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 …


Collage La Nuit

Abstraction is not always as devoid of subject as it appears.  There might be something that looks like this.  Lots of other artists have made pictures this one resembles.  And it resembles other pictures I’ve made that are pictures of something.  So, by following a trail of clues, being a visual detective tracking down myself, I might in time figure out what I was up to. One might in time discover what the other artists were up to as well.  If I am on the same wavelength as others, what wave is it?

On the internet once I found a wonderful website set up by two photographers, husband and wife.  They took amazing, high resolution photographs of the oddest things — bricks, stones, grasses, tiles, old rusted metal surfaces — anything with texture.  Their photographs looked like the most ravishingly beautiful abstract pictures you’ve ever seen.   And they invited anyone to use their work for free. 

I downloaded lots of their pictures, like a miser at a flea market.  Each image seemed more beautiful than the last, and I sat before the monitor for a couple hours, watching each image load and then copying it to use later.  My printer could not do the proper homage to their stunning imagery.  But I printed out some of the pictures to make a collage.  My printer started running out of ink, but I continued printing, letting the vagaries of the machine add a further layer of chance to the mix.

I had cut up some paper bags and glued them together to make a large sheet.  Grocery store shopping bags are incredibly strong.  Then I glued the prints of the couples’ photographs together into the pattern suggested by the moment.  I added a few pieces of gold foil wrappers from Lindt chocolates à la Bonnard, and voilà!

[Top of the post:  Collage, La Nuit by Aletha Kuschan, a collage made of borrowed pictures and whimsy]