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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