No Muse is Good Muse

Creativity takes what it needs from the person who possesses it and discards the rest.

— Peter Schjeldahl

New Yorker art critic Peter Schjeldahl once observed that, for viewers, subject and medium always transcend a painter’s thoughts and feelings.

I think that’s why, after just a few weeks, I don’t recognize my own paintings as mine and can’t help but think the Muse must have created them.

But no.

Given we get the word museum from Muse, it’s ironic the Ancient Greeks didn’t have a Muse for painters.

The  nine sisters instead drove performers (oracles, bards, storytellers, songwriters, musicians, dancers, actors, comedians, and mimes).

Henri Martin, The Painter’s Muse

And while other creatives had divine help (sculptors, for example, could count on the god Hephaestus), painters lacked an Olympian guide.

They were on their own.

That lack could explain why painting is so exhausting.

After three, four or five hours at the easel—the time it takes me to finish an alla prima painting—I’m spent.

I wish there were a painter’s Muse. She’d come in handy.

On the other hand, it’s a comfort to know your inner drives alone are responsible for your work.

No Muse is good Muse.


Above: Pen Approaching Lemon. Oil on canvas board. 10 x 8 inches. Ships framed and ready to hang.