April 24, 2010

Easel Struggles, even Andrew Hemingway has them

While reading Andrew Hemingway's The Making of a Painting (The Diary of Andrew Hemingway), I smiled in heartfelt recognition at the anguish he shared and his ongoing arguments with the painting on his easel. It surprised me, and in some way comforted me, to hear someone as accomplished as he is say what he did in his book. Following is an excerpt from his diary:

Monday 17th April

The picture looks like nothing. Can it ever hope to work. I am confronted with a solid mass of dull slate grey, the surface colour. If only it was something else. How long will I have to stare at this nothing of a colour? Gainsbourough's pink ground (the colour of my last big painting, 1994) to Ruben's honey colour, but not this dead grey.

Almost for the entire day I battle inwardly with thoughts of the fruitlessness of the entire project. I have little or no hope that this picture is going to work. Can I go back? If I do I will never know what could have been. What a dilemma! For any reader of this diary this may seem a small thing, but to me it is a dreadful torment. The work on the background continues; however, I operate on a kind of auto-pilot.

Let me assure you that Andrew and his painting, "Still Life with a Green Glazed Bowl" (60 x 45), both came out of this experience in tip-top shape. My point in sharing this is as a note of encouragement for those times when the struggle at the easel seems overwhelming. I find comfort in knowing that other artists have the same struggles I do, stand and stare endlessly at their paintings and anguish over a multitude of issues. What gives me even more comfort is knowing that by sticking with it and working through the tough times we all come out of it more accomplished whether the painting makes it or not.

May you find peace at the easel,


  1. Excellent post! I'm in the middle of one of those right now. It usually happens when I really challenge myself with something new. But, what's the fun in doing something I know I can do??? It's funny, we know we can do it if we set our minds to it, but sometimes our minds want to get in the way... I think I'll sleep on my current dilemma and start with a fresh mind tomorrow.

    Thanks for this encouraging bit of easel-nomics.


  2. You are most welcome, Don. I hope it helped some. I admire those who take on challenges and I know you are one of those.

  3. Just what I needed to read, beautiful post and most generous. Thank you. The painting is breathtaking!