Tag Archives: Art

NPM ’11: Day 19 – The Song of Tom Bombadil (Post #16)


Now let the song begin! Let us sing together
Of sun, stars, moon and mist, rain and cloudy weather,
Light on the budding leaf, dew on the feather,
Wind on the open hill, bells on the heather,
Reeds by the shady pool, lilies on the water:
Old Tom Bombadil and the River-daughter!

Old Tom Bombadil is a merry fellow;
Bright blue his jacket is, and his boots are yellow.
green were his girdle and his breeches all of leather;
he wore in his tall hat a swan-wing feather.
He lived up under Hill, where the Withywindle
ran from a grassy well down into the dingle.

Hey! Come merry dol! derry dol! My darling!
Light goes the weather-wind and the feathered starling.
Down along under Hill, shining in the sunlight,
Waiting on the doorstep for the cold starlight,
There my pretty lady is, River-woman’s daughter,
Slender as the willow-wand, clearer than the water.
Old Tom Bombadil water-lilies bringing
Comes hopping home again. Can you hear him singing?

Hey! Come merry dol! derry dol! and merry-o,
Goldberry, Goldberry, merry yellow berry-o!
Poor old Willow-man, you tuck your roots away!
Tom’s in a hurry now. Evening will follow day.
Tom’s going home home again water-lilies bringing.
Hey! come derry dol! Can you hear me singing?

Hop along, my little friends, up the Withywindle!
Tom’s going on ahead candles for to kindle.
Down west sinks the Sun: soon you will be groping.
When the night-shadows fall, then the door will open,
Out of the window-panes light will twinkle yellow.
Fear no alder black! Heed no hoary willow!
Fear neither root nor bough! Tom goes on before you.
Hey now! merry dol! We’ll be waiting for you!

– J.R.R. Tolkien

Photo Credit: Hildebrandt Brothers



That’s so epic! People say that all the time, and it never ceases to annoy me. Everything nowadays is epic:

“That joke was epic.”

“The pizza was epic.”

“Did you see her outfit? Totally epic.”

Or my personal favorite: “Epic fail!” Gah. C’mon, people. What does that even mean?!

Poor word. It once held so much power, but due to people’s obsessive use of the term, “epic” has lost its luster. But every once in a while, something—a photograph, a larger than life book or movie, a painting, a sunrise…you get the idea—comes along and you find that the only sufficient way to describe this thing is to use a word like epic. And, naturally, when used in the correct context, the word receives a new sense of identity. It suddenly–OMG–makes sense again! (Who would’ve thought?)

I feel this way whenever I listen to E.S. Posthumus’s brilliant masterpiece, “Nara.” (You might recognize it as the theme song for CBS’s Cold Case.) Seriously, here is a song that absolutely deserves the label “epic.” Because it truly is. Excellent form and instrumentation, beautiful melodies and chord progressions, and rich percussion work that is somewhat complex at times, but never overbearing. It’s a song that simultaneously captures and releases one’s imagination.

I’ve always been a firm believer that music, when created carefully and thoughtfully, has the ability to bring its listeners to a point of complete catharsis, and this song certainly does that for me (and for many others, I’m sure). Thus, I can safely say that “Nara” is epic. In every sense of the word.

Take a listen:

30 Days and a Shitload of Words


1,667 is a pretty big number. So is 50,000. Especially when those numbers refer to words, and in this case, they do. I just committed myself to NaNoWriMo. What the heck is that, you ask? It stands for National Novel Writing Month. My friend Sarah introduced me to this lovely yet brutal project, and after some brief thinking and discussing, I decided to sign up. So beginning November 1st, I will immerse myself in a one-month long novel-writing project, in which I must complete 50,000 words over the course of 30 days. That translates to 1,667 words per day (that is if I consistently write each day…).

Uh-oh…that’s what you’re thinking, right? Don’t worry, I’m thinking it, too.

Thankfully, though, ‘crap writing’ is totally acceptable, even encouraged! Quantity over quality is key (which basically goes against everything I believe in, but this time, it makes perfect sense). Regardless of the quality of one’s writing, the project encourages discipline in the life of the writer, and Lord knows I need help in that particular department! I’m the worst when it comes to being disciplined with—well, any of my artistic endeavors, really, but particularly with my writing. Especially lately. I often have ideas but rarely feel motivated enough to put them down on paper (or onto the paint canvas or whatnot). So here’s my chance. No excuses this time! Will I fail? Will I succeed? I guess we’ll find out.

That brings me to the issue of subject matter: what in the world do I plan to write about? So far I have one idea, but I’m not quite sure if it’s “the one.” But the clock is ticking, so I need to make up my mind pretty quickly. Let’s hope the light bulb turns on between now and November 1st! And if any of you have any ideas in the meantime, feel free to shoot them my way! Also, I’d like to ask that ya’ll pester me about this as often as possible. I need the accountability. The more you bug me, the more likely I’ll sit down and actually write, even if I’m only writing crap. But, alas, something is better than nothing. So, as I’ve already said, bring on the crap!

[Click HERE for more info. on the official project!]

World Community Arts Day 2010: “Peace for the Nations”


A few months ago, I was lurking on Matthew Vasquez’s Facebook page (for those who don’t know, Matthew is the lead singer of Delta Spirit—a band that I am highly fond of), and I came across a Facebook event called “World Community Arts Day 2010” for which he had RSVPed. The title of the event immediately caught my attention, so I clicked on it, and behold! I discovered a fascinating phenomenon that apparently began a few years ago and is slowly becoming a global interest.

World Community Arts Day began in 2007 by a group of people who had a dream to use art on a global scale as a catalyst to raise social awareness in all sorts of contexts. We all have “global issues” that concern us: world peace, environment conservation, poverty, modern-day slavery, racial prejudice…the list goes on. So the idea was for people everywhere to consider a social issue that was important to them and to create an art project that related to said issue (in whatever medium one preferred). Fast-forward a few years…it’s now 2010, and people in various countries are making it their annual tradition to participate in World Community Arts Day.

Being an artist myself, this clearly struck a loud chord in my own heart. So I decided to participate this year. Well, today is World Community Arts Day, and this afternoon, I spent some time doing one of my favorite activities in the world: art (my chosen medium was charcoal + pencil sketching).

My afternoon began at the Laughing Ladies Café in Shoreline. With a 12 oz. hazelnut latte and my iTunes by my side, I sat down and began sketching, not entirely knowing what the result would be (that’s usually how it goes when I pursue any sort of art project). But you know what? I’m rather happy with the way my piece turned out:

I titled this one “Peace for the Nations.” (The Hindi inscription spells out the word “peace.”) And no, it’s not designed to raise awareness about world peace. Personally, I’m not sure that world peace will ever be obtained. But that’s another discussion for another time. So what is the drawing about, you ask? Well, it mainly represents a personal issue that, lately, has persistently been on my heart. It seems that everywhere I look, bad things keep happening, and as of late, the “bad” keeps moving closer to my own borders. And I’ve realized that the only “solution” to any of these issues is God’s gift of peace. And it’s just that: a gift. Not something I can obtain on my own. But here’s to hoping that I do obtain it at some point, and also, that I may serve as a sliver of peace to those around me. Perhaps this is a stepping stone. I can only hope that my art, as imperfect and insignificant as it is (like me), somehow serves as a catalyst for peace.

True Artist or Hack?


I just finished reading Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles. It’s basically a self-help book for creative individuals who find themselves feeling blocked or stuck in their artistic endeavors. As an artist, I know I’ve experience my share of moments (especially lately): writer’s block, lack of motivation to finish a painting or a poem…or a melody on the piano…or a set of song lyrics…. So I figured this book would become my new best friend.

Now, I must admit, if the choice were mine, I probably wouldn’t put Pressfield’s book on the national bestseller list.  Considering that it’s a self-help book, I really didn’t find it to be all that helpful (then again, I’m always a bit skeptical of self-helps books so this particular book’s lack of helpfulness didn’t really come as a surprise). I thoroughly enjoy reading but I’ll be honest: there were definitely times where I had to force myself to turn the pages of this one. But every now and then, I would stumble upon a chapter that made me pump my mental fist in the air and yell, “Yes! This guy knows exactly what I’m going through!”

I want to share one of those ‘aha moments’ with you. For those of you who are artists, I hope this encourages you. But first, a little background information:

As I briefly mentioned earlier, I’ve recently been struggling with many of my artistic projects. I feel as though I’ve become a writer who can’t write, a musician who can’t compose a single melody or chord progression, a painter who is too lazy to drag out her paint set, a photographer who is too unmotivated to look at the world through the vibrant eye of her camera lens. So what am I? I’ve somehow convinced myself that I am…incapable. Incapable of creating something thought-provoking or memorable, something that anyone else would find even the least bit interesting.

And then I read this brief chapter in The War of Art. And I found myself going: “Waaaait a second!”

Why do we get to these points? Certainly, I can’t be the only one who gets stuck (if I were, then Steven Pressfield probably would not have written a book on the subject). So, as artists, why do we get to these moments in our lives where we stop doing what we love—which is creating art—because we’ve somehow convinced ourselves that we’re just not good enough? And good enough for whom? Exactly whose expectations are we trying to live up to? Do we even know?

Pressfield has a few things to say about that, and I found his chapter entitled  ‘The Definition of a Hack’ particularly enlightening. So I thought I’d post the chapter here.  Again, I pray that this encourages you.


I learned this from Robert McKee. A hack, he says, is a writer who second-guesses his audience. When the hack sits down to work, he doesn’t ask himself what’s in his own heart. He asks what the market is looking for.

The hack condescends to his audience. He thinks he’s superior to them. The truth is, he’s scared to death of them or, more accurately, scared of being authentic in front of them, scared of writing what he really feels or believes, what he himself thinks is interesting. He’s afraid it won’t sell. So he tries to anticipate what the market (a telling word) wants, then gives it to them.

In other words, the hack writes hierarchically. He writes what he imagines will play well in the eyes of others. He does not ask himself, ‘What do I myself want to write? What do I think is important?’ Instead, he asks, ‘What’s hot? What can I make a deal for?’

The hack is like a politician who consults the polls before he takes a position. He’s a demagogue. He panders.

It can pay off, being a hack. Given the depraved state of American culture, a slick dude can make millions being a hack. But even if you succeed, you lose, because you’ve sold out on your Muse, and your Muse is you, the best part of yourself, where your finest and only true work comes from.

I was starving as a screenwriter when the idea for The Legend of Bagger Vance came to me. It came as a book, not as a movie. I met with my agent to give him the bad news. We both knew that first novels take forever and sell for nothing. Worse, a novel about golf, even if we could find a publisher, is a straight shot to the remainder bin.

But the Muse had me. I had to do it. To my amazement, the book succeeded critically and commercially better than anything I’d ever done, and others since have been lucky too. Why? My best guess is this: I trusted what I wanted, not what I thought would work. I did what I myself thought was interesting, and left its reception to the gods.

The artist can’t do his work hierarchically. He has to work territorially.

Motives. I think that’s the heart of what Pressfield is trying to get at in this chapter. As artists, what drives us to make our art? What drives you? Is it the sincere passion and love that you have for art itself? Or is it really just some sort of longing for acceptance that you’re trying to fill via art? I had to ask myself such questions. I had to wonder if my creative ‘stuckness’ was due to the fact that I’d run out of ideas or due to my skewed motives? I ultimately had to ask myself: am I a hack?