A field guide to the tatterdemalion in its natural habitat.

Gathers broken shells on beaches, pebbles with holes in them and other hopeful but powerless talismans. Goes for long walks on steep hills, spends much time watching the sea. Picks up dead leaves and tries to memorize their structure. Becomes enamoured of themes to a point beyond any reason. Works into the night, but still gets up at dawn. Never seems to do well enough. Can only look back on work that is so old it no longer matters. Knows the next painting will be the one. Wants to get it right but cannot define what right is. Hates getting it wrong (but quite familiar with that feeling, thank you.) Cannot even describe that it is for that matter. Buys useless and usually broken things because they suddenly appeal. (To what? Cannot define.) Would happily be a knight in shining armour, but rust just gets everywhere. Loathes paperwork (how terre-à-terre and quotidian). Is always busy, but never done. Isn’t at all heroic or invincible, but daydreams about it. Works hard on things that don’t matter because somehow they do. Gets lost in thought often (has no proper map). Is a little raggedy at the edges, and patched at the elbows, but patches of gold and silver. Goes to buy groceries and comes back with books. Can spend whole life drawing pictures of things that don’t exist. Occasionally peers out of hedge at the world speeding past, but knows roads are dangerous things… they can lead just about anywhere. Even to the other side of the world.

– John Howe,

Faith according to our Lord’s teaching in this paragraph, is primarily thinking;

and the whole trouble with a man of little faith is that he does not think. He allows circumstances to bludgeon him. …

We must spend more time in studying our Lord’s lessons in observation and deduction. The Bible is full of logic, and we must never think of faith as something purely mystical. We do not just sit down in an armchair and expect marvelous things to happen to us. That is not Christian faith. Christian faith is essentially thinking. Look at the birds, think about them, draw your deductions. Look at the grass, look at the lilies of the field, consider them. …

Faith, if you like, can be defined like this: It is a man insisting upon thinking when everything seems determined to bludgeon and knock him down in an intellectual sense.

The trouble with the person of little faith is that, instead of controlling his own thought, his thought is being controlled by something else, and, as we put it, he goes round and round in circles. That is the essence of worry. … That is not thought; that is the absence of thought, a failure to think.

Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, Martyn Lloyd-Jones

A drawing is never really done.

It is simply a glimpse, at a given time, of an idea. Drawings are thoughts fixed in graphite lightly. They can be the best way to abandon an idea with no regrets, or a way to retain that fleeting something, to be revisiting months or even years later. […]

Now that it’s said and done, I’ve finally come to realize that it never really is, that pencils provide the perfect impermanence, the ultimate lightness of seeing, the line that is always between the lines in a sort of fractal meta-physicality – no matter how closely you depict an idea, there are always dozens more hidden within. [… W]hile practice makes good, perfect is always in the next sketch, that the only real line is the horizon.

It’s no coincidence that etymology provides such solace; with each drawing you draw yourself closer to two things: understanding the nature of the world around you and depicting in patient graphite the worlds you have within. Like two mirrors placed face to face, the artist is somewhere in that infinity of reflection and counter-reflection. […]

A drawing is never really done.


– John Howe,
“Drawing the Line Somewhere”

The swordsmith was not a mere artisan

but an inspired artist and his workshop a sanctuary. Daily he commenced his craft with prayer and purification, or, as the phrase was, “he committed his soul and spirit into the forging and tempering of the steel.” Every swing of the sledge, every plunge into water, every friction on the grindstone, was a religious act of no slight import. Was it the spirit of the master or of his tutelary god that cast a formidable spell over our sword? Perfect as a work of art, setting at defiance its Toledo and Damascus rivals, there was more than art could impart. Its cold blade, collecting on its surface the moment it is drawn the vapour of the atmosphere; its immaculate texture, flashing light of bluish hue; its matchless edge, upon which histories and possibilities hang; the curve of its back, uniting exquisite grace with utmost strength;–all these thrill us with mixed feelings of power and beauty, of awe and terror.

– Bushido: The Soul of Japan, Chapter XIII,
Inazo Nitobe

The definition of a truly beautiful doll

is a living, breathing body devoid of a soul. […] The human is no match for a doll, in its form, its elegance in motion, its very being. The inadequacies of human awareness become the inadequacies of life’s reality. Perfection is possible only for those without consciousness, or perhaps endowed with infinite consciousness. In other words, for dolls and for gods. […]

The doubt is whether a creature that certainly appears to be alive, really is. Alternatively, the doubt that a lifeless object might actually live. That’s why dolls haunt us. They are modelled on humans. They are, in fact, nothing but human. They make us face the terror of being reduced to simple mechanisms and matter. In other words, the fear that, fundamentally, all humans belong to the void.

– Kim,
Ghost in the Shell: Innocence