A sketch…a world in flux

It’s a near-complete circle, unfinished at the bottom where the shape begins and ends, as though painted in one swift, smooth brushstroke, left barely disconnected by the painter without any second thought.  I’ve seen it a lot over the past year, as I’ve consistently thought about projects still unfinished, not quite realized. 

‘This Is It’ by Thich Nhat Hanh

Last night I was thinking about sketching.  The first drawing, the rough outline for what’s to come.  The more I think about it, the more I learn to appreciate it; and the more I realize that conception, for better or worse, has always appealed to me more than completion. 

That end result has always been less exciting to me, which I guess is ironic.  Here I am pursuing something and yet—maybe subconsciously—I’m not even in a big hurry to get it.  Maybe it’s a weakness, but it’s one that I embrace.    

There’s nothing like that initial moment where something comes right out from my head and onto the page.  The sketch is raw, still in motion and only just being born.  It’s breathing and you can feel the pulse, as Jude likes to say.

Meanwhile when something is complete, it’s complete.  Done.  It’ll be hung up on a wall, put on record, published in a printing house and maybe admired and talked about for ages to come, or it might be forgotten no sooner than it arrived, but either way it’s finished. 

It might take on a life of it’s own after you and that’s a beautiful thing, but even so, it’s a life that’s separate from you.  The sense of finality isn’t always comfortable, but probably necessary. 

There are only a few things that ever seem to remain constant in my life, anyway.  Like the people I’m lucky to call friends and family, and certain fundamental understandings of life and the universe. 

In my beginning is my end…
In my end is my beginning
-T.S. Eliot, “Four Quartets”

A friend once told me the only thing consistent in life is change.  The sketch, at best, reflects that fundamental truth.   It’s still in flux, still being made.  It’s future unknown. 

Open to possibility. 

Issue #4
Q&Co.

critic at the pulpit

by Cal Corso

Art belongs to the people. It always has and hopefully always will.

It’s an important relationship, essential to the human experience.  Still it’s most consistent threat comes in the form of the intellectual asserting their expertise and implicitly suggesting some greater understanding of the art than the average person, even though we all have eyes and ears.

It’s a role that really shouldn’t exist unless it celebrates the work and it’s potential value to society.  If the work itself is no good then why talk about it at all? Wouldn’t it just add more noise to something that isn’t worthwhile to begin with?

Conversation and debate, more so than criticism, should arise from the ideas suggested by the art, and not dwell on whether the work is any good.  Any real complaint or criticism, then, would still manage to stimulate further discussion instead of stifling it.

“Never use a long word where a short one will do.”
-George Orwell

I can’t help but notice how these critics are a lot like some religious leaders who take a universal experience, plainly accessible to everyone, and suggest that their perspective on it is somehow more credible than our own, that they are more aware of its complexities–even though these are typically complexities of their own creation.

Most of them have never made a film, written a novel, composed music, or contributed anything to the field in which they claim expertise.  What they have done is invent a vocabulary, spontaneously and without any great need for one, a lexicon uniquely tailored to the craft, to a collective experience, that only further reinforces the illusion that they understand it more deeply than we do.

Jargon complicates the experience for the layman, reserving it for the elites who invent the language, evidently to perpetuate their own sense of self-importance.

In the late 1940s, William Faulkner criticized Ernest Hemingway for his terse style of writing, his limited choice of words.

“He has no courage, has never crawled out on a limb,” Faulkner said. “He has never been known to use a word that might cause the reader to check with a dictionary to see if it is properly used.”

When Hemingway heard about the criticism, he had his own choice words for Faulkner.

“Poor Faulkner. Does he really think big emotions come from big words? He thinks I don’t know the ten-dollar words. I know them all right. But there are older and simpler and better words, and those are the ones I use.”

Very often I’ve met people who find art overwhelming, even intimidating, just like they do poetry and certain types of music, like jazz or classical, because they feel it goes over their head.  They get discouraged by their seeming inability to figure out what the artist is trying to say, as if there’s some great big point to it they cannot grasp.

Ultimately it’s a product of our own making.  We’ve cultivated a whole industry that assumes the right to decide for everyone else what is good and what is bad, even though there has never been a science in determining something like that, and suggesting otherwise only reinforces the idea of there being some secret language to understanding it in the first place, a language reserved only for the esoteric few instead of the many.

There is no big secret, or code, or convoluted way.  The language is universal.  There is only the reaction, our own individual connections to the art, every bit as legitimate as the reactions of the self-proclaimed scholars.

I emphasize this because, in this magazine, we’ll be talking about music and films and painting and all kinds of art that we enjoy here at Quinby & Co. We’ll be talking about why we enjoy it too.

We will never be talking about something just so that we can give it a bad review and shoot it down.  If you hear any kind of criticism, it will more often address a specific point we feel the work in question is making, one that we feel has broader societal and philosophical implications.

If anything, it will try and stimulate debate not on the merit of the work but on the larger points that we have interpreted from it.  Most often, it will be a conversation over ideas.  We are not experts here, but we are passionate about telling good stories that resonate with people, about the tradition of telling stories and understanding why, since the dawn of man, we’ve even bothered to do it all.

To that point, we’d like to emphasize our belief that any work of art that stimulates such discussion is still, at the very least, something worthwhile.  Something worth experiencing.  In our humble opinion, it makes for a significant contribution to the times in which we live.

Issue #2 / Quinby & Co.