Drawing Your Life

I have already told you about Danny Gregory´s fabulous book about creativity, "The Artistic Licence". He is also one of the people behind Sketchbook Skool, which looks like a pretty interesting project. I was curious for something more personal by him, and got this, "Everyday Matters", which is a memoir of sorts, a compilation I would assume, of pages from his own personal illustrated diary, with a no doubt heavily edited text to make a coherent story.

It starts when he and his wife Patti are a young, successful couple in New York, he is an advertiser, she a stylist, they have a dog and a new baby, and the terrible thing happens: she falls onto the railway track and is run over by a train. Her spine is crushed and she ends up wheel chair bound.

This book has none of that cheerful entusiasm that "The Artistic Licence" had, as you can imagine. This is personal, this is an account of what it´s like to have life - as you expected it to be - taken away from you. Gregory starts to draw in an attempt to deal with things - the word he keeps using is "slow"; this new life is slower than it used to be, and that is frustrating. Some things he took for granted are suddenly out of reach. Some things he took for granted now seems incredibly valuable. Other things he took for granted means nothing any more.

These aren´t cute drawings of beautiful still lifes. There is no sentimental glow to any of Gregory´s drawings. His surroundings - as he sees it - is what I recognize when I look around my own home, just the stuff of every day. Gregory draws himself into his new life. What Gregory is communicating to me is a lack of self-awareness - a mindfulness - that I find admirable and difficult to obtain. Perhaps only really difficult times can get you there. Or drawing, I hope.



This post at Austin Kleon´s blog made me smile, as I had just been tossing out a few pages in my diary on how my reading was frustrating me. A prayer-answer, if ever.

I am really into no 14 on his list right now: "I will re-read favorite books the way I watch favorite movies and play favorite records over and over." Actually, I feel a bit like I have gone into some kind of literary fetal position, if that makes any sense. Comfort reading in the extreme, for me anyhow. I am trying to be kind to myself, though, as life is crazy right now, both inside and outside. Things are changing - in a fundamental way - I can feel it and I am eager for it, but it´s not yet ready. It´s like being very, very hungry and having to wait another three hours for the stew to brew. (I don´t suppose stews actually brew, but I like how that rhyme.)

Also, no 8: "I will not finish books I don’t like", no 10: "I will throw a book across the room", and no 21: "If I hate a book, I will keep my mouth shut". Actually, even no 22: "I will make liberal use of the phrase, “It wasn’t for me.”". Yeah. It´s painful to realize someone was hurt by a remark you made and you can´t take it back. So, will I only blog books I like? Can´t really blog something I stopped reading and tossed across the room, I guess. (Though I´m sure I have done.)

As you can tell, I am having a bit of a reading crisis and it´s been coming on slowly all year. It´s just a small part of the whole change, though. Since I stopped working on that novel of mine and started doing other things, reading just isn´t the same, and the reasons for picking up a book has changed. Writing anything, even blogging, has changed. Or rather, is changing. I just made a list of things to work towards, with a deadline that is nine months ahead of me, so the fetal analogy isn´t so far off. I am tempted to make changes happen, make declarations of this and that, but it just isn´t the time. I´ll just wait and see.


Trip to the Mediterranean

As I was doing away with my desk (turning my study into a studio for this winter´s art classes) I found a note to self to go see a librarian about a book. The book in question is "Medelhavsresa" (= trip to the Mediterranean) by Birger Lundquist from 1952. It was published the year he died, only 42 years old.

This is drawings we are talking about, not stories. Birger Lundquist was a famous illustrator (of whom I have written before) at Sweden´s number one daily newspaper, Dagens Nyheter, from the 1930´s. According to the foreword by Georg Svensson, this was his first trip abroad. He set out in the fall of 1937 - to get away from some personal problems (his daughter with colleague and journalist Barbro Alving was born in 1938, so that might have had something to do with it) - and the drawings are from that trip. Some of them were published in the paper at the time, but most not.

Lundquist was a prolific draughtsman, he was never without a pen and a pad according to the legend, which also says that there were some 80.000 drawings among his belongings when he died, and he had given many away, as he was not precious about is art.

He said that he learned how to really draw on this journey, and that he owed much of it to the French artist Jean Launois, whom he met in Oran and Tlemcen. Svensson claims that Launois was an obscure artist no one but Lundquist had heard about, who died from drunkenness in 1948. A quick googling shows he was important enough to have a Wikipedia article, which states that he died in 1942, and there is some of his art on different sites, like this one. He certainly could draw, and I don´t doubt that he taught Lundquist quite a bit, or that they drowned their sorrows together in the strong stuff; there are quite a few drawings in this book from bars.

Most of the drawings - which are only a small selection of what I imagine is a suitcase full, at least - are of people on the streets. Lundquist really knew how to capture a character, sometimes slipping over into caricature, particularly in the drawings he elected to send home to be published. You can really see the fashion of the day in the girls hair and makeup, even if he only uses his reservoir pen - they all look like little Edith Piafs. But he also has some more scenic city views, and it´s amazing to see what he could express with only a pen, and pretty fast too, I think. The energetic, confident line speaks of a restlessness that almost seems manic. Some drawings are watercoloured, but this wasn´t something he did much

I love these drawings, and will forever aspire to be able to work a pen like this. This is urban sketching before the concept existed, and it is just too bad he died so young. I would have loved to see what he could have done as a mature artist.

Throughout, Lundquist makes wonderful sketches of hands,
which is very hard. 

I love this composition: the minaret, the camels, the robe, hat and the expressive hand.
I  bet he did this in seconds. 

I have never been to Athens, but the husband went earlier this year, and I thought I recognized the mountain on the lower half of the page. I bet he stood on pretty much the same place as Lundqvist did when he took this snap, or what do you think? Or perhaps on the hill in the drawings middleground, depending on what kind of lens he had on.


The Bones of Paris

I had finished the third novel in the Lord Peter Wimsey series and felt like I needed a change. Not a big change, but a little one. I decided to stay in the 1920´s and in the genre, and bought the second in what I imagine is becoming a longer series about former US agent Harris Stuyvesant, who was the hero of "Touchstone" by Laurie R King. This one is titled "The Bones of Paris", and Paris is where we find Harris now. It´s been three years since the last story took place, his friend Bennet Grey is back in his cottage at Land´s End, and Bennet´s sister Sarah, who was also Harris´s love interest, has disappeared, badly wounded from the ordeal they went through together and needing time to heal, alone. Harris is hurt, but also understanding and patiently waiting for her to get in touch again. Not that his emotional loyalty to Sarah stops him from having one or two flings...

Laurie R King has a great
moodboard on Pinterest!
After going in circles around Europe, stopping here and there, working both in bars and as a private investigator, Harris is in Berlin when he gets the assignment to locate a missing American heiress, Pip Crosby, with whom he had a short relationship at the south coast of France a few months earlier. He returns to Paris and goes in search of her, expecting to find her in some arts or political commune, doped up by drugs or ideals. He reaquaints himself with the Paris of the artists and American expats, the writers (like Hemingway and Fitzgerald), the visual artists (like Man Ray, Picasso, Matisse, Dali, Buñuel), the models (Kiki, Lee Miller), he sees films like "An Andalusian Dog", and strikes up an awkward friendship with a police officer, Doucet, who is troubled by what he sees as a cult of death in the art community and investigating a disturbingly long list of missing people who were connected to it. As were Pip Crosby.

Pip had also been the mistress of a Parisian count, Dominic Charmentier, the man behind a horror-burlesque type theatre which he claims provides a release to those tormented by the memories and losses of the war. As Harris goes investigating the man and his connections, to his surprise, he finds that the duke´s assistant is his own Sarah Grey. Though she is hardly his any more, but turns out to be engaged to the police officer Doucet!

By now, I did find that the number of coincidences were a bit too remarkable. Or was it that what Stuyvesant was uncovering seemed so disturbing? I try to avoid books with perverse murderers going after women and children, and found myself so eagerly distracted from the reading, that when one of Laurie R King´s newsletters came in my mailbox, I started re-reading old Mary Russell stories instead of going ahead with Harris´s search for Pip.

I realized during this reading how much I like the way King can turn a phrase. I´m not really capable of grading English prose on a scale of beauty, but she is to my taste, that´s for sure. Finally, I pulled myself together and read to the end. Which was happy enough, but pretty hairy just before the finishing line, just as you would expect. And now I am knee-deep in "The Beekeeper´s Apprentice", again...