I got my 2nd dose of the covid vaccine this week and I’m very glad! It did slow me down some so I did more than my usual reading, sketching and thinking.
I avidly follow and read the letters written by historian Dr. Heather Cox Richardson. Often I use her letters on current events and past history as a prompt for my creative sketchbook work.
This week I read this letter by Dr Richardson https://heathercoxrichardson.substack.com/p/april-7-2021 and did this sketch.
The next day I read this letter by Dr. Richardson https://heathercoxrichardson.substack.com/p/april-8-2021 and did this sketch.
Behind these sketchbook thoughts is my ongoing thinking about Jane Austen’s work. In her novels – Pride and Prejudice most certainly – Austen writes of civility and the social comedy of manners. I see Austen’s work as exploring how stories affect civility and how the presence of civility, or lack thereof, in turn affects not just the individual but also the people around them and the larger society.
Here’s some of the books I’ve been looking at (besides the ebook murder mysteries on my phone): Living With Books by Helen E. Haines, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (my new copy!), The Ghost Map by Steven Johnson, Art Matters by Peter de Bolla, In the Presence of Fear by Wendell Berry.
So in multiple ways I’ve been pondering the mundane roll-sleeves-up get-hat-gloves-boots-on kind of work it takes to have a humane civilization. Pleasantness takes effort, talent and perseverance. It can take effort to remember to notice and accept when something is pleasant and then to share it.
As Kurt Vonnegut said “I urge you to please notice when you’re happy and exclaim or murmur or think at some point “If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.””
The odd surprises which delight us in nature, in cooking, in art, in literature and in music help us to cope, to see things anew, to remember why we’re working so hard – and that’s what the Arts are for, I think, to help us remember our humanity, our capability to be humane.
Anyway, I eventually finished this painting and titled it “Of Civility”. As per my last post I used some collage text from my old falling apart copy of Pride and Prejudice. This is another piece for art exhibits later this year.
Yes, it may take effort sometimes to be civil and show civility … but forward looking pleasantness usually works out better. As Maya Angelou said “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Also while thinking on these topics I made a coffee mug design for my Zazzle shop. My hand lettering on the mug says “I love you…you’re probably thinking ‘but you don’t even know me’ … but if people can hate people they don’t even know then I can love…so, I love you.” (Yes, I consider this mug tangentially part of the “household surrealism” work I spoke of in my last post” – my whimsical enjoyment of mundane things which includes making items that could be given as gifts)
Speaking of mundane pleasures, thanks to “An Invitation To Indian Cooking” by Madhur Jaffrey, I have finally learned to consistently make good Basmati rice on the stovetop! (My rice cooker bit the dust so making rice stovetop became a project)
Some quotes I like about rice:
And here’s another sketchbook page … I keep thinking about this one…
I hope you have a pleasant week full of gentle stories, kindness, civility, some odd delightful surprises and a very good bowl of rice. See you next Monday?