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Work Work Work

left hand holding pen, drawings of birds

I've kept this clipping for years. It's from Pierson Curtis, called P.C., a beloved teacher at the school my Dad, my uncles, brothers, cousins and my son all attended.

photo of a bald man, writing

In a letter to the graduating class of the school in 1953, P.C. wrote:

"Everyone wants a lifework that in the long run will make him happiest. For this it must be worth doing and it must pay off. Choose a job where you can respect your work because you know that you are helping to make something worthwhile--good roads, good shoes, healthy bodies, good citizens. No salary can repay you for making junk.

"And your job should pay off--pay off in the real pleasure and interest that result while you are working. Don't sell those for cash to buy spare-time pleasure. Live while you work, not just afterward.

"We are made in the image of God--and cannot be happy unless, like Him, we look upon our work each day of creation and find it good.

"I wish each one of you that happiness."

Or as my Dad used to say, "You've got to look forward to getting up in the morning."

left hand, drawing, blue and white, blue jays

It reminds me of the poem "To Be of Use" by Marge Piercy which I've put in several blog posts. Here's a link in case you don't remember it:

I used to share my studio with two young women, Hannah and Dana, who worked in publishing and came to the studio in the evenings. I heard one of them say, "I want to say what Barbara says, that is, "I'm at work." I think she'd been thinking of her creative work as a hobby. I've been asked if my drawing is a hobby and I try to accept that the questioner is just expressing an interest but I really hate the word. It comes from the same place as, "Where's the money in that?" and, "Yeah, but what's your back-up plan?" Hannah and Dana, we've lost touch but wherever you are, I hope you know I admire your energy and dedication and I hope you've kept at your work.

hand at work drawing with a pen, extended arm in blue sweater
Don't you love that my sweater complements my subject?

I really loved that studio at the corner of Broadway and 81st Street. I never took pictures of it but I do have this painting of the view from my window by my studio mate, the artist Susan Cohen.

oil painting of a city window, pigeon on the sill

I got so much work done there it amazes me. I look through the piles of drawings in my flat files and there are pieces I don't even remember doing. It was a wonderful place to work and I loved it there but the rent kept going up and the landlord or the city added a whopping real estate tax. Then I reminded myself that I live in Greenwich Village and the kids have moved out there's room for a studio right in our apartment. Now I can work through the evening instead of having to leave just as I'm getting into a groove. I can look at a drawing before going to bed and dream about it. I can put a pot on the stove and start dinner and get back to work.

left hand, drawing, blue and white, blue jays

I forgot about the distractions of home. The washing machine, the fridge, the computer, the husband!

black dachshund puppy

I"ve got to get back to work. I've made nine blue jays, at one point rescuing them from Russell. He constantly amazes me with his ability to jump to the height of my drawing table and grab stuff.

He really likes my drawings; I think the paper I use is made with animal glue.

Pen & Ink drawing, blue House, yellow background, nine bluejays

Now I have to glue the birds in place and that requires nine big decisions. Some will be easy because there are blotches that need covering. Others...I don't know! I'll have to see.

And play around with it.

Next, I have plans for two houses. I did these in the early days of the pandemic. The one on the left is inspired by a picture and an article about the Fifth Avenue home of the Irish-American Society. It was Saint Patrick's Day so I made it green. Setting it in the Sea? I'm not sure why but I loved doing the fish and the sea mammals. The one on the right was meant to be its interior. I had been listening to a Beatles station as I drew so I asked the readers of my blog to tell me their favorite Beatles song and thus the Walrus and the Yellow Submarine. Now that I look at the two together I feel they don't match. The interior is too wide. So I'll do two more; an interior for one and an exterior for the other.

two portraits of houses in green, under the sea

It'll be fun.

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Jan 16

I loved what Mr. Curtis had to say and I always love what you have to show and tell!




Jan 13

Gorgeous birds and painting!


Jan 12

always love reading your blog on friday mornings...

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