notes to another painter

I have been trying to say many of these same things too. So it’s strange and wonderful to 3194434943_1_8_IB5WE2JU

read your essay and find my thoughts expressed in another voice, another circumstance. Empathy connects us to the desires and troubles of other people. However, you should carry through with the ideas and plans of your narrative. Visual art is, after all, fundamentally about seeing.  We have to go back to the hand drawing the line that the eyes follow.

Meanwhile it is “hard to judge how the painting will be received,” but you only thought you were worried about how other people will judge it: you didn’t realize it was your own judgment holding you back. So how do you press on to realize the things you have glimpsed?  What else is there but persistent trying, always going back, always recapitulation, always and again.  You must simply never give up.  And more than that you must have an endless supply of hope.  If you turn the hope to desire and longing, you will find determination.


Drawing is a gamble. You must have a “gambling addiction,” always telling yourself (while you hold the pencil in your hand and are actually drawing lines) that this time you will get it. And if this time it doesn’t work, that’s where the gambling comes in, and the addiction — you tell yourself — ah! but next time. You commence drawing again.  Degas said you must draw a thing ten times, a hundred times. He was a great gambler. Yes, indeed. Degas was a gamblin’ man.

degas notebook sketches

And sometimes people don’t get it. You work very long and think deeply upon a picture and it just falls flat with “the audience.” Ever had that happen? Yet you still have to be brave and show your ideas to people. The reactions should not, I agree, cause you to bend toward trends. Paint for yourself first — that’s your most true and authentic audience. But in giving other people a chance to see your painting you can learn a great deal. Other people see different things in it. And these differences can be revealing and wonderful, and possibly terrible also, but nothing can be done to escape the terrible.

Also people get used to pictures. After an image is familiar, we actually learn to see it better. When the large aspects are assimilated, we’re more atuned to the nuances. Letting people see your work gets them acclimated so that later they can notice the finer points.


I think if one learns something new that is an amazing reward for work. I know that drawing has connected me to reality, to the light that glances across my path.


What am I saying! Of course, we have “let” people see our work! But you know what I mean.  I’m talking about the secret things. Yes, even those.

They see them now, don’t they …


Musings on confidence

Aletha Kuschan's Weblog

I have been reading parts of Mona Brookes’s admirable book “Drawing with Children,” which as its subtitle  “A creative method for adult beginners, too” suggests, holds lots of good advice for drawing new-comers of whatever age.  She treats the matter of confidence early since she has seen how significant a role confidence — or its lack — plays in deciding whether someone will draw or not.

She has a series of statements she offers her readers to contemplate, and the degree to which you agree or disagree with the statement provides an interesting measure of how confident you are.  I get her point and second the motion, but I also see another side to these statements that deserves scruntity, for all the confidence questions are pretty complicated and they never entirely go away, and indeed it is essential that they not go away.

So let’s contemplate her statement number one: …

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Marks of the tool

Every medium has something unique about it in which its own natural beauty resides.  One of the challenges for an artist is to find these qualities of each medium and set them working toward one’s task.  You draw the thing or paint it, say your subject is a bunch of koi in the koi pond.  And what kinds of marks can contribute their own beauty to this image that you represent?  Watercolor has veils, and crayons rub the texture of the paper, the watercolor pencils I used above can capture a fingerprint.  Oil has its texture and its solid forms.

Every medium is different.  Thousands of possible ways to explore.  You use your idea, you use the materials, and perhaps you use their effects as well.