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Saturday, 9 January 2010

The Painting Muse, by Sean Flaherty

Painting is sheer pleasure and exasperating toil. Almost invariably, an artist will at some point encounter a drive to express something. It's usually a theme that lends itself to a particular genre of painting -- bleak landscapes that evoke the cold winter of the soul, for example, or the beautiful, languid figures by Modigliani with their empty eyes, portending the allure and despair of a life lived only for pleasure.

Sometimes a painter's muse is a cruel and jealous taskmaster demanding singular loyalty and longsuffering focused labor. If the artist is to adequately birth the muse's spiritual child, an indefinite bond of slavery must be entered into. The gestation period can be long and protracted. Family and friends will sigh and throw up their hands.

But bent in toil, the artist takes up the brush, loads it again with paint and pushes it over across the canvas, slowly and faithfully breathing spirit into the cold, barren weave until that self-same spirit is starting back at him in its fullness. Does it give him a sense of accomplishment? No, he just starts on the next painting. Does it bring great wealth or even put food on the table? No. Does it bring respect and esteem among his peers? Probably not.

Not much is given the artist to understand. He is a true slave. I know when a painting is done. I can't fuss over it anymore. I've nursed it right out of the house. The epicene and enigmatic faces that I paint are begotten by a muse. Their gazes are cryptic, arcane. Painting them is rapturous.

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