One of the great things about being a human is that one — sometimes — has a chance to re-invent oneself. I see it in my boys as they go off to school, as they take jobs, as they travel. And now I’m going to engineer a small reinvention for myself. I’m going back to school. Art school. A course in illustration. So that I can draw, draw, draw. It’s a kind of reinvention, and it’s a kind of returning to something that has been in there all along.
Self portrait in pencil.
I’m taking the first class this summer: Narrative Drawing. Here’s a self portrait from one assignment. Last week we drew Greek and Roman sculptures from the museum’s collection.
Chios Head, from the MFA, Boston. Pencil drawing.
I’ve added soft sketching pencils to my box, and a good eraser. Am now off to draw hands…
My musical education has been serendipitous, governed by enthusiasms and little knowledge. I began with with Mozart pieces, and then rested with Eric Satie for a while. Then, motivated by a love of Traumerei, I pushed through the Kinderscenen by Schumann, and alighted upon Beethoven. That took several years. Schubert, Chopin, and Debussy followed in no particular order.
One day not too long ago I read that both Chopin and Debussy admired Johann Sebastian Bach. So now I go back to where it all began, with the well-tempered clavier and Bach. Let me tell you, they are not so simple. How am I ever going to get the proper voices in that tangled-up fugue?
Here is a picture of my color woodcut of Portrait of a Young Girl by Petrus Christus. she’s looking a bit dubious; perhaps she too is worried about that fugue.
We have arrived at that proud, happy, and confusingly painful moment. College Graduation. A sea of red robes and radiant faces. Much advice being offered — so much advice and is anybody listening? Not really. They’re on their way.
You think it will never happen. And then it does.
I keep a day book but instead of entering appointments, I like to make pictures — illustrations of my life as it courses along. Here’s a rendering of what we saw on Sunday in the bright sunshine of a happy day.
by Raymond Carver
His wife. Forty years he painted her.
Again and again. The nude in the last painting
the same young nude as the first. His wife.
As he remembered her young. As she was young.
His wife in her bath. At her dressing table
in front of the mirror. Undressed.
His wife with her hands under her breasts
looking out on the garden.
The sun bestowing warmth and color.
Every living thing in bloom there.
She young and tremulous and most desirable.
When she died he painted a while longer.
A few landscapes. Then he died.
And was put down next to her.
His young wife.
We had a memorial service for my mother this past weekend. She was born in Maine and she loved the sea.
This one’s for you, Mom.
She was my mother, and sometimes, even often, she drove me crazy, but we were lucky. She faced the world with a smile, and made the best of what she was given. You really cannot ask for more than that.
Last night we had dinner with a young guy who has traveled around the globe looking at the stone works of ancient civilizations. He’s been to Peru and Mexico, all over Europe, places in the middle East. Asia and Africa next; he’s looking for a way to get there.
I have read that the ancient Peruvians believed stones to be alive. I think maybe Michaelangelo thought the same thing.
Marble bull from below the pulpit, Cordoba Mosque-Cathedral; and Roman sculpture from Museum of Archaeology, Cordoba.
Finally, when you think about it, stone is what is left and it is amazing what stories it can tell us.
In the heat of the summer, the great stone cathedral in Granada must be lovely cool respite. But in March, during a cold snap, the cathedral was icy, and soon we were chilled to the bone. We made a quick trip all the way around, and the cathedral is enormous. We lingered at the apse end, viewing large illuminated manuscripts in the gloom.
Viewing illuminated manuscripts at Granada Cathedral.
After that, we required refreshment in a warm place. And a small piece of chocolate cake.
Campari and a glass of orange juice.
By the way, the fresh orange juice was terrific.
I’m a tea drinker usually, but in Spain I discovered the pleasures of cafe con leche. The hotter the better, and best with sugar added. There were days when this little cup sustained me until dinner time.
A cup of cafe con leche, Seville.
I am considering the purchase of an espresso maker, but they do seem very expensive. Perhaps a return trip to Spain would suffice…
Sometimes the coffee was served in a small glass. Cafe con leche, Granada train station.
We’ve returned from two weeks in southern Spain. It was a wonderful trip — there is so much to learn about the world… Coming from a place blanketed in snow, we had visions of sunshine, sangria, espadrilles and floppy summer hats. Alas, it was cold and rainy most of the time, so that I wore everything I brought pretty much every day. But never mind. With so much to experience, what does it matter how many tee shirts one is wearing?
Alhambra, drawn from the other side of the valley.
Our interest was in the overlay of Roman, Visigoth, Muslim, and Catholic cultures which you can see in the architecture of Seville, Cordoba and Granada. Roman columns and Visigoth capitals scarfed for a tremendous mosque that now has a Baroque church plunked down in the middle of it, for example.
Inside of the Mosque-Cathedral at Cordoba.
But naturally, cracking the tapas code was high up on the list as well!
A bar in central Granada where we had the most delicious ham in the world.
It was fabulous to be away, and so lovely to be home now.