Sunday morning, studio cat Ghost and I are sitting in the chair listening to Beethoven’s ninth and the birdsong, reading a ‘new’ book that arrived from a secondhand bookshop in the States.
I like these older books because they tend to have more in them, more thoughts and less how-to broken down to the nth. While the photos may be black and white, they’re full of gems that require “reading with a pencil”. Like this:
The joy of printed books, with paper pages to feel, hold, turn. The quality of the printing, the weight of the paper, the style of the binding. The typography, page layout. Joys before reading starts.
Fiction books filled with imagination. Non-fiction books filled with things to be learned and discovered. Art books opening with a creak to release that new-book-ink smell. Books to read from cover to cover, others to dip in randomly. Joys of deciding which book next.
For me, Christmas is synonymous with books, a pile of treasure. Some I’ve mentioned to the in-house-art-critic, others are a surprise. They’re bought across the year and saved in the Christmas box. This is what I’ll be reading into next year:
Top to bottom:
Artemis — science fiction set on the Moon, by the author of a book I’ve read multiple times, The Martian, which was made into a film I’ve watched several times. I stayed up reading it, and will read it again to enjoy the writing more slowly now I know the plot.
Barbara Hepworth: Writings and Conversations — a long-time favourite artist of the in-house art critic and an artist whose geometric abstracts have increasingly grown on me. We visited her studio in St Ives once.? No doubt it’ll be a source of some Monday Motivators.
Perennial Seller : The Art of Making and Marketing Work that Lasts by Ryan Holiday — a book for the business side of life.
Paintings by Peder Balke — a relatively unknown Norwegian artist.
Australia’s Impressionists — catalogue from an exhibition at the National Gallery in London.
What Color is the Wind? — an inspiring illustrated children’s book; not only the answer to the question, but the tactile elements on the pages.
Turner’s Sketchbooks — guess the in-house-art critic has been listening when I’ve enthused about looking at Turner’s sketchbooks in Tate Britain. Becoming more Turner-esque in my painting of skies is on my current artistic wishlist.
The Artist’s Model — a book figurative painter Alan McGowan showed us during the life-painting workshop I went on in October.
Mondrian and his Studios: Colour in Space — explores how Mondrian developed his iconic geometric abstracts.
A River of Words — illustrated children’s book on William Carlos Williams, a poet I’ve loved since I first encountered the poem “This Is Just To Say“.
Donald Teskey — exhibition catalogue of a contemporary Irish landscape painter.
Paul Klee: Painting Music — “One day I must be able to improvise freely on the keyboard of colours: the row of watercolours in my paintbox”.
The Anatomy of Colour: The Story of Heritage Paints and Pigments — for heavy-duty colour enthusiasts, a look at the use of colour and paint in interior decoration history (or the answer to “would my painting have matched the walls” through the ages).
Drawing and Painting by Kate Wilson, who as an evening-class art tutor at City Lit in London taught me so much, not least about the art of constructive critique.
Monet The Collector — a book on the artwork that Monet collected rather than his own paintings.
Norman Ackroyd: A Shetland Notebook –?watercolours from a journey to Shetland islands by an artist known primarily as a printmaker.
Missing from photo: The Modern Mind: An Intellectual History of the 20th Century — a tome for bedtime reading. First random opening I was at a piece about the impact of artists fleeing war-torn Nazi Europe and arriving in New York.
Studio cat Ghost has been helping me with the ‘admin’ side of getting ready for my exhibition at Skyeworks, all the things that need to be done besides the ‘fun’ bit (creating the paintings vs painting edges, varnishing, adding d-rings and wire, photos, price list etc). His favourite role is photography assistant, providing the white for checking contrast.
Know all those photos of artists in their studios with serene studio cats sleeping on a chair or cushion that get shared around the web? Well, I’ve tried telling Studio Cat Ghost, but he prefers a more active, investigative role. and clambering over canvas.
The thought of starting a new painting becomes a munro to cling my way up, scree to negotiate, rather than a path to skip along past the buttercups and foxgloves. Colours seem murkier, brushes harder to clean, compositions falter, tones become darker and darker. Guilt at not creating, not being sufficiently productive, enters the room, stirring up the sediment of doubts and uncertainties. The b-word — block — raises its unsettling head. Sorrow saps enjoyment from the things I know I thrive on doing, drains energy and motivation, seeps into thoughts in unexpected and untimely ways, digs up things that were put behind and clouds the view.
This is not the first time, nor shall it be the last, because that’s how life goes. I know to expect to not feel like creating, to get frustrated by the results far too quickly when I do start. I know it shall pass, not to beat myself up about it. Time rounds off the edges like a river rounds stones in its path, water rushing determinedly and unstoppably towards the sea.
Behind every silver lining there’s a cloud. Behind every cloud there’s another silver lining. Behind the clouds and silver linings are thoughts of iridescent titanium white, interesting greys for clouds, blues for seascapes, that perhaps it’s time to finally try painting that little fishing trawler on the wide open Minch because I’m messing things up anyway.
There is a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance paint.
Footnote for anyone who’s in the “it’s just a cat” category: It is and it isn’t. It’s also about all the events from all the years this particular cat lived with us, all the family members, both feline and human.