Friday, October 24, 2008

When beautiful is true

Beauty is truth, truth beauty,-- that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know."
John Keats -- Ode on a Grecian Urn
I was raised on Keats; my mother could quote any
poem she ever read it seems, and did. Plus I
studied English Literature at university, and the
teachers who taught us about the Romantic poets
were some of the most inspired and engaging
professors I ever met.

So...Keats was my mentor, my hero, my demigod.
As an adult, mature and thoughtful I suppose I'm
like the duckling that imprints on an eagle. I can't
shake the idea that celebrating beauty is important
in life and in art. That doesn't mean turning my
back on ugliness -- not noticing what we're doing
to our planet, not trying to vote responsibly, live
without polluting, sending the odd bit of extra cash
I get to help people out around the world.

It means that I think art that is about what works
on the planet -- flowers, lovely human moments,
beautiful fabric, glorious scenery -- matters.

Line drawing in Sharpie pen on bond sketch paper
The photo is too dark, I'll try redoing it tomorrow

As a young girl right out of university, I survived
a stint of horrendous work at a pizza restaurant
with a boss who was unscrupulously cruel. I'd
heard that the small town I lived in was a mecca
for artists. One day someone introduced me to a
young woman artist and I went to her studio to see slides
of her work. She created "art" out of dead animals
stuffed in awkward poses by a taxidermist, standing
in shattered glass.

I can thank her now because she depressed me so
much when I added her disturbing art to the mix
of bad work and no pay I was dealing with, that I left
town and never looked back. I can also thank her, because
she helped me decide that art could be beautiful,
and that creating appealing work was a calling
every bit as important as shocking and horrifying
the public.

In short she sent me crying for mercy back into
the pages of John Keats, where I now live
celebrating the beauty I see any chance I get.

The drawing tonight is one I'm working on in
preparation for a painting of the flower lady
at the Brick Works market. The drawing is
probably uber detailed, the painting will most
likely be much less so.

I like how she disappears behind the mass of
greenery and blooms. Half of what she sells
I've never seen anywhere else, and that's the
beauty of her bouquets. Which sends us back
to the theme.

Have a knowing-beauty-day.


Theresa Rankin said...

Bravo....The romantic poets are among my favorites! I always enjoy what you have to say important, meaningful and beautiful.....and very close to my beliefs. Your line drawing is wonderful and I can't wait to see it infused with your painterly style and joyful color. You shine!

artbymj said...

Thank you for this posting. I think I'll print it out as a reminder on those days when I need encouragement. "Celebrating the beauty" - I'd much rather start my day this way!

Barbara M. said...

Thanks Theresa,

I'm glad you liked the romantic poets.

I hope to get going on the painting
this week.

Take care,

You shine too!


Barbara M. said...

Thanks MJ,

There's so much to celebrate when
you view the world that way!


Anonymous said...

Brava! Yeah, to the celebration of beauty. Thank you, thank you. mic

Barbara M. said...

Hi Mic,

Yes -- it's a good thing.

"Celebrate good times, come on,
let's celebrate." (one of my favorite


eldon said...

I'm afraid I don't know Keats from Shinola but I can share the sentiment of beauty all around in the not so beautiful or obvious places. Even some of the back allies down in the slums hold a certain charm.ew

Eldon said...

I've painted a spot in Rocky Mountain National Park so many times I should be famous for it!
Some subjects just stick. I'll send ya a photo. EW

Barbara M. said...

Hi Eldon,
I agree -- you can easily read Keats on your computer. You make me laugh so much. I don't know Shinola. But Keats died of TB at 25, so as much as he was a genius, he didn't get to grow old and enjoy his life.

I agree with you. After discovering Diebenkorn's abstract industrial landscapes, I started to see beauty even in stark industrial areas of town. I could imagine the shapes forming a painting. Someday I'll give that a whirl.

Take care,


Barbara M. said...

Hi Eldon,

Some of the photos on your blog take my breath away. When we travel we always head east to our place in Nova Scotia. We see the Appalachian mountains, but they don't quite compare with the Rockies do they.

Take care,


Portrait Artist

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