Painting as a pastime

Winston Churchil painting

When I finished ‘Rembrandt’s eyes’ I took up the biography of another famous painter: Winston Churchill. Written by Roy Jenkins – british politician and writer –  it deals primarily with Churchil’s parliamentary career and his life as an author.  I am skipping the boring bits – after all, I am on holiday.

Some snippets about how Churchill happened to become a painter, and what the effect of painting was on him.

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A quote from page 279: “one weekend in June, while he was still disorientated by his sudden loss of high executive office … he came upon the beautiful Goony painting in watercolours. She persuaded him to take a brush and try for himself. He was captivated, although pictorial art had not previously played andy part in his life. The pale delicacies of watercolours were however not long for him. He was quickly on to the harder stuff of oils. Hazel Lavery, herself a painter and wife of the fashionable portraitist, came to visit and showed him both how to use turpentine and how to escape from inhibition to audacity by slapping on the paint in good bold colours. This greatly increased his enjoyment, and made painting an absorbing occupation until nearly the end of his remaining fifty years of life. He attained a considerable proficiency, and, as Violet Bonham Cater perceptively noticed over many years, it was the only occupation wich he ever pursued in total silence. More immediately, this new pastime calmed his mind and helped him to come to some sort of terms with his reduced political prospects.

Political prospects didn’t stay reduced, as the other 6oo-and-something pages bear ample witness. It is all very political, where  I’d have liked also to know what he was like as a husband, a father, a friend.

Another quote, this from page 805: “What was the clear gain of the long holiday was that, much more than at Hendaye in July, it had got him back into a settled and calming painting habit. He brought fifteen completed canvases back with him. The holiday regime also game him plenty of time, if he so wished, to contemplate the reasons for his crushing electoral defeat.”

The book contains some pics of his paintings. Glad to know that painting can be calming and relaxing – my encounters with paint have been more stressful. I  particularly dislike the fact that once  I’ve painted something, I cannot move it around to improve my composition – something I’ve gotten used to when working digital. Maybe there is a way to combine the two? I’ve done collage before & liked that a lot. Note: get out my old artists books and see if the collages are any good.

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