Art, Authenticity, Beauty, Being True To Yourself, Blundering Criticisms, Critiques, Free Spirit, Life, Living, Nature, Observation, Outstanding Bloggers, People, Photography, Quality of Life, Robin, Spirituality, The Art of Living Well, Well Being, Writing

Walking With Robin

(About a 2 minute read)

“The morning sunlight, in the spring, bounces off the sconces on the pendulum lights [in my kitchen] and creates a star-like pattern on the ceiling.  It’s a signal that spring has arrived.” — Robin, Breezes at Dawn Blog [Brackets Paul’s].

Anyone wishing to find his or her own true voice — but who is uncertain what that means — would do well to study Robin’s posts on her blog, Breezes at Dawn.

Of course, it is nearly impossible today to express a wholly new idea, especially outside the sciences.  Those who do now and then manage to come up with something even approaching a wholly new idea tend to be keen observers, rather than creative alone.

Robin is quite obviously a keen observer (see above quote), but — offhand — I can’t recall her expressing any more original ideas than the rest of us.  What makes her voice her own are not the ideas she expresses, but the virtually unique and special way in which she expresses them.

In short, her style.

Continue reading “Walking With Robin”

Aesthetics, Art, Artist, Bad Ideas, Dance, Drawings, Emotions, Erotic Dance, Literature, Movies and Film, Music, Paintings, Performance Arts, Photography, Poetry, Sculpture, Self-Pity, Theatre, Visual Arts, Writing

Even Artists are Human. Even Artists.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY:  Paul’s thoughts on the notion that artists feel things more deeply than other folks.

♦♦♦

THE CRITICS ROAR: “Sunstone’s ‘Artists’ post puts me in mind of 1975 when the Spanish dictator Francisco Franco lingered on his death bed for weeks before having the proper decency to exit the world and take his damnable evil with him.  ‘Artists’ is by most common measures a short blog post, but Sunstone nevertheless manages to make it a long one.  You soon find yourself praying for it to end. Praying hard for it to end.” — Gus “Gunning Gus” Johnson, The Blog Critic’s Column, “Leper’s Gulch Gazette”, Leper’s Gulch, Colorado, USA.

Continue reading “Even Artists are Human. Even Artists.”

Art, Nudes, Paintings, Visual Arts

The Dancer

The Dancer Winter 2019 350x703
The Dancer. 8 x 16 Acrylic on canvas (2019)

The is the first nude I’ve painted.  I did a lot of figure drawing some years ago, but I’ve had no interest in painting nudes until now.  For some reason, I found it was hard for me to figure out how I wanted to paint her.  There are about seven trial coats of paint on her — beneath what you see!

Like so many young women these days, the model told me she has serious issues with the appearance of her body.  Consequently, I think it was a bit brave of her to suggest I do a nude of her.

That also made it especially gratifying when she saw the painting and told me she thought it was attractive enough to help her with body-image issues.  In fact, I was so happy to hear her say that, I totally forgot to seize the opportunity in order to suggest she pay me a fee for having painted her.  What a horrid mistake!

I thought while I was painting this it might not only be my first, but also my last nude — given how hard it was for me to get what I wanted.  But since completing it, two more people — one man, one woman — have suggested I paint nudes of them, so now I’m beginning to wonder if this might be my new profession.

What makes it so odd to me is I typically do portraits and I practically have to beg people to pose for me.  But — and this is counter-intuitive to me — it seems at first glance that it’s easier these days to get volunteers for nudes than for portraits. What on earth?  I feel so old now!  So outdated!

Art, Coffee Shop Folks, Harriet, Paintings, People, Portraits, Visual Arts

“Harriet II”

Harriet II
Harriet II. Acrylic on canvas (2019)

This is one of my most recent full-frontal mechanized assaults on the noble and esteemed science of aesthetics. The portrait is of Harriet, who I met when she was 15 (and I was 40), and who I watched grow up into a self-confident and remarkable person.

At the time I met her, Harriet went by the nickname “Grey”, which had been given to her because — as she would say — she was “half Polish and half West African”. That is, half-white and half-black, hence grey — and hence one reason for the greys in the painting.

Art, Cultural Change, Culture, Dance, Drawings, Human Nature, Literature, Movies and Film, Music, Paintings, Performance Arts, Photography, Poetry, Quality of Life, Sculpture, Society, Theatre, Visual Arts, Writing

Will They Bring With Them the Poets?

SUMMARY: Reflections on the future of humanity.

(About a 7 minute read)

I read a post yesterday on Bojana’s blog that got me thinking about the future of humanity.  That’s a topic that is more or less always in the back of my mind, but which I seldom write about.

I seldom write about it largely because it’s such a complex topic that I’m not sure what can be said about it that might someday more or less pan out as true.  Bojana’s approach to the topic was a pretty sound one — she mulled over her observations of her toddler and his friends as they were playing together.  The future, of course, begins with how we raise our kids.

Continue reading “Will They Bring With Them the Poets?”

About This Blog, Art, Paintings, Visual Arts

A Progress Report on my Paintings

I’m still on break from blogging, but I just have to tell y’all this.  I came up with what might be a great idea for a painting today just by … looking out my window.  Yeah, the same window I have looked out a thousand times before.

Only thing was, in the past, I wasn’t looking out the window in search of compositions to paint.  Today was different.  I glanced out the window and was immediately struck by something I saw.  “That might work”, I thought.

Strange how it’s not just a matter of looking.  It’s as much or more a matter of what you’re looking for.

About This Blog, Advice, Art, Drawings, Fun, Ideas, Paintings, Play, Talents and Skills, Visual Arts, Writing

Why I Write (And Why You Should be Alarmed)

SUMMARY:  An approach to overcoming writer’s block.

(About a 4 minute read)

Based on the scant evidence available to me, I can conjecture that most long term readers of Café Philos are lured to read my insufferable opinions for much the same reason folks find it difficult to look away from a train wreck in progress.

That statement might imply to some folks that I take pride in the being the blogging  world’s equivalent of a tragic, slow motion collision.  Actually, I do not.  But I’m a realist about these things.

Continue reading “Why I Write (And Why You Should be Alarmed)”

Art, Paintings, People, Portraits, Terese, Teresums, Visual Arts

My Full Frontal Mechanized Assault on Teresum’s Good Looks

So Teresums calls me up:  “What you doing?”

“Bug off!  I’m busy painting a picture of you.”

“Paint me with a pirate’s eye patch.”

“No way!”

“Paint me with a pirate’s eye patch, you donk-meister!”

So who can resist such charm..?  I experimented with the hand a bit, and don’t quite like the result.  Also, I dislike the background, and the painting really doesn’t capture her.  But the eye patch came out just fine, which after all is the important thing, right?

Terese April 2018 sized

Art, Paintings, Portraits, Visual Arts

My Most Recent Effort to Subvert Western Aesthetics

(About a one minute read)

14×18 Acrylic on canvas

For some reason, the camera I used to take this photo of my most recent effort to subvert Western aesthetics punched up the reds.  In the original, the reds are more subdued and blend in better.

Art, Friends, Literature, Nudes, Paintings, People, Relationships, Twinka Thiebaud, Visual Arts, Writing

An Interview with Twinka Thiebaud

(About a 5 minute read)

Note to Readers from Paul Sunstone:  This is a re-post from a now defunct blog of mine that will soon be deleted.  It was originally posted in December of 2011.  I think it still might be of general interest to people, so I’m re-posting it here to save it.

I was recently offered an opportunity to submit a few questions to Twinka Thiebaud in connection with reviewing her new book, What Doncha Know? About Henry Miller. Her answers to my questions struck me as quite interesting and I have included them in this post.  For those of you who are not familiar with Twinka, this is from the publicist’s biography of her:

Twinka Thiebaud is a former artist’s model who collaborated with many notable photographers of the 20th century.

“Imogen and Twinka,” created by Judy Dater in Yosemite National Park became one of the most recognizable and iconic images captured by an American photographer. In it, 92- year-old Imogen Cunningham, a groundbreaking photographer in her own right, confronts and locks gaze with Twinka, who appears as a wood nymph frozen before the camera’s lens. The image can been seen in private and major museum collections around the world.

For three years Twinka lived with the aging novelist Henry Miller in his Pacific Palisades home acting as his cook and caretaker while working as an artist’s model, posing for art students and other noted photographers Mary Ellen Mark, Arnold Newman, Lucien Clergue, Eikoh Hosoe, Ralph Gibson and her father American painter Wayne Thiebaud, among others. At home with Miller, Twinka was captivated and delighted along with other dinnertime guests and celebrities by the revered author’s nightly tales of his past exploits. Listening, she began to keep a notebook of her version of what he said each evening. Eventually showing him her notes, he expressed immense enthusiasm, encouraging her to write a book. The result is a compilation entitled What Doncha Know? About Henry Miller which includes both Miller’s intimate conversations and Twinka’s memoirs about the years she spent living under his roof and his lasting effect on her.

Twinka lives in Portland, Oregon and is working on a memoir entitled Twinka From Six to Sixty: Collected Images From the Life of an Artist’s Model.

And now, on to the questions and answers:

PAUL:  I recently reviewed your book, “What Doncha Know?” Do you have any comment on the review — anything to correct or add?

TWINKA: Thanks for the review of What Doncha Know? About Henry Miller. I was pleased to see you have a clear picture of what interests and intrigues me most of all: PEOPLE, with a capital P! Henry Miller was one of my greatest subjects of observation along with becoming a great friend and mentor. I think you summed up the book very well and I’m glad it left you wanting more. I would have liked to keep going but circumstances beyond my control created a sudden deadline I needed to honor. Your review captures, beautifully, the spirit in which I penned the book. Thanks again.

PAUL: How would you characterize Henry Miller’s sense of humor? Did the two of you laugh at the same things? Did you frequently get on a roll bouncing jokes off each other?

TWINKA: I’d like to report I had as great a sense of humor as Henry had at that time but that would be a lie. I was an anxious and uncertain young woman; full of drama and angst, usually looking on the darker side of things and not the humorous aspects of life. Aging has helped me gain a more finely tuned sense of the ridiculous and I laugh and make others laugh quite often.

Henry’s sense of humor was usually based on the stories he’d tell about his failed exploits and adventures and those of his friends. He could make fun of himself brilliantly and his characterizations of the quirky souls he’d run into along the road were positively hilarious.

PAUL: Henry Miller’s influence on you was remarkably positive. Based on that, what advice would you offer to people who find themselves in Henry’s position of mentoring a much younger person?

TWINKA: The first thing would be to remain positive in one’s approach. Henry was always incredibly supportive and caring in the way he spoke to me and others when things weren’t going so well.

Focus on the other person entirely; make them feel they matter, that their feelings matter, that they have everything within them needed to find the right answers, the right path.

Don’t tell stories about yourself unless the story relates directly, and in a positive way, to the other person’s struggle or dilemma.

Henry built me up again and again and when I left him I was changed forever. I had no real confidence in myself when I arrived at his doorstep and I was full of ego and false bravado. Henry helped me to feel strong and capable and urged me to believe in myself and my creative endeavors; to live a more genuine life and to let go of the superficial.

PAUL: What advice would you offer a much younger person who was being mentored?

TWINKA: 1) Open yourself up to the wisdom and experience of the person whose taken you on as your mentor and show gratitude for the time they’re making for you.

2) Be unendingly curious and ask a lot of questions.

3)Hang out with your mentor; go to the theater, watch a film, listen to music together and take long walks (with your cell phone turned off).

PAUL: Please tell me a bit about the direction you’re headed with your painting? What do you feel you’ve accomplished and what more do you hope to accomplish in the immediate future? I’m quite fascinated by what little I’ve heard of your work, so please feel free to go into any amount of detail you wish.

TWINKA: This is the hardest question for me to answer. My painting is all about learning to “see”. I’m searching, learning and feeling my way along quite slowly.

I don’t show my work publicly and, perhaps, I never will. It’s all about the process and the joy of not having to make a career or produce paintings for anyone but myself.

I have been in a bit of a rut for a few years with my painting so I turned to interior design projects to give myself some new challenges which I find incredibly rewarding.

Still, I love being alone in my studio with oil paint loaded on my brush, listening to great music and feeling connected to all the artists in the world throughout time…. all of us searching… and all of us learning how to see.


Readers interested in the famous Imogen and Twinka photo by Judy Dater can find a post on it here.  The comments section contains a response to the post by Twinka.

Aesthetics, Art, Beauty, Memes, Nudes, People, Photography, Twinka Thiebaud, Visual Arts, Writing

Book Review: “What Doncha Know? About Henry Miller” by Twinka Thiebaud

(About a 6 minute read)

Note to Readers from Paul Sunstone:  This is a re-post from a now defunct blog of mine that will soon be deleted.  It was originally posted in December of 2011.  I think it still might be of general interest to people, so I’m re-posting it here to save it.

Henry Miller was seventy-one years old when the teenage Twinka Thiebaud met him.  Of course, Miller had not only long been famous as one of the Century’s greatest novelists: He had also long been famous as one of the Century’s greatest pornographers and dirty old men.

The labels of “pornographer” and “dirty old man” came courtesy of the American press, which had (inevitably) discovered itself scandalized by the raw sex scenes in Miller’s novels (Naturally, we Americans are not actually happy about raw sex scenes unless we feel scandalized by them — and the more scandalized, the happier).

Miller’s novels had been at first banned in the US, which caused them to be smuggled into the country as contraband.  The bans were eventually overturned in an historic 1964 Supreme Court decision.  Yet, though the Court ruled Miller’s books “literature”, that did not stop the press from casting Miller as a lecherous old man. And Thiebaud was quite aware of Miller’s nasty reputation the day she met him.

Thiebaud describes herself on that day as an “seventeen year-old virgin” swamped by “intense anxiety” at the prospect of meeting the “salacious beast” Henry Miller. The very last thing she expected to find was a charming old grandfatherly man who showed no signs of wanting to seduce her, and who instead took simple delight in her company. But that is exactly what she found.

A few years after their first meeting Thiebaud moved into Miller’s home as his cook and housekeeper.  She describes her rapport with Miller (pp. 17):

Henry was one of the most open people I have ever known.  I knew what was going on in his head as well as his heart nearly all the time.  He did not keep many secrets and, like me, his emotions were written all over his face.

I get the impression that when Thiebaud walks into a room, the first things she notices are the people.  After that, she notices the art on the wall, then the furnishings, and then the diamond sparking on the table.

Moreover, I could be wrong about this, but I get the impression her interest in people often dominates and restrains her natural human inclination to judge people. That is, she simply takes folks as they are without trying to change them because she is so gawd awful interested in them.

If any of that is true, then it seems significant to me because Thiebaud has written a book.  A book that demands and requires its author to be a keen observer of people.  And namely, a keen observer of Henry Miller.  As well as of herself.

Miller had a gift of gab and loved to entertain his household and his guests over supper.  At some point, Thiebaud took to keeping a journal in which she would write down her recollection of the evening’s conversation before bed.  What Doncha Know ? About Henry Miller  is the product of that effort.

The book mostly focuses on Miller’s recollections of, and reflections on, the people and events in his life. But it does touch a little bit on Twinka herself.  An especially revealing passage about Twinka concerns her relationship with Warren Beatty — whom she met through Miller.

Imogen and Twinka (1974)
Imogen and Twinka (1974)

Warren courted Twinka in 1975, after seeing the famous photograph of her with Imogen Cunningham. He won her over, and the affair lasted until Twinka tired of Warren’s sleeping with women too numerous.

Of course, when such things occur — when a woman discovers there is a long line of other women beyond the door to her lover’s bedroom — the moment is a delicate one.  Anything can happen.  It is common enough for the woman to denounce her lover as a jerk.

Twinka reveals herself to possess thoughts and feelings that are just as graceful as her pose in the photo with Imogen. She broke off her sexual relationship with Beatty, but did not discard her appreciation for him as a superb lover (pp.34):

He was always graceful, mannered, relaxed and confident, never mussed or awkward and never out of line. Even though I was one of many, when we were together, Warren knew exactly how to make me feel absolutely extraordinary.  Now that’s a great gift!

For that and many other reasons, the passages in this book that deal with Twinka herself are just as engaging as the passages that deal with Henry Miller.

Apparently, Miller himself was not a great lover of women in Warren Beatty’s sense.  For one thing, most of Miller’s loves were never consummated.  And it seems he did not always leave his lovers much better off for having known him. But Miller knew several great truths about love, and he practiced them.

For one thing, Miller knew sex was not a necessary ingredient in great loves — the kind of loves that inspire, affirm, and renew us.   To love and to be loved in that way is to be reborn.  And I suspect that such loves are especially valuable to artists and other creatives, for they seem to be associated with great bursts of creativity.

That was one kind of love Miller had experience and insight into.  Another, and perhaps for Miller, a more important kind of love, was the one-sided affair — the love that longs, yearns for an impossible to obtain lover.

Unrequited love is also associated with great bursts of creativity.  But it is a darker creativity, born more from the suffering and angst associated with thwarted desire than from the love itself.

  • Miller (pp. 169): “Love is the most important theme in my life because it has provided me with almost all my creative fuel.  I could’ve written volumes on the subject of unrequited love.”
  • Miller again (pp.170):  “I was in love with many women, but I haven’t really written about love with a capital L.  I wrote about sex!”
  • And later on (ibid): “I’ll sacrifice everything, anything — money, jobs, wives, children — all for love! And always for the love of an unattainable woman, an elusive woman.”

From those and various other things said in Twinka’s book, I get the impression Miller was more at home with a one-sided love than with a mutual love, although he experienced both in his life.  But regardless of what kind of love he was at home with, Twinka’s book makes it clear love was, in Miller’s eyes, a — or even the — motivating factor behind his writing.

As I was reading her book, I hoped for more details of her relationship with Miller. There wasn’t quite the dept of description I wanted, and too few anecdotes, so I was a bit disappointed. But that’s probably just me.

Twinka’s book is fun.  In it, Miller tells a charming/sad/funny/revealing story about the revolutionary, Emma Goldman, that I thought taken alone was probably worth a third of the book’s $15 price.  There are several other precious little stories like that one, too.  Overall, the book is a quick, easy read, and you will probably not drink yourself to death out of regret if you read it.

By the way, I have emailed Twinka a few questions, and I will be posting her answers soon.


Readers interested in the famous Imogen and Twinka photo by Judy Dater can find a post on it here.  The comments section contains a response to the post by Twinka.

Art, Paintings, Visual Arts

The Working Title of My New Painting

For the past week or so, I’ve been working on a new painting.   I haven’t gotten very far yet, but the preliminary drawing on the canvas of what I intend to paint is about 95% done now.

Although the actual painting itself still remains to be started, and I have yet to brush even one dab of color onto the canvas, I am absolutely certain at this stage that the finished painting will be magnificent, stunning in both composition and execution, my first true masterpiece, and a major contribution to the world of art.

Unfortunately,  I am also absolutely certain that my current expectations will soon enough be crushed by reality.

For one thing, I recently counted all my finished canvases to discover that I’ve only painted 24 pieces since first picking up a brush about three years ago, so I must admit I haven’t been working hard enough to expect myself to have much skill at painting yet, let alone be capable of producing something of lasting value.  Consequently, I have chosen as a preliminary or “working title” for the new painting  —  “Opus Number 25: The October Offensive on the Noble Science of Aesthetics.”

On a slightly more serious note, I have noticed that when I am in the actual process of painting, I am usually a bit delusional about the quality of the work I’m doing.  That is, I tend to have an inflated opinion of it during the painting itself, and perhaps for a few days afterwards.  I think what happens is that I become somewhat like a young lover who only notices the positive traits in his beloved, and cannot, even if he tries, grasp that his beloved has any truly serious flaws.  It’s odd because it’s almost as if one has an emotional relationship to the painting that is on a par with the emotional relationship one might have to a person.