from an e-mail to a fellow artist
. . . I wanted to say a hair more about my “secret dream” of learning how to draw. What I meant was this. Some people, much as many artists long ago, first seek to learn some set idea of the basics before they try to make art. For example, French art students used to have to work years with plaster casts before they got to draw from live models. But I . . . we . . . For one, we don’t know what the “basics” are any more. Perhaps the most basic and hardest thing is learning how to let one’s heart lose on the paper? And how do you learn that?
— Text and watercolor by William Eaton
N.B. It might be said that Robert Browning got here first, in his Fra Lippo Lippi“:
Faces, arms, legs, and bodies like the true
As much as pea and pea! it’s devil’s-game!
Your business is not to catch men with show,
With homage to the perishable clay,
But lift them over it, ignore it all,
Make them forget there’s such a thing as flesh.
Your business is to paint the souls of men—
Man’s soul, and it’s a fire, smoke . . . no, it’s not . . .
It’s vapour done up like a new-born babe—
(In that shape when you die it leaves your mouth)
It’s . . . well, what matters talking, it’s the soul!
Give us no more of body than shows soul!