I’ve always been extremely fascinated with the abundance of knowledge one can discover by simply opening the pages of a book. Many of life’s secrets can be revealed through literature in the most beautiful way. You see, I often stumble upon certain books on accident; whether I happen to be bored perusing a bookshelf at a friends, or spending hours at the bookstore only to find a hidden gem in a bookshelf far from where I was searching in the fist place.
The past year has been an incredible journey and turning point in my life. I have finally found my place in this world, and for that I am extremely grateful. Yet, the only reason I have gotten this far is through the people around me: those around me who I love, the strangers and aquaintances who truly believe in me, and most importantly the other creatives who also share their beauty with the world.
I believe that to carry on in this world, we need to first find ourselves through the inspiration of others; through channeling a different perspective on life in general.
Books are one of my favorite ways (other than art) to do so.
Times change; technology has taken over for better or for worse, but what gives me hope is that the wisdom that can lie within a book will never disappear. Life throughout the centuries can be relived, different mindsets can be processed, and everlasting unchanging truths can shed light upon the present.
So, it is safe to say now that books (even individual pages within books) have changed my life. Here is my list for whomever stumbles upon this page, may you find as much joy in reading as I do and may you open your mind and heart to exploring the wisdom that these authors will provide for you.
Letters To A Young Poet
For the creative; who like me, struggles with the unanswerable questions of art and love and all that jazz. Rainer Rilke’s words of encouragement to fellow writers show that the greatest gift one can offer another is that of compassion and nourishment to the soul. Rilke provides an abundance of ideas to pursue deep within our hearts and those that are willing to look at the letters an indirect source of advice to all creatives will find that they hold something truly special.
I’d like to thank my Mom for making me buy this at Neue Gallerie on 5th Ave and 86th Street back in January. At first, thinking the book might just be for writers, I resented the it for a couple weeks. A sad rainy day brought me to crave some inspiration after a creative block. I grabbed this book and went to the coffee shop around the corner from my apartment and shortly after discovered that it was just what I needed to fuel my inner self as an artist. I’ve read this entire book and still find myself perusing back through the pages to remember just how beautifully it has affected me.
“Believe in a love that is being stored up for you like an inheritance, and have faith that in this love there is a strength and a blessing so large that you can travel as far as you wish without having to step outside it.”
― Rainer Maria Rilke,
Jens Peter Jacobsen
So its sort of a funny story how I stumbled upon this book. I guess after Letters to a Young Poet, there has been a cascade of beautiful books to follow. For this one, I owe to Rainer Rilke for not only affecting me with his words, but further directing me to a whole new world of beauty projected through the writing in Jens Peter Jacobsen’s work.
This is one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever read. I rarely read fiction, but the way Jacobsen writes about love and longing which through it he hides the most subtle life lessons, brings tears to my eyes. I think thats when a book really gets you- the moment it makes you feel deeply. I guess its the same with art and thats why I can relate.
“To learn is as beautiful as to live. Do not be afraid to lose yourself in minds greater than your own. Do not sit brooding anxiously over your own individuality or shut yourself out from influences that draw you powerfully for fear that they may sweep you along and submerge your innermost pet peculiarities in their mighty surge. Never fear. The individuality that can be lost in the sifting and reshaping of a healthy development is only a flaw; it is a branch grown in the dark, which is distinctive only so long as it retains its sickly pallor. And it is by this sound growth in yourself that you must live. Only the sound can grow great.”
Another one that holds truth for those willing to absorb it through writing, and for you creatives, further project it through art.
And Our Faces, My Heart, Brief as Photos
Another one from my mom. After a wonderful Christmas in Vermont, she gathered some art books up for me to take back to the city. Amongst the pile, was this gem. Most were big visual books of Matisse and Klimt and Picasso, but this book was tiny and worn out – had character to it that set it apart. Well, it lead me to another portal of thought.
‘Those who read or listen to our stories see everything as though through a lens. This lens is the secret of narration, and it is ground anew in every story, ground between the temporal and the timeless … In our brief mortal lives, we are grinders of these lenses’.
And that is the truth. Berger captures moments in time and lets us see them through a surprising journey of words. His writings on art and love are simply irresistible.
I like to believe that flow is what happens when we are truly living. Its when we find purpose; lose ourselves to a timeless space of passion. Once I read this book, I actually understood what happens to me when I paint. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi highlights every kind of flow that exists. And not only does it have the potential to affect creatives, but anyone who has a passion ( which we all do) and how to cultivate it to heighten our daily experiences in life.
“Contrary to what we usually believe, moments like these, the best moments in our lives, are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times—although such experiences can also be enjoyable, if we have worked hard to attain them. The best moments usually occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile. Optimal experience is thus something that we make happen. For a child, it could be placing with trembling fingers the last blockon a tower she has built, higher than any she has built so far; for a swimmer, it could be trying to beat his own record; for a violinist, mastering an intricate musical passage. For each person there are thousands of opportunities, challenges to expand ourselves.”
The Essential Writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson (Modern Library Classics)
I found this book on a bookshelf at a friends a while back out of pure boredom and opened up to a random page, not super familiar with Emerson to begin with.
“Thus in our fine arts, not imitation, but creation is the aim. In landscapes, the painter should give the suggestion of a fairer creation than we know. The details, the prose of nature he should omit, and give us only the spirit and splendor. He should know that the landscape has beauty for his eye, because it expresses a thought which is to him good: and this, because the same power which sees through his eyes, is seen in that spectacle; and he will come to value the expression of nature, and not nature itself, and so exalt in his copy, the features that please him. He will give the gloom of gloom, and the sunshine of sunshine.”
I was captivated and mesmorized. It was just what I needed. However, I was distracted and never wrote down the author nor name of the writing. Well, I searched all over google for essays on art. After much digging, I finally found the essay on the web and discovered my new favorite author, Emerson. Being a lover of physical books, I went to Barnes and Noble and found a collection of Emerson’s writings. The best $19.99 I’ve ever spent. Not only does his essay on art contain truth, but the whole book is full of it. Reading it is like painting for me. I escape the present to a magnificent state of awe. It awakens the soul and thus has been a great tool when finding the right headspace to dive into my work.
“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
The Keith Harring Journals
I think I picked this book up and opened up to a page that happened to be exactly what I needed at that moment, which is why I have found it so special
“Art will never leave me and never should. So as I go into the next part of the trip I hope it will be more creative and more work involved and less talk and more doing, seeing, learning, being, loving, feeling, maybe less feeling, and just work my ass off, ’cause that my friend, is where it’s at!”
I guess at the time I needed that. And the more I read it the more I realize I need that at all times. I like the thought that no matter who comes and goes in my life, art will always be there for me. For this, I know Keith Harring had a good soul. He was happy. I wish I was friends with him, to be honest.. He also knows a lot about life in general. His perspective holds true to everything. His view on happiness truly impacted me, as happiness has always been a particularly strange concept to me.
“I think it is very important to be in love with life.. …As soon as we think we “understand”, there is another mystery. I don’t understand anything. That is, I think, the key to understand everything…..Happiness cannot be measured by accomplishments or material gain. Happiness is on the inside.”