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John le Carré and Your Spycraft

This AT HOME ART DATE combines interviews both written and recorded and your secret spycraft pen portrait.

David Cromwell’s (pseudonym John le Carré) espionage novels embrace the balance between love and compromise while the world is on fire.

(element one) READ: This New Yorker article about John le Carré was written by Anthony Lane, who talks about the author's ability to write pen portraits.

(element two) WATCH: This 60 minutes interview where John le Carré talks about living the double life of writer John le Carré and person, David Cornwell.

A short selection from this interview:

Interviewer: David Cornwell has created a stable full of imperfect characters over the years. The name John le Carré is an obstruction that exists in his writing studio and on the cover of his books like a spy’s name on a phony passport.

Cornwell: It is a separate identity in a way. I’m keeping myself young by keeping the child in me alive and keeping the critical nature of life wheezing in my head. That’s being le Carré.

(element three) IMAGINE & WRITE:

Let’s keep the child in you alive by using your powers of observation to spy on someone who is a stranger to you. Since this is a time of Covid and you can’t spend too much time in public what not sit in your car and observe someone. What if you took a special trip to the grocery store and followed someone without them knowing it? If you had to write a paragraph describing them to your superiors, what would you say?

Use Le Carre’s famous description of George Smiley as an example of a pen portrait:

“Unlike Jim Prideaux, Mr. George Smiley was not naturally equipped for hurrying in the rain, least of all in the dead of night. Indeed, he might have been the final form for which Bill Roach was the prototype. Small, podgy, and at best middle-aged, he was by appearance one of London’s meek who do not inherit the earth. His legs were short, his gait anything but agile, his dress costly, ill-fitting, and extremely wet. His overcoat, which had a hint of widowhood about it, was of that black loose weave that is designed to retain moisture. Either the sleeves were too long or his arms were too short, for, as with Roach, when he wore his mackintosh, the cuffs all but concealed the fingers. For reasons of vanity, he wore no hat, believing rightly that hats made him ridiculous. “Like an egg-cozy,” his beautiful wife had remarked not long before the last occasion on which she left him, and her criticism, as so often, had endured. Therefore the rain had formed in fat, unbanishable drops on the thick lenses of his spectacles, forcing him alternately to lower or throwback his head as he scuttled along the pavement that skirted the blackened arcades of Victoria Station. He was proceeding west, to the sanctuary of Chelsea, where he lived. His step, for whatever reason, was a fraction uncertain, and if Jim Prideaux had risen out of the shadows demanding to know whether he had any friends, he would probably have answered that he preferred to settle for a taxi.”

Now it’s your turn to draft a pen portrait of your target person using the following as prompts.

First sentence: Compare the person you spy on to someone famous they are nothing like.

Second sentence: Describe the weather and time of day and how it affects your person.

Third sentence: Compare the person to someone famous that they are like.

Fourth sentence: Use an idiom to describes your person’s physicality.

Fifth sentence: Describe your person’s clothing, how it fits them, and how it is affected by the weather or other circumstances.

Sixth sentence: Describe how they walk.

Seventh sentence: Describe them in a way that someone who knows them well might describe them.

Eighth sentence: Describe where they might be going next and who or what might be there when they arrive.

Edit and add or subtract as you see fit.

Well done, artist!

I hope you find John le Carré and Your Spycraft a compelling At Home Art Date.

I curate provocative art dates for you to enjoy solo or with others in your own home.

Many of these art dates have online elements combined with supplemental reading, listening, and a variety of activities you can do at home to enhance how you express and experience art.

Feel free to forward these art dates to others.

Remember to check out the bonus material below.

These art dates are free of charge. However, they do take time, energy, and a lifetime of artistic experience to put together. If you’d like to buy me a cup of tea as a bit of thanks, I’d appreciate your generosity.

You can also learn more about my upcoming Artistic Clarity online courses, Give Me Culture and Creative Dice here.



Bonus Material:

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