“It is useless to advise solitude for everyone,” wrote Paul Gauguin, “One must be strong enough to endure it and to work alone.” In these days of social sharing and manufactured applause, bona fide aloneness has become for many a kind of terrifying emotional enterprise. I’ve even noticed that solitude for some would-be creative types — once the de facto maturation ground for an artist — can now feel intolerable. Add to this the new reality that real, unadulterated solitude can be difficult to carve out — it’s practically endangered. Where do we go to be truly alone, to access our deepest stirrings and hear our inner poetry? “It seems to me that today if the artist wishes to be serious,” wrote Degas, “he must once more sink himself in solitude.”
Painting is a solo act where your process and imagination can be allowed to develop in decadent privacy. Here, your vibe is protected from cosmic dispersement. I remember a technique coming out of my art school where strokes seemed to leak between cubicles, profs and the printmaking department. Observe now the global morphic fielding of aesthetic trends on the Internet. Look to modern life to be swallowed up by consumerism, domesticity, busyness or material survival. “Here in my isolation I can grow stronger,” wrote Gauguin. “Poetry seems to come of itself, without effort, and I need only let myself dream a little while painting to suggest it.”
Painting needs aloneness because aloneness creates quiet and quiet makes room for an unvarnished honesty to emerge and blossom into what is uniquely yours.
“My negative voice gets loud — doubt festers when I don’t drown it out with day-to-day chaos,” confessed a writer friend recently, when I asked about her alone time. It’s a worthy test, solitude, I replied. Paul Cezanne called it the stumbling block of the uncertain. You could start by creating a room — real or symbolic — for your imagination. Enter this room religiously — like going to church or gymnasium. In time, and with practice, any fresh terror at the emptiness transmutes into a kind of premium oxygen. “The things one experiences alone with oneself are very much stronger and purer.” (Eugene Delacroix)
PS: “Painting is one’s private life.” (Edgar Degas)
Esoterica: You don’t have to be a misanthrope to carve out solitude within an otherwise butterfly life. “Writers may be disreputable, incorrigible, early to decay or late to bloom but they dare to go it alone,” wrote John Updike. A studio is an artist’s default fantasy, but a short-term residency, road trip, walk in the woods or desk under the stairs are each also a committed, created place for silence. Allow yourself to be undisturbed, then breathe deeply and focus on your own imagination — be delighted. “Nowhere can man find a quieter or more untroubled retreat than in his own soul.” (Marcus Aurelius)
“A career is born in public — talent in privacy.” (Marilyn Monroe)