May 26

You know the way I’ve always had of settling in — how when I find somewhere I like, I build myself a nest and just kind of roost and disappear? Well…I’m doing it again! I’ve found a little spot out here that really speaks to me :D
About an hour away from town there’s a village called Pickton*. It’s perched on a ridge in a super lovely way, and as you bike up along the road that leads out there you get an amazing view of the whole valley. There’s a café there run by this fun badass old lady who sells beer and wine and coffee, and my absolute favorite part is these two linden trees that stretch their branches over the little village green in front of the church, all surrounded by farms and barns and homesteads. It feels quiet and safe and it’s exactly the sort of place I’ve been struggling to find. The barista saves me a table outside, and I just sit there, and drink my coffee, and read my Homer :) The first time I happened to bike by, the green was empty. Everyone was at work. There was just a kid sitting on the ground, around four years old, holding a maybe six-month-old baby in front of him against his chest, sort of like he was an armchair for the baby, if that makes sense? And the baby was looking around super excitedly with these big dark eyes but sitting very still. Oh my god, Will, they were SO CUTE! so I perched on the hood of a truck across from them and had a great time sketching them being all brotherly together. I threw in the fence behind them, a barn door, and some broken tractor treads right where they were, and after about an hour I realized that I’d just finished a really well-structured pretty drawing without having to do anything to it myself. For me, that settles it: I’m only drawing from life from now on. Great artists don’t learn from art classes, they learn from nature. I mean, sure, the rules of composition have some things going for them — about as much as bourgeois social norms. If you follow the rules, you’ll never draw anything tasteless or ugly, just like if you’re all about laws and good manners, you’ll never be a horrible neighbor or a violent criminal; but, I don’t care what people say, ALL rules destroy your true sensitivity to nature and your ability to express it. What, you think that’s too harsh? “They’re just setting boundaries, pruning the lusty vines”, or whatever? — Listen, Will. Can I make an analogy? It’s the same as with love. Say there’s this guy, totally crazy about some girl, he spends all day hanging around her, wasting away, wasting his money, just to prove to her every moment how devoted he is to her. Now suppose some philistine comes along, some management consultant, and says to him: “Whoa there, young man! Love is normal, just keep your love within norms! Make a schedule, get a job, and hang out with your girlfriend after work. Make a budget, and if you’ve got something left over after rent and food, then go ahead and buy her presents, just not too often, maybe on her birthday or your anniversary”, or whatever. — Now, if he does all this, I’m sure he’ll turn out perfectly useful, and I personally would write him a recommendation for McKinsey; but as far as his love goes? it’s over, and if he’s an artist? same with his art. Gah, people! You want to know why the flood of genius so rarely bursts its banks and rushes in with roaring torrents to shake up your numb souls? Take a look: the narrow-minded people live on both sides of this river; it could destroy their cottages and rose-gardens and yachts, and they know it; so they’ve figured out how to dam it up to keep that threat suppressed.

*You don’t need to try to find this place; I decided I should replace all the names in the original letters. —Arden