What you write about the expression of beauty through painting and the limitations of the work as yet done here, is quite accurate. The painters here have capacity and disposition, but as yet the work done ranks more as studies and sketches, some well done, some less well, than as great or finished art. What they need is not to be easily satisfied because they have put their ideas or imaginations in colour or because they have done some good work, but always to see what has not been yet achieved and train vision and execution-power till they have reached a truly high power of themselves.
10 January 1936
Anilkumar is still learning; he is very clever and ingenious, loves painting and works hard at it and recently he has been making remarkable progress in technique.
Nishikanta has already his own developed technique and a certain originality of vision—two things which must be there before a man can take rank as a painter. There are on the other hand certain defects and limitations. Power he has but not as yet any consummate harmony.
These observations of course are private and for you only.
Mother does not want to pass any public judgment. Let each grow in his own way and to his own possible stature—with as little rivalry or vainglory as may be.
It is true that Romen has an instinctive artistic sense but also he has spent much time in painting and given much attention to it, so he has progressed fast. He has also great self-confidence.
The artistic sense can be had by training—the capacity you have, but it has to be brought out more and more and disciplined by study and practice. By development you will get self-confidence.
7 November 1935
You can write to him that the Mother has seen his pictures. If he wants seriously to take up painting, it can’t be done out of his own mind without help of competent teachers. He would have to undergo a complete and long training so as to train his eye as well as his hand; his eye to see things as they appear to the artistic vision and his hand to execute that vision with a sure technique. Technique cannot be acquired without a sound training. Also he must learn to know all that is necessary about the human body and its details; otherwise he will not be able to build faultlessly a human face or figure. For instance in his picture of the flowers he has a put a hand in which the thumb is in an impossible position and the fingers begin at the same level as the thumb and not far below. In art a taste for the art or even a faculty for it is not sufficient; there is necessary also a training.
8 September 1932
Do you think that I shall be able to learn painting?
You can learn on condition you study and take pains. Painting is not like poetry which you can develop by the innate faculty and a growing inspiration with just a little knowledge of metrical
technique. In painting you have to learn carefully any number of things—learn not by theory only but by practice with a good teacher, e.g. firm line and strong drawing, perspective, how to mix colours, how to use the right colours and what colours can go together and so on—all that goes by the name of technique.
If you do not study that, no amount of inspiration will make you a good painter. You were progressing very well, but you must learn these things carefully and you must take more pains about details.
That is a great error of the human vital—to want compliments for their own sake and to be depressed by their absence and imagine that it means there is no capacity. In this world one starts with ignorance and imperfection in whatever one does —one has to find out one’s mistakes and to learn, one has to commit errors and find out by correcting them the right way to do things. Nobody in the world has ever escaped from this law.
So what one has to expect from others is not compliments all the time, but praise of what is right or well done and criticism of errors and mistakes. The more one can bear criticism and see one’s mistakes, the more likely one is to arrive at the fullness of one’s capacity. Especially when one is very young—before the age of maturity—one cannot easily do perfect work. What is called the juvenile work of poets and painters—work done in their early years—is always imperfect, it is a promise and has qualities—but the real perfection and full use of their powers comes afterwards. They themselves know that very well, but they go on writing or painting because they know also that by doing so they will develop their powers.
As for comparison with others, one ought not to do that. Each one has his own lesson to learn, his own work to do and he must concern himself with that, not with the superior or inferior progress of others in comparison with himself. If he is behind today, he can be in full capacity hereafter and it is for that future perfection of his powers that he must labour. You are young and have everything yet to learn—your capacities are yet only in bud, youmust wait and work for them to be in full bloom—and you must not mind if it takes months and years even to arrive at something satisfying and perfect. It will come in its proper time, and the work you do now is always a step towards it.
But learn to welcome criticism and the pointing out of imperfections— the more you do so, the more rapidly you will advance.
If you work hard and patiently you can surely learn [painting]— but you must realise that you are very young and it takes years before an artist can learn to produce something really perfect.
The difficulty with him [a young painter of the Ashram] is that he does not want to learn—it must all come by inspiration, as if such a thing were possible in things in which knowledge of technique and careful and long assiduous practice are needed, as in art and music. Besides he cannot bear to be criticised and [to have] his mistakes shown to him. All the talent in the world will not serve, if he does not change in these two things.
11 June 1934
Someone who is learning to paint or play music or write and does not like to have his mistakes pointed out by those who already know—how is he to learn at all or reach any perfection of technique?
12 June 1934
All extracts and quotations from the written works of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother and the Photographs of
the Mother and Sri Aurobindo are copyright Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, Pondicherry -605002 India.
The only way to come a little close to him is to love him sincerely and give oneself unreservedly to his work. Thus, each one does his best and contributes as much as he can to that transformation of the world which Sri Aurobindo has predicted.
(Vol. 12, pp. 398-99)