Tuesday, August 28, 2007


How do you keep that flow going? And what helps you along and gets you into the studio to paint when you are troubled by seemingly everything going wrong in the rest of your life? For me, it's often a book. I have been a voracious (but somewhat eclectic) reader since childhood. And, in 1998, I created my own bookstore and kept it going for nine years. It was named Manfred's Books---after my 3rd Saint Bernard, who acted as a benevolent ruler over the store.
I now have a small but really interesting collection of art books that I have been gathering over the years. While I had the bookstore, I honed my collection and moved books along that I felt weren't important enough to me to keep--since space is always an issue. Some are references in terms of the artwork or images---and there are other books that inspire me spiritually or offer encouragement. I would like to share some of these on the blog---give a little review & recommendation. Some of these are not well known and some of the artists portrayed are not well known or have gone out of fashion, etc. (We're not talking best sellers here!)
I will start with Emily Carr's book "Hundreds and Thousands", since I have just been reading it again. It is only a small part of her writing, and it is a diary of her life as an artist. Many people in the United States don't know about Emily Carr--she was a Canadian woman from Victoria, B.C. She has been referred to as "the Canadian Georgia O'Keefe", but she predates Georgia O'Keefe. She was a fascinating woman--a great lover of nature and animals, and her lifestory is a wonderful read. She is also a very accomplished writer in a somewhat poetic vein--she was inspired by Walt Whitman. I have a really nice hardbound copy of "Hundreds and Thousands", which I couldn't let go of, and I believe that it is out of print. But "The Complete Writings of Emily Carr" is available in paperback--and includes that writing. The latter was compiled a few years ago at the time of an exhibition of the work of Emily Carr, Georgia O'Keefe, and Frida Kahlo which traveled from Canada to Santa Fe and then on to Washington, D.C. I saw it in Santa Fe and it was a wonderful show.
Emily Carr managed to pursue her dream of art in a time when women were mostly kept at home with the children. She was an adventurous soul, traveling by canoe and fishing boat up the coast of Canada, so that she could paint (and record for posterity) the old Indian villages and totem poles that were slowly disappearing. She often brought along a pet or two---one of her many dogs, or Woo, her pet monkey, or Susie the rat. She journeyed to England several times, to study painting, and stayed for long periods. She had little support for her work, and when her painting moved into her later style, which was influenced by her study abroad, her audience in Canada was not ready to accept a "modern style". In her later paintings, she became more focused on the landscape and forests of Canada, and some of my favorites are studies of trees that have distinct personalities and appear to be dancing. Her work was linked to Canada's "Group of Seven", and she was encouraged by them and visited them several times, but they were in Eastern Canada, and the distance made communication difficult. She began taking her writing seriously in her later years, and when her health kept her from painting as much as she would like, she turned to her writing. And, ultimately, it was the writing that gave her the greatest acclaim during her lifetime. Every time I go back and read her book, (and I have read it quite a few times) I am amazed at what a genius she was--a true "renaissance woman"!
*****Highly Recommended
Image above: "Seasons I" by Christine DeCamp--Gouache on paper

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