Literature Notes #001

My notes as a reader on:

E.M. Forster The Other Side of the Hedge

This is a short story about death and dying and an outlook on the concept of paradise you wouldn’t have expected. It is fascinating how a whole place is created with few brushstrokes and you can’t miss the rich symbolism, while the author avoids any clichees, even when introducing a man with a scythe towards the end.

The most powerful sentence for me is „(My late brother) had wasted his breath on singing, and his strength on helping others.“

I might disagree on the assessment of the narrator as I’m more of this brother type myself, but i don’t want to judge, as I can understand where this asssessment is coming from. In fact, probably every one of us has tendencies for both of these siblings in them. You do want to help but you also need to take care of yourself.

Reading how the narrator loses the race of life in their own view, sinks through the cracks and into a secluded garden… I feel like this sometimes, too, lately. It might be something universal of this part of the journey of life. You are painfully conscious of your ageing and dying sometimes, aware your loved ones will not be eternal either, while you still have the doubts in your head whether your life’s mission will work out or not. It is an ungrateful place where your youthful goals and dreams still carry you or at least you still remember the star you are following, while you are starting to understand that you cannot race forward forever. And you have not „made it“ yet. Maybe you never will. Will you regret the journey though? I certainly will not regret mine. Not all riches that can be won on such an endeavor are tangible.

100 Days of SPREY – 08, 09

Whops! My week was so demanding that I unfortunately couldn‘t keep up with the blog like I would have liked to. Most importantly: all the comic work got done, the rest of the time was eaten up by commissions, a lot of reading and learning and on Wednesday my very first appearance as a guest on an art podcast! It was the Turaco Art Cast with comic artists Frank Salazar and Anna Raub. That was a pretty exciting and unique experience!

Unfortunately I paid for all the important work that got done with being quite exhausted in the second half of the week.

It is indeed a fine line between „Don‘t destroy yourself with crunch“ and „You do not need to feel good and comfortable all the time, otherwise you will never tackle any challenge outside of your personal comfort zone“…which you happen to need for growth.

I read „A short history of myth“ by Karen Armstrong this week and after a long break continued reading Robert Henri‘s „The Art Spirit“. Especially the latter one baffles me. How could I have spent my whole life drawing while apparently not knowing anything about art? Henri is like the well-meaning experienced art grandpa mentor I never had. He puts the reader aside and tells them what it‘s really all about without preaching. If you are inclined to do so, check out his book for yourself! At least for me it helped me to enjoy art in itself, whether by me or others, more again.

The books also made me attempt an experimental mindset shift. The myth book was a refreshing breeze that showed me how differently other cultures interpret and depict the human condition and our basic and most important struggles. The unfair and struggling nature of life comes to mind and how to deal with death and mortality for example. And after that book made my brain softer and more open to new ways, there came The Art Spirit. We artists really are in a great and ungrateful position at the same time. We get to experience and play with human emotion all the time, stories, uncovering secrets in the human psyche and in one way or the other influencing the people around us and helping to solve problems in a creative way. While many instructors seem to agree that the best art, writing and any other creative endeavor is done best in a state of selflessness, the artist has no chance to get there without meticulously exploring themselves and their own life and tastes first. That almost seems like a contradiction. Won‘t looking at and into yourself all the time make you an egoist on the canvas? Wouldn‘t you be tempted to paint self-indulgent pieces nobody else would even attempt to connect to? I‘d argue knowing yourself very very well gives you the freedom to reach out in the first place and maybe even forget yourself for a moment. Meeting other people who disagree with you or do the very same thing you do, but better, or people who just don‘t care about your work at all, won‘t shatter you anymore. You will even be readier to accept that they have an inner life as vivid as yours and that your art does not have to be part of that if they just don‘t connect with it.

There is another exciting thing that I found in the book and need to tell you about immediately. Henri argues that it would be an ideal state for an artist, if they created what is genuine and authentic to themselves and what they are here to create all the time and without compromises. That would be their way to live their life to it‘s fullest. And playfully engaging with that creation every day would be the thing that creates any form of success as byproduct. So…the success is not the goal, it happens on the side. Bold thesis, don‘t you think? But it might as well happen that the success never happens or at least not in the lifetime of the artist. If that is so, how should you know whether you are doing it right or not? Apparently outside validation is unreliable to see whether something is good or not. Almost in all times people have rejected new things only to turn around and claim them as new proven standard later, how things should always have been. But then worrying about money is just a reality of life, worrying about being connected to people and not ostracized. I guess we artists should not ignore that, as that would be ignoring reality, but we must be ready to sacrifice our comfort or tendency to seek it in order to rise above.

See you in the next blog entry!