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what do CAS's visual pieces tell us about CAS, the man?
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 4 September, 2020 12:59PM
It seems like some of recent discussions of HPL hinted at the degree of "personal commitment" to the weird/horror genre, and of course this also causes one to reflect on CAS's similar levels of commitment. And by "commitment", I mean a sort of personal and deep attraction the concepts/ethos of the weird cosmology.

Now for HPL, we have his stories, but to avoid the circular and self-justifying route of using his stories to show his personal commitment in the creation of these self-same stories, we have his letters and other writings, of which it seems like there are many. I've read only a few, and basically liked him as an epistolary at least as well as a fiction writer. I got the impression that he was a concrete and logical thinker who was well-read and thoughtful.

And for CAS we have some letters and other writings, so there's that.

But for CAS we also have drawings/paintings/sculptures, which I would like to believe are a potent revelation of his more inner feelings and sensibilities. And if this is at all valid, I'd conclude that he was deeply committed to the fantastic. And I believe that if we consider that his published commercial writings were from the period of about 1929 to 1934, but the bulk of his visual art was created between 1937 and his death in 1961, this shows that there was little to no overlap--that he was sufficiently obsessed with the weird to continue to create visual manifestations of it that were not catalyzed by his activities as a commercial writer seeking a paycheck.

To be more direct, he went "there" (the universe of the weird) when he didn't have to, apparently by preference.

Now, there are 200 photos of his visual output on this site, and all of it that I saw was patently weird. CAS was, at best, a primitivist, and this stuff was not his m├ętier, nor can I image that he was commercially driven to satisfy a demand for it, so he created this stuff for personal expression and satisfaction, it would seem.

And from this I'd conclude that he had a fairly deep personal commitment to the weird. He had sufficient talent, I believe, to have tried other pulp genres--crime, mystery, conventional adventure, maybe western--but did not, so my guess is that the world of the weird was where he truly lived.

Comments? Thoughts?

Sawfish
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"Life is a tragedy to those who feel, a comedy to those who think."

Re: what do CAS's visual pieces tell us about CAS, the man?
Posted by: Cathbad (IP Logged)
Date: 4 September, 2020 01:23PM
Yeah, totally. The sculptures and his other artwork are a case in point, just like you say. They're not great, imo and would never have constituted a revenue stream, but CAS persisted in producing them anyway. Why? Because they reflected where he was coming from, his 'aesthetic' if you will.

Re: what do CAS's visual pieces tell us about CAS, the man?
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 4 September, 2020 06:21PM
I've been curious regarding what CAS lived on during the time when, so far as I know, he had pretty much stopped writing and was making those carvings.

Re: what do CAS's visual pieces tell us about CAS, the man?
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 4 September, 2020 06:26PM
Dale Nelson Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> I've been curious regarding what CAS lived on
> during the time when, so far as I know, he had
> pretty much stopped writing and was making those
> carvings.


"Unwholesome provender...".

;^)

Sawfish
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"Life is a tragedy to those who feel, a comedy to those who think."

Re: what do CAS's visual pieces tell us about CAS, the man?
Posted by: Hespire (IP Logged)
Date: 4 September, 2020 07:16PM
CAS had been drawing and painting weird subjects long before he was an author of weird fiction, and before he ever met Lovecraft. No doubt his fancy was captivated by grotesque, phantasmic, and alien things. This page is relevant:

[eldritchdark.com]

And this quote from a 1915 letter from CAS to George Loveman sums up his preference in his visual art:

Quote:
Clark Ashton Smith
Outside of a little drawing, my days have been quite idle of late. I don't feel in the least like writing poetry, and have amused myself by drawing devils, grotesques, animals of the nightmare breed and pretty girls.

They don't appear so much on this site's gallery, but "pretty girls" seemed to be a favorite subject of his, especially when combined with the Weird, but this is probably no surprise! He's painted lamias, Lilith, faery women, etc.

It seems CAS made some money on his artwork, but not enough to thrive from it. My knowledge of his life is naturally fragmented and based on older memories of my readings from this site, but I recall that CAS made his living through a vast assortment of odd jobs throughout his life.



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 4 Sep 20 | 07:26PM by Hespire.

Re: what do CAS's visual pieces tell us about CAS, the man?
Posted by: Dale Nelson (IP Logged)
Date: 5 September, 2020 04:37PM
Sawfish (or anyone who knows) -- did CAS live in part off the land, hunting & gathering?

Re: what do CAS's visual pieces tell us about CAS, the man?
Posted by: Hespire (IP Logged)
Date: 5 September, 2020 04:54PM
Dale Nelson Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Sawfish (or anyone who knows) -- did CAS live in
> part off the land, hunting & gathering?


I can't say to what extent he did those things, but in my wanderings through this place long ago, CAS' friend Dr. Farmer said he indeed hunted and trapped, and grew a garden. Soup was supposedly a common meal. And he did those odd jobs I mentioned (which included digging wells and cutting wood), and went to a grocery store in Auburn. These are the only definite facts I know.

Re: what do CAS's visual pieces tell us about CAS, the man?
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 5 September, 2020 06:30PM
This is an interesting subtopic: what CAS's daily life was like, especially in Auburn.

Hespire, I know you are from CA, and still live there (if I remember correctly). Have you ever been to Auburn? I see that it's sorta out-of-the-way, but and I've been in Amador county, and it's fairly dry, hilly, with black oaks and scrub.

I also read somewhere that the site of CAS's old property had been developed long ago, so sprawl got it.

I grew up in Porterville, six miles our of town, and if you had a decent water source you could grow a lot f your own vegetables, etc. There is/was a decent and reliable water table so likely he had a good well.

Similarly, my guess is that there was a lot of seasonally available foul (doves, quail, etc.) and mule deer, if he hunted. All this was available even when I was a kid in the 50s. We really didn't do much of that, however. Dove and quail recreationally.

But using Google World, where I lived is just barely outside of the sprawl zone, and I left for the Bay Area (Marin) after HS graduation, and stayed on the coast (San Diego, San Luis Obispo, LA) until we moved up here to Portland in 1987.

Sawfish
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"Life is a tragedy to those who feel, a comedy to those who think."

Re: what do CAS's visual pieces tell us about CAS, the man?
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 6 September, 2020 01:31AM
After his brief career for Weird Tales (partly to support his old parents), he picked fruit, and from what I understand, was away for periods in distant locations doing this. He received a little money from the Arkham House sales.

Scott Connors knows more. He is working on a CAS biography.

Re: what do CAS's visual pieces tell us about CAS, the man?
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 6 September, 2020 01:41AM

Re: what do CAS's visual pieces tell us about CAS, the man?
Posted by: Hespire (IP Logged)
Date: 6 September, 2020 01:51AM
I was indeed born and raised in CA, and am still here. I've only been up north once when visiting San Francisco, otherwise I've always lived south, closer to Mexico. I was born a cityslicker, so I have none of the experiences you shared, but I'm living in the mountains among the woods now, and I vastly prefer this over California's urban culture, a sentiment CAS seemed to share.

Anyway, I don't think I'd visit Auburn unless it was on my way to some other place. It does look pleasant though, from the recent photos I'm viewing, and I admire the trees. It appears the Tsuda grocery store still exists, where CAS did his shopping!

There was a time, last decade, when I'd quietly check this site and read Dr. Farmer's personal accounts with interest. I didn't have anything to contribute then, but I kicked myself when I learned, shortly before making this account, that the good doctor passed away a few years ago. I suppose if anyone wants to learn about CAS' daily life, they'll have to hunt for his posts on this very forum. I recall Dr. Farmer mentioning something about CAS working as a gardener, and feeling less inclined to write fiction even when his wife wanted him to.

Re: what do CAS's visual pieces tell us about CAS, the man?
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 6 September, 2020 01:54AM

Re: what do CAS's visual pieces tell us about CAS, the man?
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 6 September, 2020 02:10AM
Hespire Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
>
> There was a time, last decade, when I'd quietly
> check this site and read Dr. Farmer's personal
> accounts with interest.


Dr. Farmer mostly posted under the user name calonlan.

Re: what do CAS's visual pieces tell us about CAS, the man?
Posted by: Hespire (IP Logged)
Date: 6 September, 2020 02:21AM
Knygatin Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Hespire Wrote:
> --------------------------------------------------
> -----
> >
> > There was a time, last decade, when I'd quietly
> > check this site and read Dr. Farmer's personal
> > accounts with interest.
>
>
> Dr. Farmer mostly posted under the user name
> calonlan.


Ah yes, I forgot what his username was! That would make this search easier for anyone interested.

Also, it seems the Tsuda grocery store closed some years ago, though I'm not sure what became of the building since.



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 6 Sep 20 | 02:30AM by Hespire.

Re: what do CAS's visual pieces tell us about CAS, the man?
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 6 September, 2020 02:45AM
Knygatin Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Hespire Wrote:
> --------------------------------------------------
> -----
> >
> > There was a time, last decade, when I'd quietly
> > check this site and read Dr. Farmer's personal
> > accounts with interest.
>
>
> Dr. Farmer mostly posted under the user name
> calonlan.


And early on had the user name Dr. W.C. Farmer.

Re: what do CAS's visual pieces tell us about CAS, the man?
Posted by: weorcstan (IP Logged)
Date: 6 September, 2020 03:07AM
> did CAS live in part off the land, hunting & gathering?


I rarely contribute as I have less knowledge of CAS than most here and am just a fan. I am however fairly familiar with the Auburn area. I visited it on many family trips as a child and my parents retired there. So this is based on that. There is frankly not much to gather in the Auburn area.

The area is rather hot and dry and there just aren't the "nuts and berries" one reads about in certain types of fiction. Of course the Native American Indians of the area did survive off the land, but they ate such things as grubs and insects which even their modern day descendants who try to maintain a few traditions do not eat, so I doubt CAS did!

The Natives main source of food was of course (at least "of course" for Californians) acorns. These are plentiful but have to be carefully prepared so that they are not toxic. When this is done, they are nutritious, but very bland. I am fairly certain few, if any, White Americans of CAS's time prepared acorns, some do now. For special occasions Natives prepared them in CAS's time and still do in modern times.

Two wild food items that CAS may very well have gathered are manzanita berries and Miner's Lettuce. Manzanita berries are tasty, but large quantities of them cause stomach upset. Miner's Lettuce is easy to spot and delicious. Almost everyone in the area has picked some at one time or another. Neither would be for sustenance, rather just because they are readily available.

Re: what do CAS's visual pieces tell us about CAS, the man?
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 6 September, 2020 10:41AM
Thanks very much for these insights, weorcstan. They help to flesh out ED's collective understanding of CAS' daily life.

Sawfish
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"Life is a tragedy to those who feel, a comedy to those who think."



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