Here is one I started without you. As you can see, I haven’t gotten far. Which is worse: painting through fear, or the fear of not painting at all? I have painted nothing so far this year. This one is only started. I’m afraid I let myself begin to feel useless as a painter. It happens. Actually, it happens everyday. Anyway, a few weeks ago when I started reading Les Misérables by Victor Hugo, I found this part at the beginning particularly piercing for me:
“As long as social damnation exists, through laws and customs, artificially creating hell at the heart of civilization and muddying a destiny that is divine with human calamity; as long as the three problems of the century—man’s debasement through the proletariat, woman’s demoralization through hunger, the wasting of the child through darkness—are not resolved; as long as social suffocation is possible in certain areas; in other words, and to take an even broader view, as long as ignorance and misery exist in this world, books like the one you are about to read are, perhaps, not entirely useless.” —HAUTEVILLE HOUSE, January 1, 1862
“O you! You ideal! You alone exist!”—Victor Hugo
I cannot know the worth of it, if indeed there is any worth in my painting. I just know I will keep trying. We still have some of these same problems, more than two hundred years later. In fact, we seem to be re-manufacturing some of them. In painting, I keep struggling to find a voice that will speak clearly and maybe do some good. Maybe it’d be faster if we all just read Les Misérables. No, I mean read it—not watch it.