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August 30, 2016


Oh, Beth. I love this so much. So happy you're back into pastels!

Très beau. Hâte de voir le résultat en personne!

Wonderful to be able to be so eloquent with your paints and pencils when you're feeling short on words (or not disposed toward them, at least). You're so very talented!
I love the sense of solitude and expanse that this landscape conveys. I've been missing that combination and I can feel my chest open, just looking at this. Thank you!

I like the spaciousness and shapes of your Iceland pastels--glad you have made another. I, too, am not feeling bloggish of late. Long, complicated summer! I never look forward to fall, though I enjoy it when it comes, because the Yankee winter is just too long for me. And fall promises winter.

Hope your back is not bothering you soon. (I've switched much of my routine to doing kettle bell swings because of mine, since you hinge from the hips in those.)

This is an extraordinary image Beth. So immense and so much detail. I'm really impressed.
The second image, the build-up stage looks great too.

Ah, but you are talking - about not talking too much. Not that I'm complaining of course.

Writing of this sort often resembles a record of what is more or less an internal monologue. Unofficial writing (or talking), if you like, addressed as much to yourself as to anyone else. No "big" subjects, no oratorical style, just minutiae that's close to hand. Often it turns out to be more revealing than we intended since we may have dropped our guard, imagining oddly that no one is listening/reading.

And I, a vagrant among the the blogs I consult, may well be sharing this unengaged state. Glancing out of the corner of my eye. Reflecting initially on what seems like the profligacy of creating a painting in that the sketch is sacrificed to the finished work, whereas I - the dilettante, the amateur, the ignoramus in these matters - feel that the sketch should also have been saved, as paint and paper not just pixels. Knowing enough after a second or two to realise that it's this kind of process that defines a professional. But now I'm becoming solemn and that's not the mood.

Get better soon, Beth!

The last two August weeks have been warm and gorgeous here in Germany and everybody is very thankful, for as Marly also said, the winter, here too, is too long.
My summer has been a very relaxing one. I spent it in Greece, stayed most of the time at my parents' house, took photos, read a bit, talked a lot in Greek. I thought I would write more while in there, but personal contact to my family seemed more important. I've posted though quite a few photos on Instagram, sometimes fitting words too.
I've tremendously enjoyed the photos and photos of drawings you've posted on IG and here. Words will follow soon. They're more like cats than dogs, and only pretending to be pets.

I like seeing how you work. It's hard for me to say which I like better: the finished work or the sketch.

That is a wonderful piece! I love your loose watercolors also.
Our summer has been hot, dry and sunny with a lot of eldercare issues. September is my favorite month here in the Whites.

Working through these comments backwards:

Sharyn, thanks, it's always good to hear from you. I know fall will be glorious in the White Mountains; we'll be in Vermont a little but I'd love to drive the Kancamagus again in the fall sometime. I can never seem to get your email to work, so I'm leaving my reply here...

Hattie, thanks, I'm not sure either!

MK: I'm so glad (and a little envious) that you got to spend your summer in Greece, and I've loved seeing your photos and reading your words about it. And that last phrase of your comment deserves to be in your next book!

Robbie: to be truthful, one reason I photograph my work in stages is that I too feel a bit wistful about obliterating earlier parts of it; I'm glad we can preserve it with digital photography. Maybe this is part of my own fascination with music and dance, that the nature of live performance itself is to be constantly erased, moving forward, and then (most usually) preserved only in memory. Perhaps they more closely mirror our own lives this way than art that is more "fixed" -- though of course there is that drive to immortalize ourselves in paintings and compositions and novels. Do you think about this too?

Priya, thanks so much. I'm thinking of starting another big charcoal - we'll see! your opinion matters to me, so thank you.

Hi Marly, thanks for writing. Yes, the winter is far too long up here, but somehow I tend to have more trouble with my mood in the spring than in the fall - it's weird. I hope your back and bones are holding up. Mine are better - in both cases - so I think the exercise (consistent but fairly gentle) does pay off.

Frances, that openness is one of the things I love about Iceland, and perhaps you find it in the ocean too. It is the antidote to living in the city!

Martine, thanks, we have to get together soon!!

Alison, thank you and yes, it feels so good to be working in pastels and charcoal - I think chalky things are my favorite mediums.

Beth: I can see why you would want to hang on to the sketch as well as the finished painting; both have value. However when it comes to writing fiction and - more recently - singing lessons, I can't wait to get rid of interim drafts and work-in-progress recordings. All I see/hear in both cases are the gross imperfections: a newer draft and an obliterative performance shrive me, although the state of grace is, alas, short-lived.

Beth, the thing about your sketch of this particular landscape is that it says everything that needs to be said about it in terms of composition, mood, colour, shape. It could even be futher abstracted without losing quality. The 'finished' work adds details implied but not stated in the sketch and therefore satisfies our need for further explanation. But here's the conundrum: is it necessary to explain? We've talked about this before but the question is still open. A question every artist has to decide for themselves, if they work from nature: how much to leave out, how much to summarise. or change?

Recently when I went to Norfolk and posted a few photos of the landscape seen out of the train window (you saw these on Facebook) someone left a comment mentioning a Norfolk painter whose work I'd never seen before: Fred Ingrams. Look him up if you haven't alread -, I think you'll be impressed, as I am, by his lifting the label 'sketch' into something which is fully 'finished' without losing spontaneity.

It's certainly been an exceptional summer here, with quite a lot of changes forced on us, but though I wouldn't wish the experience that gave rise to it - our house fire - on anyone, it has been in the end a very liberating one, I think. I feel refreshed and in fact more talkative on-line after having no internet for a while, than I have for quite a long time. At the same time, I'm studying to be a bit quieter and less talkative, in a rather garrulous and empty way, as I found I was becoming in real life.

I really love that finished painting, it seems to have just the right balance of movement and flow and detail. The sketch is great, but I'm glad you took it further, I suppose I tend to like explanation, though not always. I don't know if I miss Iceland exactly, but I'm very glad to have been there.


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Who was Cassandra?

  • In the Iliad, she is described as the loveliest of the daughters of Priam (King of Troy), and gifted with prophecy. The god Apollo loved her, but she spurned him. As a punishment, he decreed that no one would ever believe her. So when she told her fellow Trojans that the Greeks were hiding inside the wooden horse...well, you know what happened.