BOOKS > Windsor's Mystic Island (Korean Edition)






(from the back cover)

The search for truth and beauty draws a world-class artist to a haunted island of young girls and dancing horses where he examine art’s “first fire,” the magical inspiration behind all works of art and those who make it.
The message is this: Art, whatever it is, however it evolves, has its beginning in what artists call the first fire, that singular moment of realization that the small sliver of life that suddenly presents itself has the making of greatness about it. For that brief moment it’s lit like a facetted gem. Call it inspiration, if you want, but don’t deny its fire.

It can come as a bolt of lightning with the force of thunder behind it, or it can slip up and whisper in your ear.

Firing the imagination is something children do best. They’ll connect to the art and stories here as easily and unforgettably as they connect to pretense in their own play. Children are master players on their own stage. They are born to imagine, to suggest “what if” in the face of “what is.”

It’s a short step from a glint of beauty in a faceted gem to the netherworld where is drawn all the art, literature, theater, dance, music and poetry in this world and those to come.

A remote and mystic island off the south coast of Korea is the setting for this adventure. Three young models, fine actresses in their own right, play at being themselves, but they wear dresses of old, giving the play a dignity that alters them some. They draw into the game their audience of one, an old artist. His years fall away as he relives the child he once was and the child he once knew.

Inventive play alters the state of being and this can evoke art’s first fire, the deep sense of “knowing” something beyond knowing. The glimpse is fleeing. Frantically the artist searches for a way to save or capture it before it’s lost: a pencil on paper, a stick on sand, a sharp rock on
a flat stone.

These are his tools and they will demand more from him than he now is willing to give. But he will come to them when he needs them. He will come to art’s history in the same way, when he must know what and who came before him, and how they stood up against the storms that buffeted
them. But that will come also. It won’t matter to him how hard the labor, how long the study. That will be the necessary part of the life he’s chosen.

The awakening to art is the purest and most profound piece of the creative puzzle. Without it there would be no art from Raphael, Rembrandt, Renoir, Van Gogh. There would be no art all, no one to
appreciate it, to favor its beauty, truth and innocence over the many ravages of our day.








Whether or not you live on this island there’s something you should understand. Sure, you’ve heard about its beauty, what with the beaches, the rocky shore, wind-blown skies, crashing waterfalls, lush forests and farms. But it’s what you don’t see that I wanted to tell you about.

Everybody knows this a magic place, one loaded with myths and mysteries. What you may not know is that it’s teeming with interesting people you can’t quite see or hear, folks who’ve been around for thousands of years, people who have nothing better to do than talk.

So many people talking at once might seem a bother, but don’t believe it. Have you ever been in a crowded cathedral or temple when everyone is chanting or reading aloud from their books? All the sound comes together into one long, sonorous note. That’s the sound of humanity, all the people who ever lived. It’s the string and brass sections in a long, suspended note by Mahler or late Beethoven.

Once you find that note, you’ll hear it everywhere you go. You can tune in or tune it out. You’re the boss of what you want to hear, but it’s there when you need it.

You don’t believe there’s such a thing? 

Go find a quiet hillside or stand at the seashore. There are plenty of places to be alone here, great still places to stand and listen to the world go by.

But to hear the people I’m talking about, you have to concentrate. Don’t be distracted by smaller things, the call of a crow in the distance, the suck of the sea as it pulls back from a rock.

And then listen just below the regular, steady sounds of the sea, the wind or blowing grass. 

It won’t happen all at once. But stay with the natural sound for while. Then listen for the faint sound just beneath it. It’s like fine tuning. Once you’ve adjusted to the sound, it will be obvious – the steady hum of thousands of people talking at once. You’ll wonder why you hadn’t heard it all along.

This is the sound of millions of stories that run backwards in time to the beginning of life and forward to right now, where you and I are talking or listening to one another.

Yeah, the spirits run deep in Jeju Island. The people with stories bring tales of life in another place and time. While these – I guess we ought to call them ghosts – can't pull up a chair, sit down and talk to you exactly, you’ll soon discover they’re all around you with loads to say if you’d only stand still long enough to listen.

Even when they’re not visible – their usual condition – they’ll send you messages, if they think they’re important. Be prepared. They’ll often arrive in mysterious ways, delivered by trees, horses, a howling wind or a drooping flower. Often they’re carried in the speech of old people.

Though busy being old, they find the time to pass along myths, legends and those stories that are made up. Maybe it’s age, but these folks know the importance of tales and the history that shapes them. In the telling they become more real than fact. Fact doesn’t have the power of the underlining meaning you’ll find in good fiction. Stories have a reason to be told.

The reception can be a problem. Often the people doing the telling don’t get to the point. Old folks are like that, so it’s best to look around the ragged edges of what they’re saying. 

It’s worth a little trouble. Stories are how we come to understand ourselves.
Maybe it’s just my opinion, but little girls are usually good receptors. They get messages without even trying. They’re forever tuned into the impossible, so messages come to them unfiltered from who knows what or where. Like almost all women they’ll grow up to be, they are inherently curious. They never tire of questions, whether they bother to listen to the answers or not. They’re born knowing things aren’t what they seem. 

But I’ve got to tell you something. I know you’ve been seeing a lot of scary movies on aliens and spooks and such, folks rising up from the dead and walking around like zombies, banging each other on their heads or worse.  
I don’t want you to confuse what I’m saying with any of that. This stuff you see in movies or TV isn’t what I have in mind. For instance of all the spirits I’ve met or heard about in my day, I haven’t found a soul who would hurt you in any way, though – I got to warn you here -- a few can become a downright nuisance, and some will take all day to tell you something you knew all along. 

Mostly, the reason is they saved up a lot of good stories to tell and, in the excitement at finding a listener, they get all tangled up in the telling. They’re proud of their ancient land and legends, so forgive them this failing. Nobody’s perfect.

If you’re lucky and a good listener, they day will come when the spirit will choose to single you out and deliver a message directly to you. This, without the middle man. If so, you’ll learn things about your life you’ll never here from anyone else.

But don’t make my mistake. When the lady on the mountain singled me out, I ignored her. She is not one to be overlooked. Anyone will tell you she’s one high mucky-muck in the spirit world here.

It wasn’t that I turned my back on her or anything. I didn’t mean to be impolite. It was just that I was distracted by the noise in my own life at the time and didn’t listen when it mattered. 

As it turns out, she had a story that would change my life in a way I couldn’t imagine. And here I was not even listening!

Naturally, she did what she warns everybody she’ll do. In my case, she chased me through a dozen countries for twenty-five years. Then she brought me back here, sat me down, and told me what I missed.

I was grateful she went to all the trouble, for she was right in bringing me back. And I was wrong in being so late. It was a different place then the one I left, but still the same. I was a different person, but quite like the one I was.

I was still a painter, of course, and in those years away I learned how important spirits were and how much I relied on them. 

Some of the ones I like are called Old Masters, great painters in history.
Since I was only a living artist, I knew, just as sure as you’re reading this, how much they could teach me. To this day, I study them carefully.  I’ve always got my head into one of their old books or planted before their paintings in museums wherever I find myself.

One thing I learned I’ll tell you about. Though these immensely talented people are revered for their great art, in regular life they are much like you and me with about the same amount of troubles and hopes.

But here’s the thing. You’d think artists as clever and valued as they are would find clever ways to hide or pass along their secrets. Not true. They left most of their messages in plain sight. Anyone could find them if they looked.

That is what I thought before I figured out why. If you have a secret that you don’t want everybody to read, publish it in one of those big, heavy art books. They’re absolutely the best place to hide things right in front of your nose. You know why? 

They’ll almost never be found. Hardly anybody reads the writing in these things, what with all the tiny print, footnotes and appendices and such.  Also, the books are too big and clumsy to hold, the writing style creaks like old bones and the pictures and paintings are far too interesting to want to see what’s being said.
Reading these are how I learned so many of their secret ways.

So, if you have a big secret and you don’t want anybody to find it, jot it down on a piece of paper. But don’t put it in a locked diary. Someone will just pry it open.  Go to a public library. Slide your note into the writing part of the biggest art book you can find, then put it back on the shelf. Nobody will find it in a thousand years. And by then, who cares if you think that little boy in your class is cute, the one who never has time for anything but football. 

For a painter, messages also come in “lucky” accidents. They just happen -- some paint drips just in the right spot, a canvas falls and smears the fresh paint just so. Spirits work like this to. Sometimes at night they’ll come and change our painting.

I heard from a spirit once through a raven. The bird walked right into my studio one day. Honest, this happened. He didn’t fly. He strutted through to door and over to my easel. He looked up at me just like the very 19th century painter I’d been studying. The artist’s name is James McNeill Whistler . . .








There is no single way to read a book intended for an audience aged 9 to 90. It’s not arranged chronologically. It’s not always explicit. This aspect of first fire is magical, ephemeral. This book can best allude to it on its own terms, in fiction, photography and paint.

Readers are invited to skip around, dip in and out of the pages in the book. Each photo, each story stands alone. They also work together. Some will be better understood in later years. And they can be read again.

All who come to know art will have felt the heat of the first fire. Let it be understood and acted upon. Let it come early in life and stay late. Let this book illuminate it.





The author and artist has made his home and studio on the island. His book chronicles the love of art and storytelling that makes it a special place, steeped as it is in myth and history. 

_Minister of Culture Yu In-chon

It’s not often that we have the honor of recommending to readers old and young a book that so singularly dedicates itself to the beauty of art, literature and culture of our national treasure, Jeju Island. That this should come from a foreigner – an American who would prefer to be called an internationalist, having lived abroad most of his life – is doubly surprising.

_KTO Chairman Lee Charm


A fascinating blend of paintings, photography and subtle prose. That he's taken root in Jeju is good news for Korea. It's also good news for those of us who believe contemporary painting is rooted in an age-old aesthetic history that speaks the language of craftsmanship.

_Korean Art Association Chairman Roh Jae Soon

The innocence in this book is made very real by a painter who finds his truth in light and color and the way horses can speak if you only listen.

_ MBC News Director Park

A treasure trove of art and island beauty. There's laughter here, a taste of the sea  -- all of it alive with life.  Highly recommended for any age.
_ Im Seong Hun