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P'sMW- page 3
Photos of the spring fair in Sevilla in a new window

Why Humans prefer other Humans to be like themselves

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Associative Personality Disorder

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Shorter of breath, one day closer to death

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Words

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Confidence

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Priests behaving badly

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Further Dialogue on the 20th Century article (here) with comments by Bobby Porter

Love is

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Blind Boy Fuller


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This is not a Blog

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Chivalric ethics

Shibumi


Shibumi: Comments by Bobby Porter

The artist’s relationship to his work

Bobby's response
to The artist's relationship to his work

Egon

20,000+

Memories of my father II

P'sMW- page 6
Men & Women

Girls: come closer & I'll tell you a secret about men

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Art is


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Dogs are the Best People


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Dense, intense and condensed: a short love story.


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Ecco il uomo


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Why do artists paint?

A Monk's Funeral


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What is art? part II- Is modern art, art?

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Thailand: stories


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We'd be better off without Religion

East Meets West


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Frank Zappa

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What is Art? Part I


Note of introduction added to the Masculine-
feminine article

Rebuttal to Raymond S Kraft

P'sMW- page 9
I'm back!

Masculine versus feminine, Muslim versus Buddhist.


Driving with Muslims or Buddhists

Peter Feldstein & Stephen G Bloom's Oxford project

How to argue

On 'happiness', in answer to Ivan's comments.

Thoughts on Happiness

The birth of Chiang Mai

War Story

Happiness Versus Suffering

Cogitations upon observing the life of an ant, from its birth to its death by old age, while I lay in a bathtub.

Scopes II pg 1 of 11

At the beginning of what the media began calling the ‘Scopes II’ trial I thought it would become more polemical than it turned out. I began collecting media reports, commentary, cartoons, defences & attacks published here & there by some of our leading scientists -- I started at the very beginning & continued for about four months.

*  I collected everything from science & Church to morality, philosophy, etymology, politics, poetry & parody, like the clever & funny web-site called the Spaghetti Monster. Also a bit of history, historical quotes on the subject & transcriptions of interviews & debates with Richard Dawkins & the like.

* Unfortunately the trials weren’t as amusing as they might have been if the Intelligent Design camp had better arguments & more credible support but in the end I think I have compiled a fascinating & entertaining document.

* It covers both sides thoroughly &, I hope, with a minimum of repetition (& includes links to further reference).

* I have added my two cents here & there in red. It is chronological with dates noted.  I originally saved it to a very large (260 page) Word.doc which I have converted to 11 pages of web site weighing between 30 & 130 or so kbs each.

Scopes II pg 1 of 11


Self portrait Sept 09. oils on panel 10 x 8 inches (25 x 20 cm)

Self portrait May 09. Oils on panel 10 x 8 inches (25 x 20 cm)

Self-portrait Jan 31, 09. Oils on panel 10 x 8 inches

Self-portrait May 2008

Self-portrait 1994. Oils on canvas on board 100 x 50 cm

Self portrait 2

Self portrait 4

Self-portrait 2004. Oils on gold ground on panel. 45 x 45 cm

Self portrait 5

Self portrait 6

Self portrait 7

Self-portrait 2007

Oil sketch. Oils on panel


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Last updated- 31st of May 2008

Self-portrait 2007. Oil on canvas 110 x 90 cm

I've never believed in God, but I believe in Picasso.
DIEGO RIVERA

Painting: the art of protecting flat surfaces from the weather and exposing them to the critic.
AMBROSE BIERCE

At moments of great enthusiasm it seems to me that no one in the world has ever made something this beautiful and important.
M.C. ESCHER

The happiest of all lives is a busy solitude.
VOLTAIRE (François-Marie Arouet de-)

In art the hand can never execute anything higher than the heart can inspire
RALPH WALDO EMERSON

Click here to try Paul's fun & challenging:
Art-Q Quiz!
pg1 - pg2 - pg3

The admittedly prudish influence on filmmaking of a 1950’s United States still trying to cast itself as good guy after killing more bad guys than the bad guys killed good guys in the second world war, had Niven make the only choice possible after succeeding in getting Claudia Cardinale’s character to try Champagne for the first time.  

The wary virgin Princess does a ‘Letters to Penthouse’ reversal under its influence, offering herself lewdly (& in the only moment of verisimilitude between the character Cardinale plays & Cardinale herself) to the calculating & caddish sexual conqueror (old enough to be her… uh, uncle?).  

He, none-the-less, being in the end: a decent sportsman who follows the Queensbury rules, doesn't exploit the advantage, instead- he puts her to bed fully clothed & waits for a level battle-field on whose turf he will wage his gentlemanly war on the morrow…

So what? Does this make me a hopeless Doris Day romantic? Or is, as I’ve implied elsewhere on the pages of this blog- the manipulation of one sex by the other, (always within the rules of courtesy & fair play) the real sport of kings?

addendum May 26: I have had comments that make me realize my last sentence (above) makes too much inference without enough data (!) This is what I meant: The word 'manipulation' does not deserve its strictly negative rap; manipulation of one person by another can be either bad or good, & seduction is a good example- all seduction (even when motivated by the purest love) involves manipulation... does that explain what I meant?

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Friday May 23rd, 2008

Shibumi (700 words)

As crass as the Japanese can be with their little-girl-undies fantasies & terrible cartoons; & as deep as is their aesthetic debt to China, they have, I think, a profound, sophisticated & unique sense of it- that is very different to our, occidental, tradition & attitude to aesthetics theory.

They have, one might say- apropos to the concept, a word to describe this aesthetic sense- which has no definition...!

Shibumi*- what a wonderfully elitist Word! But it makes sense to describe the experience of aesthetic appreciation, impossible in itself to describe in words, with a word that requires an understanding that goes beyond the definition of words with words.

In the world of contemporary occidental art every technique & possible intent or impact has a clever phrase that quantifies & defines it, making anyone who goes to class or reads the books, able to talk-the-talk without necessarily understanding the walk.  

Here in Spain the same might be said of Flamenco or bullfighting, where every pass, every variation, every dance step, has a name but those ‘who know’ can declare “He has duende” (spirit, soul, art) or "Don" (gift, profound understanding) where he who doesn’t 'know'- merely looks foolish when he makes the same observation (like shouting òle at the wrong moment!) 'knowing' can be faked as little as it can be defined.**

Shibui vessel

The Japanese vessel above might encompass the tenets of shibui- the essence of simplicity in that there is nothing left to remove. Nothing extraneous, even the pretension of a methodical care in its making that could easily have achieved any number of indistinguishably, perfectly- circular bowls.

Art without artistry.

Or as Kan'ami, the 14th century founder of the Noh theatre, said: I want to create a play where anything that could be added would make it less good.

I remember learning the word, shibui, in a high school English class & as part of my teacher’s cultural & linguistic challenge in describing its meaning to us, she used: imbalance, asymmetry.  Not a bad beginning, I would say, but what is balance? If balance is simply symmetry, then the Golden Section or Fibonacci’s ratio can also be Shibui.

A traditional Renaissance composition made up of a beautiful Fibonacci nautilus-

Fibonacci spiral

 

Caravaggio

Like this example of the high Renaissance by Caravaggio illustrates, aside from the obvious Fibonacci spiral with its placement of the focal point of the composition firmly in the Golden section with every other element pointing in no uncertain terms to it; it also adhered to other aesthetic rules (that quantified the beauty in a composition) of the time: a seventh of the painting is the dark foreground (to draw the viewer through the mid & far-ground); a seventh of the canvas' light limelights the focal point...

Utamaro, Shunga

A cultured Japanese would undoubtedly frown at my using a sample of the great Utamaro's erotic work (above) in an essay about Shibui but its composition follows the precepts of the same culture.

I wonder at my ignorance's inability to breach the cultural divide (a true abyss of unfathomable depth & darkness!) while being easily & deeply moved by their aesthetic & expressive results.

Would that same, hypothetical, cultured Japanese, shake his head at my inability to choose between a good- badly made bowl, & a bad- badly made bowl? Just as I might his inability to grasp the genius in Rodin's Balzac holding his own erection under the famous robe? (Could be the symbolic incarnation, the very logotype, of French arrogance & vanity- not, I think, very shibui...)

I suppose that in our means of expression the two, i.e. occidental & oriental art, can intersect in these concepts but these same differences in aesthetic judgement also explain why the Japanese embrace the spontaneity & fealty of Impressionism more readily than the more finished Renaissance work with its culturally associated sense of romance & psychology (where we might laud Frans Hall's ability to capture the signs on a face of a debauched life, the Japanese did portraits that celebrated a sage & detached inscrutability) not to mention the symbolism of cultural myth like theology which is in itself a cultural trait regardless of one's personal beliefs.

footnotes from wiki-pedia:

Shibui (渋い) (adjective), or shibumi (渋味) (noun), is a Japanese word which refers to a particular aesthetic of simple, subtle, and unobtrusive beauty. Like other Japanese aesthetic terms, such as iki (below) and wabi-sabi, shibui can apply to a wide variety of subjects, not just art or fashion.

Originating in the Muromachi period (1333-1568) as shibushi, the term originally referred to a sour or astringent taste, such as that of an unripe persimmon. Shibui maintains that literal meaning still, and remains the antonym of amai (甘い), meaning 'sweet'.

However, by the beginnings of the Edo period (1603-1867), the term had gradually begun to be used to refer to a pleasing aesthetic. The people of Edo expressed their tastes in using this term to refer to anything from song to fashion to craftsmanship that was beautiful by being understated, or by being precisely what it was meant to be and not elaborated upon. Essentially, the aesthetic ideal of shibumi seeks out events, performances, people or objects that are beautiful in a direct and simple way, without being flashy.

Expert singers, actors, potters, and artists of all other sorts were often said to be shibui; their expertise caused them to do things beautifully without making them excessive or gaudy.

Today, sometimes baseball players are even said to be shibui when they contribute to the overall success of the team without doing anything to make themselves stand out individually.

The concept of shibui was introduced to the West in 1960, in two special publications of the American magazine House Beautiful.

In James A. Michener's book Iberia the word 'shibui' is referenced as follows: "The Japanese have a word which summarizes all the best in Japanese life, yet it has no explanation and cannot be translated. It is the word shibui, and the best approximation to its meaning is 'acerbic good taste'". Return...

Iki (いき, often written ) is a traditional aesthetic ideal in Japan. The basis of iki is thought to have been formed among commoners (chonin) in Edo, pre-modern Tokyo.

An iki thing/situation would be simple, improvised, straight, restrained, temporary, romantic, ephemeral, original, refined, inconspicuous, etc.

An iki person/deed would be audacious, chic, pert, tacit, sassy, unselfconscious, calm, indifferent, unintentionally coquettish, open-minded, restrained, etc.

An iki thing/person/situation cannot be perfect, artistic, arty, complicated, gorgeous, curved, wordy, intentionally coquettish, or cute.

Iki can be used for almost anything, but especially for people (and their personality and deeds), situation, architecture, fashion, design, etc. It always describes something to do with people, or their will.

Iki is not found in nature itself, but can be found in the human act of appreciating the beauty of nature. The most widely-known Japanese writer embodying iki is Haruki Murakami, who writes straightforwardly of idiosyncratic topics. Contrast Murakami with Yasunari Kawabata, whose work is firmly in the wabi-sabi tradition. Return...

**I am adding this footnote 3 years & 2 months (26/06/11) after writing this article because I have been reading Michener's fine study of Spain: Iberia. When Michener was grappling to define the word 'duende' he, like me but in the inverse, uses 'shibui' in the attempt. Here are some excerpts: "The Japanese have a word, shibui, & the best approximation to its meaning is 'acerb good taste' ... Architecture, landscaping, theatre, art forms, total personal appearance, conduct--all can be shibui if they only are properly acerbic, restrained & in the great tradition of Japan, but what the word finally means no one can say, for it relies on the soul of Japan which is in itself undefinable. Duende is a word like that, but since Spain is not a country given to acerb[ic] restraint the connotation is different ... A singer possesses duende if suddenly she can tilt her voice in such a way that everyone automatically cries ¡Olé! ... a bullfighter has duende when he displays not bravery but unmistakable class. ... duende is something that no man can will upon himself but, occasionally, when he is one with the spirit of a place or with the inherent quality of Spain, it rises from some deep resrve within him."  return

Monday May 26th, 2008

Shibumi: Comments by Bobby Porter (with further comments by me in violet- 500 words)

Good word "shibumi", why is there a feeling of satisfaction- even pleasure when one finds a word to encapsulate a concept that is recognized but not articulated?

It maintains mystery; mystery that is the same magic that works so well for love- which is sometimes lost when the object of our love is known thoroughly…

It's like we don't really "own" a concept unless we have a label for it. I think this is a fairly recent idea and goes partly to explain a general loss of impact of the stand-alone visual image (without written exposition or context) in the visual arts- the change of thinking after the Reformation and the spread of literacy has given primacy to the written word (along with the overuse of visual images that the combination of photography and printing made possible)

Shibui is a concept (as I understand it from your essay) that is of course important to painters and yet it is not something that can be taught or that can be easily explained or deconstructed into rules of composition, it is more of an intuition and something that develops along with the work. Also it is more complicated than just a pure minimalist approach (less is more) but depends on the style, motivation and aesthetic of the painter and is just as true for complicated compositions as for simple ones (what would you cut out of "The Garden of Earthly Delights" for example).

I know what you mean but your example serves to point out our different points of view, though we agree in concept.  Just as we paint differently, we like each other’s work, but we don’t make any attempt to change our work to look like each other’s. 

I, like everybody, have a soft spot for Bosch just as the many childhood hours of searching out miniscule figures doing funny things in the Breughels’ paintings gives them a special warm place in the panoply of art for me; But I don’t consider either of these artists important in the history of art. Bosch especially only looks at the tiny detail he is working on & doesn’t plan compositions in a beautiful way (nor, do I think, does he find the composition’s beauty by intuition as the improvised & spontaneous work particularly valued by lovers of shibui do.) An ideas man, he illustrated thought instead of searching for beauty...

"Dynamic balance" is possibly an adequate definition but it is not just a balance of composition but also how that composition balances with the emotional and philosophical intent of the painting. I love that the word originally meant "sour or astringent taste" and developed from there to mean a "pleasing aesthetic", this suggests the importance of incorporating the "unsweet" to separate a dynamic beauty from the maudlin.

Also liked the word "iki", particularly the possibilities suggested by "not found in nature itself but can be found in the human act of appreciating the beauty of nature"

I have always felt the art lover capable of deep understanding & appreciation is an artist himself though he create nothing...?

Friday May 23rd, 2008

The Oxford Project revisited:

Oxford project book-cover Hunter Tandy, child/adult - 1984/2005

One of the first entries to this blog back in July 2006 was about Peter & Stephen's fascinating Oxford Project. I just received word from Peter (Feldstein) that the high-quality, coffe-table, book version* will be available in September (pdf press release here).

The Oxford Project is a national portrait of overlooked triumphs and travails. In the faces and voices of these strangers, we grow to understand ourselves better. They remind us of who we dreamed we would become, and who we turned out to be.
—From the Introduction by Stephen G. Bloom

So, almost two years later: Congratulations & best of luck to Peter & Stephen!

*From The Oxford Project published by Welcome Books. Photographs ©
2008 Peter Feldstein. Text © 2008 Stephen G. Bloom. Preface © 2008
Gerald Stern. www.welcomebooks.com/theoxfordproject
Return...

Saturday May 3rd, 2008

How to travel (400 words)

The fun in air travel was drained first by its spread into the mediocre, from catering to a thin, jet-set layer of society, to cheap tickets, old aeroplanes & tired, overworked & underpaid stewardesses who the airline is no longer even allowed to choose for being attractive. 

And now: security; security that treats you like a criminal until you show otherwise & are then grudgingly allowed to repack the mess they have made of your baggage & put your shoes back on since they are satisfied the soles are not made of C4 (why do we even know what C4 is?).

Well, as many as may fill the ranks of airport security because of their spineless need Orwell, Animal Farmfor power or for the opportunity to safely display their innate sadism, most have the very difficult job of doing what they are told to people who don’t like it.  The guard is working in a hostile environment, people who feel a sense of injustice, or unjustified intrusion, give the guard all the same clues, reasons for suspicion, as someone who is trying to hide his guilt.

Whether you get a guard eager to flex his power or one who is simply tired of dealing with angry people- be a professional, follow the protocol: amiable but serious, open but respectful, cooperate without volunteering & return eye contact.

Make their job easier- carry no metal, not so much as tin-foil wrapped chocolate (unless it is in your duty-free bag).  Wear flat shoes.  Take your sunglasses off before walking through.  Do not carry the limit allowed of liquids (contact lens solution, shampoo etc) carry none- they will have what you need where you're going. 

Again, smile politely without trying to be friendly, look them in the eye & most importantly: Offer eager cooperation (they are as accustomed as they are resentful to be dealing with pissed-off people all day while just doing their job) but don't volunteer information- wait to be asked.

Keep things in perspective: during the two body-cavity searches I have submitted to in my life, as I bent over, I found that rather than feeling humiliated I felt sorry for the guy with the flashlight in his mouth & was keenly aware of how glad I was that our life decisions (his & mine) had him looking up mine instead I up his...

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Wednesday April 23rd, 2008

How Wang-Fô was saved

Travelling as much as I do I rent houses but leave them, I buy houses but sell them & I end up leaving a trail of belongings behind me, but not all- I do have a few places around the world I have sometimes managed to store my more prized possesions.

Since settling-in here in Spain I have rediscovered many old friends amid boxed objects, antiques picked up here & there, part of my collection of Japanese art & books, many, many boxes of books.

When I opened the box in which a collection of short stories by Marguerite Yourcenar has sat abouta decade I observed myself grab it & hastily clutch it to my chest like a child with a doll- an old favourite I remember well.

I read the first story in bed last night & read it again sitting in the sun this morning. Despite the time since I saw it last I found myself anticipating whole passages & enjoying my forgotten notes in the margins. After this morning's second reading I wanted to share it with an old friend but since I only have it in Spanish I looked it up at Amazon to order it for him only to find it has never been translated to English... it is 1:30 am & I have just finished, 12 uninterrupted hours dedicated to the task.

I'm sure I haven't done old Marguerite justice but it is such a fine story that I am sure its brilliance will shine through even my dismal mangling of her voice- 4000 words here...

Friday March 28th, 2008

Fish Memory (860 words)

I have been living in Spain for almost nine months now.  After almost four years in Thailand it took me a month or so to scrape the rust off of my Spanish as well as to attune to the strong local accent here in Cadiz, but it wasn’t a day or two before I shrugged Thailand off & felt at home here. I am still far from what I have always run away from: the predictable morrow; or run toward: the unpredictable. Yet, I appear to have reached a point where I feel settled enough to have my first moments of nostalgia for the very pleasant time I had there in Chiang Mai.

I gave another television interview today & as we talked of Flamenco & bullfighting, my interlocutor surprised at my familiarity with the subjects*, I suddenly felt the Spanish Paul conflict with the Thai one- my pride & enthusiasm for the traditional ritual killing of a bull juxtaposed on the memory of another blood sport, a Thai one.

Siamese fighting fishIn the irrigation ditches that run between rice paddies the Thai find what we know as Siamese Fighting Fish (Betta Splendens, I used to breed them as a child). The wild fish are not like the exuberantly beautiful, genetically manipulated, Chinese version one sees in jam jars on shelves of pet stores everywhere. The real Siamese Fighting Fish have smaller fins & belligerent bulldog brows & are bred for size, strength, speed & aggressiveness instead of diaphanous angel fins, though like everything Thai, their colours are as brilliant & saturated as the Chinese version.  

Many Thai men are as passionate about the little fish as Spanish men are for Canaries.Thai fighting fish Meetings are held, usually outdoors, where dozens of men turn up with their collections of little jars and/or a gambling stake. They then gather in a tight group with a cooperation that allows all to see that would be impossible for American men (their kinespheres are too large) around the jar the two fighting males are joined.

It is not a fast & furious fight like one between cocks, the 6 or 8 cm fish circle & spread their gill flaps. In nature, barring overpopulation, the display would be enough to chase off the one whose territory it wasn’t; in the jar they are forced to follow through on the threat & over a period of two or three hours bite & rip at each other’s fins & will continue until the death which comes once one hasn’t enough fin to propel himself in water.

Though small & far from mammals, the exhausting battle seems to me as bloodthirsty as any other & yet, typically, the gentle Thai Buddhist shows a unique saving grace in these affairs: the owner of the losing fish is expected to recognize his fish has lost & concede before the fish is so badly hurt he will die. A gentility akin to Walt Disney who worked hard to film the chase but never showed the kill. If the owner fails to stop the fight in time (losers are dropped back into the irrigation ditches) he is fined 100 Baht, about 2 Euros, 3 dollars, a significant sum to a rice farmer.

Like Jose Antonio, my interviewer today, though he asked pertinent questions I gave clear answers to, I could see he couldn't get his head around this idea of travelling, or more precisely: of moving my life from one place to another repeatedly instead of deciding what I liked best & settling down. I'm sure he could relate to & sympathise with, the excitement at the thought of the aeroplane trip that takes one to someplace unknown for a holiday but not in the staying instead of coming back to the home base- the real world- after.

Where I lost him is in this question of predictability, the despair that enters my heart when I realize I know what tomorrow will be like because it will be the same as yesterday. Why despair? Well, I am not sure but I think it has to do with noticing that when something is repeated, washing dishes, brushing teeth, for example, it actually does make a memory but it doesn't matter how many times it is repeated or for how long, it only makes one memory. When not brushing my teeth I can indeed remember vividly, if I chose to, what it is like to brush one's teeth but I cannot remember any particular instance of doing so like I can the first moment I set eyes on a girl I fell in love with or the time a car got out of my control & smashed into something though the hundred other rides that got me there without incident are blurred into one memory...

The only thing I'm sure of is I find other people's interest in such things as astrology, psychic or palm readings, strange, not so much because of the doubt any of that can ever be right, but because not knowing the future is the best part.

Comment

*As foreigner here, I am a ‘Guiri’, in Thailand I was a ‘Falang’ Return


Impressionist art

Monday February 25th, 2008

The artist & his relationship to his work (2600 words)

Once again an exchange of e-mails about art theory with my friend Bobby, the painter, has inspired a line of thought that has manifested as an essay which, I am here, beginning.  

I have devoted a great deal of my reading time over a good many years, to reading about artists as well as just about anything written by artists, even including many whose work I don’t admire (Picasso might be a good example, a sophisticated art theorist & facile creator of good aphorisms, but though I recognize him as great artist I happen not to like his work*).

The writings by artists remembered by history vary from poetry to journals, essays, books, transcribed lectures & collections of letters, which in Vincent’s famous case to his brother as well as other artists, provide insight into intimate thought (as opposed to meant-for-publication or at least: public view) including, fascinatingly, a detailed & clearly described evolution of his colour theory (sometimes even with smudges of the colour he referred to) over the development of his career, albeit brief.

Insight into character, personality, mood, attitude, inspiration, working methods &