Wisdom, Courage, Justice, Temperance

December 6 of 31 December-ish posts

I’ve been reading Marcus Aurelius.

Specifically, I’ve been reading the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, Roman emperor circa 161 -180 AD and noted Stoic philosopher.

What do you want to learn in 2023?

Wisdom is acting on knowledge, experience and understanding.

Courage is willingness to confront pain, danger or uncertainty.

Justice is seeking equitable treatment for all and for all what they deserve.

Temperance is voluntary restraint, patience and forgiveness.

These are four principles of a philosophical mindset and system of personal ethics that form the basis of what is modernly known as formal stoicism. I’ve always been cautious about pigeonholing myself into belief systems or rigidly categorized frameworks of ideology, but I’ve taken a liking to the tone of this particular way of thinking over the past year and adopted some of it’s practices as a way to tune and manage my own approach to the world.

For one, I’ve been journaling more. Arguably, blogging is a form of public journaling, but I’ve taken to recording more personal notes on paper with ink, and making a habit of self-reflection and adaptive growth around the notion of philosophical-based meditations.

Writing words on paper and noting the moments of success, gratitude, error, or struggle through your day, even through something as simple as a bullet-point journal, this is a moment of personal reflection that has helped me find a bit of center in the swirling chaos of my otherwise hectic days.

It is part of the way I have found a new kind of balance in my participation online, and my goal is not to suddenly start blogging about all this on the regular. It’s part of the reason I took a few months off. It’s part of the reason I’ve come back with a bit more focus of mid-life perspectives and my personal balance stemming out of these things that I write about, and not as some kind of social media influencer trying to get likes and shares and ad revenue from the words I post.

This next year is not at all going to be me jumping in and preaching any of this or really even writing about it (much), simply that as I reflect on the close of this year I’ve been contemplative on the benefits brought to my life so far from mindful practice and thinking about these principles and virtues. That will likely reflect more in what I write about, but only tangentially.

That said, I really do think that there is some clear parallels between all this stoicism thinking and the little blurb I’ve had for forever in the about section of this blog, that Cast Iron Guy is ”a journal of uncomplicated things, life lived, and a mindset that reflects the philosophical practicality of well-seasoned cast iron frying pan: enduring, simple, down-to-earth & extremely useful.”

Thinking about and acting through wisdom, courage, justice and temperance are all wrapped up in many of the kinds of folk who seek out simplicity, nature, healthy lifestyles, and positive contribution to the world, all things that I’ve written about here over the last two years.

All this is what I want to learn how to do better in 2023.

I’m aware that there are some fairly high profile folks out there marketing this philosophy as a way to sell videos, courses, and books, and perhaps it is all in good faith but the skeptic in me just needs to put that out there as what you may find if you were to do a web search for any of this.

I’ve watched some of it.

But so far I’ve just let these ideas flow through me, tried to frame my own interpretation of it all, and in doing so have though about them loosely and lightly framed around my everyday life. Now as we enter into a new year it seems like not that I’ll try to make a study or rigorous convent with this stuff, but simply that I want to learn to be a bit more mindful about how my own personal approaches to food, outdoors, and participation in the universe can benefit from a formalized philosophical approach.

Or, maybe that’s pretty deep for a Tuesday morning.

Artist in Residence (but just at my own house)

I have mentioned it a few times over the last year of posts, and I have even posted a few modest samples, but I have a slow burning fascination with sketching that has kindled into something more since I’ve been spending so much time at home longing to travel.

In particular #urbansketching has wrapped a watercoloured claw around my heart (and jabbed it with a few sharpened pencils for good measure) and I find myself looking for local subjects as much as flipping through old photography looking for buildings, scenes, architecture, and adventure moments to turn into ink and paint doodles.

Urban sketching is the name of a subset of artistic pursuits usually narrowed to the specific time and attention given to capturing an object or space filled with people and buildings and life and city emotion. It is meant to be quick and rough and in the moment and replace the act of wandering through an urban space clicking countless snapshots into one’s phone with the deliberate action of pausing for long enough to draw a scene with pencil, ink, colour, or one’s medium of choice.

I try. Frequently. I’m admittedly mediocre.

But I am working and practicing and thinking the types of thoughts that I hope will come together into being much better.

What do you want
to learn in 2022?

There is a short list of things I need to focus on over the next year as I improve my sketching skillset and move towards the next level of artistic expression. As I see it, these things are:

1) Finding my own style.

I actually kinda thought this would come to me as a simple act of rote practice, but not only has a style not found me in my numerous pages of scribbles and sketches, I think the lack of a style is starting to creep into what I have drawn as a kind of looming sloppiness.

This is not self-depricating criticism. It’s just a trend I’ve noticed. That in the gaps where I don’t know what kind of deliberate line to draw to fill a space, I make something up. A personal style would inform that and steer me clear of the messy scribbles approach.

Style is a you-know-it-when-you-see-it thing, ineffible but simultanously it jumps off the page when it is done right.

I need to find mine next year because it doesn’t seem to be looking for me.

2) Working in partnership with the colours.

My wife bought me a new set of twenty-four watercolours for my birthday last month and I dug in and was immediately slapping shades onto the page to see how things looked and worked and made the sketch pop with double the number of hues.

I love the set, but I don’t think it has done me any favours. My sketches have just become a little bit more muddled. Why? Because I’m not painting with the colours that need, want, yearn to be part of the picture. Rather the literal science-technology nerd in me is transcribing the colors of the scene directly into the page.

I’m neither good at that, nor is that art. It’s this photographer guy trying to replicate something in front of his eyes with a brush and a smattering of pigments.

I recognize this as a flaw in my approach and that thinking about a cohesive palette that evokes a vibe of the scene or object is far more important that getting the right shade of green for that tree in the background.

3) Seeing.

Similarly to how I’ve tended to regard colour, I’ve always thought of myself as a reasonable photographer because I have a well-tuned sense of composition that has aided me in a way that has led to nice pictures.

I have been working on changing my perspective already, but in 2022 I need to open my eyes a little wider and examine the world like a sketch artist, rather than a guy with a camera lens… at least when I’m attempting to draw that world.

Composing a sketch on the page is a bit like framing a photograph in the viewfinder, but with a different set of tools and a completely different objective. The point of a photo is often to replicate an object or scene with clear focus, to represent it in a way that is true and clear. Alternatively, the point of sketch is often to create a model of an object or scene by use of abstraction, to use shapes and colour to trick the eye into seeing a re-creation of a simplified essence of that and to convey what the artist wanted to purposefully move from the reality of that object or scene into a feeling of the same upon the page.

I’m still thinking too much like a photographer.

4) Letting go of the literal.

And while that overthinking photographer guy struggles to see the world as a sketchable space, looking for the lines and shapes of reality and unravelling it all, in that effort is also a search for the metaphor of the art.

I’ve spent too much time enviously looking at “good” art that faithfully represents something, and while skill is a noble purpose and often a milestone towards achieving all these things I’m writing about, it is just one path.

I don’t know what the alternative path is, but I think it is shaded by experimenting, practice, and dabbling in all these things I’ve been writing about. It’s a mash up of all these points: a style, evoking feelings through colours, and seeing what’s in the scene but also what is inside and through and beyond the scene yet needs to find a way onto the page.

In 2022 I don’t expect to move from hobbiest suburban sketcher to epic, master artist, but I think I’m at the point in my drawing adventure where I need permission (if only from myself) to let go of the aspriration to draw anything but what makes me happy drawing it.

Learning, after all, never really ends.

Thirty one topics. Thirty one posts. Not exactly a list… but close. In December I like to look back on the year that was. My daily posts in December-ish are themed-ish and may contain spoilers set against the backdrop of some year-end-ish personal exposition.