Wikipedia has a great synopsis: “The song narrates the story of an itinerant worker, or ‘swagman’, making a drink of tea at a bush camp and capturing a sheep to eat. When the sheep’s owner arrives with three police officers to arrest the worker for the theft, the worker commits suicide by drowning himself in the nearby watering hole, after which his ghost haunts the site.”
I’m not sure how this made it into the Southfield Elementary curriculum. Or, for that matter, why I remember it.
5″ x 7″
Another couple process drawings for Babboo’s Moving Pictures. Astounding how much planning is involved in a few silly movements.
7″ x 10″
Hard to say whether the cannon is firing into a house or out of one. Either way. This is an unused vignette from Babboo’s Moving Pictures; I opted for the cannon shooting the bottle off a stump, more action happens, though I was looking forward to the sound of this shattering window.
7″ x 11″
“These pieces, without preconceived connections, were written lazily from day to day, following my needs, the way it came, without pushing, following the wave, always attending to what was most pressing, in a slight wavering of truth – never to construct, simply to preserve.” – Henri Michaux
“Every day I awake with the idea that ‘today I must teach myself to draw’. I have also each day to experience the fact that images can only emerge out of chaos.”
I love these quotes from Leon Kossoff, hilariously obsesses with drawing – as one must be. Images can only emerge out of chaos.
“To say that in painting you are always working with the unknown – in practice, that’s devastating, if you really take it on. How can you know anything for certain about what you are doing?” – Ken Kiff
“My friends tend to be writers. I think writers and painters are really all the same – we just sit in our rooms.” – Howard Hodgkin
“I constantly have to negotiate with my doubts.” – Peter Doig
“You have to have a doubt sandwich. If you have the doubt at the front, you won’t do it, and if you have doubt at the end you’re probably going to kill yourself.” – Amy Sillman
“We are not all connected. We are bags of skin. We are all separate bags
of thinking skin.” – AL Kennedy, from What Becomes
12″ x 12″
There is this story about how Van Gogh, when he was a young man, got obsessed with a certain painter. He wanted so badly to meet this painter, he decided to walk from Holland, where he lived, to France, where the painter lived. He walked for a week and when he got there he stood in front of the painter’s house in the darkness.
The windows glowed as the old man finished his dinner and sat by the fireplace and lit his pipe. His wife was hemming a pair of trousers. The old painter stood up and poured more brandy into his wife’s, then his, glass. He sat back in his chair.
Van Gogh stood in the darkness, imagining himself knocking on the door. He spent the next week walking back to Holland.
I travel across this Workaday post from left to right. I might say this is a memory of a room in which I learned a thing or two about drawing.
I start a new paragraph, and then write about the painting that is posted above and make a reference to an art historical quotation, properly attributed of course, about how a painting, before being “an anecdote, or whatnot, is essentially a flat surface covered with colors assembled in a certain order” (Maurice Denis).
I start a new paragraph and make a footnote about Georges Perec’s “Species of Spaces and Other Pieces”1 and how he took such better care of his writing desk than I take of my palette.
1 even though there is nothing to clarify.
12″ x 16″
For as long as I can remember I have had a recurring dream about a house. The plot line of the dream is a variation on a theme. I am in a situation where I have no where to live and I remember that I actually own a large house on a hill, perhaps a family house. I once lived in the basement of this house but left a long time ago, was relieved to put it behind me. The house is not a a good place, not loving, but haunted, bereft, a place of dread, and I’m faced with the prospect of having to go back to live in it again. This is not really that house, and neither is the other one, but something close.
I wasn’t quick enough to write it all down, but to paraphrase the rest – to make the right choices first so the mistakes are fewer, and when that’s not possible, to embrace the mistakes.
6″ x 8″
The walls and floor of our apartment aren’t really red, and this painting isn’t at all based on Matisse’s “Red Studio” at MOMA, which I haven’t seen in years though I do remember enjoying it.
The stone wall is there, however, outside the window, like the one in Peter Doig’s otherworldly painting “Gasthof zur Muldentalsperre“, which I also wasn’t thinking about when I painted it.
Sometimes I think painting is the act of wringing out whatever imagery has been soaked up by the mind over the years. The best results are an uncanny assemblage of existing references – unique and not at all original. Which is of course frustrating but simplifying. An enjoyable process nonetheless.
I feel like now would be a good time to stop making paint color called “flesh.” First of all, everyone should be able to mix whatever color it’s supposed to be using various amounts of red, blue, yellow and white. Also, it could be better described as “peach.” Also, and it’s racist. This is the first and last time I’ll use “flesh” from this new pack of paint before I throw out the tube.
But please walk softly as you do.
Frogs dwell here and crickets too.
Ain’t no ceiling, only blue
Jays dwell here and sunbeams too.
Floors are flowers–take a few.
Ferns grow here and daisies too.
Whoosh, swoosh–too-whit, too-woo,
Bats dwell here and hoot owls too.
Ha-ha-ha, hee-hee, hop-hoooo,
Gnomes dwell here and goblins too.
And my child, I thought you knew
I dwell here… and so do you.
– Shel Silverstein
Someday I will try to work one of the these up in oil, but so far the image is too turbulent, shifty, and oil doesn’t lend itself to improvisation for me – or I don’t lend myself to planning things out. A corny metaphor, but drawing can be like jazz – pick a key and start playing. Oil painting is operatic. Try to improvise an opera and you’ve got a nasty mess on your hands. I admire painters who seem to truly improvise complex paintings in oil. Amy Sillman, Tim Hyman, R.B. Kitaj, Nicole Eisenman, Ken Kiff to name a few.
11″ x 15″
“Something offered is not offered; something finished is not finished; nothing changes.” (from Gilgamesh proverbs 3.107)
That odd saying is in some conversation with Herakleitos many centuries later: “Everything flows; nothing remains. [Everything moves; nothing is still. Everything passes away; nothing lasts.]”
Gilgamesh proverbs are bizarre and great. Here’s another favorite: “The runaway slave girl only pretends to sleep.”
10″ x 15″
The poet and painter worked in a highly personalized idiom and with a face of wonderful birdlike French-ness (or Belgian-ness).
(excerpt from “Carry Me Away” by Henri Michaux, translation by Eli Siegel)
Carry me away into a Portuguese boat of once,
Into an old and gentle Portuguese boat of once,
Into the stem of the boat, or if you wish, into the foam,
And lose me, in the distance, in the distance.
11″ x 14″
Early each morning I sit on the couch with my daughter Vivian wrapped in my robe and drink coffee and we listen to an audio recording of the Epic of Gilgamesh. On the back of this wooden panel is written what Gilgamesh kept saying when he was startled awake in the Forest of Cedars. I love the cadence of these questions and the confusion upon waking of a demigod so many generations ago.
Did you call me?
Why am I awake?
Did you touch me?
Why am I so upset?
Did a god pass?
Then why do I feel so weak?
13″ x 13″
There was a man who was so disturbed by the sight of his own shadow and so displeased with his own footsteps that he determined to get rid of both. The method he hit upon was to run away from them. So he got up and ran. But every time he put his foot down there was another step, while his shadow kept up with him without the slightest difficulty. He attributed his failure to the fact that he was not running fast enough. So he ran faster and faster without stopping until he finally dropped dead. He failed to realize that if he merely stepped into the shade, his shadow would vanish, and if he sat down and stayed still, there would be no more footsteps.
(Chuang Tzu, 4th c. BCE)
Stacks of colored bars appear to have a fracturing affect on these two. For stability, I referred back to the original frontispiece from A Child’s Garden of Verses.
As the painter Paula Rego said: “Every change is a form of liberation. My mother used to say a change is always good even if it’s for the worse.”
Blue ballpoint pens are, I think, terrible to write with but the lines sling all around, good for drawing. The river below. Above is a sketch of this little lady from a group of plaster Fisher-Price casts I did years ago. In this she’s maybe an ancestor, or celestial something.
18″ x 24″
I’ve had a policy of not including outside sources on the Work-a-day page, but this seems necessary.
On Sept 25, 1864, an ancestor of mine wrote a letter to her daughter from the family home ‘Sweet Auburn’ outside Natchez, Miss. To save paper, which was in low supply, the letter was cross-written. This is such an anomaly of Victorian letter writing, happened quite a bit during a time when formal letter writing was common, but paper was not, and postage expensive. The penmanship is so elegant, but when it’s written on top of itself it gets all jangled up. The writing, nearly indecipherable, is about the current (bad) state of things (war).
Then sixty-five years later, the letter writer’s great-great-granddaughter (my grandmother) was learning to write in her seventh grade class in Natchez. This is drill 20.
The ancestors keep giving me stuff to draw about, I’m barely touching the surface here. More cross-writing/drawing to come.
The snake is saying, “For me, drawing is a source of energy, while painting is the expenditure of energy.” I really have to say that’s my experience as well. As much as they have over-lapping concerns, the stylus and the brush are very different instruments and when I go looking for how an artist thinks, I look at their drawings. It’s like looking at their drawings gets you closer to the source of what motivates their ideas.
Because seven ate nine. On another note, the word stylus comes to us from Etruscan, as few words do.
Recently talking with Bill B. about polysemy and open meanings in drawing and writing. He said about one poem “as much polysemy as the poem can bear.” (phrasing taken from something Jane Freilicher said, about wanting “as much light as the painting can bear”).
Before exit 70 on the interstate that runs the length of Kansas there is a series of signs tempting one to pull off and admire the “incredible six-legged steer.” I just came across some notes I had drawn while driving (I know) and worked them up into more developed drawings. Maybe interesting for those who follow the Wastrels saga on this page, clearly the genesis of the eight-leg deer . . .
The next few drawings are of related oddities of beast at the same exit.
8″ x 9 1/2″
My nephews recently made a stop-motion animation of a lego space man which they called “Adventures of Red Guy.” I aspire to such simplicity; “Red Guy” says it all. This is a different Red Guy, less spaceman, more prancing interloper. I have a feeling he’s a figment of Bookoo and Cilice’s shared imagination.
This was made in preparation for a class I’m teaching called “Drawing the Myth and Daydream.” The prompt involves picking a setting (in this case ‘under water’), a figure or animal (I did several), and a state of being (I chose ‘breaking into pieces’). I think I should have made it more obviously under water. Other states of being to chose from include: floating, flaming, blooming with flowers, tiny, covered in hair, dissolving, enormous, winged, and part-human/part-animal. The first class was highly enjoyable.
11″ x 14″
For the last couple years I’ve had the pleasure of participating in a long and rich conversation with one of my favorite English painters, Timothy Hyman; we will publish an edited version soon in Trickhouse. One of his paintings that came up in the conversation is I Open My Heart to Reveal London Enshrined Within, which I love so much, and I ripped off part of the title for this drawing. I’ll continue to loot his work, as one does, with the hope of absorbing some of his innocence.
5 1/2″ x 9″
Not the first time I’ve indulged a crackpot understanding of linguistics this year on the Workaday page. Bookoo’s lingering in the mirror stage.
“Writings scatter to the winds blank checks in an insane charge. And were they not such flying leaves, there would be no purloined letters.” – Jacques Lacan
8″ x 9 1/2″
This one here is akin to an oxbow lake. That’s when a river goes from a meandering path to a straighter path and the curly crazy bit turns into a lake and the river takes a shorter route… I’m not explaining this right… here’s a diagram… oxbows are weird-shaped formations evidence of a previous flow-pattern. Such a useful concept.
Anyway, I’m making images for Kate Bernheimer’s new novel (will be a lot lot of images that I will post eventually) and in the process of trying to find the right approach, I made a whole mountain of images that will not work for the book, most are perfectly dreadful. One or two I think are interesting in their own way, oxbow style, and this is one I like. The title comes from a note I took while researching for this book, I think it was a titles of an obscure depression-era cartoon.
approx. 20″ x 24″
It could be that Bookoo and Cilice are made of marzipan here. Or else Bookoo is dying of consumption, the kind the Victorians used to love; I’m hoping for the former.
In Henri Murger’s Scènes de la Vie de Bohème (1850), the main character Francine — a ‘typecast fictional consumptive’ according to the author of The Cambridge Illustrated History of Medicine — has “a rosy tint to her skin, transparent with the whiteness of a camellia” and later “a saintly glow, as if she had died of beauty.” A beauty so rare and delicate that it destroys itself with its own amazing-ness: how exhausting. But the Wastrels can be maudlin like that.
The odd shape is the result of finding tons of scrap mat board, a love of composites, and looking at Jeffery Camp paintings.
22″ x 24″
Whenever I drive from Miami to New Mexico I count the dead armadillos along the way. One time, seven. Another, eighteen. I’ve never seen an armadillo alive and sporting armor, so I was relieved to see this golden one snuggled up against a man in Natchez, Mississippi, which is not on my normal cross-country route but now holds a definite appeal. Plus, what a great word: Natchez. The man has his arm around the armadillo and reclines in the middle of Main Street in a proprietary way, a protective way, as if he knows armadillos are rarely alive after they’ve tried to cross a street somewhere. Or a super highway. I can’t imagine what it must be like to touch an armadillo’s back, which, they say, is leathery and rough with plates and grooves across it, preventing it from rolling up in a ball when threatened, as some might have heard. In fact, I can’t believe that The North American Nine-banded Armadillo tends to jump straight in the air when surprised, and consequently often collides with the undercarriage or fenders of passing vehicles. Crap. I’m glad this gold one has a friend. Plus, there’s a big eye looking down on Natchez now. That should definitely help.
–Maureen Seaton, June 15, 2011, Chimayó, NM (for Noah)
9″ x 12″
Seraphim: the “burning ones”, four heads and six wings – two to cover the face, two to cover the heart and two to cover the feet (aka: genitalia). If you look directly at them your eyes burn by their brightness. According to some theological thought, Gabriel was a Seraphim, which makes the Annunciation an even more intense scenario.
8″ x 10″
Also maybe titled “Scourged by Yellow Fever”, a line taken from my great great grandfather’s diary, written about his childhood during the Civil War in Mississippi. The tiny little coffin on the seat of the carriage, and so forth. Might need to see this in the enlargement, it’s a light-handed drawing.