The painter’s path

(Taken from something that sounded right to me and that dutifully I copied out in 1982…)

‘Principles of Chinese Painting’ – Rowley, p.13,

‘Another writer, in discussing cultivation or elegance, … enumerated four Taoist virtues as the roads to elegance, namely: to be “cranky”—going against the world, “foolish”—forgetting about the world, “poor”—being contrary to the world, and “remote”—being far from the ways of the world and thus able to preserve elegance. This may seem contradictory, but if we attempt to systematize these yin-yang opposites we will discover that they reveal subtle insights into the nature of the artist and his training. The painter must possess humility and retreat from fame because the spirit comes only to the truly receptive; at the same time he must be profound and his art far-reaching in its universality. The painter must be pure in spirit, free from everything profane, and yet he must read widely and travel extensively. “How can one be father of painting without reading ten thousand books and travelling ten thousand miles?” Poverty should be his lot, since only he attains freedom who no longer craves possessions, power and pleasure; on the other hand, Li Kung-lin and many other painters were admired for their zeal as collectors. There was nothing either bourgeois or primitive about the Chinese painters since they belonged to an intellectual aristocracy and prized the rare products of civilisation. Above all else the painter depended on natural gifts and should preserve his naturalness but he must go to the wisdom of the ancients to perfect his natural endowment. “In exercising one’s individuality (hsing ssu), not for one moment can you forget the ancients.” In execution, effortlessness was the highest goal and yet the rules must be known and never be forgotten. Unless the artist was sincere he might fall to the level of the professional painters who simply try to “seduce the eyes of the common people in order to earn much gold”; however, he must not take himself too seriously. Painting should be a playful pastime of a scholar…’

(There is more but this gives an idea of the path through life’s forest that I have tried to travel as an artist.)


  1. The artists path is hard!

    Lonely most of the time.

    It comes from pain!

    It can also bring people together.

    Other times, the paint or graphite or ink is the tears of our souls!

    Art comes from loneliness and inner pain!

    Musicians say that in interviews too!

    Songwriting is hard they say cause it comes from a painful place.

    When comic book creator James O’Barr did THE CROW.

    It was difficult to do for him because it was about his comic work being therapy for losing his finance to a drunk driver who drove right on the sidewalk and killed her.

    He said it was painful told do but it stopped him from suicide.

    Art is a cure for pain and mental sickness.

    You really showed that with your post!

    Thanks man!

    I get sad too!

    Especially when people don’t understand why I do what I do!



    1. I know the story. But don’t get sad. I have enough sadness for both of us! I really enjoyed reading this post and there is much truth in what you say. There is a lot of pain but there are moments too of brightness, of joy, of exhilaration, when something goes right or well. That keeps us going… those crumbs of joy sustain us through the times when the cupboard is bare. Take care of yourself. This accursed Covid 19 thing is still with us. Best wishes, Peter

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