Saturday 21 March 2009

The Agony and.......

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.


Sarah said...

Though I have procrastinated with the best of them, I do agree with that comment: if we truly want to draw/paint/write, we will find a way to do it.

I used to have lots of sympathy for people's excuses but now i don't!

Love your work and was pleased to discover your blog by some round about route.

Caroline said...

Thank you for that, SJ. I sometimes wonder if there's anyone out there!
I have lots of different ways of persuading people (including myself!) to draw more. I think a lot of reticence is due to fear of failure, but the more we do, the better and easier it gets.

Sarah said...

Oh yes - I think you're right about the fear of failure but we all have that don't we? I've met mature artists, who just before exhibitions suddenly start panicking. I feel full of it everyday. The fear is understandable, but I think if someone really wants to do it they will do it even though they are scared. Being willing to tolerate discomfort is what allows us to grow - in any aspect of life. And like you say we can use strategies to encourage ourselves.

This turned into a longer comment than I meant, oh well!

Caroline said...

You're right- I still feel nervous, and have a sense of humility before starting a work. I think that's a good sign- it doesn't do to feel over-confident and absolutely sure of the results we want- that way, we're blinkered from the start.
How much like life is Art!

Sue England said...

Do hope you're feeling a bit better soon-your comments always do me good and spur me on-an example to us all! All those years I wasted farting around making excuses...! Will have to try and make up a bit in the next 30 years-luckily I come from a strong northern line of long-livers-must be something in the coal dust..
Keep up your news
love Sue

Stuart and Gabrielle said...

And you never mentioned Frida Kahlo, who suffered from polio, was injured in a crash between a bus and a tram and thus suffered a lifetime of back pain and had to contend with a stormy marriage and a fierce set of eyebrows.

And I wholeheartedly agree with what you say about excuses; you can find the same sort of thing in other aspects of life such as people who lose limbs going on to run marathons and climb mountains. It's also said that, if you want something doing, ask a busy person.

Caroline said...

Thank you, Sue, I'm almost better now and started a new piece of work yesterday.
You're definitely not starting from scratch, though, with your paintings- you have a lovely sense of colour and design- and the drawing's good, too.
Being the samr age as you..thirty years left, you say- wow! I thought I only had twenty.. thanks for the extra time!!
Stu and Gab, thank you for your comment,and the extra info- yes those eyebrows must've been a handicap.. how did she see though them? I had to leave a lot of artists out of my list which would've been endless had I included all the ones who were completely doolally!

David said...

Hello Caroline *waves*

Dave and Lindy

PS you've spelt 'portraits' wrong in your headline

Caroline said...

Duh! I never noticed- and after 14 months...

Unknown said...

I just found your blog through Urban Sketchers and I'm having a great time going through all your posts. This one spoke to me loud and more excuses!

Caroline said...

Thank you, Raena, I still need to give myself a kick up the proverbial now and then!