La Source: how one thing leads to another…

by Alden Cole on December 1, 2015 · 0 comments

“Good artists copy. Great artists steal.” — Pablo Picasso (25 Oct 1881 – 8 Apr 1973)

Aldenizations1&2WPAt left, cover sheets for Aldenizations 1 & 2: two packets of four b&w drawings each, reproduced from original artwork done en temps perdu, as early as 1968. These will be on sale for $10 a packet for the first time this Wednesday December 2nd at the Holiday Arts & Crafts Fair, Rosemont Plaza • 1062 E. Lancaster Avenue, Rosemont PA. Just look for Harriet Kline, who will be selling her paintings there. With this novel enterprise, I begin my foray into the “Coloring Books for Adults” and “Coloring for Mental Health” craze that is currently flooding bookstores and other gifting venues across the nation. The concept is an interesting idea which has crossed my mind many times in the past, especially as I’ve looked through old files going back decades which reveal a wealth of work in monotone. However I’ve never acted on preparing a coloring book for publication, the fault of an overly rationalizing mind not convinced that it would be worth the effort financially. Nevertheless, a few weeks ago, after featuring a number of b&w drawings in my daily emails, Philadelphia friend Harriet Kline, with old family connections to Maine and Monhegan Island, suggested that I jump onto the new coloring book bandwagon in order to make my drawings available to a wider audience. She even volunteered to produce and market this idea in its first phase/venue: the crafts fair described above. However, finding enough G-rated drawings amongst my oeuvre to fill a coloring book proved impossible; so we toned the idea down to two packets of four drawings each. Those of you who know my Delightist tendancies and my work, know that there are more than enough drawings of naked bodies cavorting through space, plus other such diversions, to fill a coloring book of many pages. However, finding a marketing niche will be a challenge since the traditional craft fairs will find my work too racy, whereas the R- and X-rated stores will find my kind of fun not nearly racy enough. Caught in the middle yet again. Soooo where Aldenizations go after this is questionable. Stay tuned…

AnnunciationAngel@72dpiAnyway, among the handful of G-rated drawings usable for the crafts fair “Color Me” packets (see Aldenizations 2 above) was a linoleum block print of an angel which I cut and printed in 1968, my first Christmas in New York City. Now that brings up a passel of memories – a short story in itself – about a country boy coming of age and finding himself in Manhattan at age twenty-four, besotted with desire for another guy, one Juan Arrillaga, three years older – my first lover – with whom I lived for two very interesting years from age twenty-four to twenty-six, years that have been treated of in past postings. It was during that first Christmas season in NYC that I cut a linoleum block – 8″ x 5-5/8″ – and printed off an number of copies which I mounted on card-stock, then mailed to family and friends back in Maine, letting them now that my life in NYC was up and running at last.

AnnunciationAngel3stagesWPA few versions I even hand colored, like the one at left, shown along with the block itself, as well as a copy in b&w of the uncolored print. The inspiration for the block’s composition was a detail from a painting of “The Annunciation” by Doménikos Theotokópoulos (1541 – 7 April 1614) known as “El Greco” – an early favorite in my pantheon of artistic luminaries, whose numbers are legion at this point.

AnnunciationLBw:ElGreco@72dpiWhat an appropriate image to initiate this Advent season, seen in its entirety below, with a detail paired with the block at left to show the influences exerted by the original on my own version of the announcing angel, created just about 400 years after El Greco’s. Did I copy? or did I steal? or did I merely imitate? How about simply calling it inspiration? which is certainly how I felt about what I was doing at the time. I was taking an image that I found exquisitely beautiful and imitating a small section of this classic work, but with a consideration of the differences between the mediums of paint and block printing; the spiritual connection being the inspiration evoked by the beauty of the gesture “Behold!”

Annunciation@72dpiCurious to know the attribution of what I remember once hearing as “Mediocre artists copy ideas timidly; great artists copy ideas shamelessly.” I discovered the following site which revealed that numerous writers and artists have commented on the subject more openly and honestly in those less paranoid copyright-conscious days:

“Good artists copy. Great artists steal.” – Pablo Picasso (25 Oct 1881 – 8 Apr 1973)
“Lesser artists borrow; great artists steal.” – Igor Stravinsky (17 Jun 1882 – 6 Apr 1971)
“Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal.” – T. S. Eliot (26 Sep 1888 – 4 Jan 1965)

All I have to say is “It takes a thief to catch a thief.” – traditional

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