Trouble in mind (Nina Simone; Richard M. Jones; portrait of a veteran artists’ model)

"Trouble in mind" portrait (not of Nina Simone), by William Eaton, May 2019Trouble in mind I’m slow
My cold heart is beating so slow
Ain’t never had so much
Trouble in my mind before

Last August I did some “life drawing” in the apartment-studio of a generous San Francisco artist, Robert Windle. In addition to offering interesting models, good food, and spare art supplies, Robert would always have music playing in the background. A good deal of it that August was Nina Simone, a more-than-pop artist, whose music has, not all that surprisingly, proved to endure.

Inspired by Robert’s example, when I returned to New York I, with good friends/fellow artists, slowly but surely began to develop an ever-evolving something, which includes life drawing, good food and music in my apartment-studio. And the singing of the late Nina Simone (1933-2003) continues to be heard.

Background music can get into both the model’s and the artists’ heads during life-drawing sessions. For an artist, the music may combine with the emanations from the model and his or her pose, and with what one may know about (or project onto) the model, and with the artist’s own feelings. Like many artists’ models, the model pictured above spends a lot of time in her own head (while modeling), and she has been modeling full-time, and nude, and underpaid, for three decades. There is a lot in her head, as there is in mine, and as there was in Nina Simone’s.

The verse quoted above is from the song Trouble in Mind, which was written by Richard M. Jones (1892–1945), who was also known as one of Louis Armstrong’s leading producers and as a supervisor in the production of “race” (African-American) records in Chicago. As for troubles in Simone’s mind, the Wikipedia biography provides a quick review of some of the obstacles she faced and some of her attitudes toward them.

Nina Simone, photograph by Jack Robinson; owned by GettyI am intrigued, let’s call it, by a comment Simone made toward the end of her life, after she had moved to southern France. She was performing, presumably to a largely African-American audience, in Newark, New Jersey, and she told the crowd: “If you’re going to come see me again, you’ve got to come to France, because I am not coming back.” We may be coming to yet another moment in American history when serious artists—think James Abbott McNeill Whistler, T.S. Eliot, Elizabeth Bishop, James Baldwin—feel that exile is the best option.

Woman Hat Café Portrait (+ Thomas Eakins and Alice Kurtz)

Woman outside café, portrait (almost French nineteenth century)by William Eaton

I have thought of myself as a portrait artist who often does portraits of women who happen to be naked. (See Nudes portfolio, and elsewhere.) In some next life (and I am not young!), I look forward to doing nude portraits of women of my acquaintance who are not professional models. This—naturalism, we might call it—is an advantage of using people in cafés (such as the woman at left) as “models.”

I am also here reminded of how Thomas Eakins used to ask most every woman who sat for a portrait if she would pose nude for him. (Most refused, I believe.) This from Sidney D. Kirkpatrick, The Revenge of Thomas Eakins (Yale University Press, 2006) concerning the subject of one of Eakins’s greatest paintings: Miss Alice Kurtz.

Alice Kurtz, a prominent banker’s daughter whom Eakins painted clothed in 1903, was one of the female subjects he asked to pose nude. Many years after their modeling session, after Kurtz had become a grandmother, she recalled the “amusing incident,” as she termed it. In the midst of her posing, her collar button slid down inside the back of her dress. “I wore high starched collars over shirtwaists in those days,” she wrote. “I sat as long as possible with the wretched button pressing into my spinal column & then during a rest I screwed up my courage to ask Mr. Eakins if he could reach down my back & get it out. After doing so, he remarked, ‘You have a nice back—much like a boy. I would like to paint you nude.’ His manner was so simple, so honest, I said, ‘Well, I will ask my Mother and see.’ My Mother did not forbid it, but said perhaps it would be better not on the whole. . . . My personal reaction would have been that I’d have quite liked to do it, for I felt he was quite pure-minded in the matter. I was rather a simple-minded young thing of twenty or there about when he painted me and the idea of being a nude model quite appealed to me.”

All drawings and paintings on this website are by William Eaton. Those interested in acquiring the original works can contact William at eaton0824 AT gmail.

Woodstock Drumming Circle (non-figurative – black tubes)

Woodstock Drumming Circle, non-figurative drawing by William Eaton

Now, my second year drawing the Woodstock Drumming Circle, I have begun to try non-figurative approaches, responding to the music. For some of the figurative drawings from 2018, see the Woodstock Drumming Circle portfolio.

Here at the very beginning of this series of “Image of the Week” posts, I am still (& happily!) finding my way. It has occurred to me to each time quote from writings by artists or on art. The drumming-circle drawing has brought to mind John Cage, and so here I quote from one of his stories: “transcript of story 40,” from the website Indeterminacy, which currently includes 190 Cage stories. I despair of being able to force WordPress to accurately reflect Cage’s or Indeterminacy‘s spacing, so . . . I am letting catch as catch can.


There            was            an            international

conference            of            philosophers            in

Hawaii                                      on            the

subject            of            Reality.


three            days            Daisetz            Teitaro

Suzuki            said            nothing.


Finally            the            chairman            turned

to            him            and            asked,

“Dr.            Suzuki,


you             say             this             table

around             which             we             are

sitting                                      is            real?”

Suzuki             raised             his

head             and             said             Yes.


The             chairman             asked             in

what             sense             Suzuki             thought

the             table             was             real.


Suzuki             said,

“In             every             sense.”

All drawings and paintings on this site are by William Eaton. Those interested in acquiring the original works can contact William at eaton0824 AT gmail.

Sample from “Zeroing In”

lady-slipper-2(A personal favorite because of its oddly repetitive, experimental approach.)

The list has ten items, plus some variations. Below are a few:

1. How could I have known this is what you wanted—because you never mentioned it?

2. The role of imagination in sensation may be underestimated. The highly sensitive may add imagination to sensation and thus perceive things, present and not present, that others cannot.

3. People express their desires reasonably clearly, but often they will not hear what their words are saying. If you respond to what has been expressed, it may seem to be you who is confused.

5. Suppose you continued to listen carefully to what people were saying, and in particular to the desires they expressed, but you responded as if they had said the opposite. Would you live in greater harmony?

Photo of Cypripedium acaule (Pink ladies slipper) is by Thomas G. Barnes, University of Tennessee Herbarium.

Sample from “Sick”

Richard illustration #1A parent has a great, if not entirely fulfillable responsibility to prepare his child to survive as well as possible in the social, professional, commercial and psychological jungles in which the child will find herself. And learning must be done step-by-step. Even if a child is ready intellectually to understand a complex moral argument, if she lacks a sufficient foundation of experience it will be an academic concept, hard to take seriously or retain.

In The Education Henry Adams recalls how as a young man he asked the veteran New York politician Thurlow Weed if he thought that no politician could be trusted. “Mr. Weed hesitated for a moment,” Adams writes, “then said in his mild manner:—‘I never advise a young man to begin by thinking so.’”

May each parent decide for himself at what age his child is ready to move on from “Put that back where you found it” to “Americans think that if you are not going to buy an item you should put it back where you found it,” or, “The store has suckered you into grabbing that item, now do you want to let it sucker us into giving them money for it?” Or, “If you think anyone may have seen you break that item and you want to fit in, it may make sense for you now to make a show of telling some member of the store staff what you did and that you want to pay for the item.”

To read more: Click on Sick. Originally published in the Wed del Sol World Voices series. Illustration by Richard Delgado. One of a series of illustrations he did for Surviving the Twenty-First Century.

Sample from “Warmth’s Truth”

close-up-of-green-wheat-stalk-alberta-michael-interisanoMy sensibility is such that I do not feel that killing a stalk of wheat is somehow less bad for the wheat than killing a cow is for the cow. An argument against my position could be that cows, or crustaceans, feel pain not unlike we do, and that stalks of wheat do not. And I would say then that it is also worth appreciating the validity of the “feelings” or experiences of species and things that do not seem so like us, of species and things that may “feel” in ways we cannot imagine or that may be beyond feeling, without this implying any inferiority.

To read the original and full text of this essay, click on Warmth and love and truth. Photograph is by Michael Interisano, Close-up Of Green Wheat Stalk, Alberta