Hurry-up, Ding, Ding!

Decades ago I saw the film, “Sweet November”, in which Sandy Dennis refers to her boyfriend, Anthony Newley, as “Hurry-up Ding,  Ding” . He has amassed a fortune in business while starving his emotional and creative life. He is a human automaton in a great rush to get nowhere of real value.

She is detemined to “re-humanize” him. Unknown to him, she has only a short time to live, but  has profoundly grasped the richness of life and wants to share it with him. Under her influence, he begins dressing casually and creatively (1960’s style) and has returned to writing poetry. Also, he has learned to love her in a way he was incapable of loving before. – Only now does he realize she is dying while he has become totally alive.

The message is profound and timeless, but requires balance to work in real life. Both characters were partially right. He needed hard work and self-discipline to get ahead in his career (which, in the real world, is not such a bad thing). He just went too far by eliminating everything else.

She was right in finding rich fulfillment in every facet of life and caring deeply about his wellbeing. But we never see her out in the real world making a living. Being perceptive, reflective, and intense enough to be a fine poet is a treasure. However, those qualities (as a constant) are okay in real life only if one does not require a day job for survival of have other responsibilities.

As usual in movie scripts, we see the CLOSE UP on romantic ecstasy before the FADE TO BLACK at the end . I have wondered how many people went out and quit their jobs and other obligations  in a swirl of passion after seeing that film, only to become disillusioned and destitute. I did not do so, but it was a temptation. It was a sixties thing being that way. I will always look back on it fondly, but I am also still here (as some are not who gave in to the magic moment).

Where is the fine balance line between saying YES to duty and YES to life? It’s taken me years to separate the two at some points and amalgamate them at others. This balance is especially important for the artist and writer (both of which I am).  I want to paint, sculpt, and write with power and depth. But I do not want to discount the obligation of self-preservation, even for arts sake.

The most heart-felt scenes in film seem to “just happen” before us (as though we looked through a key hole). However, they require the scrupulous preparation of cold logic, hard work, grace under fire. The same is so with good painting. I have a  vision of the general look and emotion a painting is to convey. However, I must detach myself enough from the dream state aspect of that vision to construct it in infinite detail in a particular space with particular objects using a particular medium. How is each area lighted? What is the focus and how do I guide the eye through the rest to get to it in the best way?

Objects must be gathered to go in it (or pictures thereof). I also rely on memory and creativity in drawing them, but accuracy is important.  If I am raring to go on the painting, itself, this requires self-control! 

An fine and established painter I once studied advises having several paintings going at one time. On a day when one is in a mood to do detail, he might work on the details of one of them, then switch to a looser and more swashbuckling approach on another one. This requires, of course, an amagamation of creativity and a rational plan.

For example, one may work on a painting with an impasto technique. Mixing sand or other debris with the paint (or the underpainting medium) takes time and is more like cooking than art. Getting this done before getting into the painting, itself, frees one to just slather on the paint in ecstasy (eliminating all that tedious start stop).

If one is more detached on a particular day, it may be best to concentrate on structure of the painting such as perspective, areas requiring mechanical drafting, etc. One may be mixing  several types of mediums or stretching  canvas if less emotionally charged. – “Scorn not the day of small beginnings.”

It is all a balance of self-control, self-denial, self-expression, self-appraisal, and occasionally self-applause (within reason). I get the basic hygiene, grooming, eating, food preparation, tidying the house, etc. out of the way before allowing myself into the studio so that my creative work will not be interrupted. In my freezer are delicious and nutricious foods in individual portions.

I am both the sensitized “poet” and the “Hurry-up Ding, Ding” guy. It all works best with God’s help, of course. He is the ultimate artist, engineer, scientist, mathematician. We are created in His image. Think about it.

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