Listening and thinking

This week I have painted, and I have tried to listen to more music than I usually do, and I have listened to people.

In the painting class there were eight students present this Thursday. Most of them old people that have time to spend a weekday every month in the studio, learning to paint in oil, and then continue the work at home on their pictures in between the lessons. Anna the artist was moving around in the studio: looking at our works; commenting on colour and compositions; showing us the technical tricks of classical painting; and explaining paint chemistry facts of life.

Friday morning I was supposed to work, but when I got to the workplace found that the material I needed for my new project hadn’t arrived yet, so I had to spend nearly three hours almost idle, reading catalogues and talking with colleagues.

Friday afternoon I started to participate in a couple of shockingly honest conversations with internet friends. Perhaps I should rethink my policy of avoiding chat symbols (“emoticons”)? I am not sure if people really understand what I say, what I mean, and when I am serious but amused (often), serious and concerned (happens), joking (and sometimes using obscure word-play), angry (seldom), hurt (seldom), unfair (happens), mistaken (unavoidable).

Saturday (today) I met a couple of friends I haven’t talked to for a long time. There was much to reveal about what has happened since last summer. Their life has been in constant turmoil for months, with unexpected events and things happening to themselves and to the children. The small dramas of my own life seemed lame and not worth mentioning, in comparison with the stories they told. Suddenly it became quite easy to understand the reason for something I already had heard through gossip and had thought outrageously mad – why they were dreaming of escaping from it all, planning to buy a large enough sailboat to live on for the next four or five years, on a slow journey around the globe.

Totally aestethic and healthy

What is art? Is it an attitude or a life-style? Or, is it a necessary expression of human experience? Something that can hurt as much as it can heal? How much is personal in artistical expression – and to which limits can an artist’s control over his soul, body and environment be extended? Does the art need to be centered around the artist’s ego, and reflected in the things surrounding her in her life world?

My questions were provoked by a recent visit to a local artist’s studio and home, after I had decided to become more involved in the visual arts, and in the things going on in my neighbourhood, and learn more about painting – something I haven’t tried since school. Maybe that decision was a reaction after I heard some weeks ago about the death of a distant relative – a great painter and wonderful person. I suddenly realized that I had missed the chance to discuss art, life and music (he was also a jazz pianist) with him on the occasions when we have met through the years. It was just the usual social talk, and I always let others ask their naive questions about his pictures, and be content with the obvious answers. There must have been so much more things I could have learned from him. Now I have to learn it on my own (as we all have to, more or less).

So, now I wonder a lot about the mentality of artists, and what they are doing to stay healthy and/or creative. Some work in chaos; others in order. Some live in a mess; other live in a totally aesthetic perfection. My relative was much for order in his studio (and in his entomological collection), but the home decoration (mostly by his artistic wife) was never over-whelmingly perfect; and their focus was not on the methods to get a long and healthy life.

Success can be dangerous, so it takes some modesty and maturity to handle…