So something I had done a while ago, I wanted to share.
I feel that environment and community are the most important factors in creating art.
Everything that encompasses; you, affects you as an artist; where you live, the people you meet, the passers by that drive beside you on the road, the food you eat, the music you listen to, the films you view, etc.
One of the things that always fascinated me when I study the great artists of the past was their selection of subject matter when creating still life pieces or landscapes. They always expressed the environment around them. It makes me curious about what their daily lives consisted of, because their choice of subject matter was always based on something that was close by and a part of their every day life. It certainly can fill a "playlist" of YouTube-Daydream-Videos in your head of what their lives must have been like. I imagine that sometimes and I like to think that I'm not alone in that curious and, perhaps, somewhat odd pastime.
Sometimes I just like to go out in the space around me and capture that. One of the fun things I was required to do as an art student was to sketch my environment around me in watercolors. So, I try to do that as much as I possible. It "grounds" me as an artist and as a human being; being aware of everything around me whether living or non-living. Everything has a voice and can speak to you. All you have to do is just listen, grab your pens, pencils or paintbrushes and just document your own individual small world around you. Of course, this means that what you perceive and experience is completely subjective in the sense that this is what you personally feel or see right next to you. This can be one in several definitions of what makes us all artists. We are the filters of our own environments... but I stray (as usual) from what my point of what most of my posts are about... the art.
This post is about a piece or sketch, really, of the iron stairwell that is located right outside of the apartment I live in. It's a VERY narrow alleyway and the stairs take up the entirety of it. Their "practical" purpose is to serve as a fire escape for the building, but they have been so much more to so many since their inception into this world. This stairwell, in particular, has quite a sentimental meaning to me. It is the one singular space where everyone that live here meets; whether we are all coming or going, smoking, escaping, having a friendly conversation with others far away over the phone, talking to each other about the events that occur in our lives or what is going on outside where we all live. I have made many friends on these stairs. They have a very fond space in my heart. I will always think of them fondly not matter what space or time I live in for as long as I continue to exist. I think we all have very special places in this world that we think of in this manner... So I sketched this one.
I wanted to make sort of an ode to thisspace in the universe that has brought me and so many others so much joy, solace and sanctuary. I wanted to honor this space in some way... So I drew/painted it.
Also, not really as an aside, I used to write poetry. When I was in college, I took a poetry class taught by one of the most interesting individuals I have ever had the pleasure and privilege of meeting and learning from. Her name was Dr. Furlong. Even though, admitting shamefully, I have made a few disparaging jokes at her expense (mostly just post-teenage/early-twenties angst at work), She is a brilliant poet and taught me everything I know about what it means to write genuine "good" poetry (the kind I don't mind sharing with the rest of the world.) Dr. Furlong will always be iconic inside my mind in how her visage manifests inside my memory. She was a trim and lean woman; pale skin with long dark hair. I could never discern whether it was jet black or if it was a dark brown, as it would perform a seemingly metamorphosis between the two as the light would dance across it. She would wear a "uniform" of sorts. She would never wear the same clothes at any given time that I ever saw her, but it would always be an ensemble of darkly-opaque sunglasses, a sweater dress, form fitting leggings (with the foot stirrups) and flat pumps. Each day they would change in shade or pattern but the ensemble would always be concretely consistent.
I can remember, vividly, her sitting in her desk chair in the top of the room, while we students surrounded her in a circle of desks. She would coolly relax her arms upon the arms of the chair, as if they were kin hugging each other; sisters from another mother, and she would sigh with such Shakespearean drama and effect... Then before she drew another breath, she would exclaim in such virile veracity,"It has to be DEEEEEEEEEEP!" She was, of course, refering to the peotry we were assigned to write for her. Dr. Furlong was not a woman that is, in the slightest, interested in wasting a single second of her life reading any sum of words that might be considered remotely trite. She was only interested in the most genuine feelings and emotions that we were capable of placing in the written word. She was truly a Beatnik Poet from the American 1950's time-traveled forward to teach the lucky few that had the opportunity to learn from her. She taught me everything I know about poetry... well her and Mr. Keeting from the film Dead Poets Society. One thing that stands out above all others was her emphasis on the importance of clarification and well developed... scratch that: very very very very well developed imagery. She could always, also, be heard reciting,"Develop the IMAGE! Deeeeevvvveeelllloooooppp the IMAGE!" lol ;0) ...and that's exactly what I did from then onward.
I am, in retrospect, most grateful to her for instilling in me the notion that I should only share when I felt moved to do so. I have been writing poetry exactly that way ever since...
So... Suffice to say, I don't write poetry very much unless I am inspired to do so.
I bring all of this about to explain that I wrote a poem about these stairs. They do strike a chord so deep inside me that I felt compelled and inspired to write about an experience I had upon them one wonderfully inspired evening.
I remember, vividly, that I was up very late as I was infused with such creative energy as I worked on my Wolf in Sheep's Clothing illustration. I was having a smoke outside on "the stairs," as I sometimes do when I'm working on my art projects. I had head phones on and all of the sudden a piece of music began to play... I'm uncertain as to why it was calling to me, but it did. As I listened to the song I began to dance, and as the song began to wan, I set my music player to loop that particular song... and as my cigarette began to wan, I looped that also, smoking cigarette after cigarette mulling over a notion that had come to me. I had an "experience" on those stairs and as my mind and eyes became one, I finally "saw" the stairs, maybe for the first time, for what they truly meant to me; what that space truly meant to me... and so I danced there; right there on those very stairs. As I danced, alone, in the wee hours of the morning, whilst words, beautiful words, came to me. I don't know where they came from nor did I care where they came from, but they did come; a phrase, a longing, an urge, something BURSTING to get out of my mind and on to paper...
SO I rushed inside and wrote this single phrase:
"With every drag, my exhales hang heavy in the thick and humid air."
... and from there, the rest came to me just like it did when I was in my poetry class in college. I just didn't know where or why this "flow" had come to me or where it was going, but sometimes you just have to tell yourself that you are going to go along for the ride; you are going to go on this journey and just see where it takes you.
I remember that that evening was one of the most creative and fruitful evenings I had had in a desert of a most un-creative year. I am thankful that the universe, or whatever is out there, that sends the creative messages, thoughts and ideas to all of the artists in the world. I'm thankful for that night, and I will always remember it fondly.
I leave you all with the fruits of that evenings creative labors; an ode to one of the spaces in my world that I truly appreciate. This poem is titled:
As I stand here on on this third-floor grated iron platform, like a solitary king,
in this narrow lidless red brick-lined cave,
I gaze out into the slivered view of streetlights, zooming flashes of colored speed
that race down the thin lined lanes below me.
My eyes move upward, scraping the clustered and cloistered compacted semi-tall pale pink buildings across the way,
and onward and upward to see the glistening bright sparkling white eyes of the Midnight Blue sky.
With every drag, my exhales hang heavy in the thick and humid air.
I'm still, yet also simultaneously moving fluidly to the music only I can hear.
My body becomes one with the melodic beeps, blurs and bleats of this happy tune.
Having my own little Twelve Hour Party for the small minute duration of a song
and pure-white wrapped fag-of-fire alight with the similar spark inside me.
In this slow glacier-ic moment, I undulate to the music of this night
until it is near the time to join all the stars far above me,
in that vast and vivid universe when I leave this cave,
this narrow red brick-lined sliver of exposed privacy,
from this happy body on this momentarily regal stairwell
to dream... to dream... to dream
I do hope that you all take some time this weekend to find someplace in your own personal universes that speak to you, and deliberate there, and take some form of creative action (whatever you deem necessary) to express what this space means to you.
I tell you what: Let's take an image, an illustration, a photograph of this very special place and put it out in the digital universe with #MyUniverse. What fun!
In the meantime, I will leave you with the curious tune I was listening and dancing to by myself that special evening.
Until next time, friends,
Keep sketching, keep thinking, keep laughing and most important of all,
keep making art.