Monday, December 26, 2005

the man who wrote danny boy


This small painting almost got abandoned in the early stages. I'm trying to get a grip on depicting winter scenes but the learning curve is steep, and the previous painting was eventually tossed aside in fury and disgust.

While mulling over a non-art-related problem today it occurred to me that people who are driven to create are often blessed/cursed with a kind of built-in hypersensitivity. It would be great if it could be turned on and off like a tap: on when needed, like while tackling a design problem, then off when it can be more of a burden than a blessing, like in interpersonal relationships. But when you see the whites whiter than most people, and the blacks blacker (metaphorically speaking), a disconnect is bound to happen.

The artist/writer/composer wants something different from most people (see below), creating an even wider gulf. The mad artist is a well-worn cliche, but it doesn't exist in a vacuum. I've seen nuggets of truth in it in a couple of instances. One of my favourite songs explores the fine line betwen inspiration and madness using the classic metaphor of selling one's soul to the devil. And he does it to such sweet music (his palette) that it really needs to be listened to, not just read:

The Man Who Wrote Danny Boy

It happened one night
At three in the morning
The devil appeared in my studio room
And he said I'm your pal
And I'll make you a deal
Blow away all your struggle
And take your soul for a toy

After rubbing my eyes
I looked all around me
At the half-finished drivel I'd worked on for days
And I told him my dream
Was to live for all time
In some perfect refrain
Like the man who wrote Danny Boy

And I said if you're real, then I'll ask you a question
While most of us turn into ashes or dust
Just you and that other guy go on forever
But who writes the history
And who do I trust?

He gave me a wink
And he said it was funny
How mortals would pour all their blood, sweat and tears
Onto tape, onto paper
Or into the air
To be lost and forgotten
Outside of his kind employ

Then I thought I could hear a great sound in the distance
Of whiskey-soaked singing
And laughter and cheers
And they're saying, that song could bring tears to a glass eye
So pass me the papers, I'll sign them in blood
And the smell of the brimstone was turned into greasepaint
And the roar of the crowd like the furies of hell
And I hear the applause and I hear the bells ringing
And the sound of a woman's voice from the next room

Saying come to me now
Come lay down beside me
Whatever you're doing you're too gone to see
You can't hold onto shadows, no more than to years
So be glad for the pleasures
We're young enough to enjoy

So maybe I'm drunk
Or maybe a liar
Or maybe we're all living inside a dream
You can say what you like
When I'm gone, then you'll see
I'll be down in the dark
Down underground
With Shakespeare and Bach
And the man who wrote Danny Boy

Joe Jackson 1994

20 Comments:

Blogger carla said...

Andrea, I love the treatment of the grass in this painting. Your ability to meld light,texture, and movement is quite amazing. I am very touched by your words, and by the Joe Jackson song. I agree that the hypersensitivity you speak of is often a burden, but like selling one's sould to the devil, it's a the price one pays for being able to see, feel, and color "outside the lines." Would you ever really trade that way for the permanent even keel? I doubt it (and thank God!).
Hey, on a lighter note, I do hope you and your family had a lovely holiday! I also want to tak a moment to let you know how much I've enjoyed "meeting" you, reading your really varied and always fascinating nposts, and most of all...seeing the art you've shared. I wish you a really productive and fulfilling New Year. - carla

26/12/05 5:06 PM  
Blogger Brian the Mennonite said...

As part of my minor in German studies at Brandon University, I took a German Literature course where I was the only student. I laboured through the German text of Goethe's Faust. When I read the lyrics to Joe Jackson's song you posted, the "Faust" theme behind his song became quite clear. Its a beautiful song with an equally lovely theme. Many of us desire to inspire those around us to the point of being immortalised.The madness comes in, I guess, when some go to extreme measures to arrive at this level of inspiration.

26/12/05 9:52 PM  
Blogger ValGalArt said...

the painting is really amazing! The joe jackson song is great and the picture with zappa laying upside down is hilarious! he is a lovebug! I hope you are being nice to yourself with the stress of your impending show... I agree with Carla reading your varied, fascinating posts and your amazing art are an almost everyday treat! Have all that you wish for and so richly deserve.

26/12/05 9:57 PM  
Blogger kyknoord said...

Echoes of Tartini there. The disconnect you mentioned seems to in the nature of most artists. Perhaps it isn't possible to create something meaningful without it?

27/12/05 12:14 AM  
Blogger Caroline said...

Andrea does this posting really exisit? I get it when I go directly from bloglines but I don't seem to find it when I just go to your blog...

27/12/05 4:12 AM  
Blogger Caroline said...

I've managed to get blogger to admit that it is there now... weird!

Love the painting - and I agree I could do with being a little less over-sensitive... it would be great to find that on/off knob - do let me know if you locate it!

27/12/05 4:16 AM  
Blogger andrea said...

Carla: I tried to trade it for the permanent even keel -- for over a decade. It's like teaching a fish to ride a bicycle. No matter how hard they try, they're going to fall off eventually. Thanks for your kinds words and insight this year.

Brian: I have always meant to read "Faust", thinking I might learn something valuable, but have never found the wherewithal to actually buckle down without an instructor holding threatening letter grades over my head. Maybe I should go back to school...

Val: Thank you again. I'll get back to you on those cards.

Kyknoord: Maybe so, but I'm only human and the need to fight the disconnect is constant and demanding.

Caroline: The traditional locations of that knob (the bottle, self-imposed isolation, workaholism, the needle, etc.) are made of elastic bands and twist-ties, and eventually quit working I'm told so I'm still looking. If you get there first, call me.

27/12/05 8:48 AM  
Blogger Mick said...

You're a contemporary painter that I admire greatly, Andrea. The struggle with this painting is one that you surely understand must be greeted, tested, challenged and overcome.
As for the way we artists seem to see and feel and hear and ache - so much differently than most and too often with more angst and pain - in some ways is, in itself, a way to know that we're alive. The creative stupor we fall into, along with the thrill of our creation, often belies the fact that there's a "real life" close at hand too...know that, at the very least, you're not alone, especially among those of us here who know you and love you. Happy New Year, however it comes to us.

27/12/05 11:43 AM  
Blogger andrea said...

Thanks for the kind and understanding words, Mick. It's good to know there are like minds out there!

27/12/05 3:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'll add my voice to the chorus, that there are like minds out there, facing/sharing a similar depth of analysis. As artists we all have a slightly mad streak with finely attuned antenna across a range of sensitive issues....to create is to see and feel the world differently...perhaps we are seeking the truth, where as others are happy to spoon fed?

BTW I really like the shadow lines across the road on your painting.

Detlef
http://www.detlefjumpertz.com

27/12/05 11:25 PM  
Blogger Caroline said...

I've never consider any of the "knobs" you mention as I've only seen them exaggerate the misery (I had an alcholic uncle). And besides I seem to have strange reactions to things... I used to get a migraine half-way down the first glass of red wine! If I do find the answer I'll post it :-)

28/12/05 3:23 AM  
Blogger Nan said...

Thought provoking words, Andrea. I appreciate the depth of your process and the way you share it. I don't think about myself in your terms, but I have often tried to describe something in myself that I can only call restlessness. Always moving on to the next thing and trying something just a bit different. Solving a new little puzzle, planning something new. I also don't think of myself as having an artist's eye or compulsion to create, yet I think maybe that's part of the restlessness. Seeing things others do not see more often manifests itself in my perception of abstract things, like situations, group dynamics, interpersonal relations, etc. But after all that, interestingly enough, my husband describes me more in your terms (driven to create, express, produce; seeing depth and detail that others do not see). So, who knows? Thanks for getting me thinking!

28/12/05 8:12 AM  
Blogger merlinprincesse said...

I love it, as usual. Your blues (I mean colors) are a wonder! I'm thinking of buying one of your paintings. I will e-mail you later.
I've lived all my life with this sensibility. Too much! said my parents! But with time, I've learned how to control it. I have to cause in my daywork, I meet people that are ill, or dying and afraid of pain and death and that is very demanding. I've learned to manage my empathy. I've learned to control my emotions so they don't destroy me. Hard work. But it is simple. When I'm overwhelmed with emotions, I stop, and breathe, and meditate. Or I see a good movie, call a friend, do something simple and nice, like beading or creating quick doodles. I try to let the calm be in me again. That's it. And it works. For me now, this sensibility is a gift. Not a curse.

28/12/05 8:22 AM  
Blogger cream said...

Great painting! The trees look alive! Beautiful shadows! Well done!
You are right about people who create art being hypersensitive.
Their moods all end up surfacing in their work.

28/12/05 4:10 PM  
Blogger Calvin said...

I totally agree. Maker sure you find someone that loves and appreciates art. It will make that "gulf" a little less wider in your life. Great painting. How long did it take if you dont mind me asking?

28/12/05 8:45 PM  
Blogger Reluctant Nomad said...

Apart from saying that I love your painting, I won't say anything else about what you wrote as everyone else has already expressed it. However, I'll have to tell you my Joe Jackson story sometime or, even, blog about it. I am a great fan of his and wish he'd produce more stuff.

Lastly, a belated Merry Christmas to you. Hope everything went well and you aren't suffering some brutal hangover, whether it be the conventional alcohol-induced variety or, even worse, one induced by a surfeit of good will and too much close proximity with people you don't see that often.

29/12/05 6:03 AM  
Blogger andrea said...

Detlef: I'm beginning to think that madness and truth have more in common than it appears!

Caroline: Please do, and I think you're right about those knobs.

Nan: I'm chronically restless, too. I used to satisfy it by moving constantly. Now I just try and cope.

Merlinprincesse: You sound like you've learned a lot from your experiences. Lots of healthy channelling happening there. I look forward to your email.

Cream: Thank you, and you may be right about where the moods end up!

Calvin: The painting took me 1 1/2 days but I didn't work on it full time. There was a point in the middle where I laboured and got nowhere.

Nomad: I can hardly wait for your JJ story!

29/12/05 9:03 AM  
Blogger andrea said...

Sorry Calvin -- that should read 2 1/2 days.

29/12/05 9:04 AM  
Blogger Anonymous said...

Madness and truth are the same thing!

Gorgeous image and the colours remind me of those used by Gough.

29/12/05 3:32 PM  
Anonymous janey said...

Self criticism goes along with creativity I guess. It's something I try to manage everyday.On the good days it makes me draw better, on the bad ones it just makes me freeze up.

I really like your landscapes, they're bright and alive.

31/12/05 5:23 AM  

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