by Robert Genn
January 15, 2010 Dear Rodney,The distinctive creak of a bicycle coming to a stop behind me gave an unexpected jerk to my brush. Sandals shuffled on the flinty stones--then a pause. It was a long silence, even for a place where everybody has the time. His was a gravelly voice--perhaps the recent memory of smoke. "It's all about imagination, skill and discovery," he said. My observer was a ring-eared, grey-bearded ponytail--his gnarly foot cocked on the pedal of an incredibly rusty bike. "I've been a truck driver, electrician, boat captain, caretaker and a film editor so I know all about art," he added. I detected New York. "It's not meant to look like what it is," I said. "No need to apologize, fella," he put in, lighting up a half-toke from a leather pouch. Then he shouted something in Spanish and creaked off in the direction of the Corona sign. "You need to work at it," he called over his shoulder, "Like Cezanne. Now there was a dude." I started thinking about the dude: "He unfolds, as a painter," said Cezanne, "that which has not yet been said; he translates it into absolute terms of painting--something other than reality." I was pretty soon back into it. Stuff dries like crazy in the Mexican sun. You can glaze and tone down almost immediately. Shade helps, and I had a big blurry spot of it from a grackle-noisy palm. There's a tendency to be lax and easy. It's all about freedom and concentration. There were a couple of bangs, like gunshots, but it could have been firecrackers. Across the square several policemen appeared to be arresting someone. A mariachi band stepped out of a cantina and didn't seem to care. Tourists and locals sat around, eating things, staring at each other. A two-litre bottle of Fresca came by with a four-year-old girl attached. The pelicans were diving into the sea. The kids were diving into the pool. The toke-guy was right. You have to work at it. In our game nothing much happens until you have immersion. Best regards, Robert PS: "There is an occupation known as painting, which calls for imagination, and skill of hand, in order to discover things not seen, hiding themselves under the shadow of natural objects, and to fix them with the hand, presenting to plain sight what does not actually exist." (Cennino Cennini 1370-1440) Esoterica: It's not ideal, but it works. I'm using ordinary chunks of canvas, formatted to 11" x 14" and gesso-toned in warmish grey. Right now I'm taping the canvas to tables or walls. I like the whole kit to be minimal. Not too much trouble. I'll stretch the decent ones when I get home. I think I'll go get a Corona.