Hawthorne on painting

It’s a thin book that I picked up who knows where. Hawthorne on Painting (google books) is comprised of the collected notes of students of Charles Webster Hawthorne, a painter of some renown at the turn of the previous century.

Hawthorne’s instructions were intended for beginning students, but they’re quite applicable to a modern artist. I discovered the book just as I was looking for a way to re-approach painting as a working stiff with only a couple hours available on occasional nights. I wanted to make art, but I didn’t feel I had the time or energy to be an “artist.”

Hawthorne liberated me by giving me permission to start paintings – without the burden of finishing them.

Thanks to Hawthorne, especially to his instructions below, I developed a personal approach to painting that has served me well ever since. I view any given painting session as just that – a single moment in time, unconnected to other moments. Within each painting session, I try not to have any interest in the end result. Whatever I produce in that session is what I get. Any painting that results is not the object of the session, but an artifact – evidence of the state of flow, or, the state of frustration that I experienced.

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