came to realize I belonged in North Beach where the Black Cat had paintings on the wall and sawdust on the floor! There were, to country boy eyes, wonderful people. Old Barcelona, round and barely five feet tall who in his rags, would say, "Eef you zee me one thee strate, you don' know me." Someone would call him a Fenian and he'd respond as to an insult. Guy Wernham and his grown children would come there. Jimmy the pianist who'd as soon smash a nasty antagonist in the face with a glass of the rye, neat, he drank exclusively. William Saroyan (who'd lived in the Montgomery Block of ateliers, levelled for the ostentatious pyramid there now) was rumored to have carved his name large on a tabletop, later to be protectively covered over with the plywood whereon our beers sat.
I joined the portrait 'club'. I'd made them in Seattle at the Double Header bohemian, sailor, college slum bar, really a tavern in those days of beer and cheap wine for non clubbies in dry Washington state.
Making portraits for a few dollars exploited my natural talent for the human face and left days free to paint in my tiny studio in the building now known as Columbus Tower and permitted the extended study of a model who was paying to sit. Eventually, my eye's honing was such that I would find myself going deeper and deeper into the study of a face, taking a lot more time than I was being paid for, into hours. But I was looking closely at reality. Thinking back on it I know that drawing is, as well as a training exercise of the 'pitching arm', a permanent record on the artist's brain of the experience of looking and seeing. Recording, stroke by stroke a world that can be referenced, throughout the brain, it trains itself to notice all of reality at a glance; and from that habit, ability to see and instantly record imaginings and visions, all their details without having drawn them.
Clay Shaw who'd loaned me John Rewald's Study of Impressionism, now puts John Rewald's critical biography of Cezanne in my hands. It was an opening to several practices of my life that have remained with me. The first and most important was to affirm my own habit of working the surface all over, but to refine it with architectonics. And, I had watched my eye come to see more and more in prolonged study of the human face, and the world. Oh, for those times one could decide to see nothing but ears for the day. Or the outer fold of an eyelid. On other days, nothing but cobalt blue or mixing in one's mind, pigments to replicate what one is seeing in nature or in town.
Initiating a drawing with blue was another of the insights that came from Papa Cezanne, to see light embodied in that narrowest of the color bands of the spectrum and match that luminosity throughout the work.
The influence of Oriental Art on the West Coast pointed us to inner change growing from the idea of a long meditation to make a fast painting pointed up to us the importance of one's inner life. We wanted our work's Style grown likewise from our insides out onto the canvas, the page. It meant to live one's life with all the shapeliness of Art, to live with the intensity art-making required. Someone reduced this view of practice to the term 'Life Style'.
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