Douglas Arvidson is a past winner of the WICE/Paris Transcontinental International Short Story competition. His short fiction has been published in Paris, Prague, and in literary magazines in the United States and he was recently invited to be a staff writer for the Prague Revue, a cutting-edge, online literary journal ( The novels in his fantasy series, The Eye of the Eye of Stallion, include The Face in Amber, The Mirrors of Castaway Time, and A Drop of Wizard's Blood. His new novel, Brothers of the Fire Star, was selected as a finalist in the ForeWord Reviews 2012 Book of the Year national awards and as a finalist in three categories in the 2013 New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards: Action Adventure Fiction, Historical Fiction, and Young Adult Fiction. It has become part of the pantheon of Pacific literature and is now included in school literature programs. Brothers of the Fire Star is an adventure story set in the Pacific during World War II and concerns two boys of different races and cultures who escape the island of Guam in a small sailboat when the Japanese army invades. They must then struggle to survive as they master the secrets of the ancient Pacific navigators. Appropriate for young adults as well as adult readers, Brothers of the Fire Star is available on Barnes & Noble, ( and Visit the author's website:

Sunday, March 27, 2011

A Snowy Spring Morning: A cold, damp, starving artist and cold, damp, starving birds

(Credit: Peter Schjeldahl in The New Yorker Magazine, March 7, 2011)

"Starving artist" is acceptable at age 20, suspect at age 40, and problematical at age 60. Robert Genn

It is through... Art and Art only that we can shield ourselves from the sordid perils of actual existence. Oscar Wilde

I'm an ambitious self-publicist out of necessity. I've never been one to miss an opportunity because I've never had any illusions about how hard it is to survive as a painter... It's been an extra driving force to be able to prove the sceptics wrong. Stuart Pearson Wright

This is one of those crucial moments: It's Sunday morning, it's snowing, the birds are ravenous, and I found just the thing to make this early spring experience memorable:  in a recent edition of The New Yorker is an article on the perfect starving artist: This guy had consumption, died after a brief, romantically dysfunctional life, and actually had a wonderful talent.

Modigliani! Ah, yes, you're the one we think of when we think of Paris, cold garrets with troubled plumbing, tuberculosis, much alcohol, many lovers, illegitimate children, and early death, but not before, finally, at the very last moment, being recognized as a great artist. In fact, when I was visiting the National Gallery of Art in D.C. last week, I found myself face-to-breast with this very same nude--let's call her the ur-woman--and was self-conscious of my desire to stare at it for longer than my wife would have thought appropriate. What would people think? Everyone else seemed to glance at it, avert their eyes, and move quickly on to something else lest they be thought lascivious--or worse. This is America, after all, land of a lingering, tragic, trickle-down Puritanism.

Never mind. Something about this era in the history of art resonates with me at some deeply satisfying level. So, stare I did, up close and personal. The wonderful thing is that, up close--very close--it not only does not lose its appeal, but it's attractions increase. The brush strokes look like they were made yesterday, the texture left by the artist's technique allow the viewer to imagine Modigliani just stepped back to allow you to take close peeks, first at the model, then at the painting, then the model, then the painting..... Maybe you'll go out and have a drink or ten drinks with him later and you can witness him throwing glasses around the cafe and having a public battle with the mistress who you just watched pose for him. Wouldn't that be a fine thing? But I don't know, I could always go to some city right now and find an artist who is starving and get drunk with him and watch him make a fool of himself and abuse his girlfriend. But it just wouldn't be the same unless someone had already paid a couple of million bucks for one of his paintings and written an article about him in The New Yorker.

 Is the foolish dog, barks at the flying bird. Bob Marley

As for the birds, I'm glad I'm in my toasty house and not in some cold, damp attic in Paris slowly drinking. whoring, and coughing myself to death. I might not appreciate them as much as I do. As it is, I'm drinking my coffee confident that this snow is an extremely temporary interruption in the inevitable arrival of real warm weather and the birds know this, too. As for specifics on the birds, we have juncos, brown-headed cowbirds, red winged blackbirds, grackles, robins, tufted titmouses, sparrows of some variety, and cardinals, all crowding around the feeders and where I spread the seed on the ground. I can't let them starve on this cold, dark, damp day. As Modigliani had his benefactors, I shall be theirs.

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