Rigor Vitae: Life Unyielding

Monday, January 08, 2007


My recent focus has been on painting, and postings have been infrequent for the past couple of months. I'm getting caught up, production-wise, and next week should see the beginning of a return to normal around here. In anticipation, here's a timely selection from the archives:

It's January 8th, and Isabel Allende is at her keypad. The author of The House of Spirits has written seventeen novels, and begun each one on this date. She will spend today ensconced in a locked room, pulling together the ideas for number seventeen that have tumbled around for God knows how long, in anticipation of this event.

Establishing such rituals comes naturally to most of us. Allende dismisses her January 8th tradition as superstition, but it's a clever device to enforce discipline upon her craft. Whatever their field, it's discipline rather than talent that distinguishes the really accomplished people in this world. If I had a dime for every gifted person I know who waits, fruitlessly, for a Muse to come a-knocking, I'd have, well...a lot of dimes. I never cared for the concept of the Greek Muses, anyway. I picture nine bespectacled bureaucrats, their hair pulled into severe buns. It's easier to relate to the Spanish persona of the Duende, that Lorca made famous: the rotten little gremlin, who, if not actually malevolent, is definitely a troublemaker.

Whatever specters visit the studio, they won't find a welcome home there without the presence of a work ethic. I only work at my best level while in a certain meditative state. Though I've never been physically south of Paraguay, while I painted Andean Condors & Patagonian Conures (above), my spirit swept across the mountains of Allende's Chilean homeland, feeling the cool alpine breeze, and hearing the sound of the condor preening his big, stiff feathers. Once I'm in this state, working hard is easy, but finding my way to that plane can be a chore. When things aren't going well in the studio, the smallest distraction serves to pull me from my work. “I wonder what I'd look like with my mustache waxed?”

This is when self-discipline is crucial, and “superstitions” like Allende's January 8th ritual are good things to have in the toolbox. The nature of inspiration is a mysterious thing, hence the many supernatural metaphors. Whatever's going on in Isabel Allende's office right now, though, it's safe to assume the Poltergeists are in there with her.
illustration: ANDEAN CONDOR & PATAGONIAN CONURES (1997) Acrylic 20" x 30"


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Love the condor painting Carel. I was lucky enough to have one drift overhead just metres away one day in Torres Del Paine Argentina. And to see thirteen together at one time.

7:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The painting IS beautiful Carel, but right now the words mean more to me. I’ve been “successful” three different times in my life and each time let it slip away because of distraction and/or lack of discipline. Moving 30 times in as many years didn’t help either, and I’m still looking for “home”. The old adage about 10% inspiration, 90% perspiration is too true. Right now I should be painting, but instead I’m commenting on your inspired post.

11:09 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

what a wonderful painting.. whatever inspired you, I'm glad. I've missed your blog, will be back soon :)

3:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Beautiful work, inspiring words. The meditative state of mind for creativity doesn't happen without a lot of groundwork and practice. Thanks for putting it into words so succinctly.

I've seen Andean condors, a pair, flying alongside I-5 north of Los Angeles (coming down the Grapevine). They dwarfed the pickup truck just ahead of me and kept up with traffic without a flap. This was in the 80's right after they rounded up the California Condors into captivity. The Andeans were being used as test pilots for the recovery program, I believe.

I love the painting.

4:23 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home