Although spring should be on its way, we have plenty of wintry skies these days to practice with in watercolor. Skies seem to be meant for watercolor–as, come to think of it, that’s what they seem made of. Still it’s a challenge to get all those fluid wispy shapes that nature has perfected. From my spot here at tree-top level (but inside a cozy room!) I see this lake reflecting back the shades of the sky and the surrounding landscape. Never a dull moment… Having gone back over a lot of art books recently, I have brought back white gouache with near-abandon yet seeking still to keep some white paper untouched. Gouache has always been controversial with the purists but paradoxically always welcomed by artists so accomplished as John Singer Sargent and Winslow Homer. So us mere mortals should have no hesitation to experiment away…
Thinking about the intense efforts (as, for instance, reported upon just yesterday on the Lawfare Blog, “Beware the Slippery Slope…) by some to paint (figuratively speaking) people as “other” and somehow lesser human beings just because of their birth circumstances and, in the case of DACA young people, because of the choices of their parents, I have forged ahead during some quiet spells recently with some illustrations related to the volume on ‘diversity’ I have in mind.
Painting–literally painting–is definitely a way to displace some energy that otherwise would be fruitlessly wasted watching the already-absorbed news, for instance. It’s also very interesting to consider trying to explain concepts of diversity and discrimination through a medium (drawing) that is addressed to children.
Why now? It appears to me that current events must capture the minds of those concerned about individual human tragedies, including families being separated, which are being reported in the news. How a nation treats its own people, moreover, and other nations’ people tells us a lot about its future (and its security).
There is no better age to gain lifelong appreciation of the world’s diversity and wonder–and to nurture lifelong curiosity and thirst for learning–than when very young… Ensuring that children retain their curiosity is essential now more than ever to the survival of the planet. The issues we face are not in some far off future. They are here and now. Already mankind needs unprecedented amounts of talent and imagination to cope with very real challenges we face today–challenges which inevitably will combine and interact in ways we can’t precisely predict.
While preparing for a presentation (and a little book stemming from it), and doing some color studies for sketches to accompany them, the news has continued to be very distracting as it is presumably for everyone. In the last 24 hours alone, from a journalist sent crashing to the floor allegedly “body slammed” by a person aspiring to elected office (or is he already in office?)–to confirmation from the CBO (Congressional Budget Office) that the health of our nation is going to take a huge body blow if the latest health care plan is passed–to disconcerting news about NATO (also “body slammed?”), it is tough to keep one’s eyes on the task at hand. But perhaps the combination of these colliding impressions is good for something after all…
In sorting through older material, I came across the famous “boiling frog”–a metaphor, of course, for not noticing when there are gradual changes in your surroundings, until it is too late. According to the metaphor, a frog in a pot of slowly heating water will not react quickly enough to save himself and will eventually die. (This is literally not true; the frog will jump out if he can, apparently. I myself have not tested it, but I respect scientists and experts and they have).
This is a week too in which we have heard the word “suborn” used in open testimony. It’s a useful word. It seems related to another one rarely heard: “inure”, which the dictionary defines as “becoming accustomed to something, especially something unpleasant.” (Perhaps this is a good time to recommend a currently best-selling new little book, available on Amazon for less than $6: On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons From the Twentieth Century,” by Timothy Snyder, a professor of history at Yale.)
With so much coming at us almost hourly, it sometimes seems like the fate of the world is being decided right now.
People are tired of being distracted by it but the most conscientious know that too much is at stake to turn away. Much as we might like to, we can’t tune out what is going on because it’s unfortunately true– the fate of the world is being decided right now. And if we tune out, we will surely not be as fortunate as the sensitive frog who manages to escape the dangers of his warming world.
So, we must not become inured to the bruising pace of the news cycle. It seems to me essential to find ways collectively to both deal with every incoming distraction and yet look beyond it to make sense in time of where we are going and might wish to go instead.
Momentous times indeed, but I have faith we will prove to be at least as smart as frogs. So back to the drawing board…