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June 25, 2019


Beautful luminosity, depth and liveliness in the second one down but they're all interesting, truly giving a sense of what the area feels and looks like. Unusual and intriguing place to have a studio. Do you hear the sound of trains when you're at work inside? I would quite like that.

The fact is - and with the best will in the world - we may ignore your comments until afterwards and treat these paintings, and evolutions of paintings, as any other form of the plastic arts. "Things" that have sprung upon us unbidden. For me (and you must remember my opinion in this field is almost valueless) the only backward step is in the final pairing; the "completion" (ie, the rail track and, especially the two buildings) is quite ordinary, almost dismissed, untouched by the abilities you've shown before. But the left-hand side, with the exception of the blue bird, is genuinely something I would like to own; I admire the way the spiny growths (lower left) endow what is otherwise a mini-landscape with an almost aggressive vigour, an affirmation that growing things grow and have life. That you can suggest this process.

Somewhat reluctantly I read your comments and discover the reasons why. Your reasons and the end-product seem to correspond but I find no pleasure in this. You talk about things that inspire you and clearly there are things that don't. In my own far less professional world I have just emerged from a year when my novel was at a standstill, in the midst of a scene which had demanded real imagination (warring factions in a commercial negotiation) yet which I seemed unable to complete. Writing which had been my personal bolt-hole for the whole of my life seemed walled up against me. After a dozen abortive single-sentence stabs, each leaving me playing solitaire on the computer, something finally clicked. Now I'm halfway through a scene which lives (if only for me) and which even has comic potential. I guess that one of your skills is to pass through such moments of discouragement far more quickly.

Painting and writing fiction surely have this in common: we do not set out to record but to transmute. To personalise a static phenomenon or bits and pieces from past experience. But we must want to do this, if the urge to transmute is not there nothing happens. But for purely sentimental reasons - and clearly the reaction of an abject novice - I wish your tiredness had arrived from another source.

Thanks, Natalie. That one is my favorite too, but none of these have the freedom of my better watercolors.

Yes, we do hear the trains, but not loudly, and I barely pay any attention to them after ten years in this place. When we're in the back parking lot, near the tracks, of course we see and hear them right next to us, and that's fun. They're all freight trains, and these lines run straight across Canada.

Robbie, thanks for your kind words. Your musings about the differences between writing and painting intrigue me. I too experience "writer's block" with the result that projects get abandoned, sometimes for ever. But for some reason I manage to keep going on artwork. I used to get hopelessly discouraged with oil painting when it didn't go well, but persistent "showing up" seemed to pay off. Art always contains a kind of experimental quality anyway, and the more you do, the more you see that the failures are just steps on the path -- you have to just keep going and making, and eventually you realize you've learned something and made progress, or even a leap. Does that sound like singing? I hope so because I think there are parallels! As for your final comment, I don't usually get tired from singing itself, I love it too much and find it too exhilarating and absorbing for that! What tires me out is being on my feet for an entire day, which now includes my 4-5 miles of daily walking. I get physically tired - legs, feet, and back. And there have been some emotionally draining weeks, with the funerals of close friends. Today is the latest one -- but we're singing the Mozart Coronation Mass for him, so that is full of joy, and I'm looking forward to making my small contribution to the service, the celebration and mourning. So don't worry that my apathy about making a dull painting of a rather dull scene indicates apathy or fatigue with music -- that is never going to be the case!

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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.