Monday, February 22, 2010

Painting and Wasting

Charles Hawthorne said one should never paint when sick. I think he understood that the mental, psysical, and spiritual energy it takes to paint is finite and fragile. It takes tremendous force to over come inertia--it takes a hugh booster rocket to get the payload into the heavens. When you are sick the necessary feul is lacking--I think. I can't even chew tobacco anymore when I work--the dis-equalibriation tweeks with my sensitive mojo and fouls the work. Painting invites us to be fully present with the mind, body, and spirit so that we can break into new work or new treatments--or maybe even find our way back into an old painting that needs improving. Getting started under any circumstances is a fight because the mind, body, and spirit often say--what in the hell are you doing?! Then come the million voices, then comes the financial pressure, then comes the self criticism and doubt--not to mention the ennui that can set in like black smoke. Many artists hate structure--they want to be free--but you are better off with a dead line, a commission, any obligation--anything to ignite your will to paint--right now!, immediately!, est momento! ahora mismo!-- Sargent would give himself half an hour walking about with his easel in the countryside--if he could not find a subject--he would stop immediately and paint what was dead infront of him. Sergei used to say,"...don't think, just paint." Mccaw would say, "..if not now, when?" Don Hatfield says--if you can find anything to do but paint--do that instead. My old Jungian therapist Niel Russack used to say to me." have no right to piss away the gift that God has given you!" As I grow older the term "waste" carries weight. When I am not available to what I love the most, I am wasting--what I am wasting, I am not sure--but something--you get the idea. Think I'll go take nap.


  1. How can you sleep at a time like this!? Must be one cozy bed.
    I can't nap, it only makes me more tired.
    I like to rise early, and sleep early.
    Sometimes I can't sleep.. I hate when that happens.
    I wanted to paint today. I didn't get to because I'm working on a project. Probably will take all week.
    Waste not, want not.

  2. Hi, Don. Great blog, love all your wisdom. I have this idea that I need an emotional connection to something before I can successfully render it. I feel like the process is more satisfying if that connection is there. But the mind plays tricks. What seems perfect at first glance, turns into doubt, then finally I'm convinced to move on and find something more compelling, all in the space of 3 seconds. I like Sergei's advice to "just paint". I read once that Sargent could make laundry on a clothesline look like high art. That must have been what he saw at the 30 minute mark. Best.

    PS. Your grand-daughter is a doll.

  3. Hi Candace:I think the process is the creativity and is the goal all at once, ans anything that keeps us from working is not the enemy, but pretty close to it--and I do mean anything. The problem, obviously, is that ninety per cent of the things that suck us away from our work are soooo legitimate. I find that if I am bossed around too much by my obligations or by questions as to whether the subject at hand is compelling, I get really grouchy. When I am all over my painting I feel untouchable--sometimes connection happens early in the painting and carries me through to the end--if I don't get ignited (connected) early then I change something big or start on something else. Quitting a painting happens rarely these days for me. Sergei was a moody painter, and on bad days he would kick a hole in his canvas--he rarely, however, noodled the paint--he put it down and left it there--right or wrong--usually right or very close to it. Even our best work seems to go in the dumper at some stage--through experience and faith, however, we often manage to make it work--these tough paintings are often the best for some reason.