“Sir, I am a painter, not a stainer.”

22 02 2012

I recently read in Chittock’s book, entitled Portrait Painting, that someone  commented to Rembrant that his paint strokes were so thick that the portrait he had painted could be picked up by its nose.  Rembrandt replied, “Sir, I am a painter, not a stainer!”

A painting can have wonderful colour and composition,  but it is the brush strokes that give a painting extra verve and dash and flourish,  like a person’s signature.

If you are a painter, apply the paint with passion.  Slap it on and  smear it around until it dances and swirls and dips and dives all around the canvas.  Why not put on Strauss and waltz exuberantly with your brush?  Then you will see your own, authentic signature encoded  in every brush stroke you make, regardless of the colour you use.  None of these fearful, tight, stiff movements.    Take new risks.  There’s always another canvas if this one doesn’t work out.

When I get too tight, and start to stain rather than paint,  I take forever to paint my subject. Then, since I have spent so much time on it, I become even tighter because I am afraid that I will ruin it.  By that time, I have most definitely ruined it and picked away all the freshness and spontaneity of my signature strokes.  I have also lied about who I am, if, as an enthusiastic optimist with a big, expansive outlook on life, I have painted with stingy, flat staining strokes.  True art rarely lies.

Go ahead, pick up those paintings by the nose or by the scruff of the neck, if you wish.  Once you are nose to nose with it, don’t forget to notice and examine the beauty of brush strokes, themselves.  They, too, carry a message.




3 responses

22 02 2012
Katherine Martinko

Looks great, Mom!
I love that image of picking up a painting by the nose or the scruff of the neck. It makes me want to reach out and touch the paint strokes, feeling all those ridges and lumps.

22 02 2012
Cath Francis

Energizing post, thanks Elizabeth. It reminds me of a quote by Howard Pyle,
“Throw your heart into the picture and then jump in after it.”

23 02 2012

Great post Elizabeth. I am empowered to even paint after being invited to come nose to nose with it!! How liberating! You continuously inspire me.

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