Listening to Art, by William Denton.
Volume eight, number twelve: Red Scribble by Rudy Rucker.
Hello, and welcome to Listening to Art. I’m William Denton.
Rudy Rucker is an American mathematician, computer scientist, philosopher, science fiction writer (he was a founder of cyberpunk) and artist. He has written about his life in nonfiction directly and in fiction with his “transrealist” approach, which he defined in 1983 in “A Transrealist Manifesto” as an avant-garde method using “immediate perceptions in a fantastic way.” He wrote, “I feel that transrealism is the only valid approach to literature at this point in history.”
Rucker briefly discusses painting in his 2011 autobiography Nested Scrolls (pp. 318–319). The Bruegel novel he mentions is As Above, So Below, about Pieter Bruegel the Elder.
Another thing I like to do these days is to paint. As I mentioned earlier, I took up painting when I was working on my Bruegel novel in 1999. And over the last decade, I’ve been painting more and more.
I have a visual imagination. For me writing is like dreaming while I’m awake. That is, I see the scene in my mind’s eye before I write it. Sometimes I’ll nurse an image of a place or situation for quite some time before I write about it, in fact sometimes I write a book simply to be able to mentally visit some certain locales that I’ve dreamed up. I pretty much can’t write a novel unless I have an image of a fabulous place where I want to go. By writing about these scenes, I make them more real to myself. And painting is another way to layer on more details.…
Painting has … taught me a few practical things about writing. When I’m doing a painting, for instance, it’s not unusual to completely paint over some screwed-up patch and and do that part over. I think this has made me feel more relaxed about revising my fiction. And also I’ve noticed that the details I haven’t yet visualized are the ones that give me the most trouble. But the only way to proceed is to put it down wrong, and then keep changing it until it works.
About this painting, made in 2016, Rucker wrote:
We were visiting my son and his family in San Francisco, and I found a child’s drawing on the floor.… I decided to copy—and, inevitably, to mutate—the image for an abstract painting.… When my picture was done, one of my fourth-grade granddaughters loftily told me that my source-drawing was by a first-grade acquaintance of theirs, and that it was supposed to be swiss cheese with holes in it. I still prefer to see it as an abstraction—with a circle making its way to freedom.
This is a painting, acrylic on canvas, 40.5 cm wide by 51 cm high.
Now let’s listen to Red Scribble by Rudy Rucker, recorded at a private collection, in Toronto, on 28 April 2021.
That was Red Scribble by Rudy Rucker. I hope you enjoyed listening to it as much as I did.
For more information and links to things I’ve mentioned, please visit listeningtoart.org.
Listening to Art is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
All web sites accessed as of date of publication.
Rucker, Rudy. Nested Scrolls: The Autobiography of Rudolf von Bitter Rucker. New York: Tor, 2011.
⸻. “Notes: Paintings 1999–2021.” http://www.rudyrucker.com/paintings/rucker_paintings_catalog_scroll.pdf.
⸻. “Red Scribble.” Rudy Rucker Portal. http://www.rudyrucker.com/paintings/pages/136_redscribble.htm.
⸻. “Rudy’s Blog.” Rudy Rucker Portal. http://www.rudyrucker.com/blog/.
⸻. “A Transrealist Manifesto.” In Seek! Selected Nonfiction, 301–303. New York: Four Walls Eight Windows, 1999.
Wikipedia, s.v. “Rudy Rucker,” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rudy_Rucker.