Cultivate a New Reading Habit Today

 

Reading is one of the most important things you can do every day. How do I know? First disclaimer: I am not a teacher, have nothing to do with the education industry, and yet I will give you an “expert” opinion. My opinion? The more you read, the more content and adaptable you will be. Cultivating a new reading habit, one that means you read intentionally every day, will give you lifelong benefits beyond pleasure. You will be more interesting and more easily entertained. You might even find some peace and calm in your life that is wholly unavailable to the television addicts. This business of reading is a new habit worth cultivating.

 

Read until your eyes pop

Now why would I write about this? The statistics about adult readers in the United States are abysmal. It seems that most adults, once they graduate college, don’t bother to read another book. How in the world is that possible? Don’t people go to college to become educated? To learn how to read and learn more? That might not be true anymore, as borne out by the statistics. People stop reading. But not all of us. I am an inveterate reader. That’s a nice way to say I can’t stop reading. My friends and I laugh about reading until our eyes feel like they will pop out of our heads. It turns out that makes us weird in this world, but we will keep reading.

Mark Twain’s observation

Mark Twain, no reading slouch in his time, said the man who won’t read is no better off than a man who can’t read. That should be chiseled above the doors of every school building in America, from preschool to university. What good does it do to learn how to read and then never read? You learned to read so you can use Instagram? Seriously? Okay, I’m being too snarky and offending you is not helpful.

What if Twain is right?

Yet, Twain was right. If you keep letting your mind rot by not reading, how can you adapt to a constantly changing world? How do you intend to keep a job, buy a home, a car, have a family, have a life? Reading and comprehending what you read is essential to life. And the future belongs totally to those who can read and understand how to do things to solve problems. It isn’t just mathematicians and scientists who have to know how to read in order to solve problems. Every high paying job, including blue-collar jobs, will require a high level of reading and comprehension skills.

The world spins toward complication

Everything that we use in life is becoming more complicated, especially as things are linked together. We have refrigerators that talk to us (ugh) and home security systems that want our attention, cars that run on our verbal commands, computer and software instructions that are ever more complex. Have you ever tried to put something together out of a box? You have to read the instructions because the pictures alone won’t tell the story. All of life is predicated upon reading and understanding. All of life, not just employment situations. We cannot afford to stop reading and a culture that won’t read won’t last very long.

Books are everywhere; where are the readers?

Now that you have had enough of the rant, why brings this on? As I read about who reads books, what kind of books, and then who buys books, I feel very discouraged. The number of readers is not encouraging. We need to read to increase our worth in the market place of work, but we don’t do it. We need to read to understand our world and make intelligent decisions about our lives. I keep reading the idea that if you read three or four books on a subject in a year, you will be an expert. An expert. That seems unlikely, yet I understand that when people do not read to better understand their field, if you read those three books on the subject, you will be light years ahead in the game. Pick up those books and read!

What does that have to do with kissing books?

People who read romance books and buy romance books to read are a hardy lot. As a group, romance readers outstrip average people. They read more books, in more subgenres of romance, than other readers. In other words, people want to read kissing books over and over and over again. Kissing books that are thrillers; kissing books that are historical, westerns, fantasy, sci-fi, whatever you can dream up. People who love romance books, LOVE romance books. They read them from the bookstore, the library, the swapping group, in hand or online, in paper or on electronic readers.

The point is they read all the time because they love their books. And that makes romance writers happy.

Keep reading

My advice is to keep reading. Then you can read some more. Whether you read books on gardening, gemstones, economics, history, art, music, or kissing books, you will learn something. You can be a more interesting person, always a plus, and have something intelligent to share outside of that awful subject of politics. Politics does not rule the world. People are interested in the big questions of life: who are we, where did we come from, where are going? The Bible can give us answers and we can buttress that with our reading in other areas.

What you read is not as important is that you actually spend the time reading. Your brain will thank you because it will help halt dementia. That should be enough justification to cultivate a reading habit. Enjoy your books and your calmer life. You will find the more you read, the more you can enjoy your life.

    Have a happy week reading!

Meet Southern Artist and Scientist Charles Willson Peale

 

   Charles Willson Peale, a prolific Renaissance man, gave us fine portraits of our Founding Fathers and this is the week to take a closer look at Peale’s life in work in celebration of Independence Day. Peale was a well-known 19th century American painter.

Charles Willson Peale

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Charles Willson Peale self portrait with daughter Angelica.

But did you know he was also a scientist? Or that he was a naturalist? Or a soldier and a politician who founded one of our first museums? I didn’t know any of that until I decided to feature his work as an American 19th century painter. His story is a bit romantic in itself.

In July, this blog will feature Southern artists of the 19th century. As an aside, when I chose to focus on this area, a search on an infamous search engine yielded little information. If I didn’t know better I would think their corporate policy was to ignore all things Southern. Imagine that!

Peale’s Early Life

Peale was born in 1741 in Chester, Maryland. He was apprenticed to a saddle maker, then eventually opened his own saddle shop. He was beset by two problems: he wasn’t good at his work and Tory Loyalists were aghast when he joined the Sons of Liberty so they made sure he went bankrupt.

Oddly enough, Peale wasn’t good at working with his hands. After trying several occupations, for which he was not well suited, he decided to paint. That brought a shift in the output of his hands. His talent was readily apparent when he used a brush with paint on a canvas. He found his calling in life, especially by painting portraits.

Painting Studies

He began his studies with two of his era’s greatest painters, John Hesselius and John Singleton Copley. Peale’s friends were kind enough to raise enough money for him to travel to England and study under the renowned artist Benjamin West, which he did for three years.

At the end of his studies, Peale returned to the United States and settled in Annapolis, Maryland, in 1770 near many of the players in our formation as a country. He wasn’t satisfied with being that far from the real action, so he moved to Philadelphia in 1776. This decision would result in solidifying his reputation.

Revolutionary Figures by Peale

Peale created some of his greatest portraits by painting the men who wrote our Declaration of Independence. His work features men of towering reputation from America and Europe. He bought an estate in Philadelphia, began raising money for militias, joined one, and became a captain in the Pennsylvania Militia.

While serving in the field, he painted the portraits of many Continental Army soldiers. This work was done in miniature, but he later created larger paintings of those people and scenes. He served as a representative in the Pennsylvania State assembly for one year, beginning in 1779.

Returning to painting

After his one year term of office, Peale found his way back home and took up full time painting again. Peale painted the greats such as Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, James Varnum and John Hancock.

Thomas Jefferson by Peale

Thomas Jefferson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

His most famous subject was George Washington, whose portrait he first painted in 1772. Over the course of several years Peale painted almost 60 portraits of Washington.

Here is an art news tidbit: in 2006, Peale’s work Washington at Princeton fetched an astonishing $21.3 million dollars at auction. This was the highest amount ever paid for an American portrait.

George Washington by Peale

George Washington at Princeton

Peale’s Museums and bones

Earlier I mentioned that Peale was a great naturalist. He founded the Philadelphia Museum, which became the Peale museum. Peale’s interest in natural history led him to help fund a scientific exhibition. The items brought back to Philadelphia formed the genesis of the museum.

From stuffed birds (from taxidermy) to fossils, the museum featured a wealth of interesting items. It was the first museum in America to feature mastodon bones. Peale also arranged an exchanged program of natural history items between his museum and the Finbury Museum on Finbury Road in London.

Peale at his museum

Big bone of contention

Jefferson and Comte de Buffon clashed over the mastodon bones in the museum. Jefferson, another great naturalist and Renaissance man, claimed America had a great biodiversity than Europe.

The Comte, steeped in his European heritage, argued otherwise. In the end, it was the great Peale Museum that brought attention to the debate and itself. The museum had several physical homes, but eventually it went under.

Peale needed a massive infusion of cash and was unable to get government funding to keep it open. Don’t say it, I know. We fund stupid things now, but he couldn’t get help then. The collection was sold off.

Family life

In addition to being a prolific painter, Peale was a prolific procreator. He and his first wife, Rachel Brewer, had 10 children. Peale insisted upon naming all his children after painters he admired, including women. From Rembrandt to Miss Angelica Kaufman, the children bore famous names. Many went on to become artists or naturalists themselves.

Upon Rachel’s death, Peale married Miss Elizabeth de Peyster, with whom he had six more children. His success as an artist was absolutely needed in order to feed his large family. When Elizabeth died, Peale married his third wife, Hannah More, a Quaker.

He needed another wife to care for his brood, especially the younger children. They remained married until Peale’s death in 1827. Peale was an Episcopalian, as were so many other early Founding Fathers, and he was buried in St. Peter’s Episcopal Church Cemetery.

Elizabeth dePeyster Peale

Legacy

As a Renaissance man, Peale was knowledgeable in everything from carpentry to painting. After 1802 partnered with John Hawkins, the inventor of the physiogno trace, a handy mechanical drawing device. Peale’s job was to help market the device. As part of his work, he corresponded with Thomas Jefferson, giving a detailed explanation of how the system functioned. Those papers are still among Jefferson’s personal papers.

Peale authored books and continued his interest in science up to his death. Several of his children became famous artists in their own right. And his brother-in law Nathaniel Ramsey was one of the delegates to the Confederation Delegation.

Peale’s enormous legacy consists of art, science, museum founding, right up to owning the patent for the first polygraph machine. He was working, thinking, dreaming and inventing all the time. He left us a vastly richer nation because he lived.

Why am I doing this?

My hope is that featuring different artists, asking questions about what made them great, and passing on the information to you inspires you. All of this is so much grist for the mill for my upcoming books. If I have no knowledge about fine art and what makes people important, you won’t believe much of what I write about in my books.

Especially if my sweet ladies are supposed to be owners of art galleries or work in a museum.

I love doing this research and learning more and more about different American artists and it is my sincere wish that you love these things as well. We can enjoy the art and the artist!

Have a great week!