“What a wee little part of a person’s life are his acts and his words! His real life is led in his head, and is known to none but himself. All day long, and every day, the mill of his brain is grinding, and his thoughts, (which are but the mute articulation of his feelings,) not those other things, are his history. His acts and his words are merely the visible thin crust of his world, with its scattered snow summits and its vacant wastes of water- and they are so trifling a part of his bulk! a mere skin enveloping it. The mass of him is hidden- it and its volcanic fires that toss and boil, and never rest, night nor day. These are his life, and they are not written, and cannot be written.” – Mark Twain
“Well, I think that one of the best ways that humans have devised to describe what goes on, on the inside, is music.” – Yo-Yo Ma
On occasion, somebody will ask me who my favorite artist is. I never hesitate, it’s simple. It’s Yo-Yo Ma. Typically, people then scold me and say “Not a musician, a painter. Who is your favorite painter? Is it Velazquez, or is it Sorolla, or Sargent, or…” But, to be perfectly honest, I am seldom as moved by these paintings as I am by Yo- Yo Ma’s cello. He fascinates me with his empathy, his joy, his balance, his sensitivity to beauty. He is so curious as to what makes a people tick, what they delight in, what pains them, how they express joy. As he jumps from Schumann to Appalachian waltzes to Brazilian tangos, he never has the air of artistic exploitation of a culture- he is genuinely fascinated with people. I believe the thing that sets him apart is not mere technical facility, but something I’m going to call an emotional organ. It’s this highly developed emotional organ, in balanced dialogue with the intellect, that enables him to probe the inner depths. And in this exploration, he describes what can’t be described.
Painting can describe what goes on inside. But painting is particularly challenging, in that we painters are dealing with a tangible medium, generally speaking. Music is, by nature, abstract. Because of the material aspect of painting, painters often get seduced by the recording of topography, rather than probing into the geology. And so, contrived classical realism and its spurious step-brother, photorealism, barely go beyond the subcutaneous. It is a fine line, indeed, between observing and exploring, between recording and delighting, between seeing and perceiving, between depicting and composing. Would that I could paint like Yo-Yo Ma plays.
Today, I painted for about six hours. My entire days’ work consisted of painting the notes on the music sheets on my most recent painting. To the person who first figures out the music I’ve painted, respond to this blog and I’ll mail the conceptual drawing sketches for this painting. Good heavens, what a fun blog!