Sunday, July 11, 2004

July 11

I walked about 3 miles up the Arno this morning with my easel. Fishermen along the bank on this Sunday morning. I feel relieved to be out of the city, and I feel the influence of nature beginning to soak into my parched consciousness. I saw a beaver grooming himself on a rock in the river, and stopped to watch him. After he observed me he seemed to consider me for a moment before getting into the water and paddling off. A few times while I was painting, I saw him swimming back and forth among his rocks. I felt a kind of joy at seeing him get into the water. How accustomed he must be to it. How simple his life seemed, how peaceful. Strange that all the great art is kept in cities, since it all comes from nature. I know some might disagree with that, but to me all great learning is done at the feet of nature.

As I painted I thought how strange it is that an artist who has accomplished something is seen with envy by others. Great talent seems to be a possession, but actually doesn't great achievement call for great sacrifice. Maybe the truth is that real masters possess less than other people, not more. How can there be depth without loss? Think of Rembrandt, Michelangelo, Brahms, Shakespeare, and Van Gogh, to name a few great artists. So we really do not know what we are asking for when we envy these people. How can you envy someone their love, their sacrifices? And how can you enjoy the credit without ceasing to be an artist? Doesn't the artist who sits back on his laurels commits the same fraud as we who envy him? All of the people I just mentioned followed the thread of their genius to the very end.

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