Monday Motivator: I Won’t Do That

Monsieur P painting

“I know when it’s the best I can do. It may not be the best there is. Another writer may do it much better. But I know when it’s the best I can do. I know that one of the great arts that the writer develops is the art of saying, No. No, I’m finished. Bye. And leaving it alone. I will not write it into the ground. I will not write the life out of it. I won’t do that.

— Maya Angelou, Paris Review Interview, Issue 116 (1990)”

Now substitute painting-related words for the writing-related ones.

“I know when it’s the best I can do. It may not be the best there is. Another painter may do it much better. But I know when it’s the best I can do. I know that one of the great arts that the painter develops is the art of saying, No. No, I’m finished. Bye. And leaving it alone. I will not paint it into the ground. I will not paint the life out of it. I won’t do that.

Amongst the things the artist Katie Lee has taught me is to say “it’s the best I can do today”. (Other things include “another layer of graphite not more pressure”.) To recognize that a week from now, a month from now, a year from now, maybe even tomorrow, I might do it “better” (as in: closer to how I visualised it or wish it would turn out) but that right here, right now, this is what I can do, and I should enjoy it and be reconciled about it if not pleased.

It’s far too easy to be harshly critical about our paintings and drawings, to focus on what hasn’t worked and fail to notice everything that has. Learn to be satisfied to stop a bit short rather than work it to death. Then reassess tomorrow, maybe.

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4 Replies to “Monday Motivator: I Won’t Do That”

  1. I think we can all substitute the word “life” in there. Somedays, I can just do my best…other days I can do better. Marion, I enjoy reading your blogs and find they apply to more than art and painting beautiful pictures! Thank you. 🙂

  2. Why am I then never satisfied with the place where I find myself at any particuler moment? Striving higher and higher, better and better…

    1. Because then life would get predictable and dull very quickly, repeating what you already know and can do.

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