This is nothing special, a watercolour abstract with overlapping shapes. I am glad I did this, I learned something. But I feel it did not quite succeed, which is OK. The thumbnail shows more depth and strength (below).
I have been reading Ted Orland’s View from the Studio Door – a really worthwhile read. Right after doing some reading over my morning coffee, I noted a comment to my last post from the ever insightful Margaret Parker Brown, in which she said “I struggle with my needing to depict an aesthetic (and socially) pleasing painting. I would rather paint from my gut and soul like what I have attempted with my Psalm 65 intuitive painting.”
If I understand the comment correctly, I can really identify with this struggle – the feeling that we are betraying our true quest in a way by trying to paint for an audience. I have often used Rilke’s response to a young poet as a touchstone to guide myself in this area.
To those of you who have not read the book (lots of free copies online), Rilke received a letter from a young poet, asking him advice and initially – I presume – complaining from the treatment he was getting from critics. Rilke replied:
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…
I am trying to keep this short, but in my opinion the paragraphs that Rilke writes after this are essential reading for any artist trying to get closer to her real self through her art.
But this is where Orland’s book also comes in. In a really insightful chapter, he writes about the need to have an audience in mind. He notes about the poet Ezra Pound – “when he abandoned his audience, his audience abandoned him”. He continues:
It may not matter in absolute terms whether you play to an audience of one, or an audience of everyone, but until your art reaches out and touches someone, it’s like the proverbial tree falling in an empty forest. Over the long run, art without audience is incomplete. The meaning of your art may be embedded in the artwork itself, but its purpose arises from its relationship with audience.
Another very insightful comment to my last post came from Aletha Kushan, who pointed in the same direction as Orland when she said: “I’ll play devil’s advocate for the egocentric, socially comparative personality in saying that sometimes the competitive motive is not only essential but wonderful. It can goad us into taking up challenges. Also we learn things from other artists.”
Well said. We are after all social creatures. I am a bit embarrassed to admit what a thrill I get when I receive a lot of likes or positive comments on a painting – not that this is necessarily correlated with how good a painting is (I have noted).
On a less philosophical note, some advice from Hawthorne:
If you look into the past of any successful painter your will find square miles of canvas behind him. It is work that counts, experience in seeing color. Painting is just getting one spot of color in relation to another spot of color – after you have covered acres of canvas you will know. Don’t be in a hurry to do something more – think how young you are. Suppose you spend ten years of your life just putting things together – think what an equipment you will have. Don’t try to be an artist all at once, be very much of a student. (from: Hawthorne on Painting).
That injured blackbird I wrote about in my last post is no longer there. I go quiet when I think of it. In South Africa, I once found a swallow with a broken wing in our garden. I could do nothing to save it, but I wrote this poem afterward: