Category Archives: Uncategorized

Compare & Contrast

Compare and contrast is the bane of every student who is given some subject with those instructions. Fortunately I no longer have to comply with such rubbish, and yet I am still thinking about this when it comes to painting. I often wonder when looking at paintings how long and hard the artist worked on them. I can only assume, but then I’ve never seen a painting that had the number of hours it took to create among the information given. There will generally be a title, and the name of the artist, but never the number of hours. I can understand why an artist wouldn’t provide this information, especially if they are trying to sell their work for a good price. In business you do not reveal your costs if you want to make as much profit as possible. What if stuff  had the time it took to make it on the label? T- shirt, 5 minutes and 11 seconds; cost of production $1.29; price $9.99 – cheap! Oil painting, 3 hours, cost of materials $14.63, price $2500 – cheap!

How long did it take Vincent Van Gogh to paint some of his famous works? I’m speculating here, but I’d guess a couple of hours for some now worth fifty million bucks! Not that Vincent made any money. It’s just a shame his work is now so valuable, because otherwise I’d give him a hundred bucks an hour to paint something for me, as long as he didn’t waste time having dinner while the clock was running.

But back to the compare and contrast rubbish part – I often have a hard time deciding how long to spend on a painting. Sometimes it will take me a few days, and yet other times only a couple of hours to make something just as pleasing to my eye. So how can you compare those? I am at a loss, and lucky for me I don’t have to submit my paper to the professor tomorrow morning. So here are two recent paintings I’ve done. One took me a few days and many hours, the other took an hour and a half. Compare and contrast!

Dussel River, Dusseldorf, Germany

Church, Les Contamines, France

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Filed under Painting, Philosophy, Uncategorized

Priceless Vinyl Treasures

Yesterday we gave away 15 cubic feet of vinyl LP’s which we rarely ever listen to. One of them was the unmemorable last work of John Lennon’s, Double Fantasy, featuring the amazingly talented genius of Yoko Ono,

SHE’S THE GENIUS ON THE LEFT

which I only purchased because John had been murdered. I might have kept this but for the fact that I get disgusted by any reminder of You Know Oh-No.  To cleanse my heart we listened to side 2 of Abbey Road, and thought wistfully of what they might have come up with next, but for their tragic demise. So we mourned the Beatles all over again, but were grateful that at 50 years old, this now ancient LP still has the magic. Among the treasures we discovered while sorting through the collection was another LP, which shall go down in history alongside the opening scenes of the TV show Mission Impossible. From 1973, I give you:

Hear How to TOUCH TYPE

I should mention that just like many Beatles albums, this LP came with bonus goodies, in this case a free Webster XL747 typewriter!

the Webster Guarantee

Now that was almost as good as the poster than came inside the White Album!

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Filed under History, LP's, Music, Typewriters, Uncategorized

HUGE TAX! NO SAVINGS!

Nathanguitars is pleased to announce that we caved in and paid to block those pesky ads that were despoiling the beauty of this blog.

Sometimes my brain rearranges words in a form of temporary dyslexia. This is not unlike the unintentional spelling mistakes my fingers create on the keyboard. Like form, instead of from. I type these all the time, and typewriters have no auto-correction. But my word processing catches it later, sometimes.

I saw a sign recently that was supposed to say HUGE SAVINGS! NO TAX! but of course I saw the opposite. It reminded me of when someone says “don’t worry,” which of course always makes me even more worried.

I typed my weekly letter to #1 son this morning on a 1940 Remington Model 5 Deluxe. Complete with alternate spellings, x outs, and skipped words even, but I think it’s better than an email that is perfect. I like imperfection. Perfection is an insult to the universe. I would never insult the Universe. God forbid. Speaking of which I have just completed my latest novel, which is a charming tale of a pair of intrepid gastropods who set off to explore the world, find a duck, and also the universe, none of which they comprehend or even recognize. It was typed, like all the stuff I write, except this stuff here, on a variety of old and older typewriters. I leave you with an excerpt from the first draft.

Sluggo is the slug. Aaron is the escargot.

 

 

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Filed under Animal psychology, Books and Short Stories, Sketching, Typewriters, Uncategorized, writing

Art, Science or Magic?

At bedtime Olympia went to talk to Oliver about what Ned had told her.
You know what Dad said, she whispered?
What, said Oliver?
He said that there is no magic, because it’s all just advanced technology. Do you think that’s possible?
Anything’s possible, said Oliver, but how would you know the difference?
I wish I could ask the Magic Typer, said Olympia.
What would you ask it, said Oliver?
If it was magic or technology, said Olympia.
How would you know if it gave you the right answer, said Oliver?

from The Magic Typer (author me).

I am always wondering where the line is between art (magic) and science. What makes a photograph art, as opposed to just chemistry? Sometimes I am pretty sure photography is not art at all, and is merely a technical achievement that imitates art. Then again there are times when some photograph I see moves me in an artistic way. Is this magic or just advanced technology pushing my buttons? There is no definitive answer, of course. Most photography is not art, that is certain. And most art is crap too, for that matter. So how do we judge it all? I gave up long ago, back in architecture school when I came to the realization that even the so called experts can never agree on what is good or bad. So I just allow my senses to inform me about what I like and don’t like.

What got me going on this subject was taking photos today with my Fuji Instax camera. I think it was Cartier Bresson who said anyone could make a masterpiece with a Rolleiflex camera. He may have been right. Photos I get from the instant camera often have more art in them than the best I can take with my super pixel DSLR. Maybe because it’s all down to the subject and composition, as opposed to colour rendition, focus and sharpness of details. In any case, I enjoy the results, even if they are less than spectacular technically. That is what I enjoy about watercolour painting too, because it is imprecise and fuzzy – at least in my hands!

Here are three takes on a big old oak tree in the meadow nearby.

 

 

A tree at sunset, and two pieces from a local pub done today:

 

 

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Filed under Books, Photography, Sketching, Technology, Uncategorized

Slip Stick Analog Converter

Discovered in a thrift shop last week. It’s not exactly a slide rule, although it resembles one. It’s a metric converter, and if the USA ever joins the metric world, these will be in high demand. Get one now while they’re cheap; only 8 Euros on Ebay! This handy tool does a great job and is accurate enough for most applications, unless you are in need of scientific accuracy. To underscore the historical significance of this gadget, the Smithsonian considers it worthy of a webpage. With one moving part, it should last several lifetimes. The sliding cursor is unnecessary, so I don’t count that.

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Filed under Technology, Thrift shop finds, Uncategorized

Les Houches to Chamonix

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a place mat from one of the refuges

Those who have set foot on the trail that circumnavigates Mont Blanc – the TMB – will no doubt recognize the name of the otherwise obscure village of Les Houches, France, where the vast majority of TMB hikers begin their journey. We heard it mentioned most every day when we talked to fellow TMB hikers. There is a very excellent shop there by the way, across from the Bellevue cable car station, where you would be well advised to buy some cheese, bread and a few sausages to carry in your bag. You will need them for energy, I can guarantee it!

The TMB is the most famous hike in the Alps, and thousands do the circuit yearly. It is next to impossible short of a book length post here to adequately describe the experience. I survived; but it was much tougher than I expected. Let no one kid you that trails in the Alps are just long gentle strolls along valleys and over soft rounded hills and cols. Not a chance! They are rugged, steep, slippery, narrow, muddy, rocky and full of roots, stones, water, twists, turns, high steps, no steps, scrambles and muck. But there are some very special rewards. After a few days of walking in the mountains you begin to stop thinking about anything much except the path in front of you, and the scenery all around. In my experience there is really nothing that can compare to this peacefulness. Part of it is due to the sheer effort it takes to keep going, and part to the lack of the usual stimuli or distractions. Refuges, also called gites or auberges, have internet for the most part, so one can keep in touch if necessary; but I simply used this to dispatch emails each night to update our progress and report that we were still alive. News out there is of no value whatsoever, which makes you wonder what value it has in the first place.

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some passable scenery

There are signs, maps and guidebooks that will show you the way and inform you as to how long it takes from here to there. The maps and guidebooks are useful, if you actually read them, something we should have done more often. We might not have gotten lost then. The signs are also very useful, if you add 30 minutes to every hour they purport to advise. Of course this applies to me, who merely trained one summer which was not nearly enough, but was sufficient to keep me moving at least. A year would have been much better, if I had concentrated on getting my legs ready for climbing and descending 1000 metres on steep mountains every day. Maybe 5 hours on the stairmaster with a pack would have helped, but who has time for that? Not  me. So I hiked around the paltry hills in the neighbourhood, hoping to strengthen the old leg muscles enough to get by. I suppose it did, as I made it with injury, but not without suffering!

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somewhere in Switzerland, or Italy…

I had forgotten what it takes to climb 1000 metres straight up, a typical day; as it is well understood that humans have a great capacity to remember pleasant things and forget pain. By now I have even begun to forget how my legs and body felt as I climbed the Fenetre d’Arpete in Switzerland less than 2 weeks ago, all the while thinking that whoever made this trail was crazy to think anyone would use it, since there was a much easier alternate route. However, we were not the only ones punishing our legs that day – there were others, and many of them, all looking pretty much the same as us; exhausted, and sullen. Briefly, at the col we rested and looked back on our achievement, only to be dampened by looking down the other side at the same sort of slope that would soon dole out punishing knee strain over 1000 metres of descent, and for what? The right to say you climbed the Fenetre d’Arpete, that’s what! Also, for a nice view – enjoyed for 15 minutes. No beer up here, unlike some other notable cols along the trail.

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Refuge des Mottets, La Ville des Glaciers, France

40 years back I hiked northernmost 100 miles of the AT to Mt. Katahdin in Maine – with a 50 lb backpack and no resupply points. I would never attempt to do that one again, for good reason. One – I hate carrying 50 lbs, and two; it was dull compared to the Alps. So if you can afford it, and you fancy a long hike somewhere, try the TMB. At the end, when you are done or you are certain you will make it, buy one of those lime green t-shirts with the TMB logo. We bought ours at the last refuge, but we didn’t don them until we had completed the trek. Then we immediately put them on and went out for a nice dinner and some Brasserie Mont Blanc beer.

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my son Terry, and his beer of choice

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my preferred Mont Blanc brew – La Rousse (red ale)

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Filed under Great Hikes, Uncategorized

Alpine Fantasy

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imaginary alpine scene

That could be me coming to a bridge over an idyllic mountain stream, but I just made this scene up while testing some new paints. One of those peaks could be Mont Blanc, too! In less than 2 weeks I will see for myself when I arrive in Chamonix to hike the  trail known as the Tour de Mont Blanc, or TMB. Training with a pack is one thing, but trying to decide on what to bring is another. The perfect is the enemy of the good, yet I waste hours of thought and time dabbling with various paints, brushes, papers and so on, until I almost feel like forgetting about sketching altogether! However, that would be dumb, because I know that when I get there I’ll be itching to do a sketch – so around it goes. This fantasy was done on heavy watercolour paper using cheap acrylic paints that came in a set. The tubes hold 10ml each, and as soon as I squeezed some out I knew that 10ml would not be enough. For one thing the paint is too thin, and doesn’t cover anywhere nearly as well as high quality paint does.  Regular size tubes hold 60ml, which is way too much, but there aren’t any good paints sold in smaller tubes. Winsor Newton makes sets of  20ml tubes however, so I may try those. No doubt it’s decent paint. On any hiking trip you one should keep the gear down to a minimum, thus my sweating over the size of the paint tubes. It seems ridiculous, but ounces add up to pounds, as they say. Two more weeks to get it all sorted…

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what to take?

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Filed under Great Hikes, Painting, Uncategorized