Life can sometimes be a bed of pain and believe me, dear reader, I’m no stranger to a bad back or lady's 'trouble down there', necessitating a couple of days staying warm in bed.
I flatter myself I'm in good company with other, more famous, artists who’ve carried on creating regardless of their circumstances. And my own paltry complaints are diminished by their bravery.
Auguste Renoir, crippled with arthritis, chooses to stay in his wheelchair rather than use up his limited energy in walking- energy which he can then use for his paintings.
The painter Henri Matisse is diagnosed with cancer , but after an operation he finds renewed energies and the beautiful Russian-born assistant, Lydia Delectorskaya, to keep him company. Delectable! He turns to ‘cutouts’- cut paper collages he calls 'gouaches decoupes'. These are lush in colour and are among the most admired and influential works of Matisse's entire career.
"You see as I am obliged to remain often in bed because of the state of my health, I have made a little garden all around me where I can walk... There are leaves, fruits, a bird."
The list goes on...
Michelangelo exists on a diet of bread and wine, drinks the latter from lead containers, builds up uric acid in his kidneys and paints the Sistine chapel racked with gout. You can see his swollen knee- should you wish! in Raphael’s ‘School of Athens' ;
Van Gogh has epilepsy,... and, oh my, that ear really must sting- but this doesn't stop him!
Monet in his garden at Giverney struggles to see with his cataracts-a condition suffered by other Impressionists.
Hang on a minute...misty, sight-blurring cataracts. Aha! This, then, in a chicken-egg way, now begs the question ‘Does the disease produce the art? Or?’ . Such a vast subject, and we haven't even touched on Mental Problems... one to return to, I think!
Reflect now, if you will, on young art student Ronald Searle, called up in world War Two, and taken prisoner by the Japanese. Starving and diseased himself he draws the appalling scenes around him- on pain of death if his work’s discovered . Searle hides his drawings under prisoners in the last stages of cholera, knowing that the guards won’t come near. In a much later TV documentary a fellow inmate of Changi jail describes how he and others carried the dying artist outside to spend his last moments in the sunshine …..Searle demanded his pen and paper and continued to draw. And survived.
I've heard a thousand and one reasons why aspiring painters can't manage to even do a few quick studies in a sketchbook between classes. I've used some excuses myself- too busy, no time, not the right time, not the right weather, need a new book, pen, pencil, will do more when I retire/divorce/ finish this project/ kids get older. Someone once said to me, brutally, "If you're interested, you make time!".
And with that thought, and the examples above, I leave you.
Pictures: August 07, my Vertigo; Henri Matisse in his Studio; Ronald Searle sketch; view from my bed 20/03/09.