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 …


2 thoughts on “notes to another painter

  1. Your post here reminds me a lot of what Rilke wrote to the young poet: “You ask whether your verses are any good. You ask me. You have asked others
    before this. You send them to magazines. You compare them with other poems,
    and you are upset when certain editors reject your work. Now (since you have
    said you want my advice) I beg you to stop doing that sort of thing. You are
    looking outside, and that is what you should most avoid right now. No one can
    advise or help you — no one. There is only one thing you should do. Go into yourself”.

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