Skip navigation

Egyptian room of the British Museum

When I was young, rather some time ago – the 1960’s – I had little experience in the arts, though a year or two in college in Chicago (IIT) quickly altered that, and I found myself drawn deeply into the vortex of contemporary art back then:  Warhol, Rothko, de Kooning, Rauschenberg, Johns, Stella, Clifford Still, Motherwell and the whole roster of abstract expressionists, pop, and others.   I had not come from a background remotely concerned with the arts, though my family had a few Gauguin prints on the walls, and I recall a big coffee table book of paintings from the Louvre of which a David Rape of the Sabines provided some bare-breasted masturbation imagery.  Otherwise it was a desert.  I left home at 17 knowing more or less nothing of the arts, or for that matter, life.

But something in me was drawn to the arts, and on my own,  I jumped in, full tilt.  The visual arts, music (I saw and heard Segovia from the farthest reaches of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Hall in Chicago, and van Cliburn playing piano).   I was ignorant, but eager, though back then outside music in which I liked classical work, I found older art – meaning anything not contemporary or very close – something I could not look at.   Naturally, as time went by, this inverted, and in these days it is difficult for me to look (without acidic comments) at most modern and contemporary art, and I long since took a kind of refuge in things ancient to older.  In phases I’ve been drawn to Vermeer, Uccello, Duccio, Goya, Rembrandt (primarily graphic arts and self-portraits), Constable (sketches mainly), Turner, Manet, Monet, Munch (graphics mostly), Lautrec, Degas, and many others.

For some years I’ve fantasized of the chance to be in London for a month or two, with the possibility of going each day to the National Gallery, the British Museum, and other smaller such institutions, to look slowly and carefully at the vast collection of imperial and royal robbery and prerogatives.  To look, to think, to perhaps sketch and write.

The Elgin Marbles Room

Quick sketches at the British Museum and Victoria and Albert, 1996-7



  1. Jon, are those your sketches at the bottom? If so, they are very good.

    • Thanks – though practice makes perfect and I haven’t been drawing a decade and some, and the few times I’ve tried, well….. Lately I’ve been trying to find the pencil I used to use, one that smears nicely if you wet it. It was made in Mexico but I can’t find them anymore (maybe they were pulled from market owing to lead poisoning ! perhaps that explains a lot of things in my brain, or absence of one!)

  2. Your sketches kind of make me think of Egon Schiele, especially the horses.

  3. This is in response to your comment in the Times re imperialism and oil diplomacy. I agree with your remarks about imperialism. The U.S. however is not dependent on the Middle East for most its oil. Check the numbers. Only about 10% of the oil currently consumed in the U.S. comes from the Middle East. About 40% is from domestic production. Most that is imported comes from Canada, Mexico, Nigeria and Venezuela.

    • Thanks for the kick in the butt – now I will spend a bit of time researching a bit better US energy consumption, sources, etc. On a quick glance the figures are already appalling: the US, representing 1/20th of the global population (Ta Ta !) consumes half the total energy used by us humans. China, about 4 times our population consumes a little less than half what we do. Anyway now I must ferret out the figures (I am no so convinced of the veracity of some of the sources of this information) to see where we get this. I know Mexico and Canada and Venezuela and Nigeria are indeed major sources (pit them given how we have ravaged in the name of business the Nigerian delta, and are busy contriving to rip up the Canadian tar sands till more). I suppose I will need to write a full blog item on this. So, yep, thanks for the prod. Best jon

        • Karen
        • Posted May 25, 2011 at 1:44 pm
        • Permalink

        I agree that the sketches are lovely. Interesting about your finding refuge in the ancients (given your Pop start, etc.) ; nice museum pics as well. I was at the museum in November and loved the Assyrian rooms…the horses and lions… nice to see like photos on your site.

        Great comment in the NYTimes.

      • Thanks. I wish I could find the patience/time/will to get back to sketching, painting and… but somehow it is eluding me. Maybe after I retire from the electronic stuff I work all day every day on….
        See this for a few paintings from some time ago – as long ago as the sketches almost. They are just some samples – like my films I tend to shift around a lot.

  4. First off I would like to say fantastic blog! I had a quick question in which I’d like to ask if you don’t mind.
    I was interested to find out how you center yourself and clear your head prior to writing.
    I’ve had a difficult time clearing my mind in getting my thoughts out there. I truly do take pleasure in writing but it just seems like the first 10 to 15 minutes are generally lost just trying to figure out how to begin. Any recommendations or hints? Cheers!

    • I seem hardly at the moment to write anything – I am busy shooting a new film (long narrative of a kind) – see

      Writing comes naturally to me and when I have time and something to write about it just spills out. Hardly any re-writing, just check for misspelling and typos usually. I am lucky I guess. Wish I could help. Most writers, like musicians, say the answer it write write write everyday. I write when I can.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: