Originally published in 1998 as Daily Drawing Nr. 17
47 is a low number. As a rule, a low number indicates that the artist is on his way, but doesn’t know where he is going and what the right direction is. Art is a funny thing. If you knew what it is you could go along and do it right away. So just about everybody could get the Nobel prize or make big money.
To me, it was essential that I let loose. It was hard to accept that my intellect would not produce any piece of art worth mentioning. This is a good example to see that I was successful in letting the picture come. Imagine sitting in front of a piece of paper, all blank, using brush and oil colors. Whatever you do, you can’t correct a thing. You could smear more paint over a bad spot, but that would just kill the painting.
So it’s like you are doing the art of archery of maybe you compare it to war or the internet: You got just one shot. Remember the first lesson of the Creative Journal?
You can see very good that all strokes are done with power: Look at the front line of the man’s face. Oh, I realize that you might have trouble reading the painting at all, so I better tell you:
I studied Picasso very much these days back early in the seventies. Like anybody else, I knew little of him, liked the blue period first, then the pink, then some more. I don’t like the cubist paintings to this day and think that cubism is tremendously overrated (yes, John Berger, I esteem most of your writings very high, but here I disagree).
Finally I got to know Picasso’s work of age, being very fresh then (he still lived). You can see the influence of the late Picasso very clearly here. That’s all right with me. I take Picasso as an example: He was influenced all his life by … let me see .. at least Steinlen, Toulouse-Lautrec, Greco, Goya, Ingres, Rousseau, Matisse, the Surrealists, the pre classic Greeks, the classic Greeks, stone age painting, Photography … you’ll certainly find some more.
Now there is a man sitting at left, looking to the right, reading aloud from a book. In the center, there is a lamp hanging from the wall. At right a naked woman listening to the man. There is a lot of intense expression in this scene, all done through very simple means. You could not invent and then try to realize it – your hand would be hampered and spoil it all. Here a painting realizes itself on paper like a dream realizes itself through dreaming. When you’re dreaming, you don’t produce the dream. It’s yours all right, but it just happens to you, you can’t dream at will (Most probably – Castañeda’s Don Juan claims this can be done and even learnt).
Now just as with a dream, I can ask myself: What does this dream tell me? What does this painting tell me? I am no more an expert to this painting than you are. In fact, with dreams, you often ask somebody else to help you understand the dream. Most of my customers did not want to know what their painting means to me. After all, they are not interested in me. They don’t even talk much about what it means to them. Maybe they don’t think about it, just let the painting do its work. You know, don’t have to interpret a dream … If you cannot dream, you will become crazy, so dreaming is essential to living healthy. But you don’t have to think about your dreams at all.
If you are interested what I experienced when I tried to find out in a kind of scientific mock up what happens when I paint, read the speech entitled “On observing the creative process” (after all, as a modern creature, I was entirely skeptical to this creative thing). The painting used in that speech is a perfect example for the personal use owners make of a painting (I did not translate that part yet, give me a note if you are interested). In my memoirs, I tell about the long way they took to appreciate my art at all in the first place and what this very painting means to them and did with them. In short: They use it as a means to daily enjoyment and personal growth. This single painting with all its figures has a very profound meaning to their lives. Maybe it means even more to them than to me. Maybe I have done it for them and did not know. I certainly did not know them when I did it.
If you read this, I confront you with this painting. If it does something with you, that’s your thing. If it does not, go on, it’s all right. If you can’t get it out of your head and want to see it more often, maybe you’ll print it out. If that’s not enough, maybe you’ll acquire a poster or even the original. I bought quite some posters of my favorites. I own a lot of books, too. And my head is filled with even more works of art. I love it.