Posts Tagged ‘Brain Pickings’

I think as an artist it’s very easy to [equate self-worth with artistic success] because of the nature of the work. If you think of art as a job, then your product is so much more than hours invested. The product is a piece of yourself, so of course if the reception is not the greatest, then it can feel like a direct hit to who you are as a person. I think this happened a lot more when I was younger and still finding my way around. I would doubt my direction when a viewer wasn’t thrilled. The trick for me is not to put more distance between my work and myself, but to close that gap completely. I can see myself in the art that I create, and that builds a wall of confidence.

–Hollie Chastain


I was reading a bit this morning on one of my favorite websites, Brain Pickings, when I came across this quote from contemporary artist Hollie Chastain, a Tennessee based artist who works in paper art and collage. The quote was included in an article about creative blocks and her words really spoke to me.

I liked the idea that at some point there is no gap between the artist and their work. The artist is the work and vice versa. But that term she employed, wall of confidence, really hit home. I see ias being t something that comes with continuing to stick with what you know is true to who you are as an artist and not being swayed by momentary lapses in confidence. It’s a wall that protects you from the peaks and valleys that come in the course of a career, that shield you from those times when you are not the flavor of the month.

It’s a wall that allows you to fight off creative blocks, knowing that you are secure in your own vision and the work that flows from it.

When that wall is there, you– actually, I should be saying I here–just have to get to work. And that is what I am going to do.

Thanks for the good words, Hollie.

You should check out Hollie Chastain‘s work. Good stuff. You can get to her site by clicking here.

I Came to Get Down-Hollie Chastain

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NeilGaiman-by-AdrienDegganI tend to think that all forms of art– music, literature, dance and the visual arts– somehow transmit information or knowledge of some sort that enhances our lives as humans.  It is something beyond the sheer pleasure it offers, something deeper and necessary.

In the most recent post from Maria Popova‘s wonderful site, Brain Pickings,  there is an outline ( and an available full Soundcloud recording) of a recent lecture from author Neil Gaiman ( of Sandman fame among many other things) where he speaks on the purpose and lives of stories, how stories grow and spread through time and cultures.

One of my favorite bits from this post came as Gaiman illustrates the purpose of story telling in telling an anecdote about his cousin Helen, a 97-year-old Holocaust survivor:

A few years ago, she started telling me this story of how, in the ghetto, they were not allowed books. If you had a book … the Nazis could put a gun to your head and pull the trigger — books were forbidden. And she used to teach under the pretense of having a sewing class… a class of about twenty little girls, and they would come in for about an hour a day, and she would teach them maths, she’d teach them Polish, she’d teach them grammar…

One day, somebody slipped her a Polish translation of Margaret Mitchell’s novel Gone with the Wind. And Helen stayed up — she blacked out her window so she could stay up an extra hour, she read a chapter of Gone with the Wind. And when the girls came in the next day, instead of teaching them, she told them what happened in the book.

And each night, she’d stay up; and each day, she’d tell them the story.

And I said, “Why? Why would you risk death — for a story?”

And she said, “Because for an hour every day, those girls weren’t in the ghetto — they were in the American South; they were having adventures; they got away.

I think four out of those twenty girls survived the war. And she told me how, when she was an old woman, she found one of them, who was also an old woman. And they got together and called each other by names from Gone with the Wind…

We [writers] decry too easily what we do, as being kind of trivial — the creation of stories as being a trivial thing. But the magic of escapist fiction … is that it can actually offer you a genuine escape from a bad place and, in the process of escaping, it can furnish you with armor, with knowledge, with weapons, with tools you can take back into your life to help make it better… It’s a real escape — and when you come back, you come back better-armed than when you left.

Helen’s story is a true story, and this is what we learn from it — that stories are worth risking your life for; they’re worth dying for. Written stories and oral stories both offer escape — escape from somewhere, escape to somewhere.

I think that is a wonderful example of how art serves as a template or pattern that we can follow in order to survive life in general.  And as I said, that is one of the great purposes of art.

Please check out the full article on Brain Pickings.


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GC Myers- Trio:Three SquaresI came across this poem from author Wendell Berry on Maria Popova‘s wonderful site, Brain Pickings.  It’s a lovely rumination that could apply to any creative endeavor or to simply being a human being.  I particularly identified with the final verse that begins with the line: Accept what comes from silence.  I’ve always thought there was great wisdom and power in silence, a source of self-revelation.  Perhaps that is why so many of us shun the silence, fearing that it might reveal our true self to be something other than what we see in the mirror. Berry’s words very much sum up how I attempt to tap into silence with my work.

At the bottom is a recording of Wendell Berry reading the poem which gives it even a little more depth, hearing his words in that rural Kentucky voice.  It’s fairly short so take a moment and give a listen.

(to remind myself)

Make a place to sit down.
Sit down. Be quiet.
You must depend upon
affection, reading, knowledge,
skill — more of each
than you have — inspiration,
work, growing older, patience,
for patience joins time
to eternity. Any readers
who like your poems,
doubt their judgment.

Breathe with unconditional breath
the unconditioned air.
Shun electric wire.
Communicate slowly. Live
a three-dimensioned life;
stay away from screens.
Stay away from anything
that obscures the place it is in.
There are no unsacred places;
there are only sacred places
and desecrated places.

Accept what comes from silence.
Make the best you can of it.
Of the little words that come
out of the silence, like prayers
prayed back to the one who prays,
make a poem that does not disturb
the silence from which it came.

Wendell Berry

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Matisse with chalk drawing of Picasso- Brassai Photo

Matisse with chalk drawing of Picasso- Brassai Photo

There was an article the other day on Brain Pickings that contained some words on inspiration and creativity that Pablo Picasso had passed on to famed photographer Brassai during the many times that he had photographed and interviewed the artist over the course of thirty years.  It’s a short article with only a few points and, more importantly, a link to an earlier article concerning Picasso’s views on success .  Both are interesting articles that I recommend but what caught my eye was a photo  accompanying the first article  of Henri Matisse with a chalk drawing he had done while blindfolded.

It reminded me of an exercise I periodically use where I attempt to draw faces with my eyes tightly closed.  It usually  involves a single line and is pretty rudimentary.  The whole idea is to be able to visualize an image in your mind and  follow it there with your hand, overcoming the disconnect that comes with the closed eyes.  There are moments when the concentration kicks in and I can feel my hand and the image in a sort of harmony.  It’s a nice little brain exercise.

Seeing the Matisse photo made me want to get a chalkboard and try this exercise on a larger scale, where the sweeping motion of the arm and hand might be easier to synchronize with the mind’s image than with the smaller strokes of  pen on paper such as those below, done on  old newsprint with a ballpoint pen.  They are certainly nothing to celebrate but what I am looking for is a certainty in line and curve  as well as a similarity to my own eyes-open doodles. In that aspect, I am pleased.

Give it  a try.  It’s a nice little exercise for your mind…

GC Myers- Blindfold DoodlesThis one below was done slightly larger and with a few minutes of practice.  Both the size and practice improve the image.


GC Myers- Blindfold DoodlesTh

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JRR Tolkien Drawing for "THe Hobbit"

JRR Tolkien Drawing for “The Hobbit”

Today, on the website, BrainPickings.org, a wonderfully informative site written by Maria Popova, there is a great post on the art of  The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien‘s classic fantasy that has thrilled young and old alike for more than 75 years now.  It includes Tolkien’s own  drawings, which are quite impressive (one of my favorites is at the top of this post),  as well as a number of other artists’ conceptualizations,  taken from a number of editions from around the world.  There are drawings from Swedish, Czech,  Japanese and   Russian  editions, each very unique in their take on the Tolkien tale.  It’s great to see these other translations of this story that has become part of our universal culture.

Below is a group from Swedish-Finn artist Tove Jansson‘s 1962 Swedish edition of the book.  They are among my favorites although it’s hard to single out any one, so beautifully done are they all. Please click on the Tolkien drawing at the top to go to BrainPickings and see the entire group.

tovejansson_hobbit tovejansson_hobbit1 tovejansson_hobbit2 tovejansson_hobbit3 tovejansson_hobbit4 tovejansson_hobbit5 tovejansson_hobbit6 tovejansson_hobbit7 tovejansson_hobbit8

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