Love for one’s work

“Bound and Wounded” 7×5 inches, oil on panel @Wally Workman, SOLD

My feverish and unsatisfactory attempts were themselves a token of love, a love which brought me no pleasure but was nonetheless profound. – Marcel Proust

“Martyred Lover” 10×8 inches, oil on panel @ Meyer Gallery, Park City SOLD

In Swann’s Way, Proust’s narrator describes his relationship with the art of writing in the above quote. At a recent afternoon tea, (I heart afternoon tea), conversation turned towards the discussion of the enjoyment of one’s work. There were three of us there: myself, and two writers. The first writer somehow evaded directly answering the question, only glibly admitting that she never suffered writers block… a malady she assigned to those more original than herself.  The second, meanwhile, declared the joyful and meditative states induced by the activity of writing. As for myself, I love my work but rarely do I enjoy it. Drawing is pleasurable because it is immediately gratifying. Perhaps this is why I jealously guard my drawings and am reluctant to show them; they are my private joy. Painting on the other hand is too difficult and slow going. So why do I paint? For the same reason why Proust’s narrator pursues writing: love.  If drawing is the seed of an idea, then an oil painting for me is that idea fully realized. I am grateful for the privilege of making art for a living and my love for painting is deep and profound. And so I dedicate myself to something more tangible than that loaded word, art, and do my work as a craftsman would: day to day and with consistency. I am reminded of that artist’s adage: we do not have the right to the fruits of our labor, only to the labor itself. Or some such thing…

The Conspirators: The Artist and Her Beastly Muse

There is a monkey whispering in my ear. Is it a devil or angel, perhaps an alter ego planning dark or brilliant deeds? It’s nothing but a conspiring hairy muse. Shakespeare certainly thought it rascally, chiding the idle and absent muse in Sonnet 100.

by William Shakespeare

Where art thou Muse that thou forget’st so long,
To speak of that which gives thee all thy might?
Spend’st thou thy fury on some worthless song,
Darkening thy power to lend base subjects light?
Return forgetful Muse, and straight redeem,
In gentle numbers time so idly spent;
Sing to the ear that doth thy lays esteem
And gives thy pen both skill and argument.
Rise, resty Muse, my love’s sweet face survey,
If Time have any wrinkle graven there;
If any, be a satire to decay,
And make time’s spoils despisèd every where.
Give my love fame faster than Time wastes life,
So thou prevent’st his scythe and crooked knife.

The Conspirators

The mischievous, elusive muse is a myth which remains with us today. In The Oxford American magazine – yes the issue where my painting “Young Woman with a Cupid” is featured (see post here) –  Rick Bragg gets funny and brutal, questioning the idea of the fairylike creature showering us with creative pixie dust.

The accoutrements, the fashion, I can do without, but I have always been intrigued by the notion, the whimsy, that some kind of writing spirit hovers near.

I, myself, have never seen one. But all my writing life I have heard writers speak of it, wistfully, as if it were a lover. “Oh, punkin’, I had planned to write today, but the muse, you see, it just wasn’t on me.”

Because you know that some days it doesn’t come at all, the words, and you write anyway, gaining just inches instead of yards, write until you can’t feel your legs and your family thinks that you might be dead.

If it had a form, this muse, it would be a hairy, goatlike beast, something you pin down with a boot on its neck, just so you won’t be so goddamn lonely during this hateful process. And at night, when you believe you are done with it, it bumps and growls from underneath your bed.
Rick Bragg Laments His Absent Muse

Oxford American Magazine feature

“Young Woman with a Cupid” is featured in Oxford American Magazine’s The Southern Literature Issue 2009, No. 66, paired with “Rick Bragg Laments His Absent Muse.” See it online here. Hits newsstands this week. I’m so grateful to be included among other wonderful artists and great writers.

Young Woman with a Cupid

Here, where the history of writing is so deep and rich that magic, surely, must be involved, the craft comes with a dance card of legend, myth, and pretension. Could mortal men and women tell stories so well? Or, through an open window did inspiration come? – Rick Bragg


So happy to see my favorite novel, As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner, made it as #7 on their literature poll, Best Southern Novels of All Time. It’s been years since reading it, but I remember how much it made me laugh and cry. I’m going to have to get a copy and read again.

I once heard a poet say she never reads novels. When asked why, she said, “Because I always get about twenty pages in and then realize, hmm, THIS isn’t As I Lay Dying.” In comparison, everything else is a bit of a disappointment. – Keith Lee Morris