I love reading James Gurney’s blog, Gurney Journey. (I think Steve tipped me to it originally? If so, thanks, Steve.) I love Gurney’s work, and I love learning about art and how it works and has worked. Also, I find a lot of cross-disciplinary pollination in the things he talks about. Sometimes it’s hard to explain how the stuff he says about painting or drawing seems very apt for writing. Sometimes it’s not.
Here’s Thursday’s blog post, “Mutter and Growl”, about perennial Shoulders family favorite John Singer Sargent. It’s about his making a lot of noise as he worked, but here’s the part that really struck me:
Another observer noted that he talked to himself: “This is impossible,” Mr. Sargent muttered. “You can’t do it. Why do you try these things? You know it’s hopeless. It can’t be done.”
Then: “Yes, it can, yes, it can, it can be done—my God, I’ve done it.”
I always feel so grateful when I find that cycle of despondency and triumph in master artists, or hear writers whose work I really admire confess to it. It’s not schadenfreude, it’s recognition: oh, this is fundamental.
When you’re in it, you feel like the only one. Whether it’s a small cycle during one session of painting or a big long-form up-and-down, you feel trapped in the solipsistic agony of it. But you’re not alone. We’re all down there, toiling our parallel ways out of our oubliettes to stand heedless and triumphant in the light.