Painting the Desperation of Wanting to Stay Alive

Claude Monet is quoted from a conversation with an American neighbour in Giverny as follows:

When you go out to paint, try to forget what objects you have before you, a tree, a house, a field or whatever…. merely think here is a little square of blue, here an oblong of pink, hear a streak of yellow, and paint it just as it looks to you, the exact color and shape, until it gives you your own naive impression of the scene before you. (reference Claude Monet 1840-1926 by The Art Institute of Chicago catalog published 1995)

I suppose you think I am going to argue with this sound advice!? No I agree and my brushes feel the same. Yes, of course I consulted my brushes and they spoke to the canvas and we are all in the same painting with Monet. However, as we conferred we also notice that Monet had left something out in his recipe for painting. It is not enough to get the colour just right or the shape just so.

A painter must paint the desperation of wanting to stay alive.

Here is a very wet detail from my painting today where I worked on this “must.”


No matter how beautiful and accurate the painting of the light or interesting the composition, the painting must leave the viewer with an understanding that the painter knows that the moment in the painting is a gift in time – one worth being alive to experience. This must be said in every brushstroke, every slice of the palette knife, every squeeze of the paint tube and in absolutely every decision the painter makes to execute her vision into that brief second of a moment on a canvas.

SPROUT: How do you create with the desperation of wanting to stay alive?

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17 thoughts on “Painting the Desperation of Wanting to Stay Alive

  1. “Undulating” is the word that keeps repeating in my heart itself as I look deeply at your beautifully inspired creation.

    SPROUT: How do you create with the desperation of wanting to stay alive?

    Writing is a “must” thing with me; it’s as important as the air I breathe — it’s not an option.

    • Me too, Laurie. That’s exactly the way I always say it: I breathe, I write. Same thing, to me. Not an option, just as you said!
      Love, OM

    • That is the way of the ocean most days Laurie “undulating” I am glad it came through. I have three paintings sitting here resting now. Tonight I am pleased with all three. We will see if they hold up to their forced “rest” period where I look at them with a more critical eye – wrinkling my brow and squinting at them for shortcomings. When I think of writing I most often think of you Laurie – and Leanne.

  2. Terrill,

    I love the painting as it is but heck what do I know? Oh yeah I know what I like. Years ago when I was a kid/teen, going to the Mall, there was a gallery there that use to display painting on an easel outside the store, this one painting was of roses and the paint was so thick that the roses where jumping off the canvas. I was awed by it… as I am by our rough painting.

    Who want to argue with Monet, to see the light and the color, to capture that to the best of my ability is what I strive for, I wish that moment to “live”!

    Photographing is a “must” for me as you well know. It is my bliss…

    • Well I think what you see is done Jeff. It is only a 2.5 inches square of an 8 x 8 inch painting on gessobord. Possibly I will reveal the rest tomorrow. We shall see how it fairs in the cold light of day. Yes photography is definitely a must for you and your passion shows. Thanks for the story too. It is fascinating to see what one can do with paint.

  3. Oh my – this is stunning. The movement of the waves and the colours of sunset/sunrise – breathtaking. What size is this? I can hear the sound of the waves against the rock clearly.

    • What you are seeing Jane is a 2.5 inches square of an 8 x 8 inch oil painting on gessobord with a wood cradle. I am hoping to be able to share the full painting tomorrow. We shall see. Sometimes when I leave them to rest I see things I want adjust and it then usually means waiting until they dry past the tacking place.

  4. Terrill, this reminded me of a book I read some time ago and think you would really appreciate it. It’s a book on colour and the stories behind them and how they came about -in effect a survival in its own right, very apt I thought. Colour: Travels Through the Paintbox

    I think your paintings are always beautiful -they certainly come to life. As for Claude Monet, I echo his thoughts too. 🙂

    • Thank you Kikici! And thank you for the link as well. I had a quick look today but will go back and have a closer look in the morning. I always love a good resource. We haven’t had tube paints that we could just go buy for very long. It would be nice to have some of the history for what have become the basics in my palette choices.

      • Terrill, the history of how colour came about is fascinating, I’m sure you’ll find it as intriguing as I have. There’s another very useful book I just thought of this morning -perfect if you like to experiment with new and old techniques The Artist’s Handbook of Materials & Techniques -I was fortunate to pick my copy up at a book fair for £1.00 (I couldn’t believe my luck). Anyhoo, just wanted to share that with you too as I’m certain you’ll appreciate it (unless you already have a copy, lol). 😀

  5. OMG Terrill, this is the most moving and inspiring thing I have read in many an age. Your words are a painting, your words are alive, they wrench me into that desperation!!
    And the painting conveys it all to the right-brain!!
    Humble thanks

    • OM it is such a thrill to have you come by!!!! How long has it been since we connected? Oh don’t answer that – it has been too long for sure 🙂 So glad you dropped in today. And you are most welcome! Sometimes I feel like a bit of a drama queen when I get into this kind of heart/spiritual space but it is just something that sometimes has to be said, and painted.

  6. Just lovely, Terrill … love Monet, as well. Whatever we create arises from beyond our limited mortal awareness … and thus, reflects that Universal power of life. Your work always communicates this powerful premise. Thank for sharing this! –Daisy

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