Tag Archives: Maira Kalman

Short and Sweet

Maira Kalman

Maira Kalman

I’m keeping things short and sweet today. All you have to do is follow the link below to read an article published yesterday in the Wall Street Journal. Written by Maira Kalman, it’s hard to categorize – not an article, actually, just brief notes for each day of one week of her life.  I’ve said many times here (or, if not here, then many other places – to friends, family, students, neighbors,  maybe even complete strangers on the street) that I adore the way this woman’s mind works.  I love the fact that she’s both heartbroken by and grateful to the world she lives in. That she sees/is stopped in her tracks by small details and their larger implications. That she has a Proust Reading Group.  That she is – as she proclaims about the people she sees on the streets of NYC – still alive, thank goodness.

Click here to read her notes: http://www.wsj.com/articles/a-week-in-the-life-of-maira-kalman-1446130901 And if you don’t know her work for children (What Pete Ate, Ooh-la-la) and adults (Principles of Uncertainty, And the Pursuit of Happiness) then find out more about them on her web page at  http://www.mairakalman.com/. While you’re there, don’t miss the piece she wrote and illustrated called “On Beauty”  (you can find it under the Journalism tab) from which comes this wonderful page:

from "On Beauty."

from “On Beauty.”

Color Full

Recently I found a tube of Cobalt Blue gouache and I swooned.
Paschkis parrotsI painted several blue paintings.
Paschkis Everything-is-connected

Painting is always a matter of choosing one color to go next to another, and lately I’ve been carried away by the sheer pleasure of doing that.

Paschkis small possibilities and parrots

 

 

Sometimes when I look at other people’s paintings I can feel the artist swooning from the pleasure of the colors. (Angel by Paul Klee).

klee angel899

This image by Borghese di Pietro Borghese was painted in 1448, and the pink still astounds.                                                                                                     .

Borghese

 

In Melissa Sweet’s illustration from Firefly July each shade of pink adds to the ones around it . The greens are gifts to the pinks and vice versa.                          .

melissa sweet moonlight

 

Georgia O’Keeffe experienced synesthesia. She heard colors. This is a collage illustration from Through Georgia’s Eyes by Rachel Rodriguez. Rachel said that O’Keeffe walked through the hills, humming the colors she saw.                                     .

Through Georgia's Eyes paschkis

Do you hear the reds in Margaret Chodos’s illustration for Buzz by Janet Wong?
chodos irvine buzz
The little red triangle says AHA to the orange and yellow/green in this paintingby Douglas Florian.                                                                                               .

florian
Radio Lab has a podcast all about COLOR, rich in information. One fact: butterflies (and pigeons and lampreys) have pentachromacy and can see many more colors than people .                                                                                                  .

paschkis butterflies see
In addition to the physical capacity to see a color (rods and cones etc.) your brain and your eye also need practice and coordination. When you learn a new language it takes time for your brain to learn the sounds that it hears. The same is true with visual perceptions. If you have never seen the color blue you will not be able to see it even if you have the physical ability to do so. Here is a landscape without blue, by Paul Klee- just lush oranges, reds and greens.

klee with the eagle
In Seattle right now there are blossoming trees, bushes and flowers everywhere- a profusion of color, light and shadow. Are humans hardwired for these colors and contrasts to give us joy? These cherry blossoms are from Maira Kalman.

mairakalman

This painting by Klee (below) is called Blossoming.                                                   .

klee blossoming

The podcast used a choir to illustrate the harmony and depth of colors. The bass note of  dark colors brings out the soprano yellow and white. Bright boats and buildings sparkle in the alto fog in this illustration by Melissa Sweet.                     .melissa sweet fog

Pink and green add harmony to the red and blue duet in this bouquet by Joe Max Emminger.

joe max emminger bouquet

And finally here is a swooping, swooning, humming landscape from Matisse.

matisse acanthes

I hope you have a color full week.

p.s. I am having a show at the Bitters Co. Barn in Mt. Vernon, WA , opening on May 9th. Please come by if you are in the area.

Distractions

“Foolish Fashions” – from the Library of Congress website.

When I decided to write a little bit today about writers and “distractions,” I went straightaway to the Oxford English Dictionary to check out what the pronunciation of it looks like ( “/dɪˈstrækʃən/” ) because – well, because it’s pretty – it’s the phonetic equivalent of an ideogram. A word, but not a word.  I also checked out its etymology (<from “the Latin distractiōn-em, n. of action < distrahĕre to pull asunder”) and I confirmed different definitions (all basically dealing with the pulling asunder of something – severance, dispersion, stretching, extending – either mentally, emotionally or physically – ouch.) The different definitions all emphasize how a distraction is seen in an “adverse” light, though one definition pushed the word toward a rosier definition, one of diversion and relaxation. While I was at the OED site (thank you, wonderful Seattle Public Library, for your research databases, which save my bookshelves from having to accommodate all 11 volumes of the OED) I also took a look at  some of the earliest examples of the use of “distraction,” such as this one in William Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra: “While he was yet in Rome, His power went out in such distractions, As beguilde all Spies.”

The New Theatre production of Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra, London, 1909.

Of course, then I looked up “beguiled” since it’s such a lovely word. The OED is a poet’s equivalent of falling down the rabbit hole. You find yourself in a strange, swirling, distracting and beguiling world, and it’s difficult to find your way back up to the surface. As Elizabeth Barrett Browning said, “At painful times, when composition is impossible and reading is not enough, grammars and dictionaries are excellent for distraction.”

All eleven volumes of the Oxford English Dictionary

Let’s hear it for distractions like the OED and even Browning herself. What would the world be like if we always stayed on task? What would clear our palates, and when would we make room for the new? I believe in distractions, a fact my students all know, since in addition to sending them assignments, I send them enough website distractions to derail them from their work. I do that to encourage them to let in the fresh air of new ideas from time to time.

Every so often here at Books Around the Table I’m going to offer up a few websites that I consider good generative distractions – generative in the sense that they lead to new story ideas.  Here are three Alice-in-Wonderland-style rabbit holes (aka distractions) that I’ll send your way today in case you suspect  the air around you is getting a little stale.  Click on the website name below – and get distracted.

Sir John Tenniel’s illustration of Alice in Wonderland

1. Brain Pickings – It’s the “brain child” of Maria Popova, and its stated purpose is to a be a ” human-powered discovery engine for interestingness, culling and curating cross-disciplinary curiosity-quenchers, and separating the signal from the noise to bring you things you didn’t know you were interested in until you are.” A typical post has many subjects, such as this one about the artist Maira Kalman.

Maira Kalman and Pete

Or this one about the “sculptural soundtracks” of Nathalie Miebach: http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2011/07/12/nathalie-miebach-musical-weather-data-sculptures/

A 3-D rendering of the soundtrack of a storm – Nathalie Miebach

2. TYWKIWDBI – yes, that’s the name of the site. It stands for “Things You Wouldn’t Know If We Didn’t Blog Intermittently.” It is self-described as “an eclectic mix of trivialities, ephemera, curiosities, and exotica with a smattering of current events, social commentary, science, history, English language and literature, videos, and humor. We try to be the cyberequivalent of a Victorian cabinet of curiosities.” For example: Did you know that Cleopatra lived closer chronologically to the moon landing than to the building of the pyramids?

Marble Bust of Cleopatra – 30-40 A.D.

3. The Library of Congress – very dangerous site. You can get so distracted you never get tracted again. Maps, manuscripts, prints, photographs – and a search engine that brings up everything in an instant. The next best thing to actually living at the Library of Congress.

Main Reading Room at the Library of Congress

More distractions soon. Whenever I discover them, I’ll pass them on.