The Artist’s Sketchbook: A Personal View

Just another WordPress site

The Artist’s Sketchbook: A Personal View

[APPLAUSE] Thanks, everybody Thanks so much for coming today It’s a great pleasure to be here Thank you, Ali and all the staff that have helped me assemble images This has been a real labor of love for me I have been keeping a sketchbook journal for almost– exactly 42 years And this was an opportunity to dig deep into the artists that have inspired me over my lifetime And so what I did was divide the talk into five different parts, putting the artists into different categories that I sort of invented for them of the kind of work that they do The first will be a sketchbook Second, journal Third, ledger Fourth, manuscript And then we’ll talk about three authors in the manuscript part And the last will be a short piece called “The Practice,” where we tie all that we’ve talked about together And so I timed this to about an hour And if I work at a steady clip, we’ll make that hour The sketchbook is what I’m calling a drawing-based book And the first artist I’m going to talk about is Paul Cézanne Cézanne loved these kind of sketchbooks They’re called Carnets They were among the first industrial-made sketchbooks They are still available, they are so classic They are lightweight– you could stick them in a pocket, carry them around with you They’re very versatile Cézanne could do drawings of a landscape and do both sheets as a kind of panoramic view But mostly he bent them back on the spine and did drawings in front of subjects Like on the left, we see a sculpture he copied And on the right is his son Paul And he was holding the bent back sketchbook this way and drawing in front of the subjects These were of very topsy-turvy kind of affairs, going through Cézanne’s sketchbooks because he seemed to have a stack of them that he would just pick up one and then start drawing in an empty space There’s no interest in keeping a certain direction going in these works And they were very, very informal in other ways He actually let his son draw in a lot of these books This is his son’s copy of his drawing He also did a lot of work keeping lists in some of the sketchbooks Here he’s writing a letter So the point of all this is that Cézanne was not trying to make great art while he was working in these sketchbooks He was trying to improve his skills And that’s what it meant to him to be working in these books What’s also interesting is research has been done on how Cézanne worked And through imaging techniques, we can tell that he actually used only a single pencil per drawing So he used a middle grade pencil like an HB or a B, just right in the middle grade And then he worked very lightly, and as you see, applying very light strokes throughout, repeating them several times This is the number one mistake art students do, they find it and they grind it And this is what Cézanne does is lays out the entire piece He then realizes the points of great interest he will actually then go in And knowing those points of the place you have to put that down is the real trick And then he uses the pencil on its side, parallel lines, making hatching to rate the tone He doesn’t use an eraser, he doesn’t carry eraser around There’s very little abrasion of these drawings None of this stumping or smearing It’s all about just using that pencil just right And that’s what I think is so great, is that he actually is able to transfer this over to his watercolors He’s using this same kind of technique to make this light lines, thin touches here and there And then the hatching And then the beautiful watercolor laid in on top And you really get a sense of that glowing form because he keeps it so crystal clear and clean Cézanne is somebody who’s actually keeping it simple He only needs a book and a pencil Alberto Giacometti was probably Cézanne’s biggest fan But then Giacometti was

a big fan of a lot of different people You may know Giacometti’s work from these attenuated figures He used to highly work, and yes he uses an eraser and a lot of pencils And really dug into the paper to uncover the figures that he was working on In this sketchbook, we see a list of some of Giacometti’s heroes Tintoretto, Poussin, Cézanne We have Holbein, Konrad Witz, who was a 15th century German painter, Egyptian, Assyrian, Roman, Greek, all these artists And he made copies of all these things He copied, and he copied, and he copied And this drawing with the image of an Egyptian head from the second century BCE and then Cézanne head from 1882 on the same page as a symbolic effort in showing the whole range of his interests And I love this particular drawing from a sketchbook He’s so excited he doesn’t even go to an empty space of a page He just draws it on top of the other ones He did two sketches Melancholia is inverted And you see right here, he was working in the other direction then he comes in and works the other print down here And the two portraits, he is copying directly over and over again, all different kinds of people And he says, “I began to copy in order to give reality to my predilections Much rather this painting here than that one there.” And he also says, “Copying is the best means for making me aware of what I see I can know little about the world out there a head, a cup, or a landscape only by copying.” Giacometti copied at the Louvre He went to museums and made copies He said he knew the Louvre pretty much by heart by the end of his life But he also did a lot of copying from reproductions And actually, this is a stack of his own art books through the Giacometti foundation He opened them up and he’s made copies inside a lot of the books, other things The world was his sketchbook I love it when an artist brings back their own personality into the sketch, making a copy So here we see Giacometti doing his elongated figures here in this copy of Masaccio and the expulsion from the Garden of Eden, these enlarged feet So they’re very much like the figures of the Walking Man that he was making Giacometti, no matter how good he got, he was always copying someone Isabel Bishop, another hero of mine She saw the changes in the art world in New York City of the early three-quarters of the 20th century, but never budged from her figurative stance She said she liked to show potential movement And in it we see a painting over here that I think shows that A stooping figure, and potential movement, I think she means the feeling that the figure is stopping to look, reaching down, picking something up, and then coming back up And I feel that whole movement within there This whole figure is not arrested at this point But is definitely going to move ahead We have a wonderful little sketchbook, an early sketchbook by Isabel Bishop where she is out drawing in the streets of New York And it’s people standing around and sitting And you can’t imagine that people just standing around and sitting could have so many different poses But she fills this book with so many wonderful different poses of people doing not much I love this one in particular, of the figure leaning against the other one And look at this searching line, going over and over in this pen and ink, trying to find the figure that she wants to work with Look a little closer and you can see, she’s starting to figure out exactly the points And then she’s also thinking about painting too Look up here, it says, brown, gray, white, blue-gray So she’s collecting ideas for painting She’s casting her net very wide for something she wants to work on And when she finds it, well, then she starts the next step in the series And I do think that this is to study for this painting, The Club I haven’t done any research into it But this little drawing from the sketchbook could have sparked this particular painting that we see here Her next step would be to hire a figure or hire a model to come into the studio and then start doing more elaborate studies This composition group on the right is close to the final painting And here is the final painting, full of evocation She doesn’t like a highly-polished surface She just sort of built the atmospheric image and then in just the right spots, touches it with that sort

of nervy line around the face and other areas It’s quite a feat She was better known for what she did later, her studies of young women And this is the only really clear image of a young woman that I found She became much more interested in this in the 1930s And I’ll show you one of her wonderful etchings that have a kind of Rembrandtian astuteness and a depth of feeling in them, an artist who really cast her net wide and found so much in the world around her to work from Richard Diebenkorn, contemporary artist, the last part of the 20th century I found that the Cantor Art Center at Stanford University has put together a website of 29 of his sketchbooks online There are more than 1,000 of his is pages of sketchbooks And it really is a window into an artist’s thinking It goes across his career And there is a wonderful quest questioning about Diebenkorn It’s almost like he’s always saying, what if I? What if I take blue pen and do a line drawing? What if I do charcoal drawing with shading? What if I do a pen drawing and make it very dark on one side as if it’s in shadow, and very light on the other? There’s all sorts of questioning that’s going on at his work In this online series, you can see him working on compositions for his abstract series, the Ocean Park series, based around his Santa Monica studio The light, and the air, and the color of the city that was around him You can also see him doing actual landscapes, these beautiful landscapes You really can see the structures of the abstracted landscapes in these studies, both a value study in ink wash and then watercolor with the lyrical color that many of those Ocean Park series are known for You can also see him working on figure drawings Many, many, many figure drawings And he’s trying so many different media, pen, graphite, conte crayon, wash, nude, clothed, in groups, patterned, in the context, alone But he always works to the edge of the sheet He’s always thinking of the composition that he’s making He’s also talking to the masters Here is his copy of Lucas Chranach the Elder’s Eve And here he’s put in a big, bright orange wash that has changed dramatically the image and the background Such a beautiful kind of shift that he’s added, a layer that he’s added to it And then you also have him taking Corot, this wonderful painting that was just here for the Corot portrait show He’s taken that figure and inserted it into his contemporary studio And what a wonderful value study of dark and light in this beautiful little drawing And then you also get to see what I think art students really need to see, the failures, where an artist really did not have success A sheet torn out, a defacement, obliteration, a scratch out This happens all the time It is hard to be an artist And what is so important is that artists like Diebenkorn picks him up and says, this is not right I am going to try and make it right And that’s where it makes or breaks it for an artist, that they can keep pushing themselves in that direction You can also see him do the things that he does, I think, so well, is move from a simple object into an abstract form Late in life he did a series of drawings of his army coat And then shifted it into this sort of arched top abstract form that you see here, There are also some little surprises, things that were tucked into the back of the sketchbooks that are also imaged on the website And we can see this piece very much like an Ocean Park series piece Very rough paper, you can see he’s used crayon and it’s grabbed only onto the top areas, so the sparkle through it And then he scratches back through it maybe with a palette knife This one is done on smooth paper where the crayon is smeared around Two very different approaches But what is great about Diebenkorn is that he is dissatisfied and he says, no, I don’t want the color here, that’s wrong And that red color was too much, I’m scraping it out He keeps changing it around And that search in itself is a very, very interesting thing, trying to figure out what is the final piece And us, looking at this,

look at these things that we can’t quite make out And they become very interesting, as interesting sometimes as the finished piece themselves Diebenkorn always saying, what if? Turner, there are about 120 sketchbooks by Turner in the Tate Gallery collection And many of them are now online What a resource, incredible What I’d like to do is look at three different periods of Turner’s life and see how he used those sketchbooks to further his projects at the time He was 21 when he was working in the Wilson sketchbook, which you see here, four inches squared And he is painting on very dark backgrounds at the time This piece that you see upper right is on mahogany wood So that’s a very dark background the start And so he’s using oil paint to paint up to it, bringing in the lights, adding the lights from this dark background So what he did was the sketch is in dark red background all the way through And he’s working with opaque water color, much like an oil paint would be, building up from dark to light So this little sketch book, which is of landscapes in the style of Richard Wilson, a work we see right here, he was very interested in Richard Wilson’s work at the time, the atmosphere, essentially apprenticing himself to the style And so we see him using this little sketchbook to further his aims in his oil paintings that he starts to show in the Royal Academy Let’s jump ahead 20 years, Turner’s about in his 40s And he is using transparent watercolor, a very, very different animal What you’re trying to do in transparent watercolor is use the white of the paper And you don’t get these areas wet You just paint around those areas And putting transparent color, the light goes through the transparent water color you put and bounces back to your eye Very, very luminous approach Here he’s exploring the techniques on a cold-pressed paper, a moderately rough paper And you can see what he’s done is taken paint and let it dry almost until it’s dry And then he pulls his brushes through them to pull out areas or he takes a rag and pulls it through So he is exploring the techniques of watercolor here to give him these beautiful sky images This area right here, Turner let the color dry and then he takes a pen knife or some other sharp tool and scratches back into it, pulling out the color You have only the white paper below that you’re pulling back to And here, he’s probably even using his brush or fingers to get this effect Used a brush pulling down into the wet color and then also wet on wet where he drops a brownish-gray into a bluish-gray And you get this kind of bloom that occurs It’s much like the softness of clouds The eruption of Mount Tambora in April of 1816 affected Asia, Europe, and the Eastern United States And they think that many of the skies in the late part of this book were sunsets that were affected by this And you can see the strange, exotic coloring that were going on in these sunsets Turner here using only a touch of opaque water color on top of the color that was put down Here he lets the red color dry, then he paints blue around it And then as that blue is dried he pulls a streak of water through it And it’s almost as if a cloud is across the sun A very beautiful series of sketchbooks His paintings at that time were very moody, a lot of moody skies The painting of the battlefield at Waterloo, which he toured in 1817 I see lots of crazy, exotic cloud forms in them And that beautiful painting of Raby Castle, which is at the Walters in Baltimore That beautiful landscape draped with clouds above it is just, I think, a phenomenal achievement Let’s jump 25 more years Turner’s in his 60s and he is using a larger book This is about, what, 13 inches wide? And he’s able to get his arm into it, so more of a gestural kind of book And we see Turner using rough paper, a textured paper, and not so much of the scraping technique Now he’s down to just the bones of wet watercolor, dryish water

color, and the paper And very evocative, this is a storm at Folkestone, which is along the English Channel What we are looking at exactly, a lot of it is left for us to figure out And that’s what’s so moving He’s so far ahead of his time in his ability to convey a space and subject with so little You can see him doing the harbor of Folkestone And you see lots of boats But it’s very hard to tell what is what And so much white space And absolutely no graphite beneath it He’s just starting out painting color directly And impressions, he may not have even done this in front of the scene He may just have memorized it and then did the work here This is the bridge, a harbor railway viaduct which is still the tallest brick structure of its kind in the world Turner very interested in steam engines, trains, boats, steamboats, at this time And so this is pictured several times He may have even taken the train down from London It’s a service that just started at this time And in this we can see Turner also moving to a pallet of simple red, blue, yellow, and just add mixtures of those And that’s why these paintings in late Turner are so luminous, because they’re using these just basic colors And they’re full of evocation and the white of the page You can see one of his oil paintings at the time comparison over here A journal, I’m calling that something with a chronology The two that I have chosen are image and text-based The first is Eugene Delacroix Delacroix thought that Rome was dead He couldn’t understand why people were painting Rome He wanted to go and find real antiquity, living antiquity, things that had not changed in thousands of years And he felt he could find it in North Africa He was thrilled when he was asked on a diplomatic mission by the French government to go to Africa They were on a diplomatic mission to meet the sultan of Morocco He spent six months there that absolutely changed his life and changed so much for him as subjects of his paintings I’m going to read a little bit of this to you to give you a sense of how he’s interpenetrating these images I’ll actually probably talk through some of it And then I’ll tell you when I’m going to read it so that we can make it through We’re only going to go through the very first part where they meet the sultan There are many pages that we are leaving out and I wish we could do the whole thing But it is just a marvelous journal He arrives at Meknes about a month and a half after they landed in Tangiers Meknes is where the sultan is And he says that the party had to circle the ramparts, the city, according to tradition And actually these are my words, occasionally they were met by groups of men who would run up to them and fire their guns in their faces He said it was meant to be an honor but Delacroix complained that it was an incredible din Here are his words: “Did the tedious rounds; continual cavalry charges on our left On the right, infantry firing rifles From time to time we arrived at circles formed by men who got up as we approached and fired right in our faces Sardanapalus head.” Now you may recall that he did a painting called Death of Sardanapalus five years earlier It was controversial because of its violence in the salon And he is saying that this figure that he saw, its head was like the Sardanapalus head that he painted I imagine that’s what he’s saying here Here we have musicians that were in front of them And then he says, we go down on the left and this is what Meknes looked like And as we’re coming up towards the gate, the various flags looked almost dull in front of the incredibly blue sky There’s a very high gate as they came up to it and then there were soldiers stationed along the left as they went and tents and horsemen along the ramparts Now, the next page is the audience with the sultan And you’re going to stick with me here Because he couldn’t draw I mean, he could do very little This little stick figure drawing is pretty much it And here we see the sultan with a little parasol above him and the various crew, his soldiers around And it said there, “The diplomatic meeting party.” And he says, “We came to a great square where were to see the king From the plain, unimposing gate there first appeared little detachments of eight to 10 black soldiers in pointed caps who lined up left and right Then two men carrying lances,

then who came forward and stopped very near to us Thick beard, more or less brown His long, loose, hooded coat fine and almost closed in the front String of white beads with blue silk around his right arm that could hardly be seen Silver stirrups, harness and saddle of rose color and gold Gray horse, mane cut short, parasol with unpainted wooden handle, a little gold ball at the end Underneath in red and green.” Now, I read you that because we’re going to see the painting that he makes from this in just a second He ordered the head of the village to accept the letter from the king of the French And then granted us the exceptional favor of seeing some of his apartments Bidding us farewell, he turned his horse around and disappeared Other drawings that we have here is the little carriage that followed him everywhere And he also notes the position of the carriage in this little drawing here Here is one of the gates and here is one of the apartments they got to see He’s allowed to wander around Meknes a bit And here we see some drawings and text Here is the moss on the landscape Here are some builders working with their dirt material that they were using to build their hikes, which are their robes twisted around them Here we have a little yellow mosque Here is the Moorish Gate’s keeper asleep Here is a woman who’s embroidering with her child next to her And here is the Portuguese House that was dilapidated And over the view from the terrace and right down here is the walls of the Jewish quarter, which they were visiting that day The tour lasted much, much longer I think this is about a third of the way into the trip They returned home in July, many more adventures in Spain, Algeria But he found something that really stimulated his interest This painting on the left is done 12 years later and is 12-plus feet high An amazing painting And all those details I read you, you can actually kind of see in there the gray horse, mane clipped, the little parasol He’s working from all that he took down in that He found the language that worked for him to trigger all these memories And he of course did other sketches as well at the time On the right is a painting he did in the last year of his life, 1863 It is in the National Gallery’s collection This subject kept him busy for many, many years He fell deeply in love with what he had seen there And these records stimulated that Another journal is by Oscar Bluemner, German architect who came to America, age mid-20s He became so interested in painting and modern painting, decided he wanted to go back to Europe to visit and see the Fauves, the Matisse, and the German expressionists first-hand He spent seven months abroad National Gallery has a little sketchbook from one small part of that period, three week period that starts on July 31 And in that sketchbook are 156 drawings he did during that period of time It’s just an astonishing amount of work He was a color theorist, interested in all sorts of color theory And he’s looking at a very different kind of thing than the Delacroix was This is much more about color and the colors he’s seeing, and even about inventing color Here we see a range of images around Menton, France And at the top, he breaks into a little color chart of the colors that he’s seeing in this area I love the way he sort of has a cinematic view of this We have landscape, and landscape, and landscape moving down the page He’s writing quickly in German and in English, taking notes Probably writing down colors and then painting in the colors later as he can Here’s another image that shows near Nice and Cannes, France And you can see at the very top he’s got all the colors of Riviera charted Emerald green, violet, indigo, cerulean, ultra-marine blue It shifts into a tree in front of a house And then immediately shifts into a little landscape here It’s just astonishing these layers of perspective But what’s also astonishing is how he’s making this kind of double-page spread of an abstract painting as well at the same time It was a very much working book, sometimes turned it on its side and did drawings And this, we had a piece of tracing paper that came with the book

Obviously he was going to trace this image out and move it onto a canvas It actually says he’s going to make the canvas– says here somewhere– 15 inches tall, 20 inches wide, more than double the size of this So this is a really working book He might come in here and trace out something and turn it into a painting as well It really affected his work when he came back He was doing drawings of the Jersey silk mills in Paterson, New Jersey And you can see, he’s got some naturalistic forms The color is not so much naturalistic But the curving forms are very much still part of the image But he returns, the image that we see on the right, very blocky forms He’s really found a whole new way of talking And you can also see, he’s using very flat colors And I love the fact that here, he repainted a painting that he had finished of the Jersey mills when he returned And look at that color chart from our book and see how much these colors match many of the colors that are in this painting He was really set on fire with the forms and the colors He said it changed his work dramatically Now “ledger” I’m calling a book that is a record book, or a listing of objects or ideas And many people know Edward Hopper’s work as a painter, some melancholic American scene paintings in he mid-20th century Many people don’t know that he kept a record book of all these paintings There are five different ledgers in the Whitney’s collection And this is a page from one of them Edward would come in and do the drawings that you see here, these beautiful pen and ink drawings, thumbnails which I have matched with the original paintings And you can see how close he was to capturing the essence of these paintings And then his wife Josephine would help him out and write down the title of the work, the date it was completed, what size it was And then she would do a lavish discussion of colors that are used in it And then as time went on, they become more elaborate descriptions about things that happened in their lives You’ll notice that the paintings are getting larger Actually, they start out in the first book as very small thumbnails And they get larger and larger And eventually they become full-sheet entries with more elaborate drawings And what I’ve done is taken one little section of their discussion here And we’re going to look at the almost biography they’re telling as they do this, almost a scrapbook based around the paintings This is Josephine’s writing And we’re just going to take one section It says, “Blond man in the pants and white shirt, black vest tending the pump is the son of Captain Ed [Staples], burnt in a train wreck returning from Cleveland Museum show.” Now what is that? Well, Hopper did a painting of an imaginary figure called Ed Staples He sent it to a show in the Cleveland Museum and it was being sent back and it burnt up in a wreck on the train So she’s talking that this figure looks a lot like Ed Staples that was in the painting there She also starts describing things like white house in shadow, blue Also in shadow, red roof, top of cupola and lower part of the signpost, red Edging side of road, grass, pale, straw, turned reddish Notice the light on the sign, haltingly familiar Interesting story about the lights on the actual service station Hopper was looking at He would go to the site and try to work but the attendant would not turn on the lights early enough for Hopper So he couldn’t get the effect that he wanted He had to do a lot of imagining But this shows you what kinds of things Josephine said “Oh, yes,” she says, “we brought this painting home from Truro, where they actually had a house, to New York on a hasty trip home to register to vote for Wendell Willkie in the 1940 elections.” And then she said “The painting was bought by the Museum of Modern Art and we heard about it in Mexico in the summer of 1943.” So there’s some wonderful side of biography that’s going on, almost a scrapbook that’s going on here And of course, Edward Hopper, notoriously silent, says, well, “Painted it a Block X colors, which are Belgian very fine oil colors, Windsor and Newton colors, Block X silver white, poppy oil,

and Winton canvas.” And the notoriously quiet Edward just says just the facts But it’s interesting, this is a very, very important thing for conservators to know exactly what a painting is made out of if they need to work on it This is just wonderful information I love to look at these drawings in these ledgers as kind of an extension of the prints that Hopper did These black and white etchings that Hopper did early in his career are so vital, and so beautiful, and such wonderful value studies, relative light and dark And you can see the drawing of a piece like Rooms for Tourists is sort of a value study of its own even though it’s a copy after one of Hopper’s paintings The precedent for Hopper’s ledger was of course Claude Lorraine’s Liber Veritatis or truth book We can see, I think, Claude Lorraine was one of the great people with a brush He could do these wash landscape drawings that are just out of this world, like this of the river Tiber His book, the truth book, was a listing of the paintings that left his studio in the order that he painted them To have this about a 17th century artist is pretty amazing Here we see the drawing he made for the book next to the painting he made And on the back he signed the work and also said who the work was sold to This was sold to the Cardinal Barberino Now, the book was actually taken apart not long after Claude died But the 195 drawings managed to stay together They’re in the British Museum And we know that the book was originally set up with four white pages, four blue pages, four white pages, four blue pages And so when Claude is entering drawings into this book he’s having to think well, the neck was on white I’m going to have to work like a watercolorist and think about saving the whites And then when he’s on the blue pages he’s having to think about using opaque white to build the whites up, using the same wash to very, very different effect What I love is that there is really no kind of mechanical transfer of these images He is making just these freehand hand copies into this book This beautiful painting of the Sermon on the Mount was copied of a completely different proportion He just did a lot of inventing as he went along One thing is that it was supposed to be to guard against forgery is why he was keeping it But I really think he was using it as a pattern book to show potential clients And also, wouldn’t it be wonderful in an age before photography to keep a record of your paintings for yourself? Charles Burchfield, a mystic, just nature and the wonder of nature was at the center of his work for his entire career This beautiful watercolor Summer Solstice (in Memory of the American Chestnut Tree) done over a five year period Many of his watercolors took many years to complete They tend to be very large and elaborate The Memory of Chestnut Tree meaning the blight of the chestnuts early in the 20th century is what he was talking about here I’d love to get into his journals 72 books, 10,000 pages He started it in high school, he finished it just before he died in 1966 is when the book stopped Very interesting stuff, the artist asking deep questions of himself Here he’s talking about Sebelius’ music, and how did he get that incredible power in his music Burchfield is very interested in the sound and making sound show up in his work, we’ll see that in just a second I love how he puts a book together too You don’t need that much to make a journal or a book All you got to do is stack of paper, punch some holes in it, and some cardboard, and get some brads, and there you go, you got your sketchbook He did a lot of different books like this around the making of particular works But this is a series that he did in 1917 of about 25 drawings that were the conventions for abstract thought And you can see what he’s doing

is actually making the visual symbols for the way he’s feeling And then he uses those symbols in his paintings Here is the Escape from the Banal Everyday Life to the World of the Ideal And then Aimless Abstraction, Hypnotic Intensity You can see in this particular piece from 1917, that golden year that he made these drawings, a year he called golden because so many of his ideas came together We can see in the belfry of the church, Fear, and Morbidness (Evil), in several places through the composition here We have Melancholy/Meditation/Memory of Pleasant Things That Are Gone Forever And then staining along the building And then Fascination of Evil, this very odd little face that we see here And he actually used these in lots of paintings and especially later in his career he returned to this I think it’s really an amazing thought to make visual symbols for how you feel and use it in the painting “Manuscript,” now, I want to talk about three different authors that have really influenced me, my thinking at any rate First is Wallace Stevens, one of the great poets of the 20th century, I think I admire Stevens on a number of levels First of all, he had a day job I worked 40 years in the museum Stevens worked for an insurance agency in Hartford, Connecticut And he rose to be vice president there He never learned to drive He walked the two miles to and from work And on those walks he wrote some of the most profound poetry of the 20th century I’ll read you one short Stevens piece It is from his 13 Ways of Looking at a Blackbird and it is the fifth section “I do not know which to prefer, the beauty of inflections or the beauty of innuendos The blackbird whistling or just after.” His work was really focused on reality and the imagination And I think we see it in that piece, the beauty of inflections, the actual sound going up and down Or the beauty of innuendos, those things which are evoked, suggested that we bring to the sound The blackbird whistling, the actual sound of the blackbird Or just after, the silence or memory and imagination rush in to fill that void A wonderful poet Several things about Stevens that strike me as interesting He was a dedicated walker most of his life And early in his life he lived in New York City And he would take 40 mile walks out into– this journal entry in the center is about a walk out into New Jersey Hoboken, Jersey City, into Newark Along these he would write down the things that he saw And in these journal entries, could eventually end up in his poetry He met a lovely lady named Elsie Moll, and married her eventually He started sending her letters and those letters sort of took the place of his journals He would actually borrow the letters back and sort of write poems from these He would start collecting lists Now, there’s several things that are going on here I think are fascinating First, walking as a creative act is a place where so much can kind of get loosened up And you can sort of have all sorts of ideas come from Also the idea of writing a letter to someone You don’t have an idea what to put in a journal, write a letter to someone You’re not going to send it, it’s your journal entry Third, keeping lists His poems, the “Auroras of Autumn” and “Transport the Summer,” all these titles and different parts of the poems are all taking from lists of ideas that he had He just kept running lists of things that he would use This image on the right is from his commonplace book, which is a list of things that he read, lots of different places where he would just collect these ideas and then base whole lectures

and poems on the things that he read And this is not Shakespeare he’s talking about, basically There are a lot of sources that are, like, periodicals he’s getting He tends to stay away from the poems of poets of his day and just listings And we’re going to pick up an example of this a little bit right at the very end of our talk Jack Kerouac is somebody I’ve admired And if there’s somebody that I would suggest to students to look at as a way of just sort of letting go and writing without editing, I think Kerouac is where you should start He of course, wrote On the Road in 1957 and became a hero to the beats, the beat generation rebellious spirit But Kerouac was a very wide-ranging writer In 1951 someone suggested to him that he write like a painter paints in the streets And that’s such an interesting sort of perspective to take for me So you’re thinking about what you’re looking at and you’re writing, but it’s as if you’re painting it So he started keeping a little journal in his pocket And he would write these things as he saw them I’m going to read you something that he wrote that ended up in his book of sketches that are from these little notebooks It is when he was living in North Carolina with his sister “The months rolled One of the bird dogs died at the Saint Vita’s dance in the mud Only Old Bob survived, sitting in wait for his master at gray dusks The autumn came The winter laid a carpet of one-inch snow The spring made pine smell sweet and powerful The summer sent his big haze heat to burn a hole through clouds and swell up streams from fecund earth, lost earth The company transferred Paul from town to town, Kinston, Tarboro, Henderson, home of his folks, back to Kinston, Rocky Mountain Little Paul grew and cried And learned to suffer and cried And learn to laugh and cried Cried, and learned to be still and suffered, grow, grow The heavens don’t care It had not been always so easy and calm as now at suppertime in big Edmonton, 1952 Hateful bitch of a world that wouldn’t ever last.” There’s something wonderful about the compression of a year into that sentence Wonderful about the way he looks at the natural world changing and events like the bird dog dying of a nervous disease, of the family being transferred around And the little boy’s plight during all of this That’s all in that one sentence And did you listen to the words? He’s always thinking of the sound of his words There are a lot of recordings of Kerouac out there reading his writings And they are always about sound He modeled himself on jazz musicians He is a wonderful speaker as well as a writer He sat down and turned these notebooks into a book called The Book of Sketches, which is well worth looking into Here you can see on the back some of his notebooks He works from these notebooks as he’s writing You might also want to look up his manuscript of the Essentials of Modern Prose, which is a one-page document, easily findable online And it’s about writing and his style of writing This is the original manuscript for that we’re seeing here And he also worked from his dreams, something that I’m very interested in And having a dream to write from, you’re not writing it It’s writing you And I think that is really great Jack said he wrote about things editors like to take out and that psychiatrists found very interesting And I love that statement But I think there’s a great deal of truth in the honesty that dreams confer on us from our subconsciousness This is the original manuscript from his book of dreams which he also transferred into a book And the sound of reading these things is just fantastic Emily Dickinson is someone I admire a great deal She never got to see her poems published She sat down in 1858 to 1865, built little booklets And there are 40 of them called Fascicles by Dickinson scholars She tied them together with bits of string And in these she wrote

her preferred poems And there’s this wonderful poem that could be the introduction “This is my letter to the world, that never wrote to me The simple news that nature told with tender majesty Her message is committed to hands I cannot see For love of her, sweet countrymen, judge tenderly of me.” Dickinson knew that she was not going to get to see her audience She’s saying to you and me is, I hope you’ll judge me fairly And I certainly do What I love about Dickinson is she just sat down and did it herself, did the way she wanted to And then she stuck it in a box, along with other poems that she wrote after that on single sheets And her sister Lavinia found them And they eventually realized what a trove of beautiful works they were And they were turned into the collections of Emily Dickinson that are still coming out now This is the Fascicle which “This is my Little World” is on I’m also very interested in her sketches We know of about 50 of these They’re mostly in Amherst collection And these are written on a scrap paper, things like the letters that had been taken apart, carefully taken apart She kept these, we think, in her pockets to write on I love her handwriting, I think it’s so beautiful I love the way it stretches It’s almost like justified type the way it stretches across the page And the way she chooses to write diagonally, following the lines of the paper, the way the paper was made “T’was later when the summer went than when the cricket came.” I think it’s obvious that these are sketches because we see her striking through certain things But this is a great one, “Doubt has the wisest men undone There are those who are shallow intentionally and only profound by accident.” And this one, the Mushroom is the Elf of Plants And it was done on a printed apothecary emblem of the mortar and pestle And I wonder if she was thinking that the mortar and pestle looks like the mushroom We can’t ever know that and we can’t ever know really if she was thinking about how she was using the page, breaking up the page in such a beautiful way But Dickinson’s work and the way she worked is of profound interest to me There’s also a really wonderful book out now called Emily Dickinson, the Gorgeous Nothings And it collects these and manuscripts And they are really a fascinating read This is a pencil, I love this It was given as a joke by Emily to her friends Samuel and Merrick Bowles as a joke, asking them to “Please write me.” But I think of this in terms of Cézanne in the sense of all it takes is a pencil and a piece of paper So now let’s sum all this up, the practice What I want to talk about first is drawing And I just love this drawing, this is Paul Cézanne And it is so simple looking and it is so very sophisticated Which way is the light coming from? It’s coming from the right You see right here on the shoulder of the carafe, the light is broken It’s reflecting off here and here The light is coming down here and it blasts this back side of the carafe It throws a ring down here It blasts the side off the base The line is only dark right here and right here That kind of understanding of using a pencil that way to create such a vision is really incredible Giacometti said, “You never copy the glass on the table You copy the residue of vision Each time I look at the glass, it has an air of remaking itself It really always is between being and not being.” And look at this Giacometti drawing He is looking at the flowers And then he holds it in his short-term memory And then he invents a spot on the page for that mark, moving between reality and the imagination Back and forth, and you go back and you’re not in the same place you started Do you go back to the first place you started? Or do you take the spot? And you’re constantly rearranging yourself You’re rethinking yourself, what

you’re doing when you’re drawing is you’re grappling with existence Balthus, good friend of Giacometti’s wonderful artist in his own right said, “When you draw, you are at the heart of the world And the more you draw, the more deeply you enter existence.” It is the same with writing So yes, indeed, when we are keeping these journals and when we are drawing, we are at the heart of the world We are grappling with existence And think about the movement that Isabel Bishop was dealing with That adds another layer, light is changing, figures are moving What you are doing is making a record of your experience and then you are leaving for yourself or leaving it with others Of course, Delacroix and Bluemner found memories and in different ways used them in their work For me, with my 152 sketch books, I just finished one today, this is looking back over two-thirds of my life in these books And every page has a kind of memory for me This is the 6th of March, 2019 Well, the week before after working for 40 years at the National Gallery, I had retired So I walked down into the studio, and I remember this clearly, looking out the window, and there was Jupiter and Saturn hanging alongside My wife had retired with me at exactly the same time I went upstairs and looked out the window and the brilliant light of the spring sun was rising I did a quick sketch of this color on these houses In about three weeks, the leaves will fill in, I won’t have access to this image And then also at twilight I went downstairs and looked out the window and did a study of a street lamp with twilight fading behind it The oak tree had lost all its brown leaves it kept all winter And suddenly I was able to see the blue behind it I had had a dream about a very large factory with a lot of sinister overtones I had wrote this down in my little script that I have invented for my book, probably dealing with the anxiety of my new station in life at that time And then I remember wonderful things about being here at the National Gallery In 2007 we had the Turner show And I would go up and make sketches at lunchtime of the Turner show, of those wonderful paintings Turning them into black and white studies, trying to capture some of the energy And at the same time, incredibly, we had the Edward Hopper show in the east building And I went up into the Hopper show and made a sketch in pencil And then went home and made watercolor washes over that from reproductions to finish the work And then, it’s all so about play This is a couple of pages from Richard Diebenkorn’s book I was really taken by the fact that here we have this strange plant-like form And then on the next page, we have a fist-like form And then he shifts the position of the arm And then moves that plant-like or whatever that strange form is down onto the bicep And then the next page he’s doing sketches of the hands What is that about? That’s play Is he going to use it? Maybe he did use it, I don’t know I’ve never seen it But we are playing when we are in our books as well And then I didn’t get a chance to show you the three other incredible drawings of the Sermon on the Mount that Claude did, variation proposals Maybe for paintings, maybe there the drawings that are ends in themselves Gorgeous things This is Place to Propose And then, of course, we’ve got Jack Kerouac thinking about new perspectives, about listening to the sound of his work, about using his dreams We have Emily Dickinson: “In this short life that only lasts an hour, how much, how little is within our power?” That’s so much about what a book is to me We find out what is in our power in our books And to finish with, I said we’d come back to the commonplace book, the listing of ideas that he had And I read this, it’s one of the earliest entries in his commonplace book made in 1933 It was a review of a gardening book And it was a book that was written in the 1880s by William Robertson And the book was in its 15th printing in 1933 and the book is still in print today It’s a classic in gardening The reviewer Harry Roberts had

said, “The art of play as also, I am inclined to think, the art of life itself consists mainly of the creation of an environment within which we are of some importance.” To me that’s exactly what the book is about The book is about a place where we do all these things that I’m talking about It is a place that we are important Thank you [APPLAUSE]