Commonplace Book · Drawing

John K. on making superficial copies vs. looking for knowledge and understanding

“I find that it’s not enough to just draw and copy things. I have to try to understand the why of what things look like. Otherwise I am just making superficial copies of a specific pose without being able to draw other poses later.

“So when I am copying, I look for knowledge and understanding. Not just the specific shapes I am copying, but the general forms and relationships causing the specific shapes. I try to find things that make some sense and then write them down in the hopes I remember them and can put them to use later.”

— John K., “Stiff Warm Ups and Studies,” blog entry, posted 25 August 2010, accessed 13 September 2010.

Commonplace Book · Ephemera (Jones) · Look Here

Jeffrey Jones on artistic freedom…

The first time I saw the following hand-written letter, it was for sale on ebay. Although I was sorely tempted, having been an admirer of Jones’s ongoing self-education and steady development as an artist since the early 1980s, when in my late teens I purchased in quick succession the three Dragon’s Dream books, The Studio, Yesterday’s Lily, and Idyl, I could not afford at the time to bid for it — or, at least, I didn’t feel like I could justify the expense to my wife — so I let it slip through my fingers. However, as a compensation of sorts, I saved the JPEG from the auction listing, so I could re-read it later for inspiration, because the fact is that I DID, for various personal and professional reasons I won’t go into here, find it tremendously inspiring. But then, somehow, I misplaced the JPEG when I moved all my e-stuff to a new computer, this computer, and the fact is, I thought at that point I would never get to read it again. And I was okay with that. I shrugged and moved on. It wasn’t that big a deal. But today is my lucky day, because here it is:

I think the line that really gets me is this: “With the Lampoon for instance I am free to do whatever I want with my page.” A single page of unconstrained artistic freedom every month: that’s the modest but essential standard by which Jeffrey Jones judged proposed projects in 1973, five hectic years into his career in commercial art.

Small things, even ill-favoured things, are treasure when they are truly one’s own.


Thanks to Rob Pistella for inviting me to use scans from his CAF gallery on this blog. Rob has a terrific and growing collection of artwork (and ephemera!) by Jeffrey Jones, and I am delighted to be in a position to highlight some of those items here.

Commonplace Book

Scott Atran on “The Tragedy of Cognition”

via &#151

“Existential anxieties are by-products of evolved emotions, such as fear and the will to stay alive, and of evolved cognitive capacities, such as episodic memory and ability to track the self and others over time. For example, once you can track even the seasons — and anticipate that leaves will fall off the tree in autumn and that squirrels will bury nuts — you cannot avoid overwhelming inductive evidence favoring your own death and that of those you are emotionally bonded to. Emotions compel such inductions and make them salient, and terrifying. This is ‘the Tragedy of Cognition.’ Dying is by nature not a telic event because once the process of dying starts (from birth on) it cannot be stopped to avoid the inevitable end state. By introducing a supernatural agent, religion resolves the Tragedy of Cognition. Dying is converted into a telic event whose goal state is an extended afterlife. The result is, in part, an allaying of an otherwise recurring and interminable existential anxiety…”

— Scott Atran, In Gods We Trust: The Evolutionary Landscape of Religion (Oxford UP, 2002), p. 66.

Bonus Link:

Born Believers: How Your Brain Creates God

Commonplace Book

Charlotte Perkins Gilman on Death

“It is told that Buddha, going out to look on life, was greatly daunted by death. ‘They all eat one another!’ he cried, and called it evil. This process I examined, changed the verb, said, ‘They all feed one another,’ and called it good. Death? Why this fuss about death? Use your imagination, try to visualize a world without death. The first form of life would be here yet, miles deep by this time, and nothing else; a static world. If birth is allowed, without death, the resulting mass would leave death as a blessed alternative. Death is the essential condition of life, not an evil. ”

— from page 40 of The Living of Charlotte Perkins Gilman, the posthumously published 1935 autobiography of Charlotte Perkins Gilman, author and lecturer.

Commonplace Book · Poetry

e. e. cummings on American Political Speechification

“next to of course god america i
love you land of the pilgrims’ and so forth oh
say can you see by the dawn’s early my
country ’tis of centuries come and go
and are no more what of it we should worry
in every languagE. E.ven deafanddumb
thy sons acclaim your glorious name by gorry
by jingo by gee by gosh by gum
why talk of beauty what could be more beaut-
iful than these heroic happy dead
who rushed like lions to the roaring slaughter
they did not stop to think they died instead
then shall the voice of liberty be mute?”

He spoke. And drank rapidly a glass of water

Commonplace Book

Thomas Carlyle on work…


“I too could now say to myself: Be no longer a Chaos, but a World, or even Worldkin. Produce! Produce! Were it but the pitifullest infinitesimal fraction of a Product, produce it, in God’s name! ‘Tis the utmost thou hast in thee: out with it, then. Up, up! Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy whole might. Work while it is called To-day; for the Night cometh, wherein no man can work.”

— from Sartor Resartus, Book 2, Chapter 9, by Thomas Carlyle

Commonplace Book

Philip Larkin on the fear of death…


This is a special way of being afraid
No trick dispels. Religion used to try,
That vast moth-eaten musical brocade
Created to pretend we never die,
And specious stuff that says
No rational being
Can fear a thing it will not feel, not seeing
That this is what we fear — no sight, no sound,
No touch or taste or smell, nothing to think with,
Nothing to love or link with,
The anaesthetic from which none come round.

— from “Aubade” by Philip Larkin


Philip Larkin’s almost perfect poem by A.N. Wilson

Commonplace Book

Kierkegaard and Supertramp on the End of the World

“A fire broke out backstage in a theatre. The clown came out to inform the public; they thought it was a joke and applauded. He repeated it; the acclaim was even greater. I think that’s just how the world will come to an end: to general applause from wits who think it’s a joke.” — Søren Kierkegaard, Either/Or: A Fragment of Life, Trans. Alastaire Hannay (London: Penguin Classics), p. 49.

If Everyone was Listening
by Richard Davies and Roger Hodgson

The actors and jesters are here
The stage is in darkness and clear
For raising the curtain
and no-one’s quite certain whose play it is
How long ago, how long
If only we had listened then.
If we’d known just how right we were going to be.
For we dreamed a lot
And we schemed a lot
And we tried to sing of love before the stage fell apart.

If everyone was listening you know
There’d be a chance that we could save the show
Who’ll be the last clown
To bring the house down?
Oh no, please no, don’t let the curtain fall

Well, what is your costume today?
Who are the props in your play?
You’re acting a part which you thought from the start
was an honest one.
Well how do you plead?
An actor indeed!
Go re-learn your lines,
You don’t know what you’ve done
The finale’s begun.

If everyone was listening you know
There’d be a chance that we could save the show,
Who’ll be the last clown
To bring the house down?
Oh no, please no, don’t let the curtain fall.

Commonplace Book · Movies · Woody Allen

Woody Allen on work…

“It’s a way of coping with the world. You know, in the same way that somebody copes with it by being a stamp collector or a sports addict or a titan of industry or an alcoholic or something. My way of coping with the horrors of existence is to put my nose to the grindstone and work and not look up.”

— from “The Director’s Craft: Woody Allen reflects on ‘Vicky Christina Barcelona,’ love and his life,” by Rachel Abramowitz, Los Angeles Times, August 10, 2008.