Wednesday, January 25, 2012

a sketchbook, a lousy memory and Vermeer

Without keeping a sketchbook, not only would I miss the chance to record the many strange thoughts and the occassional good idea that passes through my skull, but I would also forget huge chunks of my life. If I doodle during a meeting, cut an image out of a magazine or even tape in some artifact from an art exhibition, I lock in a solid point for quality recall. My memory leans heavy toward the visual. I'm sure I trained it that way but there is no turning back from that now. Without some sort of visual reference point, I struggle to remember most of what happens to me.

Here are a few pages from my sketchbook that let me remember even the most mundane of meetings (yes, it's true!, doodling a mess like this actually helps)...

...from a meeting that included budget info

...note taking from a meeting

...great taped-in inspirations from the Nutmegger Workshop

While looking thru my sketchbook for material that was needed for an upcoming blog post, I stumbled upon a pamphlet from my past. As soon as I saw this little bit of marketing material the memories flooded back...

...taped-in brochure from National Gallery of Art

About 17 years ago the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. gathered together 21 paintings. These 21 paintings brought tens of thousands of art lovers to our nation's capital.  We waited in line for hours to get tickets just so that we could wait in another line a few hours later. The temperatures outside should have kept most away but did little to defeat us. After finally escaping the cold, hundreds crammed themselves into a few rooms to get a glimpse at the handiwork of Johannes Vermeer (he only has about 34 paintings attributed to him). 21 paintings...but only one brought me to town. Only one kept me in line. Only one had me fighting off the burning cold....

I remember showing some of my friends a copy of this image and they just didn't get it. They saw nothing more than some buildings, a bit of water and a few folks in the foreground. To be honest, looking at this image I'm about to post, I can understand why they may have thought that way. I'm not sure what had me so drawn to this landscape. But I can tell you that after seeing it in person, I was right in my instincts to feel the way I did. In fact, I could not have guessed how amazing it would be and how much my admiration of Vermeer's genius would grow. There is something about what little we know about this man that has my mind wondering beyond the image. I want to know more of what is happening beyond that golden roof which is glowing in the background. Why did he choose this moment to capture? The majority of the visible town is in shadow. With Vermeer, you're always left with more questions than answers. He did what all great people and things do...they remind us why we live our lives. Why we push on. Why we pursue. Why we perform. Why we try to get smarter. Why we try to outdo others. Why we bring children into this world and attempt to have them share in this wonder. Why we travel to another state, stand in line for hours and get squashed in a room just to see some painting of a city that doesn't even look the same anymore.

I used this Bob Dylan lyric in my brother's wedding and I find it fitting when thinking back to that four minutes (or so) that I stood before the View of Delft..."it frightens me, the awful truth, of how sweet life can be." I am approaching my 42nd birthday (half way to 84) and it is my hope that I have the honor of standing before many more great things with my wife and kids by my side.

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