Just finished absorbing the book Constable - The Great Landscapes about his artistic career and series of famous 'six footers' that celebrate everyday life around the canals and locks in the Stour River valley. John Constable, now icon of British landscape artists, represents the 'stay at home' school. Other artists made their reputation in the Swiss Alps or along the canals of Venice. Constable preferred scenes from his boyhood: the dirt road trod to school, his father's mill, or the canals and locks nearby. As with most great artists, Constable ran afoul of Royal Academy strictures and the uncompromising academic conventions of his day. "Your work lacks finish," the judges would sneer. So, Constable painted two canvases for each six footer, one called the 'sketch' loose and energetic and another more finished for exhibition and judging. With considerable irony, the sketches are now considered equally if not more desirable than the polished versions submitted to the Academy. 'Stay at home' artists, those who create peaceful, modest and un-emphatic scenes of country life, still inspire 'stay at home' photographers who follow the same sources of inspiration. (Use the link to the left; check out Constable's The Hay Wain from this series. Remember, that canvas is six feet wide.)
My Grandfather used to swear by the breads made from stone ground meal. He made them sound so tasty that, to this day, the mention of stone ground meal tickles my palate tho' I've eaten nary a crumb. In those days, I often pedaled my bicycle several miles down Route 669 to old Carrico Mill powered by the slow brown waters of Mountain Run - our special swimming-fishing hole straight out of the Saturday Evening Post and Golden Age of Illustration. To me this Mill was a magic cathedral of wood and rafters worn by the ages and venerated for service to generations. Huge pole-like shafts and strong leather belts rose from the basement, as if from nowhere, reaching upward thru the ceiling connecting, somehow, to the water wheel and mill race outside. If enough kids gathered, Mr. Bunch might invite us inside for a safety lecture and private show. Teasing our fears and building our hopes he would carefully pull levers to engage an enormous clutch that set peg-gears rotating, big as trucks, pushing torque from the rolling water wheel to the turning stone. The entire building would tremble and groan. Creaking to life. First shuddering, then quaking, finally grinding away in clouds of dust. Magically, one old Mill became one massive machine, and one blessed mystery for me. The clatter was impressive and overpowering. But, it's all quiet now, except for the enduring rumble inside.