Life Book re-think and a new attitude


Settle in. I had a bit of a revelation when working on my Owl last week, and it all stemmed from an old letter I read, many years ago, that always stuck with me. It was a response from Kurt Vonnegut to some students who wrote to him as part of an English assignment. He was the only person they wrote to who responded, and his response was wonderful:

Dear Xavier High School, and Ms. Lockwood, and Messrs Perin, McFeely, Batten, Maurer and Congiusta:

I thank you for your friendly letters. You sure know how to cheer up a really old geezer (84) in his sunset years. I don’t make public appearances any more because I now resemble nothing so much as an iguana.

What I had to say to you, moreover, would not take long, to wit: Practice any art, music, singing, dancing, acting, drawing, painting, sculpting, poetry, fiction, essays, reportage, no matter how well or badly, not to get money and fame, but to experience becoming, to find out what’s inside you, to make your soul grow.

Seriously! I mean starting right now, do art and do it for the rest of your lives. Draw a funny or nice picture of Ms. Lockwood, and give it to her. Dance home after school, and sing in the shower and on and on. Make a face in your mashed potatoes. Pretend you’re Count Dracula.

Here’s an assignment for tonight, and I hope Ms. Lockwood will flunk you if you don’t do it: Write a six line poem, about anything, but rhymed. No fair tennis without a net. Make it as good as you possibly can. But don’t tell anybody what you’re doing. Don’t show it or recite it to anybody, not even your girlfriend or parents or whatever, or Ms. Lockwood. OK?

Tear it up into teeny-weeny pieces, and discard them into widely separated trash recepticals [sic]. You will find that you have already been gloriously rewarded for your poem. You have experienced becoming, learned a lot more about what’s inside you, and you have made your soul grow.

God bless you all!

Kurt Vonnegut

The little video a UK based school did, inspired by that response, is also worth a look:

So much of what he said stuck with me, but it took my recent experiences with Life Book to bring it all to the forefront. I had looked at the classes released so far and printed a list. I went thru that list to determine which classes I thought I might do. It was pretty bleak. There were about 60, some full classes, some bonus content (shorted classes but still full projects) and a handful of chats and well-being sessions. Knocking out all the well-being ones (far too airy fairy for me) and most of the chats, and focusing on the actual classes, there were nine that I classed as FOR SURE I would do, 10 that were likely ones and about 14 maybes. That left 17 HELL NOs. For many reasons. To be fair, some of the art in the HELL NOs was stunning, but not something I would do. In some cases the projects as shown were just not at all to my taste. But that letter was still swirling around in my head. And in a kind of big bang of creativity, I took a HELL NO class and ran with it.

The class called for some of that plaster-of-paris infused gauze they use to make casts for broken bones so I had to really re-imagine the whole class from the jump. Instead I began with a series of graduated rings cut from cardboard, stacking them into a sort of bowl like structure:

I covered that with a bunch of torn up lightly spotted with paint paper towel, to give it the feel of the original.

From there, I used mop-up paper towels, quite colourful, to cover the bowl rather than the original paint job and grabbed some gift tissue paper with big gold dots on it to add some sparkle.

At this point I was well and truly gong down the use-my-rubbish road and I began auditioning some of the pick-up/waste papers to use to cover the board this bowl will be mounted to:

You can see the addition of the gold dots there – love that. In the end I went with the same paper towel I used to cover the bowl. I thought it might be too samey-samey but in the end I loved it:

So much texture and the colours are very varied and interesting:

My plan had been to use the black, gold edged circle with wings behind the bowl

but in the end it detracted from the look rather than enhancing it. There were some other final touches that I really liked, like the way you add a dangle of beads to the sides of the canvas to create a hanger across the back. Something to file away for later, for sure:

The final is something that I could not have envisioned from the original class sample, but somehow, that big bang set off by the letter from Kurt sent me down a just do it path and it ended up like this:

I love it. I have dithered and dithered about whether or not to add a shot of the original project and in the end I think it is impossible to see how far from it mine is without doing that. I don’t think there is enough in the photo to give away much about the process (which I pretty much ignored anyway) but it is needed for the contrast:

I think you can see an echo of the original, and it definitely inspired my piece, but they really look nothing alike. And THAT is the point. I just need to follow the guidance from Kurt.

Practice any art, … no matter how well or badly, not to get money and fame, but to experience becoming, to find out what’s inside you, to make your soul grow.

I’mma gonna do that! And maybe move some of the HELL NO classes over to at least the MAYBE column.

The other part of the class was a small folded mini-journal. It is a very simple version of the one-sheet booklet and again, I went my own way on that. I’ll have to share that tomorrow, cause this is already way too long. Again, I went at least slightly off on my own on that and that letter plays an even bigger part in that section of the class. And then, cause my desk is a wreck, I need to tidy up for WOYWW…again!

2 thoughts on “Life Book re-think and a new attitude

  1. Thank you for sharing that.

  2. A M A Z I N G ! !
    This post is really food for thought.
    I don’t do classes cause…. I’m not very good at following. …..
    Love your finish better than the class one, much more full of life.

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