Thursday, November 20, 2008

Dear Sugar Plum - be audacious!

I’ve been reading a short essay (from Amid These Storms published in 1932) by Winston Churchill about the benefits of painting as a pastime. He makes some very pertinent points for those of us who have come into the practice of art in our mature years (yes! You’re not the only one, Sugar Plum! (see comments to my last blog)). I think I’m one of many quilters who came to quilting (as Churchill did to painting) as a relief and relaxation from a stressful occupation.

By the time I got interested in art, I had enough degrees in other things, did not want to study either core subjects or esoteric things like "Alabaster bowls from the 3rd Century"…but wanted to get straight into the meat! So I was delighted to read that Sir Winston advocated a bold approach when beginning art in later life: “There really is no time for the deliberate approach. Two years of drawing-lessons, three years of copying woodcuts, five years of plaster casts – these are for the young”.

(detail from a painting of the view in winter from his house)

He felt that while we are unlikely to produce masterpieces, we certainly can enjoy ourselves! He tells a wonderful story about going out and buying a set of oil paints, brushes …seating himself before the canvas (he lived in a glorious house and garden in the south of England, you can visit there today) and then “the empty brush hung poised, heavy with destiny, irresolute in the air. My hand seemed arrested by a silent veto”. How many of us have been there!!!

Finally, he looked at the pale blue sky, carefully mixed a dab of blue and a dab of white paint considering this, at least, was possible ..then “with infinite precaution made a mark about as big as a bean upon the affronted snow white [canvas]”. And sat back…transfixed, unable to go further. He was rescued by a visitor who rushed over, grabbed a large brush and splashed “several large, fierce strokes and slashes of blue on the absolutely cowering canvas. Anyone could see that it could not hit back. No evil fate avenged the jaunty violence. The canvas grinned in helplessness before me. The spell was broken. The sickly inhibitions rolled away!” so don’t worry, Sugar Plum! Be bold! Be audacious!

Churchill liked oil paint because it was easy to correct mistakes and luscious stuff to play with. And that’s true with fabric! We can place..and replace, we can fold and fondle! We can cut boldly and take risks! And gradually improve and enjoy “the glory of the climb!”

A snowy quilt - the view from my home in the Yorkshire dales.

And, if you have been, thanks for reading!


There are lots of websites about Winston Churchill; many have some of his great quotations; he was a very witty man and an excellent writer - one of his most frequently quoted responses was to Nancy Astor when she said “Sir Winston, if you were my husband, I would give you poison.” and he replied:: “If I were your husband, Madam, I would take it.”

1 comment:

Kay Koeper Sorensen said...

What a wonderful lesson from Sir Winston.
It's a story every one of a certain age should hear.