Saturday, November 26, 2011

Waves and Robinson Jeffers


Tor House


We plein air painters, especially the ones who try to make a living of it, are sometimes too focussed in our interests.  It's like a diet of all chocolate - addictive, nourishing in its own way, but maybe too much of a good thing.  Well, here's a little fiber for you.    I want to introduce the poet Robinson Jeffers.

Jeffers was a popular poet back before World War II.  He built a home in Carmel out of stones he hauled up from the beach.  During the war, he fell from favor because he was against it.  But lately he's experiencing a revival as a poet for environmentalists.  He was very much grounded in nature and the landscape, which is why I recommend him to painters.  If Jeffers had been a painter, he probably would have been a plein air painter.

We took a tour of a home he built in Carmel - Tor House - and its accompanying tower, Hawk Tower.  Tours are given only on Fridays and Saturdays, with no more than six people.  The house and tower are very special, because they have all of the original furnishings and are in the spot Jeffers left them.  It's amazing to see the tower, which Jeffers built singlehandedly.  The tower had a room for him to write in, a room for his wife Una to hang out in - she had asked him to build the tower for her - and a room for the twins to play in.

Hawk Tower

We've been having some beautiful swells and crashing waves these last couple of days.  I've taken lots of photos and even some video of the waves.  (The best way for a painter to get a good shot of a wave for painting is to take a video and then step through the frames to find the one frame that has the best wave.)  With that in mind, here's a poem Jeffers wrote about waves.

November Surf

Some lucky day each November great waves awake
and are drawn
Like smoking mountains bright from the west
And come and cover the cliff with white violent cleanness:
then suddenly
The old granite forgets half a year’s filth:
The orange-peel, egg-shells, papers, pieces of clothing,
the clots
Of dung in corners of the rock, and used
Sheaths that make light love safe in the evenings: all
the droppings of the summer
Idlers washed off in a winter ecstasy:
I think this cumbered continent envies its cliff then….
But all seasons
The earth, in her childlike prophetic sleep,
Keeps dreaming of the bath of a storm that prepares up
the long coast
Of the future to scour more than her sea-lines:
The cities gone down, the people fewer and the hawks
more numerous,
The rivers mouth to source pure; when the two-footed
Mammal, being someways one of the nobler animals, regains
The dignity of room, the value of rareness.

Waves at Asilomar Beach

Just as a reminder, my studio painting sale continues for a little while longer.  I'm posting sketches and demos daily.  If you would, please check it out at my studio store where you can see the full list of what's available -  http://johnsonstudiostore.blogspot.com/


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