If you know me, you know I am a reader and a walker. When I looked through the books I read in 2022 (78 – not a record), I was amazed that less than 10% of the books I read were art related. So – 2023 is my year to devote more of my downtime to art. (more…)
The seemingly happy catchy song was written by Ray Davies in 1982 and recorded in 1983. His sister’s visit to England (she had emigrated to Canada) happened to coincide with Ray Davie’s 13 birthday. He had begged his parents for a Spanish guitar, to no avail. Rene stepped in and got it for him (his first guitar!).
Then she did what she always did when she was in town – she called her friends to go dancing that night. So – off she went to the Lyceum ballroom. But, she suffered a fatal heart attack, as a result of a childhood bout of rheumatic fever.
“Rene had died dancing in a ballroom in London in the arms of a stranger….Coming back from Canada, where she’d emigrated, to die. Really, and again, being a source of inspiration…She gave me my first guitar, which was quite a great parting gift.” Ray Davies
Finding stories like this are one of the reasons I love working on this series “CAN YOU SEE WHAT I HEAR?”. I also learn to play each song on the piano.
I usually do a collage using research materials I collected for the painting. Look closely at this collage. You can see where I hand wrote the beats for the tricky timing in the opening!
You can read more about the series and my quest for the series “CAN YOU SEE WHAT I HEAR?” series HERE. Each piece I create is inspired by a song that I also learn to play. Why? to bring awareness to dementia, because music is the last memory, the one thing you will keep.
When the supermarket used to stand.
Before that they put up a bowling alley
On the site that used to be the local palais.
That’s where the big bands used to come and play.
My sister went there on a Saturday.Come dancing,
All her boyfriends used to come and call.
Why not come dancing, it’s only natural?
Another Saturday, another date.
She would be ready but she’s always make him wait.
In the hallway, in anticipation,
He didn’t know the night would end up in frustration.
He’d end up blowing all his wages for the week
All for a cuddle and a peck on the cheek.
That’s how they did it when I was just a kid,
And when they said come dancing,
My sister always did.
My sister should have come in at midnight,
And my mum would always sit up and wait.
It always ended up in a big row
When my sister used to get home late.
Out of my window I can see them in the moonlight,
Two silhouettes saying goodnight by the garden gate.
The day they knocked down the palais
My sister stood and cried.
The day they knocked down the palais
Part of my childhood died, just died.
Now I’m grown up and playing in a band,
And there’s a car park where the palais used to stand.
My sister’s married and she lives on an estate.
Her daughters go out, now it’s her turn to wait.
She knows they get away with things she never could,
But if I asked her I wonder if she would,
Come on sister, have yourself a ball.
Don’t be afraid to come dancing,
It’s only natural.
Just like the palais on a Saturday.
And all her friends will come dancing
Where the big bands used to play.
If you have a favorite song you’d like to see represented, I’d love to know.
I have been exploring music and memory with my art for a couple of years with a series titled “CAN YOU SEE WHAT I HEAR?”. This was initially inspired by my mother’s dementia, but the fact I come from a musical family had a part in this decision. I know, you hear “my family is musical” a lot. But in my case, it is true. My grandfather was a piano tuner and had a music store. My father rebuilt pianos and my aunt taught piano for over 70 years (she probably taught half of North Georgia how to play the piano!). In fact, I began learning at age five.
Every piece I create is inspired by a specific song and I begin with writing the lyrics of the song on the first layer. I not only study the lyrics but I meditate on them, searching for visual cues within the lyrics. I also learn to play each song on the piano and really study the structure of the music. But the choice of the songs was a little random. Yes, I took requests. Some songs were chosen simply because I already knew how to play it on the piano. Below you can see some of the songs chosen and the art it inspired – with a line given for why the song was chosen.
While I enjoyed creating these pieces, there was something missing – ME!
When I say I started walking, I mean I started WALKING! Since March 29th, I have walked every day but one (migraine headache). Since the beginning of April, I have achieved my daily goal of 11,000 steps every day but two (again the migraine, and the first day after the time change – I miscalculated nightfall!). If I had walked a straight line going west from Atlanta, I would be looking Denver in my rear-view mirror.
The podcast that fueled these walks is DESERT ISLAND DISCS adapted from a radio show that has aired on the BBC since 1942. Each guest is seemingly whisked to a desert island taking only eight songs, one book (they are given the Bible and the Complete Works of Shakespeare), and one luxury item. The people interviewed range from Margaret Thatcher to Keith Richards to Tom Hanks to public servants in England. The reasons the songs are chosen are very thought provoking and often revealing. Usually it is not because of they are their favorite songs, but because of a memory associated with the song. For instance, Keith Richards picked Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. Why? He said Vivaldi was the only composer Mozart respected (who I believe he referred to as the North Star), and if he was going to a desert island, he wanted four seasons. Paul McCartney and Yoko Ono picked the same John Lennon song (Beautiful Boy). What is the most requested song? Beethoven’s Ninth – Ode to Joy. What is the most popular song by The Beatles? Something.
So, it got me to thinking, what songs would I take? This was not an easy decision. In fact, I have thought about this for months. So I finally sat down and made a list and I am ready to commit to my eight songs. So, for the next 8 weeks I will share one of my “picks” with you, with the history and background of the song, and the process used in creating the art the song inspired. And I am going to “gulp” start recording my version of the songs on the piano.
As for the other choices, my luxury item would be a piano, with a bench filled with music. Actually, the piano is a very popular choice, but so is a machete (you have to build shelter), and an unlimited supply of wine. In fact, one person chose a bathtub with three faucets, one for cold water, one for hot, and one for wine. The book I would choose? I think I would pick the largest art history book I could find!
A quick note in closing. It has been scientifically proven one NEVER loses their music memory. I have seen people in adult day care that are totally incommunicable sit up straight and belt out all the words of a song they recognize.
What songs would you choose? and why?
We can agree these are challenging and changing times. One thing that has changed for me is the way I read. I am a daily reader, usually 8-12 books a month. However, for the months of March and April, I read only 7 books!
For the first time in recent memory, I am putting down more books than I am picking up. Below is what I read, these are not reviews.
WHAT I READ BEFORE THE STAY AT HOME
The Ensemble, A Novel – by Aja Gabel This is about a quartet trying to make it in the world of classical music. I found it both interesting and tedious; the descriptions of the music was interesting, the relationships were tedious.
Clock Dance by Anne Tyler Anne Tyler never disappoints. It is the story of Willa Drake, beginning in 1967 coping with her mother’s disappearance (again). In 1997 she is a young widow. In her second marriage, she is kind of sleep-walking through her life when she receives a phone call from a stranger prompting her to travel across the country to Baltimore to take care of the daughter of her son’s ex-girlfriend. If you love Anne Tyler – you will love this book
WHAT I READ DURING THE STAY AT HOME
Mary Coin by Marisa Silver This is based on an iconic work of art, Migrant Mother by Dorothea Lange. This was a book club selection and I had trouble getting into it. However, after visiting MOMA in New York in March, I saw this photograph in an exhibition devoted to Dorothea Lange. That connection made it more compelling, so I returned to it. However, I was thirsty for the real story and the real women. I picked up a biography about Dorothea Lange, Dorothea Lange, Life Beyond Limits, (which I have not finished) which I found more satisfying. Oh yes, I was in New York in March on an annual art trip. I was there when the proverbial shit hit the fan!
The Secret Garden by Francis Hodgson Burnett I had never actually read this book, but I knew the story. Even so, the book charmed me and I count it as one of my favorite books now!
Circus Shoes by Noel Streatfeild After enjoying The Secret Garden, I looked at my own bookshelf. I have two shelves of very old books people have given me over the years – and I found this little gem! The story is of an orphaned brother and sister. who learn they are going to be sent to separate orphanages. When they learn about an uncle they have never met, they set out to find him. And, wouldn’t you know it? He is a performer in a circus!!!! What better setting for a childhood adventure! This was published in 1937, and there is an entire series devoted to different shoes; Tennis Shoes, Skating Shoes, Dancing Shoes – the list goes on.
Lewis Carroll’s Alices Adventures in Wonderland illustrated by Yayoi Kusama This is an all-time favorite book for me. I have to admit, this was a spontaneous purchase while visiting the Kusama exhibit in Atlanta. While the book is fun to read, I found myself missing the old illustrations. It is still a great friend, yes, books are friends.
Wacky Chicks: Life Lessons for Fearlessly Inappropriate and Fabulously Eccentric Women by Simon Doonan I bought this book years ago in New York at the SoHo shop of designer Jonathan Adler. See, Simon Doonan is his partner. I kept the book (I am not a book hoarder) and have lent it out several times. After seeing Mo Rocca interview the couple on CBS Sunday Morning and hearing a discussion about what does Zoom reveal about reveal about your house, I remembered the book. It was a fun re-read.
Plus, the discussion was of interest to me, because with so many talking heads on television these days, I continually walk up to the television and study what is behind the talking head, especially the books on their shelves.
What are you reading these days? Has this new world changed your reading habits?
To say I’m behind is an understatement. I have some catching up to do. In the past three months I read some crime stories, an older classic children’s book, a Russian novel, Science Fiction and my new standby Sherlock for starters! So – here goes!
FATAL EMBRACE, THE INSIDE STORY OF THE THOMAS CAPANO/ANNE MARIE FAHEY MURDER CASE by Cris Barrish – I originally started this book as part of my quest, to read a book by an author from each state. This was originally my book from an author from Delaware – but about halfway through the book, I decided Delaware deserved better. However, this is an unbelievable true story. Thomas Capano was the former deputy attorney general of Delaware, married with children AND the last person seen with Anne Marie Fahey. Her body was never found, however, his brother admitted to helping bury her at sea. Compano was convicted and actually sentenced to death. This is a fascinating crime story, actually made into a movie starring Mark Harmon and it inspired an episode of Law and Order!
A MOVEABLE FEAST by Ernest Hemingway – I read this as a reading group selection. It is important to note, this book was published posthumously in 1964, edited from his manuscripts and notes by his fourth wife and widow, Mary Hemingway. It consists of Hemingways personal observations of life in Paris in the 1920’s. It is a quick and enjoyable read.
A MAP OF THE KNOWN WORLD by Lisa Ann Sandell – this is my selection for my quest for the state of Delaware – I will be blogging separately about this book.
THE MAN IN THE GREY FLANNEL SUIT by Sloan Wilson – This is my selection for my quest for the state of Conneticut – so I will be blogging separately about this book (I’m behind on blogging about my quest!).
A SUMMER PLACE by Sloan Wilson – I enjoyed the book The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit enough to read another book by Sloan Wilson. The 1959 movie starring Troy Donahue and Sandra Dee is but a sliver of the book. The book focuses on the lives of teenage loves, Ken and Sylvia, who end up marrying other people and meet up years later. The movie focuses on the children of Ken and Sylvia – Molly and Johnny. The book has a lot more depth and texture than the movie. Both the book and movie were considered controversial in the late 50’s, focusing on divorce, adultery and sexuality.
BREAKFAST WITH BUDDHA by Roland Merullo – this is a delightful little book – considered “spiritual fiction”. It follows Otto Ringling, a food book editor living in New York, who travels to his parents home in Bismark SD to liquidate their estate. He reluctantly agrees to take Volya Rinpoche, a Siberian Monk, with him at the urging of his sister. Along the way, they go to a chocolate factory, go bowling, and attend a baseball game at Wrigley field. Otto begins this journey as a skeptic, but he slowly gains new perspectives on the world and his life with Rinpoche’s company. There have been two sequels, titled Lunch with Buddha and Dinner with Buddha. It was a sweet and somewhat thought provoking book – I plan on reading the sequels,
FIRST LOVE by Ivan Turgenev – Originally published in 1860, it begins with a 16 year old boy falling in love with a 21 one year old neighbor. The girl, Zinaida, has several other suitors, and the boy, Vladimir, gets in line. However, Vladimir eventually discovers the true object of her affection is his own father, and the last two chapters take a tragic turn. This is a wonderful and beautiful written little gem of a novella – and it is free on Kindle.
THE VACATIONERS by Emma Straub – The Post family is spending two weeks in Mallorca to celebrate the 35th wedding anniversary of Franny and Jim. Franny is a food editor, Jim was recently forced to resign as an editor of a New York Magazine because of an affair with a 23 year old intern. Obviously, their marriage is in trouble. Their daughter Sylvia has recently graduated high school with a goal to lose her virginity. Son Bobby arrives from Florida with his much older girlfriend, Carmen. Then there is Charles, Franny’s best friend, and his husband Lawrence. The book is very well reviewed, but I found it kind of exasperating.
BEAUTIFUL RUINS by Jess Walter – I love books about movies. Beginning in 1962 in Porta Vergogna, a tiny Italian coastal town, you meet Pasqual who’s family owns the only hotel in town.. There is an American tourist who comes annually to work on his novel for two weeks a year. A beautiful actress, Dee, arrives from Rome, where she has been filming the movie Cleopatra. It jumps around in time, going to modern day Hollywood with a legendary producer as well as a character that is pitching a movie about the Donner Party. Richard Burton makes an appearance. I found this book entertaining – even though it is almost epic in scope, moving around time and also moving around the world.
A LITTLE PRINCESS by Frances Hodgson Burnett – as a child, I loved the movie that starred Shirley Temple. The story line is basically the same, Sara arrives from India to London to go to Miss Minchin’s school, enjoying a life of privilege. All of this changes for her in a classic riches to rags story. Her father is killed and she becomes a beggar and a servant. But Sara is kind and becomes inspirational. The movie ads an entire plot line that doesn’t appear in the book. Surprisingly, Frances Hodgson Burnett also wrote Little Lord Fauntleroy and The Secret Garden!
A STUDY IN SCARLET by Arthur Conan Doyle – I think I need a monthly does of Sherlock these days. This is considered the first Sherlock/Watson pairing. The best part is also when Sherlock begins his deductions to Watson’s amazement, who proclaims “You are wonderful, Holmes!” – you know what? I agree!
THE MARTIAN by Andy Weir – the story about this being published is almost as interesting as the book itself. I really loved the book and can’t wait to see the movie!
THE GIRL WHO SAVED THE KING OF SWEDEN by Jonas Jonasson – this should be a Wes Anderson film. Nombeko is born in 1961 in Soweto. She becomes imprisoned and ends up as a housecleaner for an incompetent engineer in a research facility working on nuclear bombs. There is an extra bomb and Nombeko excapes to Sweden (along with the bomb) where she meets the twins Holger One and Holger Two, whose father wanted to take down the King of Sweden. The Mossad gets involed, as well as Jimmy Carter and other dignitaries from the time. I could go on about the story, but it sounds crazy when trying to recount it! Even so, enjoyed this, but if you want to read only books that are realistic, this isn’t for you. If you like crazy, fantastic stories that somehow make sense, enjoy!
I have committed to 15 days of blogging with C4 – an organization in Atlanta that – according to their vision statement – helps Atlanta artists learn to make a living from art. This is a great way to connect with other like minded artists receiving a prompt a day.
What is my purpose here on this earth and why do I exist? To quote Emerson, “The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.” Living a life well lived is finding your true voice and your gift – and the purpose is giving it back to the Universe.
Why do I create? I have to. I am a learner. I am an observer. I am an experimenter – I’ll try anything once (within the law of course). Observations lead to dreams, which leads to explorations and to the path only I can see. The path I will forge, not a path I can follow. “The things that make me different are the things that make me me.” A.A. Milne
Yes, I believe it is a better life lived when you sometimes fail by being original than succeeding by copying others.
“I am seeking. I am striving. I am in it with all my heart” Vincent Van Gogh, Maybe a more simplified version of this for a t-shirt saying, maybe just SEEKING and EXPLORING, PASSIONATELY.
This is part of a blogging circle consisting of women around the globe blogging today with the common theme of “how to”.
“In any field, find the strangest thing and then explore it.”
― John Archibald Wheeler
It was a perfect day to explore. When I took a walk in a different neighborhood, below is what I found.
I have driven by this mural hundreds of times. I had never gotten out of my car and really looked at it. Called Native Waters, this mural is 343 feet long. The left side of the river shows rivers flowing to the Gulf of Mexico (the Chattahoochee, Flint and Apalachicola). On the right are the rivers flowing from Atlanta to the Atlantic Ocean (the Oconee, Ocmulgee and Altamaha). The center of the mural represents the communities of Lake Claire, Candler Park, Edgewood and Kirkwood, the nearby communities on the Eastern Subcontinental Divide (which runs east and west)- which is the site of the mural.
I never would have known this had I not gotten out of my car and walked under a railroad trestle.
What did I learn? There is so much to see and so much to experience so close to home! And, don’t laugh, but it is important to keep a camera with you to record anything you might find when you either choose to travel a different route or choose to get out and walk in a different neighborhood.
What is close to you that you have been wanting to explore?
I have felt a little blocked lately. Maybe it is because my studio looked lik this!
So, I rolled up my sleeves and went to work on it. When I was finished, it looked like this:
So, the inspiration came! After a day in my studio, I had accomplished the following.
I worked on 4 large paintings, two are almost complete, and six small pieces. All in all, a Good Day! After this, I took a brisk walk and I found this on the side of the road – a nice weather beaten newspaper that will perfect for a collage someday.
What did you accomplish this weekend that you are proud of? By the way, when I finished working in my studio, I cleaned it up to start again.
Every month a group of women from around the world have banded together to post a blog with the same theme. This month’s them is Gratitude. Here is my contribution – and when you are finished with this – head on over to Jennifer Vitale’s post here.
At this time of the year, we all spend time giving thanks. Like everybody else, I’m grateful for my family, my friends, my health. To me, gratitude is making a conscious decision not to focus on what is missing from my life, but focusing on what I have.
One of the things I’m most grateful for is the self realization that I’m an artist. But, how did that happen? It was a journey, and when I started on it, I didn’t know where it would take me.
I admit, I was always a little different, I’ve always marched to a different drum. I dressed a little differently, I thought a little differently, I’d like to say my head was in the clouds, but it really was always in a book.
I was always drawn to the creative people, not realizing I was one myself. Then one day I saw a book, Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. Well, this got my attention as I’m left-handed, and therefore a little right brained. So, my journey began, and it continues today.
But, I knew I was an artist when I started seeing things differently. I see faces in the negative spaces of foliage, or in the plastic window of the jeep in front of me. I see people dancing in the clouds. I began observing, really looking at the world around me.
I see a mother playing with her baby in Canada.
I see so many things in Russia.
I see colors.
So, while I’m grateful for so many things, I am grateful that my journey has allowed me to see with the eye of an artist.
Now – head over to Jennifer Vitale’s post here.
I did it – I posted a blog every day in the month of October, missing only one day – and I bought a car that weekend.
I am not going to lie – I’m glad it is over. But, I did learn a few things.
1. I need to take more photos. I did purchase a Smartphone during October, and that helped. But, I need more photos to illustrate my blog by making it more personal.
2. Sticking to a plan helps. Having a series – The A to Z’s of Art really helped keep me on track.
3. There are other things to write about other than my art and what I’m doing. I researched artists. And I learned some things that surprised me (see Q for Quills- I had no idea!).
4. Keep a journal – catch those ideas as they fly by!
5. If I do it again, I will highlight fellow artists – which takes a little pre-planning!
So – I spent a day with every letter, and I participated in a Blog Circle where 12 women around the globe wrote about Courage. Here are some of the links to past blogs here.
Posts in between are: