In 1987 I wrote a letter to my mentor, Irv Shapiro at the American Academy of Art, expressing a period of fatigue and lack of interest in painting. He answered with this insightful response that meant so much to me that I had it framed and hung on my studio wall, where it is displayed today.
He begins by saying how he likes my paintings highlighted on cards and continues:
“I think that the matter of the artist who spends days upon days in the studio not coming up for air and finally coming out unshaven to declare that his ART demands all of his energy and devotion is right out of the pages of some fictional and romantic novel. A poor one at that. Everyone that I have ever discussed the matter with will have had the same experience as me – days when I can´t wait to get behind a brush, days when it´s the last thing that I want to do (but will do, anyhow, if the schedule is pressing enough), and days when I just take off for a shopping trip with my wife, a visit to amuseum, a movie, or maybe just nothing at all. I think that a certain amount of time has to be devoted to empty the brain. However, our concentration and dedication to painting will, I think, have us see the world differently than others, so that even when we might be doing what seems totally unrelated to painting we´re still soaking up what will affect our painting. In my own experience, I´ve found that at those times when I´ve had to be away from the studio for a stretch of a few days or even longer, or even when I´ve chosen to not paint for a while, that when I come back to the drawing board I am refreshed, I am more responsive, and more often than not my work shows the benefit of a bit of renewed excitement.
It just isn´t possible – or even desirable, maybe – to have a totally even attidute of sustained interest in painting. That invites burn-out, if we should demand this attitude ourselves. It might very well be that the results of this self imposed pressure provide us with OK paintings, but the spirit has to be bruised by this kind of excess.
If you don´t feel like painting now and then, don´t sweat it. I understand that Rembrandt bowled a few lines with the boys once a week, and that Rubens tooled around on his motorcycle. We like anyone else are human.
Thank you for the guidance on this journey!