I think the opening line in any form of writing – letter, essay, novel, blog, journal, report, thesis – is always the hardest to conquer. I frequently think I have so much to say and then sit down to say it and find my mind has gone completely blank. That may, however, have a lot to do with the fact that I almost always am writing these blog posts at the very end of my week, and often through the foggy mental state of not-enough-sleep that all new mums are sadly too familiar with. A few years ago I went to a talk by one of my favourite authors; Alexander McCall Smith, and mostly all I can remember from that night besides his infectious laugh and sense of humour, was his emphasis on the importance of writing a great opening line. He said his favourite sentence of all time had to be from the memoir Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen; “I had a farm in Africa, at the foot of the Ngong Hills”. If you, like me, have had the privilege of spending any amount of time calling Africa your home, you will understand the sense of heartfelt longing that those words evoke.
Anyhow, fortunately it’s not my aim to write a masterpiece every week with my little blog, but rather just to share some ramblings on whatever is fuelling my creativity and sometimes a few musings on things like the challenges of motherhood and how to better appreciate the work of an artist. Actually, last week’s blog entry was non-existent as I was madly dashing around finalising last-minute details for my baby sister’s hen’s party; making her flower crown, adding pressed flowers to the three-tier buttercream frosted cake (above), picking sweet peas and roses to arrange in vintage vases, and making sure I had remembered to launder a dress for the party. It’s been a happy and full couple of weeks, and I’ve so enjoyed the opportunity to apply my creativity to some fun projects outside of my time intensive drawings.
Alongside all of this, I’ve started reading When a Crocodile Eats the Sun by Peter Godwin, and it’s reminding me of so much of the sadness in my home country of Zimbabwe in those last years living there before we immigrated to Australia in 2001. I will have to share more on this at a later stage, but so far the book is a great read and Godwin writes thoughtfully and sensitively on topics that are emotionally loaded for many of us ex-Africans.
Run with the Horses by Eugene H. Peterson is another beautiful read – I’m only a few chapters into this one but it’s uplifting, encouraging and thought-provoking for those walking a journey of faith.
After writing about Big Eyes a couple of weeks ago, I went on to watch Colette – another account of a woman pushed to create work that her husband claims as being his own. I honestly found both films hard to watch until the end, especially because the male leads play their roles so well and are, frankly, quite creepy. Throughout the entire movie I kept wondering why Colette’s husband (Dominic West) looked so familiar, before realising that he’s the alcoholic cop in The Wire. Thinking about both movies, what nags at me most of all, is the fact that so many people believed that each man could actually create the work they were falsely claiming as their own. In Big Eyes, you have a very extroverted, over-the-top charmer claiming that he painted those delicate, sensitive artworks full of big, sad eyes. In Colette, again you have a larger than life, middle-aged male claiming to have written stories about a schoolgirl and her life growing up in the country. Frankly I think there is too little said about the fact that art should be authentic to the artist creating it, and in each movie that discrepancy between the male ‘artist’ and their personality, to the work they were claiming as their own, should at least have raised a few red flags to the audience of the time. It’s interesting on the other hand, that the women in each movie, the ones who were the true artists, were living versions of the work they were creating. Their work was a reflection of who they really were, and it made sense to think of them creating it. For this reason alone, I am at peace with my own detailed, precise, methodically produced representational artwork, because I know that this is true to who I am, even though realism and skill are two unfashionable words in the contemporary art scene. I like to think that meeting an artist in person should make more sense of the work they create, not less. I know it would not be truthful for me to be splashing paint around like an abstract expressionist when, at least for now, I’m anything but.
On a lighter note, I’ve watched most of the new Amazon series Modern Love, and apart from the first and second episodes, have been quite disappointed with the rest. Apparently the essays as they originally appeared in The New York Times’, are quite good, so I’ve made a note of reading those instead, or at least listening to the podcast while I’m drawing. I also went to the movies on my own for the first time a few weeks ago to watch Downton Abbey. I thought I would enjoy the experience but I felt a bit self-conscious sitting there by myself. The movie was great though – lavish sets and costumes, beautiful soundtrack and visually stunning. It made me want to visit the UK again. I’m sure Downton Abbey has done wonders for British tourism.
I’ve been struggling my way through the Andy Warhol book I borrowed from the library. In all honesty, I don’t see myself finishing it simply because I guess I’m not particularly interested in Warhol to start with. His art has never captivated me (either intellectually or via pulling on my heartstrings) – and I really can’t stand the fact that he was mostly chasing fame and money with his work (at least that’s what it seems so far from this book). I don’t have a problem with artists making a living from their work (or making a fortune) but churning out work through a factory isn’t something I personally aspire to, and I find it hard to relate to the mentality of an artist who would wish to do so. Particularly now that our world is so clogged full of tacky plastic ‘Made in China’, I love art that has taken time and care to create, and that speaks of master craftsmanship over dollar signs and mass production. Call me old fashioned but I’d take that as a compliment anyway!