A Form of Communion

The painting above is charcoal and pastel on paper. I mount the paper over a rough board with some old, dried acrylic paint blotches on it. The rough surface forces me to focus on big areas and not get lost in details – one cannot draw anything small on such a rough surface!

I recently decided to paint on paper rather than board or canvas – mainly because I have so many paintings standing around making me mostly sad. I cannot move around in my studio anymore. Just by coincidence, a fellow painter/blogger commented on my last post that he had started to paint on paper for the same reason.

This got me thinking more about why I put so much time, effort and emotional risk into my painting practice. I can tell you one thing, it is not for the money! (oh God I wish it was!)

I went back in time to my past self, sitting in a small apartment in College Station, Texas in the early 1990’s, getting up at 5 am to practice drawing and make charcoal sketches. Why did I do that?

Charcoal and Pastel on Fabriano HP Cotton paper (first wrinkled, then stretched, which creates the “veins” throughout the painting)

Moving over my odd 20 years of on-and-off painting, I think in each fresh assault on painting, my motivation evolved in three phases:

Phase 1: I see art that touches me and inspires me. Something in me awakens and says – also want to do that! Motivation: to make something beautiful.

Phase 2: I get feedback from other people (my wife, and these days, blogging or Instagram friends mainly). My motivation morphs – I like having the approval of others, I want more of that.

Phase 3: I strike a plateau. I now turn out paintings steadily, find some pleasing, others not. I still enjoy the praise of others, but part of me starts to wonder: (a) do they really mean it or are we just “liking each other’s stuff”? (b) What do I do with all the paintings?

I think I now go through the above cycle of motivational change in small (monthly) and large (annual) rhythms. Phase 3 is not an easy one. When I am here, I face into the fact that I will most likely never be a famous painter, and – commercial aspects aside – there are simply not enough people who know or are interested in my art to even pay postage to receive it. So what now?

Charcoal and Pastel on Fabriano HP Paper

I understand that some may respond to this stage/question in a pragmatic way: “paint better and market yourself and your art better”.  But the way I am put together, this state only makes me question deeper.

And the answer I arrive at is always simple, and always the same:  I paint because I want to be happy.

Some instinct tells me that painting could be a way to be happy. But one can only be happy in the Now, while painting, not only when and if the result is satisfactory.

And always this points me to the attitude I assume while painting – it is either a gentle, rhythmic, humble form of communion with Something mysterious that is greater than me, or else it is a small, scared pursuit tinged with greed and trepidation.

And to be honest, one the days that I do assume the attitude of communion with something greater than me – working alone and quietly in my studio – I invariably find that there is very little need for strain and control, because the image emerges by itself with only some gentle coaxing from me. And the joy I feel in those moments lasts for hours, makes it all worth while and draws me back again and again. Maybe one day that could be enough for me. I hope.

I am reminded always of the lines from TS Eliot’s Little Gidding when find I drift away from the communal, spiritual attitude into more self-absorbed materialistic one:

If you came this way,
Taking any route, starting from anywhere,
At any time or at any season,
It would always be the same: you would have to put off
Sense and notion. You are not here to verify,
Instruct yourself, or inform curiosity
Or carry report. You are here to kneel
Where prayer has been valid. And prayer is more
Than an order of words, the conscious occupation
Of the praying mind, or the sound of the voice praying.
(text copied from this site)
Charcoal and Pastel on Fabriano HP Paper

Thanks for visiting my blog. If you are interested to see more of my paintings, please visit my (slowly) growing website: Fritz Jooste Fine Art.




15 thoughts on “A Form of Communion

  1. They are all wonderfully moody each in its own way, but the third is my particular favorite. I love the lines in the foreground and how that linear feeling contrasts with the broad feeling of the sky and distance. It’s that feature that I most seek when I use pastel so I guess it’s also what I like in other artists’ work too — that mysterious twilight between drawing and painting.

    As for painting painting (as opposed to pastel painting) I like to paint on paper too for its surface. Somehow it’s just different. The passage from one material to another also seems to liven things up, to suggest new possibilities.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Many thanks Aletha. I understand what you mean by the twilight between drawing and painting. Also, fully agree about the feel of working on paper. I really love it. I used to just avoid it because I did not want to frame things behind glass, but I noted my view of that is slowly changing. In any event – whenever I am in a slump I find that changing medium or surface is a great way to get the juices flowing again.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Just as reassurance, I absolutely do not hit the “like” button just to let someone know I saw their post, comment, or to add to their “like” collection. If I don’t like something I’m not going to lie and say I do. That said, the painting I truly resonate with in this post is the second one from the top done on the crinkly paper with “veins” in it. The light is enchanting. You’re welcome!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks so much Alli! I respect your approach to the “Like” button – there is probably enough food for thought there for a whole post. I know there is a direct correlation between Likes and Followers. In my experience, if you really want to know if your art is good – pin it on Pinterest and see if it gets re-Pins. There, people pick from amongst 1000’s of other paintings based solely on their taste.
      Thanks for your kind words on my paintings!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Your work lately has been looking more free and deep with emotion. Perhaps you are finding the freedom because of the paper choice? I can relate. I think working with watercolor, I can simply put them aside in my plastic container and not worry about them smearing. I used to work exclusively with pastels but found that they are more fragile and I worried about smearing even though they are in containers between sheets of glassine. I understand your struggle because it mirrors exactly what I struggle with. I go back and forth constantly with doubts, fears, and the need for affirmation. But ultimately it goes back to why I paint and first and foremost, for my own satisfaction and joy. I also am finding that the true value of my painting is learning to let go the need for recognition and affirmation. I can go on and on with this subject but I’ll leave it at that. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your kind comment Margaret. Yes I agree about the easy storage of watercolors – I have age old watercolors I made in some folders, still undamaged since they were completed many moons ago! Yup, I understand what you say “I can go on and on” – I feel like that also. Much to say on this but I guess we would rather be painting? 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I enjoy seeing your paintings. Some times I have something to say but for the most part, I’m not a real chatty person…I do have my moments but usually no. I like to quietly just look and lurk in the background. I enjoy the moodiness, the textures, the dull colors mixed with the pop of vibrancy. I love the rustic strokes and almost blurry eyed look that expects me to fill in the blanks. Also, I relate to your cycles. I think I am good painting for pleasure. Selling paintings takes a ton of work and I’m just not a sales person or PR person so…there is that. 😀. I just got in a shipment of dick blick canvas panels for space saving and cost. Painting is an expensive hobby.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much Dawn – I am happy about your comment “blurry eyed look that expects me to fill in the blanks”. I think a good painting should leave much unsaid so that is a complement I will take, thank you very much! 🙂
      Agree completely about how expensive painting is. And thoughts about promoting myself and my paintings just suck the life out of me But I do understand then I have no right to complain if no one is interested in my paintings! I will say, however, that painting is not as expensive as buying a first hand car every few years. So driving my old second hand 2011 model provides me with the savings to buy paint or pastels and not feel guilty about it!
      All the best with your own paintings Dawn – go purple and red!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Purple and red rock!!!! As far as car payments…I love not having one. Around my house we try to drive em till they are dead. Here’s to many years with your 2011!

        Finally, yes…take it as a compliment because that is exactly what it is.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Hi Fritz. For me, both of phases 2 and 3 should end “However, refer phase 1”. And the happy place, yes indeed.
    I like the 3rd one and the 1st one, perhaps the orange/blue complementaries work for us red-green colour-blinds. I like the last one but it challenges me a bit more I think – perhaps because it flows right to left? Personal views only.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Alistair for your thoughtful comment. I agree on all accounts – that last painting will probably be used as an underpainting for something new soon. It is amazing how much hammering these papers can take!


  6. “The rough surface forces me to focus on big areas and not get lost in details – one cannot draw anything small on such a rough surface!” – and yet there is the suggestion of detail, which is something I love. In the third picture on this page there is so much movement and action it almost makes me afraid to look at it. It reminds me of pictures I’ve seen of Gullfoss in Iceland.

    Liked by 1 person

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