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Where to Begin?

Winston Churchill

For any of you that faff about, procrastinate and generally avoid knowing where to begin a creative project, Sir Winston Churchill, unlikely though it may seem, offers some words of encouragement.

Besides being Prime Minister during WW2 and a few other gigs, Churchill liked to chill by creating oil paintings of local scenery.  Local, as in Morocco, the Pyramids and his home; Bleinheim Palace. He, too, understood the fear of knowing where to start. I find this anecdote greatly encouraging. I hope you do too.

His book, ‘Painting as a pastime’ first published in 1949, is an account of his battles with his artistic endeavours. He writes-

‘Some experiments one Sunday in the country with the children’s paint-box led me to procure the next morning a complete outfit for painting in oils.

Having bought the colours, an easel, and a canvas, the next step was to begin. But what a step to take! The palette gleamed with beads of colours; fair and white rose the canvas; the empty brush hung poised, irresolute in the air. My hand seemed arrested by a silent veto. But after the the sky on this occasion was unquestionably blue, a pale blue at that. There could be no doubt that blue paint mixed with white should be put on the top part of the canvas. One does not really need to have had an artists training to se that.it is starting point open to all.so very gingerly I mixed a little blue paint on the palate with a very small brush, the with infinite precision made a mark about as big as a bean upon the affronted Snow White shield. It was a challenge, a deliberate challenge; but so subdues, so halting, indeed so cataleptic, that it deserved no response. At that moment the loud approaching sound of the motor car was heard in the drive. From this chariot there stepped swiftly and lightly none other than the gifted wife of Sir John Lavery (Hazel was married to the leader of the Glasgow school of painting).

‘Painting! But what are you hesitating about ? Let me have a brush – the big one.’ Splash into the turpentine, wallop into the blue and white, frantic flourish on the pallets – clean no longer – and then several large, fence strokes and splashes of blue on the absolutely cowering canvas. Anyone could see that it could not hot back. No evil fate avenged the jaunty violence. 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 berserk fury. I have never felt any awe of a canvas since.’