Monthly Archives: July 2016

On Not Being Able to Draw

Walt Whitman 20 minute portrait

Sketch (by me) of Walt Whitman as a young man

You shall no longer take things at second or third hand, nor
     look through the eyes of the dead, nor feed on the
     spectres in books,
You shall not look through my eyes either, nor take things
     from me,
You shall listen to all sides and filter them from your self.

–Walt Whitman, Song of Myself

Those who know of Joanna Field’s fascinating book “On Not Being Able to Paint” will recognize the hat-tip in this post’s title. Her book includes poignantly honest descriptions of the act of seeing. Not thinking about seeing, or seeing what she’d been told was there, or looking “through the eyes of the dead.” Not anything but what happened when, for instance, one object seemed to meet another as she looked out her own two eyes. Seeing for oneself.

I’ve been on an elusive quest to, as they say, find my voice as an artist.  The great jazz musician Miles Davis once said, You have to play for a long time to play like yourself. I believe that is true, though I have not “played” long enough yet as an artist or even as just a person. The elusive nature of the quest is compounded by the whole “self” idea. What is myself? The more closely I look, the more slippery the whole concept becomes, Continue reading


Who Is My Brother?

A few weeks ago, a friend suggested we set a special intention for the victims of a horrific act of violence.  (Which one, you ask? The list grows daily. Real people died in each one.)

I thought my friend had a good idea; I was on-board with it. But before I could follow through, I heard about another violent tragedy. Somehow it was able to shock me even though I was already reeling. The death toll in the second circumstance was even higher than the first. (Which means what, exactly? If every life is an infinity, is 100 times infinity more than 50 times infinity?)

Suddenly it felt odd to honor one set of victims in light of this news about the others.  Yet in smearing the particular into the generic–“we’ll pray for everybody, all at once”–I started to lose focus. Too many faces to visualize, too many names to read. I started to feel the overwhelm that has hit many of us lately. New shocks are coming too fast, I can’t/don’t wish to numb them out but something inside has broken loose and I’m feeling adrift. Continue reading