Mike Clelland’s illustrations are relentlessly cheerful. The lines are so relaxed but precise and I love the heavy use of arrows and labels:
mike clelland's illustration of a snow cave

mike clelland's illustration of a pulley system

mike clelland's climbing illustration

Perfume is the art for your sense of smell, just as music is for hearing and art for your eyes and cuisine is for taste. This past weekend at the Decatur Book Festival, my favorite author to hear, by far, was Chandler Burr. Chandler Burr currently writes about perfume for the New York Times. He talked a bit about his book The Perfect Scent and led us through a bunch of perfumes, often drawing analogies with the art world. One fragrance was like Francis Bacon. Another with “a broad wash of abstract fruit” brought Mark Rothko to mind. I’d never given perfume a second thought before but it was really mind-opening to hear about the experimentation and the science and the perfumers cooking it all up. Crazy stuff.

A Day in the Life of a Musician by Erik Satie:

An artist must regulate his life.

Here is a time-table of my daily acts. I rise at 7.18; am inspired from 10.23 to 11.47. I lunch at 12.11 and leave the table at 12.14. A healthy ride on horse-back round my domain follows from 1.19 pm to 2.53 pm. Another bout of inspiration from 3.12 to 4.7 pm. From 5 to 6.47 pm various occupations (fencing, reflection, immobility, visits, contemplation, dexterity, natation, etc.)

Dinner is served at 7.16 and finished at 7.20 pm. From 8.9 to 9.59 pm symphonic readings (out loud). I go to bed regularly at 10.37 pm. Once a week (on Tuesdays) I awake with a start at 3.14 am.

Sculptor Richard Serra gave the 2008 commencement speech at Williams College. I like his comments about thinking, obsession, and play:

If it’s not broken, break it. One way of coming to terms with the prevailing language of a cultural orthodoxy is to reject it. It may be necessary to invent tools and methods about which you know nothing, to act in ways that allow you to utilize the content of your personal experience, to form an obsession and to cut through the weight of your education. Obsession is what it comes down to. It is difficult to think without obsession, and it is impossible to create something without a foundation that is rigorous, incontrovertible, and, in fact, to some degree repetitive. Repetition is the ritual of obsession. Don’t confuse the obsession of repetition with learning by rote. I am suggesting a form of inquiry, a procedure to jumpstart the indecision of beginning.

The solution to a given problem often occurs through repetition, a continual probing. The accumulation of solutions invariably alters the original problem demanding new solutions to a different set of problems. In effect, as solutions evolve, new problems emerge. To persevere and to begin over and over again is to continue the obsession with work. Work comes out of work.

But solutions need not only be the result of constant repetition. There is another route, not so structured but rather free-floating and more experimental but no less obsessive. It is to be found in the activity of play. I cannot overemphasize the importance of play. The freedom of play and its transitional character encourage the suspension of beliefs whereby a shift in direction is possible; play ought to be part of the working process. Free from skepticism and self-criticism play allows you to relinquish control. Playful activity provides an alternative way to see, to imagine, to do, to make, to think otherwise. In play there are no ends, there are only means, however, means inadvertently can lead to ends. Rules can be made up as you go along or even in hindsight.

[via michael surtees]

Robert Frost on creative growth

influence + experience = the waterspout
I’ve been flipping through The Collected Prose of Robert Frost and came across this marvelous bit:

No one given to looking under-ground in spring can have failed to notice how a bean starts its growth from the seed. Now the manner of a poet’s germination is less like that of a bean in the ground than of a waterspout at sea. He has to begin as a cloud of all the other poets he ever read. That can’t be helped. And first the cloud reaches down toward the water from above and then the water reaches up toward the cloud from below and finally cloud and water join together to roll as one pillar between heaven and earth. The base of water he picks up from below is of course all the life he ever lived outside of books.

Frost speaks elsewhere of “the person who writes out of the eddy in his mind.” Great images.

As an aside, not only is this a really great metaphor, but it also strikes me as a killer opening paragraph. It starts with a kind of odd idea, but not too uncomfortable (I mean, I know what a bean is, but I haven’t looked at one in the ground in decades). Then the contrast of beans with what he really wants to talk about, poets. And waterspouts. What? Then a couple short prep sentences. Then the rolling polysyndetonic waterspout of a sentence to flesh out the metaphor and to be a sort of pillar in itself connecting the odd ideas at the opening with real-world experience down at the bottom of the paragraph. The language here mirrors the concepts in a very cool way.