond (AKA: Leonard “Slim” Richmond) was a British painter, graphic artist, illustrator, poster designer, educator, author, art critic and a Canadian war artist.

He was born in Somerset county (south west England). When not traveling, he lived most of his life in London, England and its environs.”



My guess, looking at more of his landscapes online, is that he liked the same artists that I like — Cezanne, Bonnard, Matisse, Corot, the Impressionists and similar painters.  Since he died in 1965, he was probably already deceased by the time I encountered his art.  The slim booklet is copyrighted 1962, but I wouldn’t have owned it then (I was only 7 years old).

So far as I know, I never actually read the book though it’s only 30 pages long including illustrations.  I just learned from the pictures.

It amazes me how well the pastel held up.  They were student grade pastels. The paper looks like newsprint but surely must be something else because though it’s yellowed, it’s not brittle.  And the texture of the pastel surface suggests that I used a spray fixative which evidently didn’t yellow excessively.  And the picture has been stored in an attic for decades so it’s amazing that it hasn’t been eaten by silverfish or completely disintegrated by heat and cold!  Who knew that student grade stuff could be so durable … all the same for future work I think I’ll stick to my richer professional grade artists’ materials ….




In Fragments

Different artists teach you different things.  Bonnard simplified things, removing them partly from their naturalistic context.  His simplifications are of one order.  There could be other ways to do it.  Like Domenico Veneziano’s way, for instance.  But they point to and teach how to use parts of things: how you can use fragments of experience to call forth memories and lead thought into an area behind experiences — like seeing the back of a tapestry.

You have to see things before you can paint them.  Bonnard teaches a different way of seeing the world by taking it apart, thing by thing.  Every artist that you really begin to understand does something similar by showing the world through a personal experience of it.  It makes no difference if the artist is old or new.  The discoveries of the old artists are still new, they are connected to life, and the world itself is still in its first bloom of youth.

somewhere between energy and matter is thought

on light bright air melodious insects/ swill silence, drink a void/ cicadas shimmer the green leaves/ in electric chatter emanating lines/ of choral contrapunctal waves which/ ebb and really swell with dilating buzz/ in brightening unmoored yet tautened sound

the singing’s vibration wavers not fast enough/ to transmute energy into matter/ though they create dreams and thought fabrics/ whose flutters and unfurled folds/ loosening unfix the mind’s atmosphere/ raises it aloft, afloat in porous delight

First and Last Greetings

The last thing Paul Squires wrote at my blog post Swimming in the adjoining ponds of imagination (written on July 15, 2010) was this:  

More koi Jazz! A long and gorgeous trilling right hand cascade down the keyboard, Oscar Peterson style, all done in colour and movement! Life is a koi pond indeed!

The first thing he ever wrote at a post called Paint for Painting’s Sake (June 16, 2008) was this:

I don’t know nearly enough about the practice of painting, nothing actually, being a writer, but reading your posts back this far and looking at your work had really helped me understand what’s going in a painter’s mind. I don’t think it’s pretentious at all, revealing and fascinating in fact, especially the one about the abstract which really made it clearer in my mind what that was all about and related in a way to my writing. So thanks.

He wrote stuff like this — all over the internet — encouraging others to excel at art (in the broadest sense of the word).  His role as lifter of spirits is one that all those of us who knew him should remember always — and practice in his absence, this lovely humane kindness.