Painting As a Pastime: Part II

"Happy are the painters, for they shall not be lonely. Light and colour, peace and hope, will keep them company to the end, or almost to the end, of the day." -- Winston Churchill

Last week I began a three part series on the subject of Winston Churchill's book Painting As Pastime. Growing out of the blackest moment of his life, it was originally written as two essays in 1932 and later published in 1948. It is here that he says that "change is the master key" to personal renewal and the best way for him to produce change is through painting.

Before Churchill describes the role of painting in his life, he does acknowledge that for most, "The most common form of diversion is reading." Someone asked, "What shall I do with all my books?" and the answer came, "Read them."

Churchill went on to say, "But if you cannot read them, at any rate handle them, and as it were, fondle them. Peer at them. Let them fall open where they will. Read on from the first sentence that arrests the eye. Then turn to another. Make a voyage of discovery, take soundings of uncharted seas. Set them back on their shelves with your own hands. Arrange them on your own plan, so that if you do not know what is in them, at least you know where they are. If they cannot be your friends, let them at any rate be your acquaintances. If they cannot enter the circle of your life, do not deny them at least a nod of recognition."

Those were words I wish I had written because they definitely describe how I feel about my books. I have always called them my friends. And only a fellow-booklover could describe books like that. But for Churchill, his paintbrush brought him even greater change than a book ever did:

Painting is a companion with whom one may hope to walk a great part of life's journey... One by one the more vigorous sports and exacting games fall away. Exceptional exertions are purchased only by a more pronounced and more prolonged fatigue. Muscles may relax, and feet and hands slow down; the nerve of youth and manhood may become less trusty.

But painting is a friend who makes no undue demands, excites to no exhausting pursuits, keeps faithful pace even with feeble steps, and holds her canvas as a screen between us and the envious eyes of time or the surly advance of decrepitude. Happy are the painters, for they shall not be lonely.

Churchill "reached the age of 40 without ever handling a paint brush or fiddling with a pencil." He never presumed to teach anyone how to paint and only spoke of it as a way "to get enjoyment." He said, "Buy a paint-box and have a try."

You may consider bridge or golf, pottering, loitering or even shifting from one heel to another "when all the while, if you only knew, there is close at hand a wonderful new world of thought and craft, a sunlight garden gleaming with light and colour of which you have the key in your waistcoat-pocket. Inexpensive independence, a mobile and perennial pleasure apparatus, new mental food and exercise, the old harmonies and symmetries in an entirely different language, an added interest to every common scene, an occupation for every idle hour, an unceasing voyage of entrancing discovery -- these are the high prizes."

At first he hesitated. But a friend said, "Painting! But what are you hesitating about? Let me have a brush--the big one." And as she boldly used the brush and paint, he learned the role of audacity in painting. For him, "The canvas grinned in helplessness before me. The spell was broken. The sickly inhibitions rolled away. I seized the largest brush and fell upon my victim with Beserk fury. I have never felt any awe of a canvas since."

Think about it.