Into the Magical Circle


Lucian Freud, Self Portrait

“‘I always thought,’ says LF, ‘that the artist’s was the hardest life of all.’ Its rigour–not always apparent to an outside observer–is that an artist has to navigate forward into the unknown guided only by an internal sense of direction, keep up a set of standards which are imposed entirely from within, meanwhile maintaining faith that the task he or she has set for him or herself is worth struggling constantly to achieve.”–Martin Gayford, Man with a Blue Scarf (2010)

In the spring I read Dear Theo, a condensed version of Van Gogh’s letters, and from them learned so much about how he worked and of his hopes, despairs and plans. I’m finding the same thing in the Gayford book. It has no definitive answers, but it does offer a glimpse at a great artist at work, opens a few pages onto his life, his methods, his ideas and his personality. It’s the food I didn’t know I was starving for.

But this quote, and others like it scattered throughout the book, are what it’s all about for me, especially for someone who still dreams of being inside the magical circle that is an artist’s life. How do we keep going, in spite of a less-than-inspiring day jobs; how do we find that faith in ourselves? I don’t know, except that I wonder if it doesn’t have to do with vision, that image in the mind we are always struggling to translate into words or paint, that thing we see that no one else does, that gravitational feeling about our object that will not let us rest. Everything we do, as LF would say, we are doing for our life. It’s that serious…if you let it be. Maybe it’s the vision that takes you home.


1 thought on “Into the Magical Circle

  1. That quote really speaks to the problems. I have the hardest time with the last part “…meanwhile maintaining faith that the task he or she has set for him or herself is worth struggling constantly to achieve.” Well worth the fight. Keep up your hard work.

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