Tag Archives: letters

Weekend Coffee Share – May 5, 2018.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

Don’t know if anyone missed my weekly coffee share posts. However, I’ve been rather embroiled in the Blogging A-Z April Challenge, where my theme was Letters to Dead Artists. The overarching structure was to provide a brief bio for each artist, ideally choose one painting or sculpture which really touched me in some way and tie in my experience or attachment to it. Needless to say, the word limit totally blew out, but at the end of the month, I have quite a sound body of work and I’m guessing it’ll be around 40,000 – 50,000 words. Working out the word count is tomorrow’s job.

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Avoca Beach looking towards Terrigal, NSW.

For old timers at Beyond the Flow, you’ll know I love nothing more than showing off our gorgeous Australian climate and beaches which are warm and balmy for about 9 months of the year. Today, it was a bright sunny day with bright blue skies and a temp of  22°C or 71°F. Still, lately the locals have been mumbling and complaining and starting to rug up. We’ve had a few days around 18°C and it’s been described as a “cold snap”…. “Freezing”. My husband grew up further South in Tassie, and he thinks we’re a bunch of wimps!

This week, the kids went back to school after a two week break. It always feels like a rude awakening getting back into the school routine and all their activities, where I can legitimately spend the day in my PJs, especially on the first day of the holidays. That’s become my time honoured tradition. I can barely remember what we did during the holidays but I did see Loving Simon with my daughter and her friends. She very kindly invited me to join them, after I offered to sit somewhere else. I found that very touching. We also went out sailing in the small laser and I managed to get a brief paddle in the kayak before having to charge off to take our daughter to a dance audition. I wasn’t real happy cutting my paddle short, but I did treat myself to a coffee and cake while I was waiting and walked around and photographed the wetland there, which was almost sufficient compensation.

Another holiday highlight was going to Barangaroo on Sydney Harbour for lunch with my mother and daughter. This whole area not far from the Sydney CBD, is a melting pot of revamped industrial buildings, office blocks, restaurants and cafes and shops. Probably the thing I noticed most about the place, was how big the buildings were. They were huge, and even the spaces in between them were monolithic. I felt like an ant, dwarfed by their shadows. We had lunch at a Japanese restaurant and I had a Bento Box…yum! The food was exquisite and the service impeccable and so friendly. I was in heaven. Can’t wait to go back.

art gallery

Inside the Art Gallery of NSW

After lunch, I set off for the Art Gallery of NSW. Writing about all these artists was rekindling my love of art and it’s been so long since I’ve been there although I only had about two hours up my sleeve, which left me facing the art gallery equivalent of speed dating and I had a lot of old friends to catch up with as well as the new. Moreover, The Lady & the Unicorn Exhibition was on. It was fabulous, but what I appreciated even more was the depth and breadth of what’s in that gallery, and that as an Australian I could be proud of what we’ve got. Indeed, I was quite impressed (and surprised) to find a Self-Portrait by Renoir. Hey, it wasn’t in The Louvre…Wow! I also noticed a few statues on loan from London’s Tate Gallery, which is such a great idea. What not share these beautiful treasures?!!

Meanwhile, the pups are now about 9 months old and Rosie is chewing more stuff than ever before. Indeed, it’s taking us back in time to when the kids were small and there was that horrid phase in the house where we had to toddler proof everything and see random objects through the eyes of a little person. I’m sure anyone who has ever had kids will know that exhilarating relief when you can finally remove all the cupboard latches and start storing things below head height. Well, we’re back there again and with the kids going back to school this week, we had a few tantrums and mass carnage spread right across much of the house when I’ve been stupid enough to leave them inside when I’m not with them. Still, you’ve gotta love em. Meanwhile, they snuggle up and Zac is almost melting into my son’s lap and his all wrapped up in his blanket while we’re watching The Voice Australia on catch-up TV.

By the way, I probably should mention that I’m madly practicing for a violin performance in I think 2 weeks. Well, that’s actually more of a confession that I’ve been doing anything but, and hoping that by putting my what I’m supposed to be doing down here in black & white, that I’ll get that bow moving.

Well, I’ve been a dreadful host. I still haven’t offered you a tea or coffee and not so much as a bite to eat. Slack! Slack! Slack!

Anyway, it’s getting late. Actually, it’s now getting early. Time to bid you goodnight.

This has been another Weekend Coffee Share hosted by Eclectic Alli

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

 

 

Finally, My Favourite Dead Artist…A-Z Challenge.

After traveling through the alphabet with the likes of Botticelli, Munch, Da Vinci and immersing myself in such incredible paintings as Christina’s World, The Scream, Picasso’s Dove of Peace, I had to finish the series off with a tribute to my very favourite dead artist…my grandfather or “Papa” who used to draw my brother and I little cartoons, which he’s stick in with a letter or card. As a kid, they were magic and they still are.

My grandparents always lived inter-state and back in those days, letter writing was a very regular thing along with the weekly phone call. My grandparents always had two telephones in my time, and there would be one on each phone so neither of them would miss out on a single word from us. In hindsight, it was truly amazing growing up knowing they loved me that much. Indeed, my grandmother said to me once, that she didn’t even care if I wrote her letters on toilet paper. So often, particularly during my teenage years, their love held me together as the swirling vortex of pubescence engulfed me in waves of angst. Family was their world and they had so much love to give. That’s particular true of most grandparents who are freed up from the demands of parenting just to love and be loved and my parents are carrying this forward.

Anyway, this is a tribute to my grandfather and his little drawings.

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Out watering the veggie patch with my grandfather. He used to grow beans, which fascinated me as well as fresh corn. Don’t you love his orange terry toweling hat!

Life was much simpler back in the 70s and 80s. My grandparents used to post me a $5.00 note for my birthday and quite often there might be a washer or something simple in there as well. Or, perhaps that was in the Christmas parcel, which came wrapped very simply in brown paper and string, both most likely “recycled”. My grandfather’s motto was “waste not, want not”, which never made any sense to me. If I didn’t want it, I didn’t care. Indeed, it was more a case of: “Good Riddance!” Another one of his sayings was: “Die Gänse gehen uberall barfuss ” or “The geese go barefoot everywhere”. I was most surprised when I finally made it to Germany in my twenties, that most of the Germans had never heard this phrase before. Even Google was rather stumped but did come up with this:

Geese go barefoot and ducks wear red shoes

The drawing I’ve posted was drawn in 1976 when I was 6 years old and our school choir was making a record. This was a very big deal back then. My nickname as a child was “Nina and my mother was the accompanist. I particularly love the little record player he’s drawn down the front doing the recording. However, that’s not the only dinosaur in the picture. The piano is almost a dinosaur these days as well.

Above: The Kids and I outside Haebich’s Cottage in Hahndorf where my Great Grandfather was born and died. Top right… Haebich’s Smithy by Hans Heysen. The Haebich’s owned the blacksmith’s shop on Main Street, Hahndorf and it was depicted by three highly esteemed Aus tralian artists.

The other interesting thing about my grandfather, was that he was born and raised in Hahndorf, a German-Australian village in the Adelaide Hills in South Australia and he was full of crazy stories about the place, which I always listened to with baited breath. This town was populated with real characters and he real brought them and the place to life.

Papa Bert Rowena Wedding

My grandfather and I taken in 2001 at our wedding, where he gave the blessing. he also gave a speech at the reception where he brought up my teenage dream of being Australia’s first female Prime Minister, a position stilll available at the time. I was so embarrassed at the time, but I came to appreciate how proud he was of me and just for being myself (as long as I studied hard!!).

That was until his memory started to fade. The stories stopped, and tragically Alzheimer’s moved in and forced him out. He was about 90 by then and reached the grand age of 95. I sometimes wonder whether his brain just ran out from over-use or whether it was just bad luck. I guess when you’re over 90, the odds are that Alzheimer’s is gunna get you. It’s unfortunately, a much too common end of a brilliant life.

So, this officially marks the end of my A-Z Series: Letters to Dead Artists. This train has terminated. All out. All change.

Many thanks for joining me and my crazy crew of artists for the journey.

Best wishes,

Rowena

On Being an Artist…A Second letter from Shibata Zeshin A-Z Challenge.

This morning, I was trying to eat my breakfast and get back to the land of the living after spending the last month with an alphabet soup of dead artists. However, Japanese artist, Shibata Zeshin, had other ideas and wrote me another letter.

While I know what he’s getting at, I wasn’t quite sure how to condense all this wisdom into a succinct heading. However, it seems that he has a real heart for young emerging artists, not just in terms of painters, but also musicians, dancers…the works.

You see, he saw quite a difference in how young people and society approach learning their craft nowadays, to when he was a young man and it rattled him a bit. That although we live in this instant everything society, that it still takes time, patience, incredible perseverance, as well as natural talent, to produce a masterpiece. Moreover, it also takes a lot of faith, and an almost unrealistic belief that you can hop from mountain peak to mountain peak. That there might even be a bridge.

Anyway, the way that I’ve been rambling on for so long, soon you won’t need to read his letter, because I’ll have already spilled the beans, but here goes…

poem-and-falling-cherry-petals-1880

A Second Letter From Shibata Zeshin

Dear Rowena,

Last night, I retreated to the Quiet Carriage when I could simply be with my thoughts, my paintbrush and paper and think as an artist thinks…by painting.

Being the last artist onboard, I really haven’t had much of a chance to meet the other artists or see much of the contemporary world beyond our train. However, one thing has come across loud and clear. That is, an almost compulsive need to have everything done yesterday, and that at the press of a button, the world is at your command. This was very impressive. However, this is no way to make a lacquer box,  and while you can now buy yourself a cheap plastic or cardboard box, that can never replace the work of a master craftsman. Even with all your gadgets and trashy products, there is still a place for precision, beauty and quality craftsmanship…and it’s worth the extra cost.

However, what concerns me is that your young people think they know it all and have nothing to learn. That the long arduous painstaking methods of, for example, producing one of my lacquer boxes, take too long and they can just go on one of these reality shows and soar from obscurity to fame overnight. While this has seemingly been the lot of the winners, what you don’t see is the many, many years of diligent practice and how they have started from scratch and not usually experienced a smooth path to the top, but more of a jagged trajectory with more downs than ups. That they have a talent for perseverance, just as much as doing their thing be it painting, sculpture, dance, writing. Success is not a gift, and is by no means always guaranteed.

By the way, developing these skills isn’t just about developing technique either. You also need to experience the world in all its complexity to reflect the spirit of a living, breathing thing. Otherwise, there’s only an empty shell, something empty and mechanical and it can go and paint itself.

Being an artist is all encompassing. It’s in every breath that you take, and all that you see. It never stops or switches off. It is your being.

Best wishes,

Shibata Zeshin.

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

Needless to say, I’m a bit lost for words with his advice, but I will pass it onto my kids because I find it very reassuring. As a child, I was so impressed that my mother could sight-read any piece of music on the piano, but what I didn’t know was how exceptional her talent was, and how hard she’d worked to develop it further. If I had, I might not have been so frustrated by my own efforts. Playing the piano for her, is like breathing. I hope I’m not elevating my own writing abilities, to say that my kids might well look at my writing in the same way, and feel it’s completely unattainable. That they can’t write. Or, that Mum’s the writer. While I was always good at writing, I wasn’t great when I was younger and I had to work at it and my family and friends had to put up with some pretty dreadful and even sickening poetry over the years. However, I improved. Moreover, it’s something I’m continuously working to improve. That journey will never end. I am constantly seeking more, like a parched and thirsty traveller lost in the desert. I will lick the precious water droplets off the leaves if I have to.

On that note, I’d better go and see whether the fridge has cooked dinner tonight. Or, should I have words with the stove?

Best wishes,

Rowena

PS I thought I’d just include a few paragraphs which explain just a fraction of the effort that went into making one of Shibata Zeshin’s lacquer boxes….

“Until Zeshin’s time, most quality lacquerwares had relied for their decorative effect not only on painstaking craftsmanship but also on lavish use of precious metal flakes, foils, and powders, as well as other materials such as ivory, coral, and shell. Zeshin learned these traditional methods from an early age and used them through his life. During the 1840s, however, he responded to harsh new laws against conspicuous consumption by developing alternative types of decoration, using cheaper materials but devoting extra time and skill to their preparation and execution.

To achieve the wave-patterned seigaiha-nuri (“blue-sea-waves lacquering”), for example, he pulled a comb through a thin layer of wet lacquer mixed with cereal starch to

Tetsusabi-nuri: Cake box with butterflies and stylized chrysanthemums, about 1860–90. Lacquered wood, 4 1/2 x 6 5/8 x 2 1/2 in. (11.4 x 16.8 x 6.4 cm). Catherine and Thomas Edson Collection; courtesy of San Antonio Museum of Art.

improve its viscosity, an apparently simple technique requiring almost unimaginable skill and accuracy, since the work had to be perfectly executed in a very short time before the lacquer dried, and mistakes could not be corrected. To create a subdued dark-green ground suggestive of antique Chinese bronze, called seidō-nuri (“bronze lacquering”), he scattered several layers of charcoal and bronze dust onto wet lacquer, while in tetsusabi-nuri (“iron-rust lacquering”) he simulated the look of rusty iron using charcoal dust, vinegar, and iron-oxide filings. Shitan-nuri, the most elaborate of all these finishes, combines a whole range of techniques (including the use of a scratching tool made from a rat’s tooth) to imitate polished Chinese rosewood.”

https://www.japansociety.org/page/multimedia/articles/the_genius_of_japanese_lacquer_masterworks_by_shibata_zeshin

 

Letters to Dead Artists…A-Z Challenge 2018.

“The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls.”

Pablo Picasso

Welcome to Letters to Dead Artists, my theme for the 2018 A-Z Blogging Challenge. Every day except for Sunday during April, I’ll be writing a letter to a dead artist who has inspired me at some point throughout my life. There will also be a few “newbies” added to comply with the requirements of the challenge. I’ve also had to cut many artists out, because this year I decided there would only be one artist for each letter. So, choosing my 26 artists has been quite a process…a quest in itself.

The original inspiration for this theme came when I dug up a letter a friend sent me from Paris in August, 1992. Only a week or so before, a group of us had walked through Paris’s Père Lachaise Cemetery, where we had a particular interest in Jimmy Morrison’s grave. She’d returned a few weeks later and found a handwritten letter addressed to Oscar Wilde near his grave and transcribed it. It quoted excerpts from the preface of A Portrait of Dorien Gray:

The Preface

The artist is the creator of beautiful things.

To reveal art and conceal the artist is art’s aim.

The critic is he who can translate into another manner or a new material his impression of beautiful things.

The highest, as the lowest, form of criticism is a mode of autobiography.

Those who find ugly meanings in beautiful things are corrupt without being charming. This is a fault.

Those who find beautiful meanings in beautiful things are the cultivated. For these there is hope.

They are the elect to whom beautiful things mean only Beauty.

There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written. That is all.

The nineteenth century dislike of Realism is the rage of Caliban seeing his own face in a glass.

The nineteenth century dislike of Romanticism is the rage of Caliban not seeing his own face in a glass.

The moral life of man forms part of the subject-matter of the artist, but the morality of art consists in the perfect use of an imperfect medium.

No artist desires to prove anything. Even things that are true can be proved.

No artist has ethical sympathies. An ethical sympathy in an artist is an unpardonable mannerism of style.

No artist is ever morbid. The artist can express everything.

Thought and language are to the artist instruments of an art.

Vice and virtue are to the artist materials for an art.

From the point of view of form, the type of all the arts is the art of the musician. From the point of view of feeling, the actor’s craft is the type.

All art is at once surface and symbol.

Those who go beneath the surface do so at their peril.

Those who read the symbol do so at their peril.

It is the spectator, and not life, that art really mirrors.

Diversity of opinion about a work of art shows that the work is new, complex, and vital.

When critics disagree the artist is in accord with himself.

We can forgive a man for making a useful thing as long as he does not admire it. The only excuse for making a useless thing is that one admires it intensely.

All art is quite useless.

Oscar Wilde.

Poetry Reading

Poetry Reading Shakespeare & Company Bookshop, Paris.

In August 1992, I’d given my own solo reading at the famed Shakespeare Bookshop, where the likes of Ernest Hemmingway, Henry Miller and Anais Nin used to hang out. In hindsight, being granted my own solo performance at the Shakespeare as a 23 year old Australian, was a miracle. However, I didn’t know that at the time. George Whitman simply asked me if I’d been published (yes- self-published 90’s style on a photocopier) and told me to draw up a poster, which was displayed in the front window of the bookshop. That was “publicity”. George Whitman might’ve put me through the wringer, but he did give me a chance.

“Vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others.”

Jonathan Swift

Revisiting these experiences in Paris, Letters to Dead Poets was my theme for the 2016 A-Z Challenge. I’d clearly bitten off too much for what’s intended to be a quick walk through the park, not a series of books. However, I loved researching and writing the series, which ended up taking on a creative force all of its own, and I was very pleased with the end result. Hence, I decided to follow it up with Letters to Dead Artists, which will be very much along much the same lines.

To maintain the suspense, I’ve decided not to provide an index of all the featured artists I’ll be covering. The plan is to focus on one particular work from each artist and to discuss how it’s touched me personally. Then, via the letter, I’ll ask each artist a question. There will be some bio information for each artist, but as I’m neither an artist nor a critic, there’ll be scant technical detail. Rather, this series will be about emotion, psychology, philosophy and history instead.

“The world today doesn’t make sense, so why should I paint pictures that do?”

Pablo Picasso

Degas Letters

Naturally, I’m well into researching and preparing these letters. From the outset, I’ve been struck by how little I knew about each artist and their respective works. That I have known the painting well as an image, but often not the inspiration behind it, which in some instances has given the work an entirely different meaning. In a sense that doesn’t matter. However, for me, once you start seeing that painting as a reflection of your soul, it does. So, now I’m a bit unsure about all this deconstruction and analysis has been a good thing. Or, whether ignorance is bliss. After all, once you pull something apart, it’s very hard to get it back together again. Indeed, with all these intellectual twists and turns, I started to feel like I’d flown into a spider’s web. Hopefully, as the research settles, I’ll be able to clear a path. Find my way out. Yet, I have no doubt that I’ll be a very different me at the end of the month.

“This world is but a canvas to our imagination.”

Henry David Thoreau

I hope you’ll join me for the journey. So please fire up the engine as we head to A…Alexandros of Antioch who reputedly created the Venus de Milo.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

Letters To Dead Poets-AA Milne #atozchallenge

Hi Christopher Robin’s Dad,

This is J & A’s Mum.

Not sure whether you remember me. My Mum used to read Winnie the Pooh to me when I was very small and now that I’ve grown up, I’ve been reading your books and poems to my children. My favourite poems are: Vespers and Now I am Six.

When I was one,
I had just begun.
When I was two,
I was nearly new.
When I was three,
I was hardly me.
When I was four,
I was not much more.
When I was five,
I was just alive.
But now I am six,
I’m as clever as clever.
So I think I’ll be six
now and forever.

Now We Are Six, By A. A. Milne

 

By the way, in case you hadn’t noticed, my son looks quite a lot like your Christopher Robin. Indeed, he could’ve stepped straight out of the pages of your books.

Well, at least, that was: Once Upon A Time…

Christopher Robin Milne

Christopher Robin Milne & Winnie the Pooh.

You see, he’s no longer six and we now have to double that score. That’s right! He recently turned twelve and has just started high school, which as I’m sure you’d appreciate, was quite a shock! It doesn’t seem that long ago that he was very young…just like your Christopher! I have no issues about him growing up. Indeed, I’m rather relieved that he’s not out there chasing Heffalumps and Whoozles and looking for the East Pole. That’s enough to give even the most courageous parent a series of heart attacks!

Jonathon wharf alone

Our son looking rather Christopher Robinish.

Speaking of growing up, I was wondering why Christopher Robin never grew up? Why did you stop writing about him and telling him stories about all his toys? Why didn’t the story telling grow up with him?

It’s not that I mean to be rude but is the reader just meant to passively sit back and not share their opinions or respond to an author’s work in any way? Or, are we allowed to think? Have opinions and instead of just being written to, can we readers actually write back? Express our views?

Well, at least, I think so but perhaps I’ll disagree when I also become “an author”.

Well, being what Owl would call “impudent” and others might consider “thoughtful”, I decided to send you a poem I wrote about my son being 12. You could say that to get to this poem, we’ve doubled Now We Are Six…applying some simple calculation.

Poem: Somewhere In Between.

but somewhere in between…

my feet now touch the ground

though my thoughts are

somewhere in the clouds.

I look out my bedroom window

at the road which lies ahead

wondering how to get from A to B.

Do I really have to walk?

Why can’t I take a jumbo jet?

I don’t have all the answers.

Indeed, I don’t even know

which questions I should ask.

Yet, everywhere I seem to look,

all I find is rules.

Rules on rules on rules!

Be here!

Go there!

This is how to do your hair!

Living by this ringing bell,

has to be a form of hell!

Neither tall,

Nor small

but somewhere in between…

why can’t I just enjoy the view

before I grow too big?

.

I must say that the other thing that I’ve noticed now that my son is 12 and my daughter’s 10, is that I am also being forced to grow up. Just like Christopher Robin has in a sense been immortalised as a little boy, you have also been frozen in that same time warp. You will always be that father of a young boy, bringing the adventures of his toys to life through Winnie the Pooh, Eeyore, Piglet, Tigger, Kanga, Roo and Rabbit.

Most of us do not have that luxury.

It’s been wonderful experiencing my second childhood…building sandcastles, reading picture books and driving along with the likes of Eeyore in my car.That is, being able to do all these fun things without being considered “insane” or “different different”.

So, if you don’t mind me being so full of questions, I only have a couple more.

As my kids grow up, do I really have to grow up with them? Why can’t I just veer off on my own trajectory and keep on being a kid? Do my own thing?  Just asking!  After all, don’t you still feel like finger painting and making mud pies every now and then?

I thought you might have a plan. Or, perhaps I should be asking Pooh? Despite being a so-called “bear of little brain”, he really is quite a good problem solver.

Thank you very much, Mr Milne! You’re an excellent listener!

Warm regards,

Rowena

Born 18th January, 1882, Alan Alexander Milne died on 31st January, 1956 aged 74. While his ashes were scattered, there is a memorial plaque at Ashdown Forest, East Sussex, the setting for Winnie the Pooh which quotes:

“By and by they came to an enchanted place on the very top of the Forest called Galleon’s Leap.”

Which is your favourite poem by AA Milne? Or, perhaps you relate to one of the characters from Winnie The Pooh?

Personally, I feel like I am a combination of most of his characters…quite a “soup” you could say.

xx Rowena