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I love Marion Milner and how she writes. Her "A Life of One's Own" (here) on journaling and writing, in general, is a constant go-to for me.

This past weekend I re-read On not being able to Paint (here) and here are some reflections I jotted down in my journal:

  1. My painting or drawings are disappointing in my eyes, they feel automatically old and sapless. I seem to have a perfect idea in my head and then nothing turns out the way that I want it to look: hand is too stiff, too heavy, colours are not right; people are talking too loudly around me, my mind does not seem to be able to concentrate on the work at hand. And then, other times, instead, I can get caught in a midst of obsessive drawing, colouring, painting that does not seem to end;

  2. The difference with writing is that I can envisage a sentence, perfect in my mind, and when that is on paper, it is seldom disappointing as much as my painting is;

  3. Painting feels frustrating to me because I do believe in a specific concept of Beauty and to me, my paintings should reflect that same concept: harmony, regular patterns, a balance between light and dark, an array of depths, and colour coordination. All of this seems to be easy for me to understand when I look at a work of art by someone else, and it is clear in my mind when I set off to start something, but it is never what I get in the end. There is a sense of translation that is missing;

  4. I think that what I make is flat and boring, and average. Mediocre. I might find a detail which is appealing to my eyes amidst the lines I drew, and I see this as a "potential work of art": a little detailed line, a dot or a stroke of right proportions and hue and there I can exclaim: yes! This is it! But everything else around is average and just an attempt to mediocrity;

  5. MM says that she has read somewhere that lines should be genuine expressions of mood: my lines are copies. Copies of a perfect picture I have in my mind. But what is the expression of my own mood? Maybe I should try a sort of automatic drawing, the expression of simply what comes up, without trying to draw anything specific, as if my mood seek expression. I watched a short video of a renown painter I admire, and she just makes it so easy I felt a surge of envy and anger. And frustration. Paint that! That feeling!

  6. Space = meaning: what is it, for me, space? Distance, separation, a space within a space, a volume within a volume, creating volumes in 3D … claustrophobia, need for space, protection, boundaries. Maybe I should explore this;

  7. Spiritual dangers: what do I understand about me, from my drawing, my reactions to my drawings, from my reactions to people’s feedback to my drawings? Does the idea of being a professional in a psychotherapeutic field presuppose that I am “sorted” and so that my drawings will show that, a pretended sense of perfection? Where is the acceptance and compassion for myself?

  8. In the end, what I draw is what I see… and the way I see it. This goes back to the idea of self-validation. In both what I draw, paint and write.

  9. Do I have a need to control, and hence to “imprison” volumes and lines within my drawings in a controlled and repetitive way? What do I make of my squares and circles, drawn in a balanced and uniform way, creating solid and well-defined boundaries? I have learned while exploring oil painting that neat boundaries don’t really exist. I remember that last year I coined the idea that I was making sense of chaos with my sketching. Am I still at the same emotional place?


Art is never such a straightforward activity...



#marionmilner #art #drawing #painting #reflection #ideas #minimalism #chaos


Marion, M. (2010) On Not Being Able To Paint, London: Routledge.

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