Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Viva MacLeod's Bookstore, Viva Picasso

Visiting MacLeod's Bookstore* on the corner of Hornby and West Pender in Vancouver is an adventure. Every bit of space in the shop is filled with overflowing stacks of books. Despite the apparent chaos, the helpful staff seem to know where everything is located. I was shopping for a Christmas gift for someone who values thriftiness and making the most of our resources. Why buy one new book when I can get three or more used ones for the same price? It was my good fortune to find books for others on my list. The best find was the book:

Viva Picasso A Centennial Celebration 1881 - 1981
by David Douglas Duncan

David Douglas Duncan is a world famous American photographer and author known in part for his combat photography as well as his eight books of photos of Picasso. The great photojournalist met the great artist at Picasso's home in Cannes, France in 1956. Duncan was invited to come back as a guest and stay at any time, as if it was his home. I doubt if any other photographer had access to Picasso's day-to-day life in the same way that Duncan had for over seventeen years.

Picasso Dancing in His Studio - after photo by David Douglas Duncan
8 x 10" - Pencil on Paper

This book has dozens of intriguing photos, many are black and white and all taken in natural light, without a flash to avoid disturbing the subjects. Each photo has an explanatory note with an interesting detail or comment from Duncan. I read the book in the past 24 hours more than once - what entertainment !

We are given voyeuristic glimpses into Picasso's life; most of the shots are taken inside his home where the rooms are filled with his art. Many photos feature Picasso's last love, Jacqueline Roque and their various pets such as the goat and Lump, the daschund. We see Picasso at work and can observe his intensity, the long hours, his prolific output and the way he enjoyed life. The photographs, together with the notes, convey the artist's bright character and a fascinating life. I am giving the book away for Christmas.  It is the perfect gift.

See the David Douglas Duncan Archive at the Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas at Austin

*Photo of MacLeod's Book courtesy of Stephen Arod Shirreffs

Monday, December 14, 2009

From My Sketchbook

Wooden Plate of Shells and Rocks
Pencil on Paper 7 x 8 inches

Without having my paints accessible this month, I made my  motto "Have Sketchbook, Will Travel".  Now how did that old gem pop into my head?  Three shells go out to the first person that names the obscure source I am mimicking.  Beware, you will reveal that you are over forty if you answer.

More seriously now.....

I keep a flat wooden plate on our coffee table for saving things that I bring home from vacations.  The items remind me of places I've been: climbing on the rocks by the sea outside Capetown (near Melkbosstrand, Liz), walking on the beach at Tofino, trekking over the tundra in Iqaluit and swimming in the churning waves of Puerto Vallarta, on my own, the only gringo foolish enough or brave enough.  A woman from Mexico City finally joined me in the water and said to me, in broken English, "Gracias, you help me be brave to swim in waves."  We really weren't in very deep but you couldn't tell that from the shore.  The biggest problem?  Not stingrays. Not sharks. Not a riptide.  Twas the crashing waves that churned up the coarse sand and deposited it into bathing suits. 

P.S.  For those of you who know that I love feathers, you may have wondered why there are none on this plate which is obviously full of things from nature.  Roxie, the cat, likes to pretend any feathers within her reach are still part of a bird and she chews them to smithereens.