father's day june 18, 2017
..with time wandering on and the years shifting, I wanted to keep the memories of my wonderful father, Henri Meintjes, alive.. thanks to my siblings René, Linda, and Stephen, for sharing some wonderful stories.. how he would always be reading his books, or magazines, especially CAR magazine (he loved and dreamed of shiny automobiles, since childhood; I could always sense that, and inherited that trait).. and be so bad at reading books and magazines, even when visiting friends and relatives, to seek out their books, so that my mom would always be calling him to come and "socialize".. how he would after dinner go and lie on the floor in the bedroom for a quick nap.. and at the times when he was still smoking the pipe, would nap on the living room floor and would stick the pipe out the sliding door to catch a secret smoke, and keep the strong sweet tobacco smell out of the house.. how he would always tell me, as a kid, what he could get for 10 shillings: a movie, a bunch of toffees, and a dinky toy car.. how he would enjoy strange and ordinary habits like dry figs, the newspaper, strong English mustard mixed in a small metal bowl with a tiny little metal spoon.. Tobasco.. and to be a man always impeccably dressed with a blazer and hat.. he was a man with style, and with a smile.. we miss you and we celebrate you for all you gave us, how you supported us, loved us, and how you enriched our lives.. may you always be a part of our memories.. Happy Father's Day all out there!!
How do we think about spaces? Here I went to the top of One World Observatory, New York.. Nineteen years ago almost to the day I was in this same space - but peering down at the streets of Manhattan, from the observation deck of the North Tower of the World Trade Centre.. Oh, how much have fallen down to the ground, and have risen again from the ashes and the construction sites of these WTC sites, in the years between? This is holy ground to many, where many had fallen into this space.. To me it is a space in the sky to visit.. Here I had stared from the sky 19 years ago, and here I am back walking in the same space.. with so much space of time gone between.. I had walked away from this space in 1996 back to my humble South African space.. And embarked on an around-the-world adventure to discover new spaces, open spaces to explore outward with trains, planes, helicopters, cars, hands, feet and heart; inward spaces, loving people, friends, family; discovering spaces on open canvases to cover with colour and design.. just to rise back into this metropolitan space on top of the Southern tip of Manhattan Island.. what is it about this space, that attracts so many to come and find some magical reward by clambering to the top of skyscraper spaces in massive concrete jungles, just to peer down at the spaces between the concrete towers? And to memorialize spaces created in the bowls of this city to those whose lives ended here..
Here I am also, to maybe find a space not yet discovered? Maybe..
Herein lies my second attempt at delving into the depths of self introspection, in search of the sometimes elusive creativity spark, as our path towards being more creative continues..
Anyone who knows me, knows that I am an avid fan of the band U2 (the Irishmen Bono, Edge, Larry and Adam), for many musical and musical performance reasons, but amongst others, for them coming up with what I believe, is the best piece of music ever written (an easily debated topic amongst many.. but that for another day)..
Their hit song, Where The Streets Have No Name, is the first track off their very successful 80's album, The Joshua Tree. The song was about streets in Belfast, Ireland, but the song also has a history of being very difficult to create, with various attempts, even an almost "deliberate accident" created to erase the tapes and start over, but it was saved through a "tea-dropping incident", and it survived through the creative process to become an iconic hit song. As U2's Drummer Larry Mullen, Jr. later said of the song, "It took so long to get that song right, it was difficult for us to make any sense of it. It only became a truly great song through playing live. On the record, musically, it's not half the song it is live.."
The song has the lyrics:
"..I want run, I want to hide, I want to tear down the walls, that hold me inside..
I want to reach out, and touch the flame.. where the streets have no name.."
These lyrics I have, at some point in my life, adopted to represent, and be an ode to, the all familiar, ever present, and always frustrating, artist block, in the creative process..
This phenomena, experienced by many artists, writers and other creative people, has been explored by many, but is essentially the feeling experienced by creative individuals of wanting to create, but feeling the inability to start, or continue with, or finish an art work, or project..
A good friend of mine, Gordon Macdonald, who is a professional artist, told me once, that the first line of paint on a canvas is the most difficult, and therefore the most important brush stroke of any painting.. it seems many struggle with that first stroke..
Here is my take on this incredibly frustrating, sometimes creatively deliberating, and difficult obstacle, to overcome..
1. Have a dedicated place, studio, room, corner, or area, to paint, work or create, as the availability, storing, and easy access to equipment is vital for creativity. Few amongst us can unpack from storage everything needed for our trade every time a creative urge, or an opportunity to work, presents itself.
2. Have the paints, brushes, thinners, easels, canvasses, film, wood, glue, and / or tools ready to go and available, as anyone that has created a product, knows it's difficult and complicated mediums we work with: messy, smelly, dusty, chemically unstable, propensity for staining, smearing, and spilling, which are difficult to clean up and keep in check. Having to go shopping before creating can be distracting, and demoralizing. Have a blank canvas on an easel - you never know what can happen by walking up to a blank canvas..
3. Have some form of idea of a creative goal or ideal that is doable, and within reasonable reach, which makes it possible to achieve what you set out to do.
4. Try and find a way to work faster, so that you do not get bogged down in initial layout, under painting, or detail required to "move along".. Learn to work efficiently, and confidently, as getting bogged down in endless time consuming details stalls the creative process..
5. Sometimes it really comes down to just stepping forward and laying down the paint on the canvas.. be bold, don't fear, doubt is like the white on the canvas, push it away by letting paint touch canvas..
"I want to reach out, and touch the flame.."
6. Make sure to finish. I have serious trouble sometimes to finish a piece, and have a few unfinished pieces that I have carried with me for a long time already.. to finish opens the door to the start of the next work.
7. There is something to be said for not trying to make a masterpiece of every attempt - do not worry about what others will think of your work (this will be explored further in the future).. create for the sake of creating.. I always say:
"it is the doing, not the product"
When the pressure on how the final product is received by your audience is reduced, it is easier to get started..
8. Stay mobile - move around - the same area / background setting seem to make me not want to start. I do like to move my easel around to different locations..
9. It's not necessarily the best advice, but consider doing a few works at the same time - switching between different works allow growth in dealing with different works and their own unique character - it teaches us to be organised, not only with equipment challenges and overall planning, but also for staying mentally organized by leaving one piece, and taking on another. Also, start the next one right after finishing the last one..
Despite this, my production is relatively low - there is always that voice that seem to say - there are more important things to do - maybe that would be point number 10.. MAKE IT IMPORTANT, your creativity is important - add creativity to your list of things to do.. Like, you need to buy groceries, or fill up the car, this activity is a required activity, which needs its own time..
So my friends, again to those already engaging themselves in creativity - and to those who are thinking about getting creative, and to those who havn't tried it yet; go paint, go film, go cook, go photograph, go write, go garden..
Go WALK "Where The Streets Have No Name".. and "Touch The Flame"..
This will be a first for me, my first blog, hopefully first of many, maybe only a few, depending on success of reception..
I start at the end; always a good thing to grab the tail end of a wild animal, or a dangerous snake, to minimize injury, and nastiness..
"At the end" means, at death, and without sinking into morbidity, I feel I have to open my dialogue with the end game, as it has been such a prevalent feature in my life in recent times..
It seems that 2014 became the year for me where death came to visit on many fronts; for me personally, in the media, in the world.. it feels like death permeates through the pores of society like a bad smell from old clothes..
All my life I have experienced moments of losing people.. Firstly, mostly colleagues during my air force days, and afterwards in civilian aviation, and more recently family.. and friends.. mostly due to aircraft accidents, sometimes cancer, sometimes other unforeseen circumstances..
The loss of my parents in 2000 (my father, Henri) and in 2003 (my mother, Brenda) was traumatic events that I have described before as: the time before, and the time after, and the two times not
being the same times..
2014 came with a bang though.. Despite various deadly aviation accidents, airline crashes, murderous wars across the globe, specifically in the Middle East, in the Ukraine, and other war zones, beheadings on-screen, the killing of RCMP officers locally, I also experienced the loss of two of my best friends, in quick succession..
These things are never our choice, and never easy; on June 21, 2014 I lost my long time primary school friend, Marius, to an unexpected heart attack.. 30 days later, on July 21, another good friend, Marthinus, died, after having suffered from lung cancer for a while..
Why do I dwell here..? ..firstly, because it is necessary to express these mournings, for the therapy it delivers by itself, and the doors it opens to a future of acceptance, although I am not there yet..
But secondly, what I did find was that I had to come up with my own ideas of dealing with the dark Summer of 2014, in ways that I have always known were there, but that I had never well discovered, or never really appreciated..
For me, creativity has become, and has shown itself, to be a strong, but calming treatment..
Of course those around me have carried me through these times, and of course everyone has to deal with their own life challenges, stresses and life dramas.. I am not unique..
But those who know me, know that pencil, paint and wood are my creative outlets, and even at limited production due to work constraints and life responsibilities, creativity is THE outlet, something that I can propose to anyone dealing with loss of family, or friends..
Tying your mind down to the creative process, with it's idea phase, design stages, planning stages, equipment and material acquisitions, and the coming together of paints, woods, canvases, glues, stains onto surfaces, structures, frames and open areas waiting to be covered, formed, or moulded, has a therapeutic value that is completely underestimated at the initial thoughts of "what shall I build?", "what shall I draw?", "what shall I paint?", "What shall I photograph?", "How will it turn out?", "What will it mean?", "What would it look like?"..
so, to my friends out there, and those who are dealing with loss, who are already dabbling in the paints, the wood, the film, the food, and seeing the products of their labour, and to those of you who have not yet discovered the magic of creativity, I say: "Go paint! Go cut! Go sand! Go stain! Go cook! Go photograph! Go draw!
..you will be amazed at how creativity will reward in ways that you could never imagine..